This interesting game dynamic allows you to play the story from both perspectives simultaneously, but it also means utilising the Manhattan space in very different ways. As Spidey you'll struggle to keep it standing - but Venom is angry and wants to kill and destroy. Although Ultimate Spider-Man's mission structure is very much the same as that of Spider-Man 2, in that you can spend the entire gaming wandering about clobbering people, the area in which you do it has been somewhat condensed. Manhattan won't be as large as before, but what's left will feature more points of exploration and combat. Marvel landmarks such as the Empire State Uni and the Baxter Building will all make their debut, plus the area of Queens will also be playable for the first time (Rhino suffers a particularly nasty industrial crane/wet concrete/giant magnet incident there). In fact, what's left is essentially Spider-Man 2 but without the peripheral nonsense. It's condensed, slimmed down, and far better for it.
But that's not to say Treyarch is slimming down the gameplay in any way. We're being promised the most Marvel characters ever seen in a single game. And with cameos from the likes of Wolverine and Electro, plus the ability to play as either good or bad guys, it opens up the gameplay substantially. One minute we'll be chasing flying menace The Beetle through the sky (it's his videogame debut, dontcha know), the next we'll be crunching down on Wolverine's Adamantium bones. It'll be like Marvel meets GTA meets WWE, set on and above the Big Apple.
In fact, this range of new enemies and heroes offers up more than just a Marvel fan-boy's wet dream - it gives Treyarch the chance to introduce brand new fighting styles. Although Spider-Man and Venom will be the only playable characters, both will have to learn to adapt to the challenges presented to them. We can't imagine Wolverine, for example, going belly-up in a one-on-one fist-fight with Venom's tongue -he's more likely to slice it straight out of the dirty alien's stupid slimy face.
There's a greater range of stunts to pull off than in previous Spidey games, too, as well as a new 'hit and run' system, which sees Spider-Man literally bouncing off walls, Smashing cars and eating people to death, smacking a bad guy about the ears, then leaping safely out of the way to the other side of the road. You'll be able to swoop down, kick someone in the teeth, then disappear up into the sky again before they even know what's going on. And while Spider-Man's dull-witted, stupid enemies are standing there trying to work out what's just happened, he swings down again, firing sticky balls of webbing at them until they're trussed up to a lamppost looking like somekind of silly-string gimp.
Things are looking good - it's an encouraging sign that Treyarch has been confident enough to develop Ultimate Spider-Man without the reassurance of another mega-selling movie behind it, or the gurning face of Tobey Maguire to boost sales. This is a new, improved Spider-Man that builds on the successes of an already established and increasingly well-regarded franchise. With promises of numerous secret unlockables, including costumes, concept art, and side missions, plus the chance to be the bad guy too for once, Ultimate Spider-Man could well be the best Spidey game so far. New game modes await, as do new challenges, but if anything can make Spidey look as cool, if not cooler, than he did in his previous Xbox outings, ironically it's this new comic-book effect incarnation. And here's us thinking being a teenager was all about having spots.