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Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage (Genesis) artwork

Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage (Genesis) review

"Maximum Carnage may not be 100% faithful to the comic's experience, but it comes as close as a sidescroller could hope."

Once upon a time, there was a man with freckles and red hair. His name was Cletus Kasady.

Cletus Kasady was not a sane man. There were a lot of things wrong with his life; didn't do well in school, abusive father, generally unliked by girls. He went through phases as he grew, but instead of wetting the bed or getting an Oedipus complex like most children, Cletusí phases had him torturing small animals and pushing his grandma down a flight of stairs. He grew up to become a sick excuse for a human being; skinning people alive, juggling their eyeballs, strangling them with their own intestines and earning a wretched place among the most infamous serial killers of all time. Cletus Kasady didn't do these things because he hated the world, he wasn't trying to make a statement and he certainly didn't view himself as god's servant. He killed people because he enjoyed killing people. That was it.

By the time he was twenty, Cletus was convicted of twenty murders. He bragged of dozens more.

Keep in mind that this was all before he gained superpowers. By bonding with an alien symbiote, Cletus received not only Spider-Man's speed, his agility and five times his strength, but he also gained the ability to transform his hands into knives, swords, axes, or whatever sharp weapon he thought would be good for evisceration. More powerful than Spider-Man and Venom combined, merciless, driven only by the insatiable desire to honor his new name: Carnage.

Spider-Man still kicked his ass.

Unfortunately, comic book policemen tend towards the stupid side, and the ones transporting the defeated Carnage were no exception; they thought a straightjacket would be enough to hold him. They were wrong. He's out, he's crazy, he's killing everything he sees, and he's brought along friends. This is how Maximum Carnage begins.

It's funny, because the storyline this comes from is one of the worst ever penned; the Maximum Carnage miniseries was fourteen issues of mindless violence and worthless cameos that shouldn't be read by anyone for any reason. But, for a beat-em-up, it fits. StillÖ


Öthe story fits the beat-em-up style, but when I think Spider-Man, I don't think walking around on the street and beating up random hoods. That's never been Spidey's style. He leaps about, sticks to walls and smacks bad guys around with ease, taunting the whole time. Spins a web, any size; catches thieves just like flies. He's a mobile fighter, and the way you fight in a beat-em-up isn't the way he typically fights.


I got over it.

Maximum Carnage may not be 100% faithful to the comic's experience, but it comes as close as a sidescroller could hope; Spidey puts his powers to full use. When the thugs charge, just block them with a web-shield. If things get too hectic, just leap up and stick to a wall in the background. If they try and blast you down, just swing away, kicking them in the head as you pass by. Trap them in the web, pummel them while they squirm, swing them around with all the grace of a tetherball and slam them with all the subtlety of a crashing hammer.

The average gamer might think Maximum Carnage's fighting system is basic; after all, it's not like Spider-Man has a move list or ten-hit combos or anything like that, and the enemies love to come in droves and wear you down with sheer numbers. The average gamer isn't looking hard enough. He's not seeing how the game's more faithful to Spidey's fighting style than it initially seemed, how it forces you to stay mobile in order to survive. Crawling away, swinging about, leaping over the enemies instead of plowing through, it all requires a finesse that does justice to Spidey's unique brand of kung fu.

But there's more to Maximum Carnage than punching and kicking and jumping and dodging; it accents the action by drawing on the source material.

The cutscenes that happen before every major events; moving comic book panels with effects, an art style perfect for the medium and even the occasional sound bite for sprucing.

The gameplay drags Spidey and Venom through a vibrant and colorful world, almost too bright for the massacre happening around them. Everything has a hand drawn look to it; the details on the shirt of Random Thug #258, the flowing strands of some crazy girl's hair whip attack, even the lines on Spidey's costume accentuate him well. You can see every muscle on his suit, details that some of Marvelís own artists have forgotten.

Even the way sound effects pop up with each blow landed. 'Biff', 'Bam', 'KAPOW'. It's minor, maybe a little silly, but it adds to the illusion. Maximum Carnage seriously looks better in action than some comics look period.

Thatís why itís no surprise when Captain America pops up to mow down the enemies with one toss of his mighty shield or when Firestar ignites the battlefield; just like the comic that inspired it, Maximum Carnage piles on the cameos and gives aid through superhero summons. Iron Fist unleashes his ancient martial arts. Black Cat slashes and scratches through the crowd. Cloak shows his true form and engulfs the screen in shadow, revealing a pile of defeated enemies when the lights return. The summons are brief, your allies only hang around for a few seconds, but it happens and lasts long enough time to give the feeling that youíre not alone and that you really have a team of Marvelís finest backing you up.

But donít be fooled: You are alone. Maximum Carnage has no qualms with making you climb up buildings and swing across rooftops while an insane woman in bad makeup pounds you with sonic blasts from above. It doesnít mind pitting you against two villains at the same time, blending old strategies and making new ones. It absolutely loves to send a powerful bosses flying your way when your not expecting it, or drag you down with sheer numbers, or punish you for not keeping your health. Itís not afraid to get tough.

But youíre Spider-Man, youíre used to tough. It doesnít matter how outnumbered you are or how bad the odds look; all you need to know is that, somewhere, deep in New York Cityís grime, a madman is making sport of everything youíve sworn to protect.

With great power comes great responsibility. Take Carnage down.

lasthero's avatar
Staff review by Zack Little (August 21, 2006)

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