STAFF REVIEW of Spider-Man 3 (Xbox 360)

Sunday, May 13, 2007.
by Adam Rivard

Spider-Man 3 Box art Continuing in the tradition of Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3 brings the film home by offering gamers a large-scale virtual recreation of New York City to explore. As players traverse the city, either on-foot or through Spider-Man's trademark web-swinging, they can participate in a number of missions that recreate the various events and fights of the film, including Spider-Man's acquisition of the symbiote Venom. This results not only in Spider-Man's new black suit, which enhances the hero's aggressiveness and power, but also his ensuing struggle with it, causing him to periodically switch between the two suits as the game progresses. The question is, with all these great features promised, can Spidey pull it off once again and meet our high expectations?

First off let?s talk about one of the new obvious elements in this game. Spidey's dark alter-ego; this more powerful Spidey builds up a rage effect which he can then unleash when it's time to open up an extra large can of whoop-ass. The combat animations are different for black suit Spidey as well, he is clearly doing the Rocky blunt force trauma gig as opposed to being cute and fast like Ali. Combat has been spiced up with a few neat tricks as well, with my personal favorite, having the ability to hang a thug from four lamp-posts at the same time. It's difficult to execute, but very rewarding.
The simple two-button combat system is back which allows players to easily perform all the fancy acrobatic kicks, punches and maneuvers that make Spiderman so entertaining to watch, the action depends on the order on which button you press between X and Y. Spidey also has a variety of special moves in his arsenal. One in particular, referred to as Pinball, proves extremely useful in close quarters as it sends the villain ricocheting from wall to wall in a high speed crisscross pattern, quite handy when facing off against a tightly-packed mob.

Elsewhere, you can usefully slow down time for a brief period by holding down LB, or throw in a super-powerful enemy-clearing attack (once your meter's charged up) by pressing RB and X, Y or B. But the real fun isn't so much in how the combat feels (it's pretty basic, to be frank) but how it translates the action onto the screen. Even more so than before, Treyarch has created a seemingly unending procession of jaw-dropping comedy combos that give Spidey the ability to humiliate his foes as much as possible.

Environments also factor into the fights, as seen in a brawl with Sandman in the depths of New York's subway system. It's set in a tall chamber filled with subway tracks running across at various heights, the players must take special care as Spidey and Sandman duke it out to avoid oncoming subway cars, which can knock the hero off the platform and provide Sandman the time to escape through a nearby vent. Luckily, players can also utilize that situation to their advantage.

Continuing with what we saw in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, the boss fights are not just about mashing the buttons and surviving. Rather, the player engages in interactive cut-scenes where he has to hit the right button or direction on the d-pad at the appropriate time to execute the correct move. Failure doesn't mean the end of a mission or death, fortunately, you just have to re-start the sequence again. Some of these interactive sequences are brilliant and by Activision's own admission, at least the Sandman fight was lifted straight from the movie.

As for the difficulty of the game it?s admittedly tough at some parts. Half the missions won't trouble you, even the modestly skilled players so long as your wrists can handle a bit of button-mashing for extended periods, but there are some absolutely brutal challenges to overcome before you'll complete the game.

Now let?s talk about the downfalls of Spiderman 3. No doubt this game is a bigger game then any of the other Spiderman games in terms of missions but I don?t think that this is such a good thing. Let me explain, they are not all proper missions? just fillers to try and convince people they're getting more value for their money; to put it bluntly. These boring fillers include the tiresome gang missions. You'll quickly find out that these missions have absolutely no substance at all. It's simply a case of the game spamming regenerating waves and waves of enemies at you until they eventually sod off. Pretty much every encounter is the same, requiring a diligent use of the "slo-mo" ability, hammering everyone senseless while they're all wading through treacle, and repeating the whole "shebang" for a few minutes. And in total, these identical missions represent probably a third of the game's content padding. All the button mashing does become very monotenous. This is the only problem I had with this game, other then that, it?s exactly what you would want in a Spidey game.

For example, Spider-Man 3 very is rich in detail thanks to the graphical capabilities of the Xbox 360 and the support for HDTVs, which it utilizes to display in 720p and 1080i. When Sandman conjures up a defensive barrier, for example, players can easily distinguish between the various bricks that apparently compose it. Specks of sand go flying into the air whenever Sandman takes a blow, complete with an explosion of particles if stuck by a subway car.

What stood out the most, however, was the immense view spectrum given to you while playing Spidey. Standing on top of a building, you could see to the edges of Manhattan and although the detail is obviously not crystal-clear, it's good enough to make it believable. The typical haze that obscures objects in the distance seems out of place in many games, but not in New York. Believability, the view is helped tremendously by the impressive lighting model. While the sun moves across the sky, not only do shadows move and the world grows brighter and dimmer, but the light changes to the appropriate color. Dusk and dawn are different from noon, with a redder tinge than the searing white of the high sun.

Another tidbit illustrating Treyarch's attention to detail involves the in-game cinematics. After the fact, that actors from the film, including star Tobey Maguire, recorded their lines for the game, the company hired additional actors to re-enact the various scenes and motion-captured them to help animators in their quest for smooth and realistic movements.

We've all come to know that Activision's Spider-Man titles are well renowned as some of the best movie-to-game conversions in recent times.
Spider-Man 3 certainly appears to continue that tradition.

Even something as simple as web-slinging provides a thrill, as players can delight in utilizing the speed of a swing to shoot Spidey forward before letting him freefall towards the streets below, only to anchor a nearby object with a web strand via the right trigger mere seconds before he goes splat. Combined with a two and a half year development time, a strong attention to detail, and an adventure that goes well beyond the movie, the Xbox 360 versions of Spider-Man 3 can very well be the best Spider-Man game yet.

With one foul exception of course the monotenous missions. If you think that all this button mashing won?t appeal to you; at least give it a rental. It may not be the game of the year, but I'm certain your Spidey sense are just itching to swing around, and take another crack at a fresh batch of bad guys. Enjoy!

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 7.6 / 10
Visuals: 8.2 / 10
Sound: 8.6 / 10


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