Spider-Man 3 video game review

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Buy your copy from Amazon.com Spider-Man 3 (2007) starstarstarstarno star Publisher: Activision
Category: Action/Adventure
Available for: Xbox 360
Buy from Amazon.com

Yes, go ahead and drink in that rating, dear readers. I’m perfectly aware that this title has received a large number of “average” reviews elsewhere. But honestly, this is the most fun I’ve ever had with a Spider-Man movie game, and certainly the most fun I’ve had with Spidey since “Ultimate Spider-Man.” The previous movie games always left me frustrated, or expecting more than what was ultimately presented. “Spider-Man 3,” on the other hand, is the most perfectly balanced and exciting entry in the world of the wall crawler’s video games.

Where “Spider-Man 2” tried to give players everything, this sequel tones that down a bit and focuses more on solid, fluid gameplay, instead of trying to lean more towards an open sandbox game. It’s nice to see that developer Treyarch decided that not every action game out there needs to be based on a “Grand Theft Auto” model. Frankly, Spider-Man doesn’t need to be able to access every nook and cranny of every building in the city. But fear not, because players can choose from playing main mission scenarios, crime fighting missions and activities, which include the good old races around the city and the like.

Of course, “Spider-Man 3” is more than just “play the movie.” Hell, it’s a ton more than that. Spidey will indeed meet up with Hobgoblin, Sandman and Venom, but he’ll also be making time with other characters like Scorpion, the Lizard and Rhino. In addition to the mayhem caused by those baddies, Spider-Man will have to defeat a number of new gangs that have infested the city and are trying to take over. Plus, there are plenty of missions that involve helping the police, photography missions for the Daily Bugle, and the “Mary Jane Thrill Rides” where Spidey has to tote Mary Jane Watson on his back and swing her around the city as she instructs (higher, lower, faster) to various checkpoints. In all, it’s jam-packed with action.

Some other critics have complained that the game turns into nothing more than a button mashing exercise when it comes to the actual battle sequences. While it’s true that your thumb will get a workout hitting the X, Y, A and B buttons, it’s not really a button masher in the derogatory sense of the word. As Spider-Man progresses through the game, he accesses new combos and power-ups to unleash on his enemies. These combos can be chained together to make for a visually stunning attack, and yes, these have to be performed by pressing the buttons in a quick and repetitive fashion. Go figure. It’s funny what some people complain about. If classics like “Golden Axe” were created these days, they’d instantly be trashed for being “button mashers.”

But yes, Spider-Man will unleash cool new moves like an in-air pile driver and a little number called “pinball” that, if you’re like me, will literally have you saying “Wow!” when you see it executed. The combat is fast and exciting. The boss and gang battles are nice and balanced. Yeah, it’s going to take a little figuring out what to do with some of the characters instead of just going in and trying to bludgeon them to death as fast as possible. Not every character should be easy to defeat. In addition, there are often cool cut scenes that require the player to hit a sequence of buttons that pop up on the screen at the right moment. And did I mention the bits where Spidey has to defuse bombs by going through them layer by layer? Those are a lot of fun as well.

Other nice and notable features include story lines, some of which are non-linear, being fed to the player in missions accessible on the map. You might find yourself playing a couple of chapters of one story, and then have to play through some other missions that are offered up before the previous story continues. And how about the web swinging? Well, much like it was in “Ultimate Spider-Man,” the action is nice and fluid. The trigger controls on the 360’s controller to work the web swinging feel like a natural extension of your fingers, as if you were shooting the webs yourself. Controlling Spidey is easy while he’s swinging around the city, and players will find themselves working into a good rhythm quickly.

So let’s discuss the camera in this game briefly. Once again, some critics have complained that the camera is wonky and doesn’t work right. This is actually incorrect, though it can be understood. Treyarch’s camera follows Spider-Man perfectly in this game, perhaps almost to a fault, so that it gives the illusion that it’s spazzing out on occasion. But what it’s actually doing is just following the movements of the player controlling Spider-Man. So let’s say the player gets into a space that’s a bit more confined, or is crawling around a building. The camera is going to move with Spidey completely, so if the player gets into an awkward position or tries to over-correct his actions too wildly, the camera will follow suit. In effect, the camera is simply doing what it’s supposed to do and is not half as horrible as some are making it out to be.

Graphically, “Spider-Man 3” is terrific. It’s not mind-blowing “next gen” at its finest (and I’m getting sick of that term already), but the textures are great, with window reflections on the buildings and light coming off the water being especially pretty. Sadly, for those who might be playing this on the Wii, the graphics issues are, well, apparently a real issue at times. But on the 360 the game sparkles. That said, here are my minor gripes with this game that stop it from getting full marks. First, Peter Parker’s character looks like a zombie. I dunno who’s responsible for doing Tobey Maguire’s face in this game, but his eyes are just scary and wrong. The second complaint is Tobey himself. You’d think after a couple games the guy would really get into reading his lines and putting some emotion into them and acting like he does in the movies. No such luck. Too often, the poor guy sounds wooden at best, making Spidey’s signature smart-ass comebacks sound neutered and wimpy. Ah well, you can’t have it all. But you can at last have a Spider-Man movie game that delivers completely. This game is it. Enjoy it to its fullest.

~Jason Thompson