Why bother basing the game on the movie if you're going to screw up the story this badly?
The Wii version of Spider-Man 3 isn't as bad as what you've probably read or heard. Sure, it's glitchy and at times very repetitive, but it also does a few things really well. The replica of New York City is bigger than in the Spider-Man 2 game, and it's still fun to explore. The web-swinging can be a lot of fun once you learn the complicated controls, and thankfully, swinging around the city is a huge portion of the gameplay. But considering that this game is based on a comic book series and movie franchise, you'd think Activision would take a little more care with the story. Not only does the game butcher the film's plot and wrongly portray some of the main characters, but it has been cobbled together with equally mangled subplots from the comics for a laughably broken narrative that makes little to no sense at any point.
In addition to Venom, Sandman, and Harry Osborne (no, I will not call him "The New Goblin"), the game tosses in the Lizard, Kraven, Morbius and Shriek. Where the film struggled to introduce and develop three new villains, the game fails miserably in its attempt to more than double that number. These are all great characters with interesting histories, compelling motivations, and complex systems of morality, but the game reduces each one to a sentence or two, if that. By the way, if you thought Harry's change of heart was poorly handled in the movie, just wait until you see how casually the game flips his character.
The progression of the game is also really strange. The front end is dominated by a lengthy campaign against the Lizard and his innumerable lizard minions (who serve as punching bags for Spidey and little else). Then there are several missions involving Morbius and Shriek, first separately and then together. At this point, the game finally starts telling the major plot points of the movie…but three missions later, it's all over! The last third of the game is just a string of one boss fight after another, as Spidey plows through the film plot, or at least a View-Master-like summary of it. Many key scenes, particularly the final battle royale, are significantly altered to the point that you have to wonder if the developers were even allowed to watch early prints of the movie or just shown vague storyboards.
Between missions, the game encourages you to stave off the four gangs terrorizing New York, and at a couple of points you're actually forced to complete several gang missions just to open the next "story" mission. The gang fights are uniformly terrible and/or ridiculous – what kind of street gang kidnaps professors and psychics? Why are they hiding critical evidence in dumpsters and trash cans? Why do they assemble in small groups in the financial district, wearing their plastic armor and brandishing blaster guns, only to fight off Spidey one at a time and later tell him exactly what they plan to do next? After the debacle of "rescue the child's balloon" missions in Spider-Man 2, we were promised more interesting ways of defending New York in the sequel, but these gang-suppression tasks are just as stupid and far more laborious.
As noted above, there are some positive aspects to the game, particularly in the controls. Spidey's combat moves are more or less functional, although constantly shaking the remote for melee attacks can get tiresome. The web-based attacks are more fun and help to break the monotony of pounding on thugs with the same old simple combos. Where the controls really shine is in Spidey's movement. Web-zipping and wall-crawling are still handled the same way as in past games, and that's a good thing, but the web-swinging has been given a Wii makeover. To properly web-swing, you need to move both the remote and nunchuk, press and hold B and Z respectively to execute the swing, release those triggers to let go of the web line. You also influence the swing direction with the joystick and get a speed boost by pressing and releasing the A button at the right time. How you flick the controllers is not really important, but the sequence of pressing all these buttons and matching that timing to what happens on screen is very critical. Needless to say, this is one hell of a feat of coordination, and it takes a lot of practice to do it well. For the first hour of the game, you'll probably spend more time flying into buildings than flying down the streets of Manhattan. It starts to make sense after a while, though, and the eventual mastery of this skill brings more satisfaction and enjoyment than anything else in the game.
Unfortunately, many of the most acrobatic moments in the game are performed with random controller waving instead of this great web-swinging system. Spider-Man 3 is packed with interactive cut-scenes, which Activision obnoxiously calls "Cineractives" as if it's something they created. Guess what guys, this stuff was in Dragon's Lair twenty years ago, and it wasn't fun then, either. Now there are a few games which use this feature very well, especially Resident Evil 4, but Spider-Man 3 truly misses the point. RE4 teaches you early on that no cut-scene is safe; you always have to be ready to dodge a surprise attack, so the movies are even more tense than the normal gameplay. In Spidey 3, the occasions when you need to interact with the game are very predictable, and the majority of the game's cut-scenes are presented in a completely different style, so you know to sit back and just watch during those parts.
There's no way to defend Spider-Man 3 as a game, and I'm not going to try. It's truly a mess, and in many ways it is a step backwards from the excellent Spider-Man 2 game released a few years ago. However, I do think the web-swinging mechanic is big enough and fun enough to make this game worth renting. Hopefully the immediate follow-up, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, will apply these great Wii controls to a more interesting and better developed game.