I’m sure you’re all familiar with the tale; boy gets bitten by radioactive arachnid, acquires superhuman powers, catches thieves just like flies… look out, here comes Spider-Man! One of Marvel Comics’ most celebrated superheroes, Spider-Man has endured over forty years of evil plots and vehement villains. Hollywood recently decided to spin Spider-Man’s story onto the big screen and after swinging its way onto the Dreamcast, among other consoles, Spider-Man finally makes his return appearance on the PC in a port of the aforementioned Dreamcast title.
The story behind Spider-Man, the game, is one of deception and restitution. During a news conference held by the famed Dr. Octavius, an impostor, dressed as Spider-Man, makes off with a device Dr. Octavius was demonstrating to the audience. Spider-Man’s integrity is suddenly in question and its up to you, as the real Spider-Man, to piece together the mystery and unravel the villainous plot.
Spider-Man is a third-person action / platform game that spans almost 30 levels across New York City. You’ll have to thwart bank robbers, elude a police hunt led by a missile-launching police helicopter, battle lizardmen in the New York subway system, ward off alien symbiotes at the Daily Bugle and engage some of the meanest villains New York City has ever seen, including the likes of Venom, Rhino and Doctor Octopus. Along the way, you’ll encounter fellow superheroes like Daredevil and the Human Torch, who will provide helpful tips in defeating the aforementioned evil-doers.
Sound pretty exciting so far? Well, it could have been if not for a number of flaws that tip the scale from enjoyment to frustration. The first such issue is one of camera control. A problem often found in third-person action games, the camera angles in Spider-Man are made even more treacherous due to the fact that Spider-Man has the arachnid-like ability to climb walls, hang from ceilings and generally defy gravity. The results are awkward to say the least, as the camera often struggles to keep up with our web-slinging superhero.
Spider-Man is a console port through and through. The control scheme is proof of that. While there is a variety of web and non-web related moves to employ in the game, as basic as punch and jump, and as masterful as webshields, web spikes and balls of web (for lack of a more technical term), you’ll require Spider-Man-like reflexes to perform many of them with the keyboard. If you don’t own a gamepad, you’ll quickly find yourself at odds against the baddies, despite the auto-aim feature. In the same vein, Spider-Man uses a console-style save game system, relying on checkpoints to save and restart games when you perish. Luckily, this system really isn’t that big an issue since most of the levels are manageable, save for a few aggravating moments involving leaps of faith.
Visually, Spider-Man is a bit of a disappointment. The opening cutscene is indication enough that graphics aren’t the game’s strong point. Models are blocky and environments are either too dark, too foggy, or to bland. New York City is much livelier and colourful than this, isn’t it? The audio, on the other hand, fairs much better. From the familiar opening theme song to the narration done by Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee, the sound is easily one of the highlights of the game.
My spidey senses are tingling for all the wrong reasons. While Spider-Man provides a number of exciting moments, aided by an assortment of web-slinging moves and some solid audio, the game suffers considerably from awkward camera angles, clumsy controls and uninspiring visuals. I had high hopes for the PC version of Spider-Man, but the game failed to deliver on several levels. Unless you’re a big fan of the Marvel Comics superhero, you might want to avoid getting stuck in this web.