key review info
- Game: Spider-Man 3
- Platform: Playstation
- Gamepad support: N/a
- Reviewed on:
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It's the season of great expectations as we're drooling for GTA IV and Starcraft II and frantically unpacking the new Spider-Man 3 and Shrek The Third games. Well, new doesn't always mean better and this is also the case with Spider-Man 3, in its dreadful PS2 version. Why would I say such a thing? It's probably one of those moments when everyone should have a revelation telling them that the games made after famous comics aren't meant for success. Just look at Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four, any Batman or Superman game... I guess that the pressure was on the developers of the game that were rushed to finish the game in time for the release of the movie. One shouldn't argue with people that spent half a billion dollars on making a movie. The bottom line is that the gaming version of the most expensive movie ever made is... cheap and we're not talking about its price, but about its value.
If you don't know who Spider Man is, well you must have been living in a cave for the last 20 years or so, since it's one of the most acclaimed comics of all times and a pretty decent movie series. The games have had their share of success, being usually the kind of titles that got average scores in the reviews. Peter Parker, also known as Spider-Man or Spidey has found some peace of mind and got back together with his girlfriend, Mary Jane in an attempt to live a decent human/spider life. When everything seemed just fine, there's a meteor crash and the thing's carrying Venom, a symbiotic creature that takes on Spidey's costume and body.
Just as Peter was starting to get bored with the average New York villains, a bunch of nasty super-villains decide to show up. They're the critters you've seen in the movie and in the famous comics: Kraven, New Goblin, Sandman, Lizard and obviously Venom. The game's plot unfolds in a pretty confusing way, straying sometimes from the film's original story. Also using the Venom costume whenever you please is a major flaw of the game's storyline, since this doesn't happen in the movie and was added in order to improve the gaming experience.
Let's call this an action 3D platforming game, with a little bit of free-roaming every now and then. Aside from the whole area of Manhattan, Spidery could roam around 20 miles of subways and sewers, at least in the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 versions. Guess what? These areas are gone from the PS2 version and what's more the game's rather short, so you'll finish it in about hours if you're rushing. However, for the hardcore Spider-Man fans missing the bonuses and side missions would be a sacrilege, so these will double the game's length. One thing strikes the gamers from the get-go: the games starts suddenly, without an intro cutscene and you'll get to see it only after completing a part of the annoying tutorial. It can be considered annoying specially because of the narrator's comments, but he's just doing his job, teaching you how to play and all.
After finishing the tutorial, you'll have the chance to see the town map and notice all the points of interest on it signaled with circular markers. Also there's a list of gangs that have a certain level of control over their area and a couple of informants that will help you destroy the villains. All the gangs have fancy names like Apocalypse, Dragon Tails, H Bombers or Waste Tribe, but they're all easily dispatched, specially with the Venom suit on. You're alone in the fight against crime and you'll be aided by the police, but usually they're the ones to require your assistance.
Believe it or not Spider-Man 3 has a couple of elements taken from the RPGs, but don't get your hopes up as it's all about experience points, gathered in order to unlock new abilities or upgrades. Such points are gathered by fighting and completing missions and also there's a pretty huge list of combos to unlock, although you'll notice that most of them are just versions of the same battle moves. You'll be able to use air attacks, melee attacks, web mounts, adrenaline attacks, web attacks or acrobatics.
It takes just one hour of play till you get the infamous Venom suit that grants you superior strength, agility and attacks. Unlike the other Spider-Man 3 versions (PC, Xbox 360 and PS3), you'll be able to switch between red Spidey and the black suit whenever you want, but there are certain conditions in order to do this properly. Use the Venom suit too much and Peter will pass out, but you'll see this coming once your vision gets narrowed and our hero seems to be ill.
The costume change takes place with a simple press of the right or left D-pad button. Things get complicated when you want to get rid of the symbiotic pest: you'll have to do a combo and press a frustrating amount of buttons if you want to be the normal Spidey again. Those button-pressing sequences get more difficult each time you use the black suit, but if you're got experience with button mashing it will be a ball.
Spider-Man 3 follows 10 primary plot lines and 24 missions, throughout Peter Parker's adventures in Manhattan. It won't be all combat and violent actions, as you'll have the chance of "webbing" through the town, rescuing citizens by carrying them on your back or finding certain objects. Such tasks can become really annoying and a bit hilarious. Just think about it, a hero like Spider-Man 3 goes looking for meteor pieces or spider emblems in order to increase his strength... it's almost as lame as Superman searching for collectibles. In Spider-Man 3 you'll be fighting by using the standard action buttons, but there's a little bit of extra for you God of War fans out there. This title borrowed the concept of cineractives from the above-mentioned title. Those are the neat combat sequences with cutscene graphics that will have you pressing buttons in a certain order in an attempt to vanquish a boss or complete a standard task like opening a safe or deactivating a bomb.
