Does whatever a spider can!
Spins a web, any size!
Catches thieves, just like flies!
Look Out! Here comes the Spider-Man!
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine your life as it is now, then think of how cool it would be to have superpowers! For instance, what if you had super-strength? Lifting even the largest obstacles would be as easy as tying your shoes. Or what about an increased level of agility? Every Olympic gymnast’s routine would be child’s play compared to your tumbling, leaping and rolling. Of course, people would idolize, fear, or be jealous of your feats. While an amusing thought, no one understands this more than Spider-Man. For more than forty years, the web-slinger has graced the pages of Marvel’s comics with his abilities, and with the recent release of Sony’s blockbuster, Spidey has leapt from the comic books to the record books. Gamers interested in a sneak peed of the movie were allowed to treat themselves to Activision and Treyarch’s rendition of the film released on all three consoles and the PC a few weeks earlier.
Fans of the comics will be very happy to see the origin of Spider-Man lovingly recreated and displayed with the power of the Xbox. For the comically uninitiated, the tale of the wall-crawler is one tinged with courage and tragedy. Peter Parker, a young, sickly teenager, is bitten by a radioactive spider that confers superpowers upon him. Deciding to use his newly found talents, Peter starts wrestling for money. One night after a match, a thief robs the wrestling box office. Not wishing to get involved, Peter lets the man pass, unwittingly allowing the criminal to kill Peter’s uncle later in the night. Vowing revenge, Peter tracks down and accidentally kills the murderer. And as he mourns his uncle, his uncle’s last words echo in his ear: “With great power comes great responsibility.” From that point on, Peter Parker embarks upon a crime-fighting life, that of Spider-Man.
Of course, walking in Spidey’s webbed shoes is not an easy feat. Thankfully, 14 training levels are provided to run you through the paces of becoming a modern wall-crawling superhero. Ranging from a generic overview of abilities to web swinging to air and ground combat, the game gives you all the insight you’ll need to utilize your mutant powers. While the previous Spider-Man titles have been plagued with tight, rigid movement and poor camera control issues at times, the current iteration has miraculously been exercised of most of these demons. In fact, the awkward camera angles seem to flare up only during some instances of ground combat. The aerial swinging and combat sequences are practically cured of this issue entirely. The other one, that of rigid movement, only seems to occur directly after you find yourself stuck with the previous issue. Other than that, it seems like the entire control scheme has been reworked, and definitely for the better. This wall-crawler is amazingly agile! Case in point: It’s now possible to swing in one direction, leap off a web line, perform a flip and reverse direction in one smooth, fluid motion. The environment also plays a larger role in the action, allowing you to create your own combinations and attacks. Pouncing upon unsuspecting enemies from the ceiling with a quick punch or two before retreating to the relative safety of a wall or an out of reach area has never been easier. And with the zip line feature, which quickly pulls Spider-Man in the targeted direction, escaping hordes of attacking enemies is a cinch.
This will come in handy within the well-designed levels provided within the game. The twenty-plus levels featured in the game are very large, and while some of the objectives for each level may seem exactly the same at first glance, the action within each level is never stale. From breaking into buildings to fast citywide chase sequences, the pace of the game is well timed to give you a heady adrenaline rush. The boss battles are just as dramatic, with some of Spidey’s greatest foes present to challenge him. You’ll find yourself tangling with Shocker and Scorpion on the ground, as well as the Green Goblin and Vulture in the skies. The Xbox version has the extra bonus of Kraven attempting to take the wall-crawler out, trapping him in a zoo filled with traps and other dangers. Additionally, villains will sometimes force Spidey to take heroic actions in the midst of battles. There are moments where you’ll have to break off your attacks or pursuits of villains to save civilians or reinforce damaged structures before they can harm innocents, things that are pulled directly from the pages of the comics. It’s a great touch that gives you a taste of what being a superhero is all about.
Those who’ve played previous Spider-Man games on the PlayStation will be pleased to know that the web attacks, like the protective web dome and the long-range web ball have returned. But in addition to these familiar moves, Spidey also has the ability to pull off combos through a new combo system. By acquiring gold spider icons that are scattered throughout the game, you can learn new attack strings that cause varying amounts of damage. Up to 28 different combos can be discovered and unleashed upon your opponents, all of which earn your bonus style points for dispatching enemies that you can redeem to unlock hidden features. The only problem that I found with the combos is that the controller sometimes wasn’t responsive enough to accept a lot of the button commands, sometimes replying with easier sequences.
This reward point system is just part of the proof that this is one title that’s rife with replayability. Indeed, the number of options presented to you on the main menu screen gives the impression of a media rich DVD rather than a game. For example, the gallery option allows you to not only view in-game movies that you’ve seen, but also design elements, production stills and concept art from the game and the film. While galleries on most titles seem a little anorexic content-wise, Spider-Man features over 12 galleries, each with fifteen or more images. Add to that the option to unlock additional costumes, mini-games, and hidden features, and the immensity of the product becomes apparent. Definite praise should be heaped upon the developer for providing this kind of depth to gamers.
Given the 40-year history of the Spider-Man franchise, one of the trickiest aspects to convert over to the game screen is the wit, charisma, and personality of the characters. Spidey is famous for his glib one-liners to villains and stressful situations, and any loss in the cleverness of his speech would be immediately apparent. Fortunately, Treyarch managed to pull of a major coup, managing to get Tobey Maguire and Willem Dafoe to contribute not only their likenesses to the title, but their voices as well. (A feat that is far too underutilized for movie/game tie-ins, in my opinion.) So, not only will you get the sense of being in the movie and fighting against the Green Goblin, but you will hear similar wisecracks, observations and comments from the film itself, providing a much more engaging experience. The other major character that is heard, and not seen, is that of Bruce Campbell who acts at the narrator of the game and the tutorial missions. While not as paternal as Stan “The Man” Lee, Campbell’s trademark sarcasm is a finely honed balance of humor and contempt.
Graphically, Spider-Man takes advantage of the power of the Xbox, displaying fluid animation and character models without any discernable flaws. The game powers along at a consistent frame rate with no slowdown whatsoever, no matter the number of enemies or onscreen effects. For example, there’s one level where you get fired upon by multiple robots, missile batteries, and turrets. The engine is strong enough to track and render every item, character, and surface without any hiccups. And while the title impressively displays particle effects, rendering smoke from fires and explosions with remarkable detail, one of the striking features presented is the absence of the “fog” obscuring the ground and buildings in the cityscapes. Replacing this is the hustling streets of the city, replete with traffic. Not only is it amazing to see the game track all of the movement below in the streets as well as that above it, but it gives you a sense that there are civilians and a real world occurring around you at all times, no matter how fantastical the power or strange the villain gets.
Personally, I found myself enthralled with the video game, so much so that I pulled a couple of all-nighters going through the game over and over again and noticing new details each and every time. The combo and reward points systems are great additions to the series, and the tighter control scheme makes wall crawling unbelievably fun. Any comic book fan, fan of the movie, or gamer should swing their way to their friendly neighborhood game store and pick up a copy of this game. You won’t regret it.