It's been just over a year since Spider-Man 2 left us jaw-dropped at the impressive recreation of New York, popping superhero fisticuffs and ropey camera work, but as the wall-crawler swings back into view, he feels altogether mintier and freshly scrubbed-up.
The Ultimate universe is Marvel's re-imagining of its classic heroes, and just like the comics, the game manages to revitalize familiar characters and locations brilliantly. A lot of videogames look nice, of course, but Ultimate Spider-Man has the confidence to look distinctive. It might be called something fancy now like 3D Comic Inking Technology (you - like us - will know it's really cel-shading), but as a result it's one of the most stunning titles we've seen. The bold primary colors, thick lines and multiple framing all help turn Ultimate Spider-Man into a rainbow eyewash for your tired retinas. But even with the fresh coat of paint, it's like applying deodorant without showering – it only masks yesterday's staleness.
The game is split into two distinctive portions, where City Events need to be completed in order to unlock Story Missions. It's not an intrusive mechanic, it's just that the City Events become redundant, basically consisting of A-to-B races, Combat Tours against handfuls of goons and rescue missions where Spidey has to rush a citizen to hospital within a time limit. The story missions are where the game is really at.
The big addition to Ultimate Spider-Man is that we get take control of Venom, the bad-ass side of the coin. Instead of apprehending crooks and wise-cracking, Venom snaps soldiers over his knee, face-plants enemies into concrete and throws cars at helicopters. Oh, and he sucks people into his chest and drains their energy before spitting their carcasses onto the pavement. He's nice like that. It feels liberating to play as the bastard of the piece and crucially it allows for more variety in gameplay.