The control system is pretty basic in Spider-Man 3, but if you combine it with a pretty confusing camera, you get a mixture that's pretty tough to digest, even for the biggest Spidey fan. You'll be able to throw our favorite hero's trademark web, dodge attacks by pressing the L2 button, crawl on walls or do webswings. If you press and hold the R2 button you'll throw a web that randomly glues to one of the walls that surround you and you'll start swinging till you throw the next web and so on. Combining buttons will make you walk on walls whiles swinging, or crawl on them, but nothing beats walking vertically on a skyscraper's thick walls. Spidey will also do double jumps, normal jumps, or jump boosts that give him an extra edge while flying from one roof to the other.
There's a red health bar at the bottom left side of the screen that regenerates if you avoid damage, but you can only regenerate to your orange endurance level. You'll have to collect various power-ups in order to increase your endurance.
The AI is extremely bad in Spider-Man 3 and the only thing you have to fear while taking on large groups of baddies is the camera, as it's your real enemy, because of its stupid changing angles. Probably the only good and original thing in this title is the pause menu, that appears if you press the start button and allows you to save your progress. There's also a Scrapbook section where you can view your progress so far and an option that allows you to unlock combos, ranging from the standard uppercut, to the wall jump, 6 hit combo, spider smackdown and dozens more.
Various combinations of moves will be available once you start to gather enough points to unlock the cool moves and you'll see Spidey walking on walls while hanging on his web, with a citizen on his back and ready to deliver a deadly blow to one of his foes. The game features the "crime patrol" concept that allows you to start a patrol that will have the sole purpose of eradicating criminal gangs from the New York. On the town map you'll be able to see each gang's area of influence, and the rings that surround a gang icon show how powerful that group is. You might have already realized by playing the game or reading the review that this title is very similar to its prequel, it even gets worse than its predecessor. There are lots of repetitive side missions to do if you're an unlockables fanatic, but the combats are so boring and the rewards so insignificant that they're not worth the few hours of your life.
Getting involved in combats will make you build up adrenaline as you go, and once you see a white aura on the screen it's time to unleash an extra-powerful attack. You'll usually trigger those by pressing the L1 button and an action button at the same time, so keep your eyes on the white adrenaline bar, waiting for it to get filled. Doing damage to your foes quickly fills the adrenaline meter and you'll never run of villains, so always be ready for combat. Hanging on webs and gliding is easier done with the aid of the left analog stick and there's also the ability of aiming your web shots with the other analog stick, but that gets impossible once again because of that nasty camera.
I have to begin by saying that in Spider-Man 3 all the building look like boxes and this is no exaggerated comparison, specially when you're playing the game on a big screen TV. You'll surely like the day-night cycle and Spidey's shadow on the ground, but that's about all the so-called eye candy you get. The graphics were recycled from the previous installment and a few lighting effects and a larger town were added. I knew that the game was meant to be a failure from the moment I noticed that Spidey can walk through the environment, pass through the enemies or push any civilian through the buildings. If you stop for a moment and take a look around, you'll see hundreds of people sharing the same faces and bodies, and looking like a Playstation 1 game designed in 1998 or so. Spider-Man's action and combat sequences are well-done adding a bit of spice to the overall gaming experience, but we've seen this in God of War done ten times better.
The title features the original cast from the movie, except for Kirsten Dunst, but that's no major flaw, as she's not much of an actress. That can be said about Tobey as well, because listening to him is as interesting as watching a fly clean its legs. There's also an orchestral score, similar to the one in the movie, the typical Hollywood soundtrack, designed to be heard inside the cinema only. All the enemies and civilians share a very short list of lines, and the number of times that common people thank you can get irritating to the point of playing the game on mute. Enemies have some... let's say taunts, but they're as embarrassing as Spidey is while talking to himself and bragging about his muscles and sounding like a 15 year old geek.
This game's everything we hoped NOT to see in a PS2 title, specially one available on the PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles, too. I couldn't imagine why a sane person would buy this title if he or she had already played another version of it. Spider-Man 3 should only be played if you get it for free (as a gift of borrowed from a friend), because it would be extremely frustrating to throw your money out the window by buying a recycled version of Spider-man 2, that's gone from bad to worse.