Peter Parker swings into his next episode of super hero action in Treyarch and Activision's Spider-Man 3. The motion picture is breaking records and I’m sure Activision hopes the game does the same. Suited up in some dark digs Spidey webs up another video game adaptation in Spider-Man 3.
I’m sure I don’t have to go into any background on the lead characters history, Spider-Man. You all know him if not from the comic then from Tobey Maguire's job mirroring Spidey in Sam Raimi's big summer movie. On the movie end, the movie franchise has been doing exceptional and Spider-Man 3 has just capped off the highest opening of a movie ever ($59.8 million US Opening Day), sinking the Pirates of the Caribbean. On the games end, it’s hasn’t been too shabby as well. Treyarch’s work on the Spider-Man series has been steadily improving from the marginal Spider-Man: The Movie, the greatly improved Spider-Man 2, and their last entry before number 3, Ultimate Spider-Man. Each game seems to moving in a great new direction and leaning back on the foundation of Spider-Man 2, Treyarch builds Spider-Man 3.
After all the exceptional work Treyarch has done with the Spider-Man franchise in gaming, it’s a wonder what happened to Spider-Man 3. Yes, I guess I can spoil the result early; Spider-Man 3 isn’t the next-gen Spider-Man you have been waiting for. Doing away with the cartoon cell-shaded look of Ultimate Spider-Man, we are back to the realistic approach like Spider-Man 2, but it doesn’t seem like we are moving forward. Actually, it’s hard to call Spider-Man 3 a next generation game because it is so close to what they did in Spider-Man 2 that I can imagine it running close to the same on the original Xbox. Even more baffling is that I enjoyed the Spider-Man 2, more then this edition of Spider-Man that including Venom, so called ‘next-gen’ production. Ultimate Spider-Man got Venom right, what happened here.
This has happened before; I think studios can get burnt out on a franchise. Fingers crossed that it’s not Rockstar's turn next. If you liked Activisions previous Spider-Man games, you’ll still enjoy Spider-Man 3, but it’s not going to have the impact you're hoping for. Before I had a chance to play Spider-Man 3 I was reading some reviews online and I didn’t want to believe critics and average rating of 60%. It’s sad, but true, Spider-Man 3 ambitiously can’t maintain the momentum and falls into a web of Spiderside.
A Sandbox Called NYC
Spied-Man 3 is a sandbox game that boasts a bigger city then in the previous games. It’s their rendition on New York City. Visually Spider-Man 3 is like Spider-Man 2, and even though they claim it’s a larger world, it doesn’t feel any larger then before. Like any good sandbox game there is plenty to keep you occupied even if you’re not involved in the main plot-line, which Spider-Man 3 has 10. Thugs need to be stopped and villains need to be brought to justice, and if you’re wondered they didn’t add the balloons into the mix. In total if you added all the missions up you’ll mark out at an impressive 42 missions. The Wii version has half the missions of the Xbox 360 version which is understandable given the hardware constrictions. The Wii version obviously is making up for this with its innovative motion controls. You’ll have to do the math, five extra plot lines, or motion sensitive spidey. I’ll have a full review of the Wii version shortly, its next on the agenda.
Enter the Villians
Spider-Man’s villains in this game range from the movies extension including the new Green Goblin, along with several comic book villains, and some original material created by the Treyarch team. Plus you have to add in the gang fights including a gang of girls sporting umbrella’s which are tossed into all sorts of random crimes. They try to connect all this gang fighting into specified zones that can go up and down in levels, this really feels tacked on and not implemented properly. The zones can be viewed from the main menu and if you feel like doing you duty as savoir of NYC have fun cleaning the streets.
A City with Secrets
What’s left in the in game content leans towards secret tokens which are hard to spot, gang tokens, skyscraper tokens and subway tokens. All these tokens don’t exactly match up with the last game mainly because of their hard to spot design, and after Crackdown, it’s hard to match the same feeling as orb madness. Spider-Man 3 also included some photo missions available from the Daily Bugle, and MJ Thrillrides which has you trying to keep Spidey’s girl happy as you swing through the air earning and collecting hearts. Both of these two modes are instantly forgettable, and the Thrillride was just frustrating and pointless. The nod of content goes to the villains, but it’s something the Spider-Man games never lacked.
