Let’s get it out of the way. If your “Spider Sense” began to tingle when you considered picking up this title, then you can rest easy in knowing that your powers are finely tuned and operating at peak sensitivity. Spider-Man 3, the third and most successful film in Sam Raimi’s vision of the “classic” web-head is a rollercoaster ride of a film. Stunning CG effects, a sympathetic hero that real people with real problems can relate to, and a host of super-villains whose appearance ensures that your Aunt Connie’s socks will fly off are all present for this third, and possibly final, outing of the franchise. The game based on the film, however, leaves much to be desired and feels more like an unfinished argument than an actual game. It has been rumored that Mr. Raimi’s original script contained “The Vulture” as the third super-villain instead of the studio-insisted “Venom,” and this game will make anyone who purchases it feel like they just bought something The Vulture dropped from the New York skies after eating too much fruit.
For starters, the story design is, well… there really isn’t one. For a title that is supposed to tie into a film there is very little “tying in” going on and a lot of loose ends hanging about through the whole shebang. This may or may not have been a deliberate decision on the part of the developer so as not to “give away” a lot of plot that the film contains, but as a gameplay experience it makes the whole thing feel very haphazard, unfinished, and well… messy. It is noticeable that a concerted effort was made to “expand” on the film’s plot with the game and include many well-known Spidey characters not seen in the film, but then the “too many scientists spoil the web mixture” principle comes into play. Over the course of the forty-some-odd missions in the game, players will come across the likes of Kingpin, Scorpion, Lizard and many others (including the rampant “ordinary” criminals and gangs scattered throughout the city) at various points and each encounter is an exercise in cheap frustration. Defeating boss characters feels less like a super-hero victory and more like a “work around to shoddy game design,” and, at times, just pure button-mashing good luck.
A lot of these sentiments come from the controls being a bit on the clunky side. Those who are familiar with the last few Spider-Man games will “get” the control scheme pretty quickly, but that doesn’t mean that it will always work the way it’s supposed to. Swinging through this version of Manhattan (with blanked out street names on every corner) can become quite fun once you get the hang of it, but then you’ll find yourself stuck in the corner of some building bouncing about between two walls due to the game’s insanely problematic camera system. Also, the combat mechanic itself relies really heavily on Spidey’s slow motion, “Max Payne-style” use of bullet time. There are some battle sequences (against the Lizard, in particular) that absolutely require it to be used constantly, which makes the whole battle a bit slow and a lot less fun. The whole bullet-time concept in and of itself is fantastic, but in this instance it is simply implemented in a way that makes it drag down the whole “rest” of the skirmish in which our friendly neighborhood arachnid is engaged.
Graphically, the game appears a bit more “last-gen” than one would expect. The cityscape is the best looking thing in the game (as it should be) and Spidey himself is positively shiny. The rest of the characters seem “off” in some way, as if their last pass of detail rendering is missing. The animations are clunky and jerk about quite a bit like there are frames missing, and sometimes the whole systems' collision detection “craps the bed” and clips characters or objects through walls, cars or anything else that might happen to be in the way.
The audio design is predictable, but adequate. Music and sound effects are all as they ought to be, but the voice acting of many of the game’s characters is decidedly lackluster. Tobey Maguire’s performance feels like it was literally delivered over the phone and everyone’s personal favorite, Bruce Campbell as the narrator, sounds as if he was placed on hold while they recorded Tobey and then delivered his lines after that session was finished. Bruce is known for his cavalier attitude and surly, snappy one-liners, but there’s no reason to be napping whilst delivering them. Mary Jane’s dialogue is NOT performed by Kirsten Dunst, and if you put aside the dopey dialogue (“Higher Peter, I want to go higher!”) you will realize just how much you do NOT miss her. Peter should have married his landlord's daughter.
Spider-Man 3 is not a game that anyone can justify spending sixty dollars on, even if you’re one of those fans that is proud of the fact that they own “Peter Parker #1” and nine copies of “Web of Spider-Man #1” comic books in the hopes of bankrolling a small start-up company with the profits from their sale ten years from now. If you’re looking to recapture the fun you had with the previous generation’s titles (which were FAR better), then please keep waiting. After all, since action is his reward your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, like the speed of light, arrives just in time.
This is not the time.