Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
Developer – Treyarch
Publisher - Activision
HDTV 480p and 720p
Spider-Man 3 arrives on the Xbox 360 just as Spidey swings back into action on the big screen. Having watched the movie one week earlier, and witnessing some of the Spider-Man 3 demo's at my EB Games, I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of the game when the courier arrived at my home office with our review copies in hand. The Spider-Man video game franchise has always had its share of issues and the Xbox 360 version is no different. Although the game does have some pleasing moments; at the end of the day it comes across as another rushed movie based game where it appears developers did not have enough time to produce a top notch product.
Overall, Spider-Man 3’s visuals are very nice. From the high rise buildings and environments of New York to Spider Man himself, the game looks good. That being said, I do question whether the game has made a significant leap into the next generation of gaming. There are many moments throughout Spider-Man 3 where it just does not seem like it takes advantage of the Xbox 360’s hardware.
Likely the single best aspect of the game is the New York City landscape. This was not surprising given the ‘New York City pride’ theme which oozes from the movie. Nonetheless, the detail of the city is amazing and looks stellar. The city is certainly alive in Spider-Man 3 and you will notice a fair amount of detail as you look down while swinging with Spidey from one building to another. The lighting effects in the sky are also well done and worth mentioning. Despite all the positives there are some concerns. For instance, the textures did appear and re-appear at times while I was gliding the famed web-slinger through the air. As well some of the draw distance was blurred out and unclear at various points in the game. Finally there are also some frame-rate issues and slow-down which sporadically appear throughout the game.
In terms of the big guy himself, Spider-Man looks pretty good along with all the other main character models and majority of the enemy AI’s. I have to admit I love the black suit which looked good coming from my Xbox 360 Elite HDMI connection. Unfortunately, the black suit is not an option at the outset of the game and it left me wishing that I could have played all the single player campaign in black. All the bosses were well done and you could tell graphic artists spent a fair amount of time and energy bringing some of Spidey’s biggest foes to life. On the downside, the enemy gang members all looked very similar and I would have liked to have seen a little more variety in them.
The character animations and movements had some strengths and some weaknesses. Spider-Man’s movements are solid and his swinging through the air is second to none. Unfortunately the fighting and combat movements are weak. The character animations do not appear smooth during combat leaving you to believe this area was not refined enough. As well, you will notice some glitches with enemies stuck in walls or clipping throughout. To some they may appear minor but they are noticeable enough to impact the overall gameplay.
This area is arguably the weakest point of the game. Despite the fact that the game features all the stars from the movie (sans Kirsten Dunst) it has some glaring problems as the dialogue simply does not sound authentic at times. Some of the phrases seem uninspiring and sound like they are straight from a B rated movie. The most authentic and true to life performance is given by JK Simmons who does the in-game voice of J. Jonah Jameson. It’s humorous and bang-on and it is too bad we don’t get more of him. Some of the other voice actors are good but in the end most of them seem forgettable as they sound like they are just going through the motions.
The music in Spider-Man 3 is also somewhat lackluster and practically non-existent. Spider-Man 3 only has a few music insert points such as those during chase or fight scenes. For the most part however there is no music at all. For Xbox 360 owners who have likely downloaded a CD or two onto their hard drive, the lack of music is not an issue though as you can simply play some of your own tunes while playing the game. I often found myself listening to my own music collection as I perused through the city. So for some this may be a positive as you can use your own play lists, however the lack of music in the game does not garner a high score from this writer.
Overall the sound effects are satisfactory and the authentic voice acting is appreciated. Nevertheless, the games audio could be much improved upon and more efforts could have been made with the in-game soundtrack.
Similar to the previous editions of the franchise, Spider-Man 3 allows you to roam the city either by swinging from building to building doing random missions or by going through the game’s main storylines. The best part of the gameplay in my view is the swinging and gliding through the air as Spider-Man can only do. The developers truly do an amazing job in this aspect of the game as they have nailed down Spider-Man’s movements and swinging action to perfection. The combination of the city’s graphics combined with the gameplay of swinging through the skyscrapers creates a great atmosphere and certainly adds to the game.
As you explore the city you will find open mission icons scattered throughout. The missions are independent of the story and you do not have to complete any of them to continue with your quest. Story missions themselves open up further story missions and you can complete the game without even touching the random missions. I have to admit that I prefer just steamrolling through a games campaign mode, so it was nice option not to complete side missions in order to advance in the game. The game should take you anywhere from 10-15 hours to complete depending on your skill. If the boss fights were not so long you could probably knock a few hours off that total.
The missions in this game are somewhat of a mixed bag. 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 or collecting hearts with Mary Jane. Some of the missions have some replay value while others are weak leaving you wondering why the developers included them in the game at all.
Another important aspect about the game, and Spider-Man himself, is of course his fighting style. Here is where the game suffers somewhat. For instance, to beat bosses it takes quite sometime and you start to question if you are maximizing Spider-Man’s fighting moves. I often found myself pounding away randomly at buttons in efforts to kill the boss. Granted, there is a big combo list you can memorize, however for the most part it can become just mindless button mashing task. Bottom line, boss fights are long and frustrating and I could not believe how long they took. During my venture through the game I also found that I used one of Spider-Man's special powers, called Spider-Reflexes, a fair amount. This is the equivalent to bullet time and it is a feature many games such as Max Payne and Gun also employ. Spidey essentially goes into a slow-motion state that allows him to dodge incoming attacks. It’s a nice feature but I found myself relying on the skill a little too much.
Spider-Man 3 features interactive cut-scenes where you have to press certain buttons to advance the action. Almost all the boss battles conclude with the scenes. At first I hated the idea but as the game progressed I did not mind it so much. The scenes do remind you of the movie and some are extremely well done and add to the intensity of the gameplay. All in all, this aspect of the game is a definite change from Spider-Man games of past.
The overall story of the game was somewhat disappointing for me. I guess I just had higher expectations as I anticipated the game would closely follow the movie. There are about 10 storylines overall and they do not connect very well. Granted 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. Unfortunately, the game becomes lost when characters such as Scorpion, Lizard and Kingpin show up. At the end of the day, you find yourself not really following the storyline and aimlessly mashing away from one battle to the next.
Another area of concern that I should mention was the in-game camera. Often you find yourself re-adjusting the camera just to get a quality vantage point. I found myself adjusting the camera quite a bit and it ultimately took me away from the action at hand. The in-game camera also affected missions too which again distracted me from the game and left me disoriented once too many times. Bottom line, these things should not be happening with a next-generation title.
Continue to Page 2