Spider-Man 3: Collector's EditionESRB:
Category: Action Games
Developer - Treyarch
Publisher - Activision
HDTV 480p and 720p
PS Network Compatible
Spider-Man finally makes the jump to next generation consoles with the release of Spider-Man 3 from Activision. Having seen the movie at a midnight showing prior to the Friday rush that would ensue, I was quite curious to see how this series would make the jump to the next generation of consoles. I have had the opportunity to take the PS3 version for a spin and after some playtime with the game I would have to say that even given some of the gameplay refinements I am somewhat disappointed with how the final version turned out.
Being that Spider-Man has finally made his way to the next-generation of consoles I was quite excited to see how it would take advantage of the extra horsepower. Well much to my dismay this game didn't nearly do what I had expected. Sure, there was a glimmer of hope now and then, but I was somewhat surprised by the lack of visual oomph that this game had.
As anyone knows, swinging through New York City is what Spider-Man does best. I would have to say that New York doesn't look bad at all and it is actually the visual highlight of this game. The city seems to have the most detail in the game. Buildings are quite detailed, the streets are alive with action (e.g. cars and pedestrians) and the lighting effects in the sky are well done. For example, you will even see the reflection of the sun off various buildings as you web-sling through the city. All in all this is a great representation of the city and it does not go overlooked by me.
In terms of negatives, they kind of outweigh the positives. I did notice that textures had an unexplainable ability to pop in and out during my high flying excursions. As well some of the draw distance was blurred out in what I believe is an effort to help the graphics engine maintain its frame-rate. Unfortunately this was not any help at all as there were many instances that the frame-rate really slowed down during my swinging escapades high above the streets.
Character models are pretty well done. It was quite neat to see Spidey in his black suit swinging back and forth in high-def glory on an 80-inch screen. As for the enemies, I found the videogame representations of each boss pretty cool to look at. It was quite interesting to see such well known characters as the Lizard or Sandman come to videogame life on my PS3. However, that being said a lot of the gang enemies looked too generic to me and there seemed to be a lot of the same type of gang members.
Animation of said characters is a real hit and miss affair, with a lot more emphasis on the miss. Sure, Spidey's movements are not that bad, especially when web-slinging across New York City, but it is a total different affair for all characters when in combat. I found that some of the movements were quite jerky, as if not all the frames of animation were finished. As well, you will find a lot of little glitches such as enemies getting hung up on invisible walls or even going through various on-screen items (clipping). I was very disappointed that I was seeing this happen on screen as the PS3 is a very capable machine and this game has been in development for sometime. Maybe it needed a bit more time in the garage to work out these kinks, but unfortunately the release of the movie did not allow it to do so. Overall the game shows some visual flashes of what could be, but in the end the graphics turned out to be more of a disappointment for me.
Having already seen the movie I was looking forward to what the actors could offer in the game. Most of the film's cast made an appearance in the game voice wise including Tobey Maguire, James Franco, Thomas Hayden Church, Topher Grace and J.K Simmons. However Kirsten Dunst is noticeably absent from the game. The voices managed to add a level of authenticity to the game, although a lot of the voices you will come across were not even in the movie as the videogame character was not. Besides the voice acting, the rest of the sound made for a pretty solid package. From the sound of Spidey's web, the sound of an enemy getting what he deserved, and the sounds of the musical score, everything really suited the on-screen combat action as it was wrapped up in one neat package. If there is one area that I think caused me concern was how New York City just didn't seem to have life as I made my way through the skyscrapers above. The music seemed to stop and the lack of city's sound effects (e.g. traffic below) made it eerily quiet. I don't know if this was on purpose or a glitch, regardless it was quite strange. Bottom line, if I had to sum up the audio in this game it would be that it gets the job done, but does so in a rather uninspiring manner.
My first expectation was that this game would follow the movie quite closely, and although there are elements of the movie in the game the game's overall storyline is somewhat convoluted and disjointed. You will see a lot of recognizable links to the blockbuster movie, such as the acquisition of the black suit and the villains who star on the big screen. However, where this game was quite confusing to me was that they also threw in other villains from the comic book and animated series, such as Scorpion, Lizard and Kingpin to name a few. So basically there are numerous storylines intermixed with the storyline from the movie. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that they tried to make this more of just a videogame of the movie, but maybe they could have done so with more fluidity and ability to really feel what is going on in the game. There is no doubt that Spider-Man purists may not enjoy this aspect as it mixes the modern day version of the Spidey movies along with storylines from past comic books and the original animated series.
