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Spider-Man: The Movie Review

publisher: Activision
developer: Gray Matter Studios
genre: Action Adventure

PIII 500, 128MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 1.3GB HD
ESRB rating: E

release date: Apr 14, 02
» All About Spider-Man: The Movie on ActionTrip

One of the most popular character's in Marvel comic book history, Spider-Man has come to PC's and next-generation consoles, and let's not forget that he's also here to boost the popularity of the upcoming movie. To get one thing clear at the beginning, this game will entangle hardcore Spidey fans and at the same time players who haven't even read a single issue of Spider-Man. Since the plot is based on the movie itself, it would be pretty inconsiderate of me to get into the story, so I'll just keep quiet about that. Suffice it to say, you'll begin your adventure chasing the thugs, who were stupid enough to take the life of Peter Parker's uncle. And that's where Spidey comes in. He's tough, mean, and with retribution on his mind.

At the outset of the game, you will have a wrestling costume, which is slightly different from the traditional Spider-Man outfit (it still looks cool though), and there will be fewer combat moves at your disposal. Still, do not fear, because you'll be able to gain additional skills and combos along the way. The best part regarding the combos is that they have a very nasty effect on multiple enemies and they are in most cases your only chance of staying alive. In this case the controls are very well balanced and you won't find it difficult to get used to a pretty large variety of imaginative moves. You know, mostly those comic-style bash-'em-up moves. But, what would good ol' Spidey be without his main weapon - the web. As Spider-Man casts his sticky net all over the place, you'll find that it is the one element you cannot do without and after a few swings, jumps, and combos you'll really start digging the game. But, we'll get back to that in a moment, because there are a couple of burning issues I need to get off my mind.

Your opponents are furnished with a reasonable AI, especially those nasty bosses that will appear at the end of each section. You'll notice that fighting each of these boss-bad-guys, most of which are all-new Super-villains, won't be an exactly painless effort. However, when Spider-Man engages in these one-on-one duels you'll find that it will be almost impossible for you to aim and strike down the foe with your web. Luckily the developers have put in a very helpful camera lock-on system, which maintains the viewpoint on the opponent and automatically sends every fired web directly at him (if the target is in the required range). Frolicking around and smashing ugly villains is all very nice, especially when you have that lock-on camera mode to help you. But alas, when you switch this camera mode off you won't be able to focus on Spidey's movement and that means you can easily run into a skyscraper or basically loose your orientation.

Camera angling in Spider-Man: The Movie can really be a pain in the butt. It is true that when Spidey crawls on the ceiling and walls the camera will automatically be placed in the best position and the player can change any time. However, when you're down on the ground fighting against a bunch of gangsters that keep approaching from all sides, the camera doesn't provide you with enough angles. Although the player can change the view whenever he wants, or simply fix it in a certain angle, that still doesn't operate well with the constant action on screen. Anyway, my point is that gamers who've had more experience with third person titles will probably find a way to deal with this, but that doesn't stand for your average player I'm afraid. In short, the game lacks a universal camera viewpoint that can be used all the time, giving you a satisfying survey of the nearby area.

Spider-Man: The Movie has more disadvantages. The concept of the levels and the way you are required to complete them can be extremely irritating. Instead of prolonging the levels and dividing them into checkpoint sections, the game insists on that rather dull finish-the-entire-level-in-one-shot routine we know from games like Hitman: Codename 47. Players get to save their progress only when they complete the whole level, which, come on let's face it, truly sucks - especially when you've managed to arrive to the very end of the level and then accidentally get walloped down by an enemy you didn't even see and then you have to do everything from the beginning. And this is also one of the points in the game that slightly reduces its replay value, since you won't be at all that thrilled about the lack of a save game option if you decide to play the game on a more challenging level of difficulty.

Another thing that bugged me was that some of the tasks were simply too boring. Like the one where you have to chase after the Goblin and he leaves fifty razor mines behind him. Yes, you guessed it. Your task is to take out all of these one by one. Definitely a challenge, but hardly interesting. I mean just swing around shoot a razor-mine out, then swing back, and do the same thing again.

