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North America

Spider-Man: The Movie

by Jonathan Metts - April 27, 2002, 11:29 pm PDT

7.5

No, organic web spinnerets don’t ruin the experience. At least not for the game.

First, a word of caution: this game will spoil much of the movie’s plot for you. If that’s an issue, wait until after the film debuts before you give Treyarch’s newest Spidey game a try. Not that you’d have much spoiled for you; the story is pretty average, mainly focusing on our hero’s origins and his twisted relationship/conflict with the Green Goblin, which is far less meaningful without Gwen Stacy being involved. Hopefully Sam Raimi’s touch can make Spider-Man rise above its basic plotline...

Anyway, you want to hear about the game. Well, it’s pretty fun. Treyarch has more or less copied the design and style of Neversoft’s original Spider-Man game for PSX (later ported to other systems), and then added a few new ideas that mostly work quite well. More than half of the game takes place indoors, where you’ll be presented with several kinds of missions, ranging from battles with dozens of goons to stealth sorties to boss battles. In general, the indoor missions work well in large environments and not so well in the more cramped environments. This is a result of the wonky camera system, sometimes touchy controls, and Spider-Man’s innate aptitude in more open situations. As frustrating as some levels can be (the Vulture’s tower for instance, which is a novel idea but really doesn’t lend itself very well to a third-person game), there are others, like boss battles in massive indoor areas, that are simply delightful. The stealth missions later in the game are difficult but fair, and thankfully, they are structured openly enough that you can win with many different strategies.

It’s that sense of freedom that makes Spider-Man work so well when it does work; a more swashbuckling and clever superhero the world has perhaps never seen, and just like the best tense moments from Goldeneye, this game is most fun when it adheres closely to the spirit and style of its source material. That’s where the outdoor missions come in. Simply put, I could swing around New York City for hours and be entertained. The city is fairly small but densely packed with things to do and see, and getting around it feels just right. It’s almost a shame that you have to be bogged down with actual missions in this wonderful environment...but I understand the need for some linearity. The outdoor missions mainly involve chasing and/or fighting the Vulture or Green Goblin. There are also a couple where you have to disarm bombs and defend yourself against flying robotic menaces. These are pretty much all a blast to play, but unfortunately, the aerial missions tend to be very straightforward and very short.

Control is always a huge part of the Spider-Man game experience. A Spidey game can triumph or (more often) be crippled by its control. I think Treyarch’s new game is crippled as much as it is triumphant. The button layout is excellent and all the moves are pretty responsive (except for the lock-on camera mode, which is extremely useful but hard to turn on and off in my experience). The new ability to zip-line in any direction is very welcome, and it helps to speed up the game’s pace quite a lot since you don’t have to run everywhere in the smaller areas. The developers have also added aerial combat moves, which work fine but are still a bit simple for my taste. They do open up a whole new aspect of gameplay though, and I’m not complaining about that at all. I just wish aerial combat were a bit deeper, because you can only punch, kick, or shoot impact webbing at Vulture so many times before it gets old. Ground fighting doesn’t have that problem, because Spidey now has more combos than before with many more unlockable throughout the game. Some of the combos seem oddly more difficult to perform than others (they’re all just three button presses), but regardless, fighting is now a little more satisfying and much less tedious than in Peter Parker’s previous adventures.

The Dr. Hyde of Spider-Man’s control is two-fold. First, making precise movements with Spidey feels very twitchy and perhaps over-responsive. It’s fine for running across a big space, but if you want to step to the edge of a platform or get centered behind a wall so Shocker’s blasts won’t hit you, there may be some trouble. Crawling from one surface to another is also confusing, as the control will only stay in its previous orientation for a fixed amount of time, instead of waiting until you let off the stick. The other major unfortunate control aspect is the camera (which I’ll choose to include in control and not in graphics for my scores). It does a valiant job of trying to keep up with Ol’ Webhead’s multi-directional nature but ultimately comes up short in most cases. The camera isn’t so bad as to make the game unplayable (far from it actually), but you will fight it often, and the attention you spend on it really takes away from the game’s immersion. I can appreciate that developing a great camera system is incredibly difficult for a game of this nature, but right now the lack of one is easily the biggest factor holding back Spider-Man’s games from being fantastic.

Overall, Treyarch’s new Spider-Man is a solid and at times impressive entry to the series. With a bit more innovation and a lot more polish on the camera, it could have achieved greatness. As it is, the game truly is fun and worth at least a rental for anyone who remotely enjoys the original Neversoft game, the new movie, or Spidey in general.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
9 8 5 8 8 7.5
Graphics
9

Spider-Man is one of the best-looking GameCube titles out there. The textures are sharp and rarely overused, the character models are detailed, the special effects are impressive, and the city just looks phenomenal. A jumpy framerate is pretty much the only visual flaw, and it’s not bad at all.

Sound
8

There isn’t much music to speak of, and what’s there sounds exactly like what I heard in Neversoft’s game a couple years ago. However, the sound effects are right on the money, especially the various “thwips” from shooting web. Almost all the voices are excellent, from Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, the Vulture, and the hilarious Scorpion, on down to Oscorp security guards, who have some of the funniest lines in the game. Bruce Campbell’s narration is so good, you’ll probably play through all of the (extensive) training modes just to hear what he says. Too bad Spidey himself sounds almost bored with his own lines; there’s barely any emotion when he talks about Uncle Ben’s death, and the witty one-liners are flatly delivered. If Macguire is like this in the movie, I’m gonna be pissed.

Control
5

Spidey has lots of moves that are pretty easy to use, so what’s the problem? Well, he’s way too hard to maneuver in small spaces and when changing from wall to ceiling or vice-versa. On top of that, the camera is just plain bad in some circumstances, only mediocre in most others. This area needs a lot of work before the next Spider-Man game can compete.

Gameplay
8

Great level design combined with pretty good mission design combine to make Spidey’s adventure quite entertaining and very playable, even despite the control/camera issues. The game is challenging but well-balanced with clever boss encounters placed throughout to break up the various gameplay styles. Outdoor levels are the best, but all the missions are above-average and serve up plenty of fun.

Lastability
8

One unfortunate side-effect of a movie-based game: you can’t have multiple endings. Heh. But in all seriousness, there are multiple difficulty levels that are worth playing through for the different goodies each one will unlock for you. Golden spider tokens are fun to look for, and searching for them is pain-free thanks to the level warp option. The game is arguably a little short, but there's one unlockable goodie that'll let you play through the game in an entirely new way...

Final
7.5

Spider-Man is the kind of game that is great in almost every area but held back by one or two significant flaws. It’s still a blast to play through and deserves and serious look from any action fan or Spidey fan.

Summary

Pros
  • Good mission variety
  • Lots of moves plus new aerial combat
  • Most of the voice acting is great
  • Wonderful outdoor levels
Cons
  • Outdoor levels are too few and too short
  • Tobey Macguire sounds totally uninterested
  • Touchy control and a poor camera
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre Action
Developer Treyarch
Players1
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Spider-Man: The Movie
Release Apr 15, 2002
PublisherActivision
RatingEveryone
jpn: Spider-Man: The Movie
Release Feb 13, 2003
PublisherActivision
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