Spider-Man 3 Review

Jon Criner

This is the true story of one mans rise and fall into a pixelated purgatory. A never-ending hell of sorts, filled with anguish, frustration, and vengeance, and I'm not talking about Peter Parker's plummet to a darker, more cynical role. The experience I speak of is my personal tale of suffering and discontent, playing through a broken title for the sake of informing you, the reader, of the injustice dealt upon the gaming community. This friends, is my darkest moment…

For the third installment of the critically acclaimed Spider-Man series, Activision has poured next-gen polish, high profile voice work, and one of Stan Lee's finest creations into a melting pot of gaming possibilities, resulting in a dish served slightly undercooked. However, in this case, "slightly undercooked" means horrible effort, and by "dish served" I mean thrown together like a three-year-old making lasagna for his imaginary friend.

Strange how 9 of 10 cars are taxi's...

The game, like many others, starts you off with a learning exercise cleverly narrated by Bruce Campbell. Mr. Campbell sounds rather annoyed, but his sarcasm is appreciated, until you start to feel like he's got something against you. After "learning" your way through a burning building, you're finally set free, armed with the skills the tutorial gives you. The next task you'll partake in is ultimately your choice, the one component I've always loved in a sand-boxer. Breathe in the city, climb a building, take your beloved Mary Jane on a "thrill ride", whatever you do, it's your decision. You may also notice how sleek and refined the city map looks when you hit the “Back” button, an impressive addition in comparison to everything else. As always, taking Spider-Man on a tour of the city via web sling is a joy, but unfortunately, one of the very few you'll experience. Instantly recognizable is the sporadic movement of the camera and its tendencies of being 'faster than a speeding bullet'. If your spider-senses are tingling, it's probably the nausea-inducing camera work.

After dealing with the camera and losing a battle to patience, I did the unthinkable and threw my controller, a gaming first for me. I lost it, personally, a humbling moment. Frustrated with the camera work, I decided to divert my attention with a little Combat 101, unaware of the calamity I would soon find myself in. Combat consists of three primary actions: fast attacks, heavy attacks, and special attacks. Visually, everything looks solid, and the fighting animations are well done with interesting names to boot. You'll go to town on your foes with the "ROFL Copter" and "Amazing Web Balls", which sound more like Adult Films and less like a super-human feat. Controlling these streamlined moves is a different story, however. Sure, I just got a 9,437 hit combo, but I have no clue what the hell I just did. To add to the festival of button mashing, the camera problems are magnified ten fold. Not knowing what you're doing makes a fight uninspired, and the cherry on top is the countering system…or, maybe it's the non-existent health regeneration.

"You're my best friend, Harry."

As far as countering goes, you'll eventually face opponents that are resistant to your standard attacks and you're only hope is to use your tingling arachnid sense to quickly dodge and counter, which could lead to a fight clocking in at just under 17 hours (I'm talking about you, Kingpin). After battling a boss, you’ll then be rewarded with an interactive cut scene in which mistiming a button press could lead to a rematch with an already beaten foe. On the health side of things, I can't fathom how Spider-Man can be killed by a girl swinging an umbrella, and in five hits mind you. This will lead to our hero lying face down on the cement, only to wait 15 seconds for the game to acknowledge your death. When you die, and you certainly will, the world is still very much alive and your enemies will dance upon your corpse for what seems like an eternity before being alerted that you have died. This is absolutely ridiculous, I shouldn't have to go watch my favorite Tae-Bo workouts waiting for the screen to say "Mission Failed".

When you've had your fill of the "open-ended world", there comes a time when you must earn your keep as the city's primary defender. Some tasks have you fighting giant lizards, while others are as petty as recovering stolen audio equipment. Whatever happened to New York's finest? There are three major gangs, and a horde of bigger and more challenging foes, like Kingpin, Sandman, and Venom. No matter what missions you take on, everything boils down to combat, which as mentioned earlier, is broken. If all missions revolve around struggling with the camera and trying to stay alive, why would I want to take them on in the first place? Also offered are side quests, which don't have the importance of saving the Teddy Bear factory. You've got your Daily Bugle photo missions, web-sling races, and my personal favorite, giving Mary Jane a ride around the city. Swing high to make her happy, swing low to make her happy, collect hearts to make her happy. She's a keeper, Spider-Man, a real keeper.