All Tangled Up
A few other aspects are contributing to bringing Spider-Man 3 down and that is the combat system which has been refined, however far from being an improvement. The reversal system and combo moves all feel unnatural and comes down to waiting for the attack icon on the enemies head and reversing it. This works with the gang fights all the way up to the boss battles. Continuing on the controls, Spidey has some camera issues that become more of a burden underground. The whole underground idea could have been skipped and the camera gets tangled up and stuck all over the place.
Spider-Man 3 starts out strong with Bruce Campbell humorously giving out instructions which reprises his role as the narrator. This unfortunately is a high light of Spidey 3 and even though the game has selected actors from the movie, it still doesn’t shine in the audio or graphics department. In all honesty the game runs fairly smooth with some pauses in the animations from time to time, but it not what you would expect out of the next generation game. If you compare Spder-Man 3’s effort to other Sandbox styled games like Saints Row, Crackdown, and Oblivion that also deal with large environments and characters on screen at one time, Spidey falls from his web. It’s hard for me to cough up this one, but Spider-Man 3 reminds me of Superman Returns for the Xbox 360, and that’s loaded full out bad kryptonite.
To criticize Spider-Man 3 a little more I’d point a finger at the textures that have been optimized too much and get repetitive to accomplish the size of the city, the majority of the time they are blurry and undefined. The car models and people also seem dull and pop up too often. The collision detection also comes up with a few problems, but understandable when dealing with spinning webs through the city. It’s not a perfect scenario and this falls into suit with the sound effects and music which is equally dull. The highlights come in the form of the voice acting, the actual Spider-Man character and the size of the city, aside from that I expected a higher quality of production around the board.
It’s hard not to be negative after playing Spider-Man 3, this is partly because I loved the other Spider-Man games and this new version feels like its reversing the progress Treyarch has made. If this was the first Spider-Man game from Treyarch all this review might have gone a little better, but it’s simply not. Spider-Man 3 is part fun, part frustration, and part boring. Spider-Man die hard fans will still be able to find some fun within this game, after all it is Spider-Man. Casual fans you might want to rent an older version I suggest Spider-Man 2: SE or Ultimate Spiderman while we all wait for the next Spider-Man game to be spun.
Gameplay: 6, Graphics/Sound:6.5, Innovation: 6, Mojo: 7 Final: 6.5 / 10
Welcome to the dark side: For the first time ever, control the legendary black suit, which magnifies Spider-Man's strength, agility, and durability. Punish your enemies with explosive new attacks and incredible upgrades, including fearsome room-clearers.
Let freedom ring: Go anywhere at any time in a larger, dynamic, free-roaming New York City and get involved in whatever you want, whenever you want. Decide how to proceed through the game and set your own goals.
The city is your playground: From towering skyscrapers to the vast new subterranean sewers and subways, Spider-Man must patrol all of New York. Three criminal gangs and variety of Super Villains will be competing for your attention, taking hostages, stealing cars, harassing citizens, and creating havoc. Will you be able to save everyone?
Don't let the city go to the dogs: Three vicious gangs have laid claim to the boroughs of New York and must be taken down. As Spider-Man brings these criminals to justice, the crime rate will drop in that section of town and city life will return to normal. If he doesn’t, the streets will turn to chaos. These super thugs don't go down without a fight, though.
Everybody was kung-fu fighting: Redesigned from the ground up, the all-new combat system lets you perform suit-specific attacks and combo chains to defeat enemies and complete challenges and missions.
Battle Super Villains galore: Experience multi-stage, dynamic boss battles against the headlining villains from the movie as well as a host of legendary comic book foes who all take advantage of their environments, their minions, and the large-scale destruction that their superpowers cause in trying to defeat Spider-Man.
Use new gadgets: In addition to faster web-swinging, certain events and environments open up additional Spider-powers for you to control. Using Spider-Man's web abilities, catch falling objects including people and debris, fix hazards like broken train rails, barricade doors, and even slingshot from the tops of buildings for increased speed and huge air.
Spider-Man is growing up: As you master Spider-Man's powers through natural progression and completion of missions and challenges, Spider-Man gains ability enhancements including improved web moves, swing skills, and amazing melee combos.