Right now, that we got the annoying part outta the way, it's time to talk about the cool and juicy aspects of gameplay. As I said before, the game allows you to pull off almost any spider-stunt you can imagine. Contrary to all those drawbacks I mentioned, this title has a few qualities that set it apart from numerous action-games out there. The truth is that you can make Spider-Man do almost anything whenever you wish. And just so you don't get bored with bashing-up baddies, there will be some tasks that require stealthness and precision. This is where the Web-slinger is a champion. Crawling through shadowy corners and ceilings make him undetectable, and when he web-zips from one wall to another he becomes a very fast and efficient spy. These are perhaps one of the rare moments, which salvage the game's replay value.

Combat is another cool aspect of gameplay. During his adventures Spidey has the possibility of collecting power-ups, which grant him a variety of combo hits. But, the sad thing here is that it is often going to be difficult to use these combos precisely, while swinging in the air at the same time, whereas on the ground it can be quite effective. Then again, there's more to the Web-slinger than meats the eye, so if he's suddenly overwhelmed by opponents, Spidey can use his web-zip ability to get the hell outta dodge. The web can also be useful if you wish to check out the area - just zip up on the ceiling and then use the web-combo to slowly lower yourself downwards; once you've assumed this position you can then rotate for 360 to scan the surrounding area. Not bad. Ingenious and useful too. And we mustn't forget another cool feature that allows you to use your web to tie your foes up, thereby making them defenseless for a certain amount of time.

Another great plus for Spider-Man comes with all the tasty and spicy visuals you get to see. In high resolution modes the game can be eye-catching. Each section in the game has a unique look enriched with many details in the background. A huge effort was obviously poured into Spider-Man appearance. He was beautifully designed and animated. His moves appear natural and that also goes for the models of the Super-villain characters he encounters throughout the game. However, this cannot be said for the thug models. They are alright and they all appear to serve their purpose, but some of them seem lifeless (I think that a lack of more refined and detailed textures is the cause of that). Also, a weird thing happens when you swing through the town. Apparently, even if there isn't anything above Spider-Man, expect the delightful blue sky, he will still continue to swing with his web (err... attached to what exactly? The clouds perhaps?). I don't know if this is nitpicking or not, but it sure blows away the whole Spider-fantasy. Lighting however, is a truly captivating element of the Spider-Man visual festival. Furthermore, outdoor environments feature day and night scenes, as well as some realistic weather effects (mostly rain and lightning). In addition, this game has some neat explosions displayed when Spidey blasts someone out of the sky; or when for instance he chases the Vulture through a large tower and a sudden fire causes some dandy lighting effects further brought to life by the rupture of wood, sparkles everywhere, and so on.

But, hold your horses, kids! I'm afraid you're gonna need a pretty damn powerful system to supply all of these delights. Yep, the game's demanding alright, that is if you wish to beef everything up and when you do so, you'll get that dreaded slide-show thing. Too bad. Apart from that everything else looks great. And I played the game on an AMD Athlon 1.2GHz, GeForce 2 GTS combo.

The sound is another great quality of this game. Each character, has a unique voiceover (naturally, actors who have appeared in the movie have also contributed to the game by lending their voices to the main characters - William Defoe for Goblin, Toby Maguire for Spider-Man etc.). Other sound effects are on the same level; they are followed by a delicious soundtrack that goes nicely with the action and suspense on screen.

Now that we come to the summary, I honestly didn't know what kept me going throughout the entire game (which I've managed to finish BTW, so yes it's also kinda short). All things considered, it has to be the sneaking, creeping, crawling, and using the web-zip and combos. Of course, when you spice it all up with colorful and appealing visual effects, you get a quite catchy game. It gives you one of those feelings that make you play like crazy until you finish the whole thing. At first I thought there's hardly anything in it that will make you wanna play the whole game again. Later on, when I became well-versed in the art of web-zipping and swinging, I wanted to unlock some of those cool bonus thingies. Although, even these bonus features don't add up to much. Just playing the game repeatedly with different model skins on your main character doesn't provide enough of a motivation for an average gamer. However, for all of those who are into the Marvel comic book world of smashing nasty Super-villains and dim-witted thugs, you'll positively have a blast.


7.1   Good

Great visuals (light and shadow effects, reflections), and the animation of Spider-Man is really cool. Nice sounds and music. You get to chase those malevolent villains all over New York City - very much like the comic books... You can do anything with your web;

The camera angling sucks. The game doesn't allow you to save your status, so you have only one chance to complete a level. Too demanding in terms of hardware and it may lag in high-res modes. The game is too short, and there is no multiplayer option.



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