Apologies for the lack of updates lately. Oh I'm here, present and correct, but to be honest there's just been precious little to talk about. This is gaming's worst dry spell in years, so it's strictly MMO-ville for me right now.
|Much like its predecessor, Spider-Man 3 is a free-roaming crime-fighter that sets you lose upon Manhattan to do as you wish. I'm playing the PC version, but it's out on pretty much every system under the sun in a variety of different renditions|
The one faint beacon of light amidst a wasteland of thumb twiddling and ball scratching is the recently released video game adaptation of Spider-Man 3 however, and it's pretty much the only title to drag my attention away from Lord of the Rings Online
in recent weeks. I absolutely luuurved the old Spider-Man 2 game ya see; a beautifully executed free-roamer that not only went down as the best movie-to-video game translation of the previous gen, but also - in my opinion - one-upped Grand Theft in the fun stakes to boot. Its follow-up, known as Ultimate Spider-Man
, may have been mildly average in comparison, but the thought of a proper next-gen sequel to the former? You could say I was emanating my own special brand of Spidey's wrist spunk in anticipation.
The end result ain't really up there with the monumental ace-ness of Spider-Man 2 by any means, but I'm still having fun with #3 regardless. To be honest, I'm a little peeved at the world of video gaming journalism actually, in regards to all the negative buzz surrounding this bad boy. The movie's shit - no doubts there - and I can't vouch for the Wii nor PS2 versions (which look truly dreadful, I concede), but the "real" version here? As seen on the PC, 360 and PS3? Good stuff, I say. And just what the doctor ordered.
True, there's not a world of newness this time around. You're ultimately left with little more than Spider-Man 2 with better graphics, but is that such a bad thing? Did Spidey 2 not rock your socks? In a way seldom seen since your first morning wood-driven wake up spank into their all-encapsulating depths? A bad thing it ain't, if you ask The Dig, because I can't put this sucker down. Those whom never sampled Spidey 2's delights will appreciate it all the more in fact, and for their benefit, perhaps I should explain just what it is that makes these games so great.
|Web swinging remains the highlight of the game, despite some minor tweaks|
My ever powerful geek card promptly limpens around comic books - in fact I've never read a single one - but I do love my super hero movies, and these Spidey games unquestionably do the best job yet at capturing that sense of truly being
a superhero. It's all in the swings, man. Not content to simply recreate Manhattan in its entirely - right down to specific streets, buildings and bridges - the game then gives you the single greatest mode of transportation ever, in the form of Spidey's oh so awesome web slingin' powers.
A single pull of the right trigger (mouse and keyboard won't cut it here) latches a web onto the nearest outcropping you see, with you then swinging and soaring in the appropriate direction via incredible full-blown physics. That's right, there's no faking it, sir - when you swing around as Spidey, you do it fo' real, yo. It takes a little while to get to grips with - somewhat perfectly matching Peter Parker's early attempts in the original flick - but soon enough you (pardon the pun) get into the swing of it, pulling off beautifully sequential super fast moves along with crazy awesome show-off somersaults that put CGI Maguire to shame. Traversing entire city blocks becomes a work of sleak artistry as a result, thanks partly to the pleasing roster of unlockable moves and skills thrown in along the way.
It's such fun in fact, that I used to literally fire up Spider-Man 2 long past game completion, just to go for a swing around the city. The same can be said for its sequel here. Nothing quite beats a night time soar between mastodonic New York skyscrapers while the distant glow of city lights illuminates you from miles below. There's an odd peacefulness to it in fact, further amplified any time you manage to sling your way all the way up to the top of the Empire State building and just...admire the view. Ahhhhhhhh.
|While the game follows the central story of the film more or less, huge amounts of side plot and characters have been thrown in|
Of course, there's more to Spider-Man 3 than just the swinging, and this is where flies start to drop like lemmings into the all too beautiful ointment. Not to the level some of the hateful journos out there would have you believe though, even if Spidey 3's missions ain't its greatest trait.
In stark contrast to say, GTA or Saint's Row, the missions don't drive the game here you see...they almost get in the way. Your travelling to and from them - and just fucking around along the way - prove the highlight, while the missions proper simply remind you to press on and "get back to work". It mirrors Crackdown
a little in that regard, another inventive free-roamer that similar reveled in its ability to let the player just...blaze around the city having fun. Not bog 'em down in errands.
If nothing else though, at least these missions have seen an improvement over Spider-Man 2. They remain simple beat 'em up jobbies for the most part, but some fun(ish) Dead Rising-style photo sections show up now as well (Peter Parker is a photographer after all), along with the occasional God of War-esque quick-time event that adds some additional variety on top. You know the drill; hammer the buttons in the correct sequence to perform a crazy acrobatic cut-scene maneuver, or it's your arse, and they work rather well in the context of Spidey's superhuman arachnid stunts I guess.
