The Spider-Man franchise of movie-license games is one of the few that has delivered consistently. Though few will say it has achieved elite status, Spider-Man can always be counted on to deliver a solid experience. Judging by our time with the latest iteration at Activision last week, we have few doubts that the game will live up to the standard set by the movie.
The Spider-Man 3 game is actually not one but three different games. There is the next-generation version for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the Wii version, and the Nintendo DS iteration. Each offers something unique.
Xbox 360 and PS3
By far the best-looking variants, with very little to distinguish between them. Try as we might, we didn't any significant difference in graphics quality between the Xbox and PlayStation machines. Both offered incredible texture and model detail, superb animations, and all kinds of nifty shader effects. What stood out most, however, was the immense view afford to Spidey. Standing on top of a building, you could see to the edges of Manhattan and though the detail was obviously not crystal-clear, the LOD balancing was 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 in the view is helped tremendously by the impressive lighting model. The sun moves across the sky and not only do shadows move and the world grows brighter and dimmer, but the light changes appropriately in color. Dusk and dawn are different from noon, with a redder tinge than the searing white of the high sun.
The next-generation variant was oddly enough the one with the most in common with Spider-Man 2. There are no wildly radical gameplay changes or improvements, just steady, solid progress. 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 key 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.
One change common to all games, but handled differently in the next-gen platforms, is that of the Venom suit. On the next-gen platforms, it is mission-specific and there are no penalties for losing it. It makes Spider-Man much stronger and he builds up a rage effect which he can 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 other tricks as well, with our favorite being the ability to hang a thug from four lamp-posts at the same time. It's difficult to execute, but very rewarding.