If you haven't seen the movie, Spider-Man's third effort is emotional, quasi-intriguing, and action-packed, sprinkled with bits of humor, however we gamers got the shaft on all things story. Many of the villains you'll encounter are never fully explained and very random. Cut scenes comprise of sloppy voice work, plastic looking characters (Peter Parker is downright scary) and cheesy dialogue. If I'm going to spend a long time on a mission, and believe me they're long, I'd like to be engrossed in a rich story. Sadly, you won't find that here. The stories are as simple as, "I'm a mad bomber, you wont get any of my back story, just the fact that I'm mad, and I'm also a bomber, so play five missions to kill me." If it's a story you want, you're better off playing FIFA.

Air prancing is the summers hottest new trend!

An unwritten law has recently surfaced, stating that franchise games will undoubtedly feature crappy game play balanced with an easy thousand points for your troubles. As much as Spider-Man 3 nails the crappy gameplay, it forgot about our damn points! True to most recent games, playing through the story from start to finish will net you a fair share of points, but making it through this one is a task for the very patient and extremely point deprived. The rest of the points are sectioned off to near impossible tasks of speed and determination.

In closing, let me cut back to my real life documentation of the overall experience. I rented this game five weeks ago and have the late fees to prove it, apparently $74 worth (how is that possible?), not because I couldn’t part ways with it, but because I’ve been avoiding it at all costs. A few of the things I’ve been doing to keep me away include mowing the lawn with scissors, sharpening my cutlery with socks, and teaching my dog Ebonics. It makes me wonder who Activision trusted with Quality Assurance, since only a primate would love this game. As a reviewer, it is my duty to inform the reader of a game’s high points, low points, and all other intricacies along the way. My overall synopsis remains the same as the feel of this entire review; Spider-Man 3 sucks.

The musical score is redundant and doesn’t stimulate my crime-fighting palette. Toby McGuire’s lines were read with little enthusiasm, and the only thing that kept me going was Bruce Campbell’s work. The dialog is incredibly cheesy and the fighting sound effects are average.

There are times that Spider-Man will impress you, especially through a HD monitor. The world is large, and Spider-Man’s character model was well done. Everything else seems like it was placed on a back burner and never brought to the full attention of the team. The models in the cut scenes are either scary, or terrifying, whichever you prefer. The draw distance will fool you since almost all buildings are already rendered into the shot. If it’s detail you’re looking for, the distance is severely lacking especially when web-slinging at 200 miles-per-hour.

The fighting looks cool, but is a pain to control. The camera will drive you insane, and the missions are so bland, you won’t want to play them. I’m not sure what kind of iron will is required to play this game, but if you’re able to do it without a grimace on your face, you are a true warrior. This is one of those titles that makes Perfect Dark Zero look like Halo.

I’m still trying to figure out what Activision was trying to deliver. The clearest example I can point out to you, is when you first meet Sandman, without any dialogue or back-story, you chase him into the subway and start pummeling him. For anyone that’s not seen the movie, you would question Spider-Mans tactics, and wonder why he would fight an innocent civilian. It appears that all the developers did was assume everyone has seen the movie, and removed all relevant build-ups.

The achievements are not easy, but the bulk can be attained through a few days of play. The thing I’m having trouble defining is patience vs. skill. On one hand, if you can deal with the games flaws you can get around 700-800 points rather easily. If you’re like me however, patience isn’t worth playing a game like this. So, can you attain a large sum of all the achievements? Yes. Do you have to be downright insane to do it? Yes. Oh, and good luck getting all gold in the races…you’ll need it. 1000 points is a far-fetched task.

There’s not much more I can say about Spider-Man 3 that hasn’t already been said. The game feels very rushed and incomplete, and promises that were made, were not kept. As a fan of Spider-Man, I wanted so badly for this title to nail what it feels like to be Spider-Man. If this is what it feels like, I’ll stick to playing with Barbies…

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