They're tough as hell, mind.
Handsome in an Ugly Sorta Way
Far more benefitting of improvements are the graphics however. Free-roamers never look particularly amazing - an unfortunate side effect of their rendering of an entire city at once - but Spidey 3 handles itself well enough next to the competition. The views are still wondrously epic when seen from high above, and the draw distance is nothing to scoff at either. Tobey Maguire's digital counterpart looks like a mutant frog boy of sorts, but other characters fair considerably better, including the pedestrians. I mean come on, remember how whack they came off in Spidey 2? Four polygonal heads that made WoW-toons look like Gears of War? These ones are comparatively gorgeous.
|Spidey 2 ain't aged well on the visual tip, so a next-gen upgrade proves welcome|
They feel a lot more zombie-like in personality, that said, and I do miss their casual, "Hey! Spidey!" jabs as you fly by overhead. Alas, none of that's to be found here. They look great, but are right old miserable sods.
Full-on physics add to that visual upgrade, meaning if you knock an enemy into a table now, or sling-shot a barrel into a pile of crates, the whole lot'll smash and topple over in the appropriate manner. Indoor duels in warehouses full of boxes and the like, come off far more visually impressive as a result, but it's just a shame there's not a whole lot to interact with at regular street level along those lines.
Such interiors have seen the biggest revamp of all though, as Spider-Man 3 now boasts full-blown indoor levels. We're talking fully fleshed-out instances you'd expect from a regular beat 'em up in fact, including quite an extensive series of sequences set in both the sewers and subways of Manhattan. Why video games continue to force us to play around in liquid shit is beyond me - are sewers that
much of an inspiration source for fecal-fetish level designers? - but it is still pretty effin' sweet to go swinging down these massive underground tunnels I will painfully admit. Particularly when you then sling your way back up to street level and take off into the sky in one beautiful, seamless motion.
|Combat is simple, lacks skill, and is even a little frustrating. I don't hate it though|
Sadly other parts of the game ain't so seamless. There's hella loading screens and auto-save pauses jammed into this mofo, kicking off completely randomly at that, and it's all a little annoying, truth be told.
That new found emphasis on interiors also somewhat exposes the camera for the gruesome instrument of eye-torture that it is too. Sure, it's beautifully cinematic and captivating when swinging around the over-world...but take a step indoors, and it all goes to shit. We're talking borderline broken, folks.
Audio fails to impress also. The Dunst at least puts some minor effort into her voice acting duties, but Tobey Maguire, James Franco and particularly Topher Grace are about as emotive as a pack of toothpicks. Some of the voices are so damn bad in fact, I'd rather put my ear to a glory hole than hear 'em ever again. Worst of all is the music though; soaring across the sky to the glorious Spider-Man score always got the blood pumping in the last game, yet here it's...bizarrely missing. You'll find minimal, ambient, almost spooky stylings instead, and ones that are about as out of place as a Jew outside New York (a Seth McFarlane gag, I take no credit). It's missing a major chunk of that super-hero excitement as a result, and it's all very odd more than anything.
Glitches prove Spider-Man 3's true Achilles' Heel though, as it ain't exactly the most polished vibrator in the marital aids drawer. I'm playing the PC incarnation here (which incidentally, requires a truly top of the line rig to even play), and regularly witness crashes, flashing textures, and major audio issues. I have absolutely no idea what the entire Scorpion subplot was all about for example, as I lost all voices in every single one of those cut-scenes.
SPIDER-MAN 3 THE MOVIE IS SHIT
|Without going into spoiler territory, you do unlock a kick arse black suit half way through the game, with extra abilities|
Still, rushed video game launches pushed out to meet their accompanying movie's release day can always be rectified via patches down the line, and there's nothing truly game breaking here in spite of all my (oddly unexpected) bitching. In fact, if you're a PC guy, and have thus never been able to sample the beauty and elegance of a true
Spidey game (the previous PC titles have all been shit after all), I can wholeheartedly recommend Spider-Man 3. Providing, er, your rig can run it. It even recognizes the Xbox 360 pad if you are so accessorized, customizing all the buttons accordingly, and giving you a very pleasing and accessible pick up 'n' play experience...that's strangely - and pleasingly - console-like.
360 and PS3 owners may want to be a little more conservative with their purchase - particularly with the ?40+ price tag adorning the box - but Spiderman fans will still find much here to enjoy I'm guessing, warts an' all. To be honest, there's very little else due out for the remainder of the summer anyway, so what the hell else are you gonna play?
Not only is this game a small return to form after the merely "alright" Ultimate Spider-Man, but more than all that, it's a million
times more enjoyable than the fackin' film that bears its name...