Review by JPeeples
"The Snootchie for, "Most Disappointing Superhero Game Since Superman 64" goes to..."
Spider-Man: the Movie was developed by Treyarch and published by Activision, the game was released in April of 2002, a few scant weeks before the movie on which the game is based was set to see release in theaters. This 3D adventure stars everyone’s favorite web-slinger, Spider-Man, as if you couldn’t tell that from the game’s title. This game uses the same basic game engine as the two previous 3D Spidey games, and, if you’ve played those games, you’ll know your way around this game in no time. The game’s storyline loosely follows that of the movie, which, in and of itself, loosely follows the plot of the Spider-Man comics. This game adds a few villains, such as the Shocker, the Vulture, and the Scorpion so as to avoid the game being a giant hunt for the Green Goblin.
The gameplay is divided up into indoor and outdoor sections. The outdoor sections of the game are where the Spider-Man feel hits it’s zenith. When you have the ability to swing around and vanquish foes at your leisure. This is when the game really starts to feel like a Spidey game. However, once the indoor sections hit, the Spider-Man feel leaves the building faster than the Matthew Good Band in their “Load Me Up” video. Part of the fun of the Spider-Man character, and, therefore in this game, comes from having the freedom to swing through the air and climb up tall buildings. All of that fun can be had in the first level, which features two towers that bear more than a striking resemblance to the World Trade Center towers destroyed on 9/11. After the first level, the game must be able to survive on it’s own merits and, sadly, it fails to do so. The indoor levels permeate the game so much so that it really detracts from the experience. The outdoor levels simply optimize the Spider-Man character. Now if the indoor levels had a stealth aspect in them, they could be quite enjoyable. The Spider-Man character has had to be a stealthy action hero on more than one occasion in the comics, and that kind of gameplay style would perfectly suit the character, and the nature of the levels. Instead, Treyarch opted to make them action-oriented like the rest of the game. The problem with doing this is that Spidey’s powers, as evidenced by their use in the game, simply don’t work well in an indoor setting. The ability to climb walls is pretty much useless, because the rooms are so small it negates the point of climbing them in the first place. The ability to shoot webbing sure is handy, but the game throws far too many foes at you to make than an acceptable means of combat. The good old hand-to-hand fisticuffs could work, if the animation wasn’t so jerky that it prevented you from knowing exactly what kind of attack you are using on your foes. The lone highlight of the gameplay, outside of the outdoor levels, lies in the game’s in-flight battle system, which you will make use of against the Vulture and the Green Goblin. This in-flight fighting system really helps to get you into the mood to do battle. You will get an adrenaline rush the likes of which you have never seen. You will see your character hanging on for dear life, if you fall from this in-flight battle system, you are DEAD. You will do whatever it takes to survive, and that means you’ll be putting up your dukes and engaging in some clubbering, if you will.
The game’s sub-par camera system also plays a hand in making the indoor levels seem like a trip to Hell. The herky-jerky camera makes you break out the Dramamine the instant a level begins. As long as you have no intentions of actually moving throughout a level, you might be fine. Because, once you start moving, that camera starts roving. You go one way, the camera goes another. Considering the cramped quarters of many of the indoor levels, this is quite problematic. The outdoor levels suffer a bit from the camera system, but not as much as the indoor levels do, because the free-roaming nature of the levels helps to offset the jerkiness of the camera.
The controls in the game get the job done, but they are far too inconsistent. Some techniques, such as shooting webbing, or creating a web zip line for swift movement up a building or wall, are precise. The very moment you press a button, the action is done. However, for the combat aspects of the game, such as punching, kicking, and throwing, the controls tend to be very loose and unresponsive. This is yet another aspect of the game that absolutely ruins the indoor levels which the game is chock-full of. If you could survive on webbing alone, you would be fine. But, as I mentioned before, you can’t. That leaves you with a combat system that is too shaky to get the job done on a consistent basis, and that my friends, is simply inexcusable.
The graphics are the only noteworthy aspect of the game, not including the voice over work, which I will get into a bit later on. The graphics are full of life and make the world of Spider-Man come alive. The game is bathed in lush textures and lighting effects. Little touches such as the perfect reflections off of windows and rippling water really make the Spider-Man New York come to life. As the game progresses from the first level, which I view to, sadly, be the only fun level in the bunch, you’ll find similar touches. In some indoor levels, you’ll be able to bust open boxes and watch in amazement as the wood just shatters upon impact. The characters themselves are full of detail. You’ll be able to make out every single web on Spidey’s costume, and it even has the reflection effect on it, just like in the movie. Every character, from the lowliest thug to the Green Goblin himself is full of details that add to the atmosphere of the game.
The sound in the game is another bright spot. Treyarch decided to shell out some big bucks to Tobey Maguire and William Dafoe (the actors who play Spider-Man and Green Goblin in the movie, respectively.) For the most part, it’s money well spent. Dafoe does an incredible job at nailing down the dynamic Green Goblin character, so much so that it is nearly impossible to not hate him towards the end of the game. Maguire does an admirable job, but he tends to overact at the most inappropriate times, such as at the very beginning of the game, where he lays out your objective as if he was Moses reciting the Ten Commandments. The game features some nice sound effects, although none of them do much to convey the sense of damage done via punches and kicks, they certainly could be worse. The music is kind of pedestrian, it really doesn’t grab you. But, it’s not overly offensive either. The great voice over work by Dafoe more than makes up for the aural shortcomings.
The replay value of Spider-Man: the Movie is simply through the roof. Treyarch has outdone themselves this time and really went all out to give you, the gamer, the most bang for your buck. You will be rewarded with tons of fun little secrets and costumes for beating the game under certain conditions. You will also receive the ULTIMATE Spider-Man gift if you’re able to beat the game on it’s hardest settings. Simply put, if you have the tolerance to overcome the game’s shortcomings, you will be rewarded, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s a blinding one. However, all of this extra bliss does not make up for a shoddy main product. Much like a DVD movie that relies on superfluous extras for praise, this game can’t survive on secrets alone. It must be able to stand on it’s own two feet in order to be deserving of a purchase.
All in all, if you’re a huge, hardcore Spidey fan like I am, give this game a rental. You’ll get your thrills in a few days of play, and you won’t be out $50. The sub-par gameplay and controls harm the game to the brink of unplayability. The graphics and voice work by Dafoe and Maguire do an admirable job of sucking you into the game, and into the Spidey universe. It’s a shame the gameplay doesn’t further that sensation. As it stands, the only game to pull of the perfect blend of the Spidey atmosphere with great gameplay has been the Sega-created Spidey games of the early 90s. Each version of that game had something unique to offer you and it made playing through each version of the game something you would want to do. It didn’t rely on tons of extras to get your money, it’s gameplay made it deserving of it. This is easily the most disappointing Spider-Man game ever.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.0 - Poor
Originally Posted: 06/19/02, Updated 06/19/02
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