Sunday, May 6, 2007
Good: Web-slinging still entertaining
Bad: Terrible combat, camera, voice-acting, sub-par graphics, very loose tie-in with the movie
As a big fan of the web-slinging action in Spider-man 2, I had high hopes for its current-gen debut. Like any good nerd, I stumbled into Wal-Mart after the bars let out on the morning of its release. My first impression was that of "well, I'm sure this will get better as I gain more abilities." Many hours later, and this initial thought was sadly mistaken.
It's hard to put a finger on what made Spider-man 2 a fun experience and Spider-man 3 a highly frustrating one. The combat in the former title wasn't spectacular, but it was at least playable. In this new installment, even beating up standard thugs is a trying ordeal. There are many times where attacks should clearly be hitting the target, but they simply don't connect for some unknown reason. Some enemies in particular are seemingly invulnerable, and you should prepare to die countless times regardless of how well you play.
Far more infuriating than the standard thugs are the often intolerable boss fights. One sequence of such fights may go down in my personal gaming history as the most maddening experience I've ever been through. It's incredibly long, unnecessarily difficult, and there are essentially four or five mini-boss fights in a row that are all terribly designed. Each time you think you've beat the nemesis, the mission continues like some nightmare that never ends.
The only unquestionable bright spot in this disappointment is the always reliable web-slinging. It's still as fun as ever to zip through skyscrapers and explore New York at your leisure (although the novelty has worn off a bit if you've played the previous games). There are a few new tricks up Spidey's sleeve, like the impressive slingshot maneuver that sends you flying across most of the city with one shot.
Reactions to the movie have been extremely mixed, but I can't imagine many people defending the narrative of the game. To say it loosely follows the film would be an understatement. Main characters like the Sandman are given terrible introductions, with almost zero backstory. Most of your time will be spent beating up random gang members or fighting villains that aren't in the movie. It would be disappointing if the game strictly followed the plot with nothing added, but it's even more disappointing to see the obviously half-assed attempt to tie it in.
While they might not all be great, there are a decent number of distractions and activities to do if you're not looking to immediately advance the story. One such activity involves racing around the city defusing bombs (via a somewhat entertaining minigame). Another will probably make most gamers want to murder Kirsten Dunst, as you escort her around the city while she constantly shrieks "This is SO much fun! Go higher! Go faster!" I wouldn't have as much of a problem with these missions if they included an option to javelin-launch her off the top of the Empire State Building.
Repeating dialogue like this seems to happen all the time, which wouldn't be so bad if the actual lines and voice-over work weren't so atrocious. Tobey Maguire emotes his lines with the level of passion equal to that coming out of Stephen Hawking's voice machine. The only actor that does a decent job in this game is Thomas Haden Church, a.k.a. Lowell from "Wings" (I think this could quite possibly be the first "Wings" reference in the history of gaming journalism, by the way).
Spider-man 3's mediocrity bleeds over to the visual end of things, as well. Character models would probably look somewhat decent on the Playstation 2, but aren't nearly detailed enough to warrant current-gen power. The city looks slightly better than the previous game, but still features a decent amount of fade-in and general glitches.
Unfortunately, this once-entertaining franchise has lost its luster and become a tedious chore of an experience. There are just too many aspects of the game that clearly needed more time in development. If it didn't have to coincide with the release of the film, I feel they probably would have pushed the release back a bit until these things are ironed out. This sadly isn't the case, and we're left with a game that barely warrants a rental.
First Play: 7.0
Replay Value: 6.0