Marvel legend Spider-Man comes to the PS3 and the Xbox 360 in four incarnations, each with different powers and abilities in four distinct locales teeming with a ton of super villain ass to be kicked.
The premise of the game is typical Marvel fare and features an opening narration by Stan Lee himself, making the gamer feel immediately welcome. Mysterio is stealing the “Tablet of Order and Chaos” as Spidey (in his Amazing guise) tries to intervene. In the brief cutscene the tablet is shattered and Madame Web shows up and advises our hero that he must embark on a quest to recover all of the lost fragments. Madame Web also advises that the lost pieces are spread across a number of dimensions each with a Spider-Man unique to that universe and that she is setting all of them to the same task. If the pieces aren’t recovered all of the dimensions are at risk of being destroyed forever, and naturally each of the pieces is in the hands of a major antagonist from Spidey’s career as a crime fighter.
Lookout! Here comes the Spider-Man
First and foremost the gamer must realize that this is not a free roaming adventure like a lot of the past Spider-Man titles have been. I can most easily compare this game to the old but still awesome Spider-Man for the Playstation One and Dreamcast. That by no means makes this game less fun than the more recent outings. In fact it speeds up the pace and keeps the player focused, rather than getting lost with minor crimes to foil or having races around town and whatnot, so it increases the enjoyment of the time spent in Spidey’s boots.There are four pairs of those boots too, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses.
You have the familiar red and blue suited Amazing Spider-Man, the alternate reality Ultimate Spider-Man with the symbiotic black suit, the futuristic mega corporation fighting Spider-Man 2099, and a really unique 1930s Spider-Man Noir. Amazing, Ultimate, and 2099 have similar play styles, but the Noir version is a stealth based protagonist. I like having different levels with different play ideas. It keeps you on your toes and it keeps the gameplay fresh. There are also different art styles to go along with each dimension so aesthetically there’s some really nice variety.
Doing whatever a spider can
The swinging mechanics of the game are great. You get to do a lot of web zipping to precarious perches and it always makes you feel as accurate as Spider-Man. The levels are designed in such a way that there are enough open areas to do some full on Spider-Man swings that hurl you through the air at great speeds, so you never feel too cooped up or forced down a linear path. The webs also play a major role in combat as they are involved in almost all of your combos.
Ah yes, the combat. You have your basic heavy and light attacks, but you also have the webs thrown in there to change things up. The combos range from whipping an enemy into the air and then leaping up to punch the hell out of them to full on massive attacks of punches, kicks, and web hits. The dodging is handled extremely well and it’s a riot to see Spider-Man avoid fists and weapons while twisting and contorting like only he can. Your Spider Sense will flash around your head to let you know if particularly nasty attacks are inbound, which is a big help. The thugs, unique to each level, can sometimes quickly gang up on you but luckily you have some devastating attacks available through upgrades which I’ll get to in just one second.
The boss battles are a thing of beauty. They feature just the right amount of complexity and some of them take some time to figure out a winning strategy. Madame Web will also voice some helpful hints if you seem stuck, but sometimes her suggestions can get repetitive (I’m looking at you Sandman level). The boss battles also feature awesome sequences where the third person view shifts to first person, giving you the opportunity to get up close and personal while you beat the living crap out of some of the biggest names in the Spider-Man universe like Kraven the Hunter, Vulture, and Juggernaut to name a few.
Spread around each level are Spider Tokens that you collect that give you points that you can use to upgrade your abilities. You have two types to choose from, Character Upgrades and Combat Upgrades. The former lets you enhance your health and certain powers like 2099’s Accelerated Vision mode or Ultimate’s Rage Meter, while the latter lets you choose new fighting moves. And if you see a little gold spider crawling around, make sure that you pick it up. Those little guys give you a good amount of points.