Activision’s Spider-Man 2 revolutionized often miserably executed video games based on movies with an open sandbox design once thought sacred to more lavish properties taking years to develop. A leap onto next generation consoles with Spider-Man 3 offered another chance for Spidey to spin an equally, if not more impressive web of gaming intrigue. Instead, the game imitates the critically panned film and crash lands hard in a step backwards for the series.
Spider-Man 2 excelled by nearly mastering the graceful art of swinging about New York City without a myriad and control and camera complications. Spider-Man 3, on the other hand, reverts back to the series” first game by turning web-slinging into a chore rather than something fun. Aiming Spidey around corners and through tight spaces while airborne is no easy feat, often requiring stressful controller moves to one side. The ground is even more dangerous for Spidey with any corner or intense fight resulting in an uncontrollable, spastic camera unleashing its full fury. If Spider-Man 2 took one step forward in superhero controls, Spider-Man 3 takes two steps back.
As expected, Spider-Man 3 the game follows the film’s plotline as Spidey squares off against the New Goblin, Sandman and Venom, all while taking Mary Jane for a number of joy rides throughout the city. But rather than allow the film’s plot to be followed without interruption, developer Treyarch mixed the film’s missions in with other, such as going after the Lizard and his minions or battling any number of large gangs, including the Apocalyspe. In fact, several missions will need to be completed before the first film mission, the New Goblin, is even accessible. Good luck as the boss battles range from easy to nearly impossible. And if you want to wear the black suit to harness its power with a few new combat moves? You better be ready to play a minimum of five hours before that can happen.
Getting to the black suit wouldn’t be such a big issue if the gameplay was worth investing a considerable amount of time into. After an hour or two of button mashing through countless villains the initial thrill of being Spider-Man is long gone, and any incentive to reach the suit ” aside from Achievement points ” is forgotten. New moves picked up along the way are fun when accidentally executed, but more often than not, combat regresses into a pushing mashing bonanza. Dredging through missions is hampered even more with intrusive memorization mini-games that serve no purpose other than to agonizingly prolong reaching the next cut-scene.
The jump to next-generation consoles does offer a beautifully rendered city with far more areas to explore than its predecessors and a dynamic shift from daylight to night and back. Atop the Empire State Building is where an Achievement awaits along with a hazy view across all of Manhattan; by far the most stunning visual in the game. The city’s visuals are unfortunately dragged down by last-generation cut-scene character models with some of the worst facial renders I’ve laid eyes on since Playstation 2. Speaking of eyes, the ones found in these cut-scenes are so buggy they’re downright scary. At least Toby Maguire and pals lent their real voices to the game, and even did so with more enthusiasm than in the film.
Whether Spider-Man 3 fell victim to time deadlines that have plagued almost every video game based on a film is anyone’s guess. After being so pleasantly surprised by the last game, there was no excuse for Treyarch to drop the ball moving forward by not at least keeping the gameplay on par. This is one Spider-Man experience that spits venom instead of spinning a new web.