I AM PETER PARKER and other scary conclusions from Treyarch’s new Spidey sim.
I’ve only played the new Spider-Man game for a couple of hours, and I can already tell you what the gist of my review will probably be: a really fun, intelligent game with enough control and camera problems to keep it from greatness. Everything is based off Neversoft’s game for PSX (later ported to N64 and DC), so if you enjoyed that game, jumping into Treyarch’s “sequel” will be a snap. The controls are mapped out nicely (I recommend the Advanced setting), and the game design is more or less the same as before, just with a lot of new features and improvements.
Maybe it’s a slight lag in the animation or something, but controlling Peter/Spidey on the ground feels clunkier than it should. I can't decide whether he’s too sensitive to turning or not sensitive enough, but something about it just doesn’t feel quite right. Things are much better in the air, where turning can be slow and smooth or quick and precise, and you totally have a feeling of freedom. I love that web-swinging and zip-lines don’t use up the web meter; it just makes playing around so much more carefree and delicious.
Combat is definitely more complex and refined this time around, and it gets much more interesting as you go through the game and learn new combos. Spidey has a pretty large arsenal at the start that only gets bigger. I’ve definitely been surprised with how much combat is emphasized, even in the early stages. Goons usually attack in groups of two or three, but there have been a couple times where it was me against almost a dozen of them at once. I almost died in that battle too...didn’t take long to learn about hiding behind structures to avoid gunfire (which feels surprisingly and genuinely threatening) and to use hit-and-run tactics or a scattering move like the web shield. That startling difficulty reappeared in my first boss fight, which I survived only because the life power-up regenerates often.
Aerial combat is a totally new addition that works pretty well, after a lot of practice. Turns out that it’s pretty hard to hit a relatively small enemy when it’s in full 3D space, even with the lock-on. Not only do you have to line up horizontally, but you also have to worry about adjusting the length of your webline so that you don’t swing over or under the enemy too much...and all this while avoiding shots! It’s an interesting new challenge that I look forward to experiencing more of.
The camera was a major issue in Spider-Man’s first 3D game, and unfortunately, it hasn’t made a lot of progress. Certainly you can still play the game without any difficulty, and it’s not nearly as crippling as Sonic Adventure 2 Battle’s camera, but you’ll often have to micromanage the view in order to see ahead, and I’ve had the camera get just plain stuck a time or two.
So far I’m annoyed by the camera and by the somewhat twitchy controls, but Spider-Man is undeniably fun. I’m already itching to go play more, and it really has me excited about the movie next month. Looks like GameCube owners itching for a good single-player adventure could do a lot worse than to give Spidey’s new game a try.