A new addition to the gameplay is the addition of contextual minigames. These games have you following scripted events by pressing buttons in time with the icons that appear on screen. Think of it as a modern and "spiderized" version of Dragon's Lair. These events are somewhat interesting and a definite change from Spider-Man games of past. I won't play spoiler here, but after playing through one of these scripted events where I had to leap though a series of lasers without touching them, I was somewhat impressed with how these events played out. That being said, I did find that these events came up out of the blue and I wish I had some warning that I was about to enter such a section. Some people may find that the icons are somewhat hard to recognize too, but should you be playing this game on a large enough screen this may not be such a problem. One really noteworthy thing about these scripted events is that should you fail to hit the right button at the right time the game only puts you back to the beginning of this minigame like event, so you are not forced to replay a whole level.
Something that has always appealed to me in any Spider-Man game is the ability to just swing through New York City and check out the sights. The city is relatively large in this latest version and anyone will recognize many of the landmarks recreated in the virtual version. There is no doubt that Treyarch knew a lot of people really enjoyed the ability to explore their surroundings as evident by the ability to roam at one's own will in this latest version. As you venture about you will find open mission icons scattered throughout. Anyone who has played previous versions knows that you had to play random missions to open up new story missions. Well this time around the side missions are independent of the story and you do not have to complete any to continue with your quest. Story missions themselves open up new story missions and you can complete the game without even touching the side missions, should you wish. This is a nice option as there are people out there who just want to deal with the story at hand and not have to do side quests. Should you want to go straight through the story you will find the game will last you about 10-15 hours depending on your gaming skill. That being said, I would suggest that you do some of the side missions as they are s nice diversion from the rest of the game plus it will extend the playability of the game too.
The missions in this game range from pretty cool to very mundane. It was this wide of a mix that gave me some concern. You will find yourself doing such things as cleaning up areas of the city where certain gang's are in control to taking various pictures. One thing that really blew my mind was the sections where you had to take Mary Jane on a swing through the city collecting hearts that are floating mid-air. I mean really, what is up with that? The mix of missions was just too broad and it is this reviewer's honest belief that consistency would have beneficial to the game in this area. Making the various missions diverse is great, but come on, who really wants to collect hearts floating in mid-air?
Spider-Man 3 is mainly about combating evil using various fighting moves and combo's that upgrade progress further into the game. Something that I found as I played was that some of the moves felt like I was just button mashing and I became quite reliant on special combos. I was also quite reliant on the use of Spider-Man's special power called Spider-Reflexes (hold the L1 button on the SixAxis controller). This is the equivalent to bullet time (a-la The Matrix) as Spidey goes into a slowed state that allows him to dodge incoming attacks. By using this power I could clear a room in no time. However where this is mostly needed is during the boss fights that are littered throughout the game. This brings me to another complaint. The boss fights themselves are somewhat disheartening as they take so much time due to the fact that they can take quite a bit of punishment. Don't get me wrong, I am all for a challenge, but man are these battles unbalanced. I was amazed how much damage Kingpin could take and it took me so long to defeat him, not only due to the damage he could take, but also due to the fact that he could easily whip my butt and I had to use a time consuming pattern to beat him. Kingpin is not the only boss that fits this description. If you come to share any of the same feelings as me during the boss battles you will come to feel that they are long and way to drawn out for their own good and that they take away for the overall positive feeling of the game.
Another area that really took away from this title is the in-game camera. In a day and age where developers have had lots of practice at making a good camera view it was very surprising to me that I had issues with this aspect of the game. During Spidey's adventure, I found that the camera had to be constantly readjusted during gameplay. Usually that is not an issue, but when I had to readjust in an enclosed area, or during battle, it caused me to get disoriented on more then one occasion and actually affected how I was playing. I lost many an enemy during this and it was quite frustrating. The problematic camera also affected missions where you had to reach a certain destination and it also affected basic times when I was just crawling along a ceiling or on the side of a wall. Once I readjusted the camera during any of these scenarios I found that it took me some time to figure out which way was up and where the direction was that I was trying to go.
Overall I just can't get over how the refinements in gameplay are overshadowed by glaring issues with the camera, mission variety and boss battles. This series has definitely taken a step backwards in this department.
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