Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Spider-Man 3
(Activision for Playstation 3)

Activision's Spider-Man 3 for the PS3 is based on this summer's blockbuster film, and allows players to take on the role of the Amazing web-slinger as they swing and fight through a variety of levels. The game offers a fairly exciting swinging mechanic that allows you to fly above the streets of Manhattan, but things get less exciting on the ground where average play mechanics and repetitious enemies drag things out. Many of the cut-scenes are voiced by the actors, and there are some neat features such as the use of spider-sense, but the overall package feels haphazard and erratic. Unfortunately, Spider-Man 3's implementation isn't quite as sleek as it could have been and falls short of recreating the movie's cinematic thrills.

Like many movie-to-game cross-overs, Spider-Man 3 promises players the ability to relive the exciting events of the film, only to fall short of the mark with uninspired gameplay, awkward controls and a poor design makes this fall short of the mark. Many areas of the game interrupt the flow with lame quick time events that only leads to frustration. Things start off promisingly enough, as players find themselves in the webbed-shoes of Spidey once again. You find yourself swinging over and around the streets of an impressively detailed Manhattan cityscape, flying above the streets, crawling on buildings and occasionally stopping to derail a group of gang members. This is fairly enjoyable and nicely presented. Players can use the in-game map to select which mission or objective they want to complete. Since you don't have to play these in any particular order, it gives the game a sense of non-linearity that's somewhat interesting. However, the Manhattan island becomes smaller and feels less open as you go deeper into the game. The game allows you to play either predetermined missions, where you have to swing to the event location or find criminal activity as you go through the city freestyle. Swinging around the city without any real destination or objective is easily the best part of the game and unfortunately, it seems to go downhill quickly from there.

The missions that are offered range from fairly dull racing contests, where you have to go from beginning to end in a course before the clock runs out, to more elaborate battle missions, where you have to go through multiple stages and levels before running into that level's boss creature. There are also smaller scale missions where you have to, for example, take pictures of some event or bad guy as Spider-Man then return the photos to the newspaper. As you complete these missions and levels, you'll be able to unlock additional moves and powers that Spiderman can use in later stages. The game opens up fairly quickly and gives you plenty of options, but there is a kind of repetitiveness to its missions that keeps it from becoming as exciting as it could be. A lot of this has to do with the seemingly endless waves of faceless, unimpressive enemies you face, whether in human or other form. They attack you fairly mindlessly and their approach seems fairly obvious to players. You can battle them either using your standard moves, or use your Spidey sense and slow-down moves to take them on. In the slowdown move, you can press keys at certain points during the battle to dodge and then counter an opponent's attack. This is fairly interesting, but you can usually get through the levels without having to jump through these hoops, making the moves feel more like gimmicks than useful additions to the combat system. You can also use this sense to locate hidden objectives, such as bombs or enemies that may be hidden behind walls or doors, which gives you an edge.

For the most part, Spider-Man 3's controls and interface offer a fairly decent and intuitive approach. This is especially true in the swinging portions, where it's easy to travel and build momentum as you fly. Crawling up the sides of buildings will definitely take some practice, but once you get used to it, you'll find navigating the canyons of New York a fairly easy and highly enjoyable part of the game. Once you get down on the ground, Spidey's hand-to-hand combat skills also come into play and these are likewise easy to use with standard hits and punches handled by the controllers shift button, while the Spider sense moves can be triggered easily using the shift keys. Most players should have little trouble understanding the controls, but there are some aspects of the design that are annoying. One crutch that has been used too much in the game involves its use of real-time events, which are cinematic portions where the player has to press a specific button at the exact right moment in order to proceed. While it's somewhat fun at first, the later stages involve many, many rigid button presses which are hard to anticipate. This usually results in a quick end to the level, and makes these sequences more an exercise in memorization, which has the effect of both taking the player outside the action and making you feel like these areas were patched through. In any case, they occur much too often and makes this feel more like one of those interactive movies than the pure action game that is promised early on. Spider-Man 3 doesn't really have as much consistency and polish as one would expect, the gameplay feels stiched-together and this makes for a gaming experience that feels less than the sum of its parts.

Fans of the comics and movies will be happy to know that the developers have given players several bonuses, including several sequences and characters that weren't in the movie. This makes for a longer game, and the ability to play as either Spidey's dark alter-ego Venom or the New Goblin should please those hardcore enough, but these new characters and additions don't really add much to the overall game's feel. Spider-Man 3's presentation is decent enough and is especially impressive when players find themselves swinging over a nicely detailed rendering of New York. However, once you get on the ground, the visuals seem a little flat and lack detail. The game's combat sequences are decent at points, but the game's camera system feels a bit confused at points, especially when the character is jumping around quickly. This makes for a title that becomes annoying very quickly. Spider-Man 3 also uses in-game cut-scenes derived from the actors, but these character models don't really look that impressive, especially on the PS3, where their somewhat bland appearance feels decidedly last generation. Its voice-acting is decent and many of the films' stars such as Tobey Maquire and Kristen Dunst lending their voices to the scenes. These along with narrator Bruce Campell brings at least some of the film's look to the game. Unfortunately, for all the Hollywood polish and presentation, Spider-Man 3 can't hide its significant and glaring problems. It's gameplay has flashes of brilliance, but is for the most part unremarkable and somewhat mediocre. While fans of the movie are likely to enjoy the game's recreation of its significant plot points and characters, the game itself lacks the polish and depth to really stand on its own. In the end, Spider-Man 3 falls short in many areas. This is a disappointing title that will join the long list of licensed film games that don't deliver a satisfying experience. - Michael Palisano

Grade: C

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