You actually never have to beat the game to know the entire story because LJN (for once) actually did something really cool with this game let the developers (Software Creations) base it on the Maximum Carnage series (hence the title) in the Spider-Man universe. It was a great series that featured rivals Spider-Man and Venom teaming up along with some other heroes (Captain America, Black Widow, Nightwatch, etc.) to take down Carnage and his gang of baddies (Shriek, Demogoblin, Doppleganger, etc.) For those of you who don’t know the story I’ll shed some light on it without any major spoilers. Carnage escapes from a mental institution/prison he was confined in for being a psychotic serial killer and begins to wreak havoc and chaos around Manhattan with his crew. Venom believed he had killed Carnage but when he senses that his other half is still alive, he seeks out to destroy him for good. While good ol’ Spidey tries to save Manhattan he realizes he can't do so without his rival’s help. And that's end of my brief synopsis. This series was a big deal because not only did it have a great storyline and great characters it crossed over all the Spider-Man comics such as Amazing Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Spider-Man, etc. If you are a comic/sci-fi fan and you ever get the chance to read this series, take it the opportunity because you will enjoy every second. If you are a Spider-Man fan you haven’t read it, you really should stop reading this review and get a copy of those issues... like now.
The graphics are solid for their time. The character designs look really good except for the fact that Spider-man doesn’t have the black web on his costume (he does in the cutscenes but not during gameplay). The levels look kind of bland but at least LJN was smart (for once) and has different settings for most of the game changing the scenery so you don’t get bored after the first level.
When you start the game, a cool cutscene pops on to the screen in comic book form giving you a really good sense of what this game is (that’s a comic book game if you didn’t know what I was going for). After the cutscene, you are given control of Spider-Man and now go through the game beating up baddies left and right to progress through the level. And that’s what this game is, a beat ‘em up. And my, do I love beat ‘em ups. They were great back in the day and it saddens me that no one really dare makes them anymore. But Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage does the genre justice. It’s fun to walk Spidey down the sidewalk and then spank a bunch of Linkin Park wannabes with your web. And the KA-POW sound when you punch and kick fat asses will please the ear drums. Make sure you pay attention on all fronts though because enemies will sneak up and try to sucker punch you from behind while your focus is on someone else. As you continue through the game with your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, you will be able to control Venom as well which was very exciting for its time because this was the first game that allowed you to play as Spidey’s biggest rival! Unfortunately, there isn’t much difference between them except for the way they pull off their moves; but the fact that you can beat someone’s face in with Venom is a welcome change. You are also given the option to call on your other superhero teammates for help, and they’ll dash or flip or cartwheel (whatever floats their boat) and take out everyone in their way.
Thankfully, those segments don't happen too often because the rest of the controls are pretty solid. You have your punch and jump button along with your web button. The web swinging could have used some more work (which could have added a great vaiety of options to the ground combat) . Still, this is a 2D beat 'em up so I understand why much focus wasn't put into the web swinging.
There are many ways you can dispose of baddies such as grabbing them and giving the quick one-two, bullrushing them or grabbing to lonely thugs with your web and introducing their skulls to each other. You can string multiple combos together but more often than not, most gamers will probably mash the buttons like wine grapes. You can also pick items up to beat women and hobos with dumpsters, newspapers, trash cans and fire extinguishers. You can only throw the item once but it does walloping damage to those umbrella wielding businessmen. Another cool move that does a lot of damage is your special attack but if you hit any enemies it drains your life bar. I’ve always hated this concept in beat ‘em ups with a passion! I understand that developers don't want players running around using their character's speacial attack to every thing with a pulse, but there are better ways to restrict players than causing damage. I mean, what pain is the character putting his or her self in to do this attack? Is Spidey tearing his groin each time he pulls it off? I don’t know but you will not want to lose your lifebar. It is the one precious thing that you do not want to see decrease (well, besides your... nevermind.)