Spawn is a really cool character, just look at him in this game, standing there with his usual outfit, flowing cape, that awesome Agony Axe and big oversized guns. There is a lot of good that comes from this IP, a lot of bad and some simply weird, but I keep finding myself checking out most things Al Simmons is in. I would say everyone should read the first thirty issues of the comic, certainly watch the HBO cartoon, and there is even supposed to be a new animated movie in the works, but time will tell if that ever comes out. Now, if only Image Comics’ icon could find himself in a good video game, he would be set. Maybe this 2003 PlayStation 2 title will do.
I have to get this out of the way first though, Spawn: Armageddon is a game that wanted to be a less attractive Devil May Cry—which had been a hit two years earlier—so bad it hurts. It isn’t just the aesthetic, but down to the end stage screens, rankings, upgrades, different colored soul system, and even some of the combat mechanics. Don’t get me wrong. That’s a good game to take inspiration from, but only if the project can match it. Todd McFarlane, Spawn’s creator, had a hand in the game’s production, but it isn’t clear exactly what he contributed other than story and art direction. There is a great opening cutscene. It’s the best looking part of the presentation, as many of the in-game story bits feel flat and none of it does much for the story. The street levels have a nice look but everything else just aches with how bland and lacking in detail they are, saved only by some destructible bits. This doesn’t mean the graphics are bad, just not memorable, but that cover image is pretty sweet.
The enemy design was a hit though, especially when I can fight the severed upper halves of Wynn’s military force members, angels, and something that I’m pretty sure is just a pile of eyeballs and tentacles. There are several characters that show up from the comics that all look good, but it took me a while to remember the cybernetic-enhanced gorilla, appropriately named Cy Gor, of course. I actually quit reading not long after he was introduced.
The voice acting was a high point, with Steve Blum as Violator, John DiMaggio as Redeemer, and Kevin Michael Richardson as Spawn himself. Yeah, I fell for it too at first, thinking they had Keith David reprise his role from the hit 1997 cartoon, and I don’t feel bad about that because some reviewers and sites actually credit him with the voice, but Richardson is just that good. It sounds like the developers stole some of the enemy noises from the Serious Sam games, but overall the effects are good and fit the title, even having the Marilyn Manson’s “Use Your Fist and Not Your Mouth” in the credits—a song I highly recommend.
Half the time I didn’t know what I was doing in the context of the story, but thankfully, kicking ass comes naturally. The controls only took a little bit of getting used to and the camera is sensitive and a bit jarring at first, but the targeting is a real pain for sure during bigger encounters. The focus for combat is more on what type of damage to use and how to handle various enemies, but it sucks that so many of the sub-weapons feel underpowered compared to the axe and chains unless the specific guns are fully leveled up. I can honestly see someone forgetting the magic is an option as well, because even though there are several attacks with it, I think most players will find one or two they really like and stick with those. If your character can slow down time, why bother with the rest in most cases? Spawn’s double jump and gliding are not reliable, especially when it involves trying to climb or grab onto a ledge. I would often miss and fall to my death or have to lineup a simple jump just right until I was exactly where the game wanted me, and just wait until you’re trying to platform in Hell. This seems like such a basic and necessary mechanic for how the worlds are built, why ship a game without this aspect being solid?
“Spawny, how could you?”
So, it’s not hard to see why reviews for this one ranged from mixed to negative. The gameplay is repetitive after just a few levels, and some of the stages are paced poorly with no creative design. It wasn’t often that I died while playing this, but when I did there was so much to go back through, like in the subway tunnels where it just became a bit painstaking. There are some cheat codes for anyone who just wants to burn through this though. I did enjoy some of the boss fights, as they weren’t frustrating and felt
somewhat rewarding, but overall this is not a game I can say is worth going back to play. The beginning is much better than the rest, and that sucks because everything looks like it might be good, but then the fact that there aren’t any good Spawn games creeps back into our minds and it is hard to say Armageddon did any better.
Well, no good ones I’m aware of. In my research I actually did discover that this hero has a title on the Game Boy Color, so I’ll need to check that out in the future. Still, for all of its flaws and the fact it gets worse the further one goes in, there is still a case to be made here that Spawn: Armageddon is the best to bear the franchise’s name, and that says something I guess.