Games based on comic books or movies are usually never a good combination; now imagine a game that combines both and you are probably getting that weird queasy sensation in the bottom of your stomach. That is unless of course you are talking about Treyarch and their incredibly popular Spider-Man franchise. Spider-Man 2 was considered by many gamers as the epitome of the collaboration of genres. With an immensely fun web-swinging mechanic and tons of activities to perform this sandbox title captured the hearts of gamers across the country. Now with the third movie dropping into a theatre near you it was time for Treyarch to heed the call and bring us our first taste of Spidey on the next-generation of consoles.
For anyone who has been living under a rock this next sequence of text will be somewhat of a spoiler; you have been warned. Spider-Man 3 follows the role of young Peter Parker and his descent to the dark side. The game transcends the events of the movie (somewhat) and eventually leads up to our favorite wall crawler donning the infamous black symbiote costume. This costume gives Spidey more strength and removes some of his inhibitions much like what Red Kryptonite does to the man of steel. As some of you may know this also leads to one of Spidey’s greatest villains Venom, which in all fairness is all you really care about as far as the story goes anyway right?
The core game takes you through a plethora of missions ranging from random petty crimes to dealing with some of Spidey’s greatest foes drawn from both the movie and the comics. Along the way you will tangle with obvious choices such as Sandman, Venom, and of course the New Goblin directly from the game’s big screen counterpart. You will also run into some classic villains from the universe including Rhino, Scorpion, and even The Kingpin. While the roster is impressive trying to follow the story is sort of like watching the third X-Men movie. It really turns into a giant cameo fest where you are never really sure what the villain you are fighting has to do with the overall plot.
To its credit the game does offer 42 missions, all of which lead to different boss encounters and a ton of additional activities that you can perform at your leisure. All of these are very similar to the game’s predecessor such as random crimes, races, and even a chance to take Mary Jane on thrill rides throughout the city…of course having to hear her yell “Take me higher Peter!” will quickly wear on you. In addition to all of that you also have plenty of tokens scattered throughout the environment that will earn you achievements if you can snag them all. In total there are 75 gang tokens, 35 secret tokens, 30 skyscraper tokens, and 30 subway tokens. Needless to say there is more than enough here to keep you occupied for months on end.
While all of this content is great the big question (and deciding factor of any game) is whether or not these activities are fun. Well let me sum this up by saying…maybe. All kidding aside the core mechanic of swinging around the city mopping up random crime is just as fun as the last game, if not a bit more. The problem appears whenever it is time to progress the story and you have to tangle with one of the many bosses throughout the game. Most of these consist of repetitive actions that require lots of patience and very little skill.
For instance early in the game you will tangle with The New Goblin. Now anyone who saw the movie (and yes that means spoilers are abound) knows that this is one of the coolest sequences in the entire flick. Trading punches with Harry as you speed across New York on his hoverboard sounds like videogame magic just waiting to happen; unfortunately for you this task is handled in a most mundane and boring fashion. For the first section of the fight you are forced to do certain button presses and flick the analog stick in different directions very similar to quick-time events in games like Shenmue and God of War. Sadly these sections last entirely too long and if you manage to mess up its back to square one. This can wear on you quickly and make an otherwise great boss encounter a dreaded task.
As for the rest of the missions in the game they are a bit more enjoyable, but still share some serious issues that really drag them down from time to time. Most of these consist of different objectives ranging from a simple rescue to defusing bombs in the subway; while the first three or four are fairly quick and fun, tackling the last boss becomes a pain really quickly. The general thugs are easy to take out, but these main creeps are like tanks when it comes to health and blocking. Most of the time I would simply perform jump combos to avoid being hit by their massive weapons, which usually lead to a really tedious fight with little to no satisfaction on my end.
The nice part about the way the game is laid out is that you never have to attempt any of these outside missions to progress the storyline, which is roughly 10-12 hours minus any side quests. The single-player is actually quite healthy when it comes to how much there is to see and do, and with the addition of some rather inventive achievements to unlock you will certainly get your money’s worth if you are a big fan of the character.
As for the combat system in the game Treyarch has done a nice job of tweaking the one major issue I had with this game’s predecessor; you can now perform air combos which really liven up fight sequences and special moves are now easier to pull off. Not content with just tweaking the basics there are also a few new additions that really add to the combat. The first is the Spider-Sense during combat now triggers a small icon above an enemies head giving you a split second to counter the attack with one of your own. You can also slow down time ala The Matrix and perform some truly wicked counter moves. You can also now click in the thumbstick to use your Spider-Sense to track enemies and see them through walls and buildings, which is imperative in certain missions not to mention really cool. For the most part the combat works, but it still has a long way to go before being absolutely flawless.
Now we finally come to the issue next-gen freaks love to dissect: visuals. Spider-Man 3 is certainly a mixed bag on this end; for instance the character model of Spidey is extremely detailed and very well animated. Swinging through the city you will notice lots of little touches the developers have added to his repertoire and when up close you will really appreciate the textures plastered all over his threads. The city on the other hand is where things really start to fall apart. Granted this time around it is now almost three times larger than in Spider-Man 2 there are still some questionable items that certainly need to be addressed.
For starters there is some serious pop-up when swinging through the cityscape, especially when you upgrade to the faster swinging speed. The texture work is also very poor; all the cars and pedestrians look bland and repetitious and let’s not even talk about that amazingly bad water surrounding the city. The camera system will also give you fits more often than not. Take for instance the simple action of crawling up the side of a building; not only does the camera pan around at the wrong time, it switches to awkward angles constantly distorting your view and causing you to fall off of buildings frequently. The frame rate also dips to unacceptable levels during most boss fights and indoor encounters (but surprisingly not nearly as bad as the PS3 version) and the collision detection will create more “WTF” moments than most other games in recent memory.
Spider-Man 3 is a perfect example of a really fun game marred with some tedious elements that will more than likely frustrate you. If you are a fan of the series then there is no reason not to pick this one up, as it is more of the same just bigger and in many ways better. While the tedious missions and fussy camera system will likely cause frequent bouts of controller throwing, swinging through the city is still as fun as it ever was and with so much to see and do there is plenty here to warrant your $60.