Spider-Man

a game by Activision

Platforms: PSXDreamcastGBAPC

Genre: Action

See also: Spider-Man Games

Overview

The story begins as any classic Spider-Man comic would. Peter Parker is taking pictures for the Daily Bugle at a science expo hosted by Dr. Otto Octavius, a.k.a. Doctor Octopus. Everything seems to be progressing normally, when out of nowhere Spider-Man appears, taking out the guards and stealing Dr. Octavius' new technological wonder. This of course surprises Peter -- the real Spider-Man -- and sends him hunting for a place to change into his alter ego. It's at this point that Peter bumps into Eddie Brock, the human half of Venom, who is also taking pictures. Peter realizes this situation is going from bad to worse. Now it's up to Spider-Man to discover who impersonated him and clear his name as he fights against Venom, Dr. Octopus and various other villains.

Spider-Man is a direct port from the PlayStation, and it shows. Activision has done little to improve the game, taking no advantage of the PC's abilities, and certain parts of the game are plain pathetic. As you'll see, although the game has some redeeming qualities, Spider-Man for the PC is only a cheap attempt to create more cash flow from a previously released product.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

Your first introduction to Spider-Man is a remarkably pitiful cut scene that appears to have been completed with ten-year-old technology. (The cut scenes throughout the game have pixels the size of pencil erasers. It's difficult even to see what's happening at times.) Once this is over, however, you'll at least have a basic understanding of the goal you are attempting to accomplish. Anything is better than watching it again.

After the introduction, get ready for your first wall-climbing experience as you get comfortable with the controls and movement. This is one of the few areas where Activision seems to redeem itself, as crawling up walls and swinging from building to building is actually entertaining to a degree. Spider-Man actually appears to look natural and graceful crawling across the ceiling or through a ventilation shaft, which can't be simple to accomplish. The controls themselves are also fairly quick to grasp and offer a wide range of options. Using a keyboard or joystick, you can perform punches, kicks, and jumps effectively in a short period of time; however, there are more complicated moves that take longer to master. Though most are not necessary to complete a level, they do offer a variety of different techniques for attacking enemies and a few creative uses for webbing. For instance, Spider-Man can perform a jumping kick and punch, he can grab and punch or kick, throw web spikes, leave a web trap and create a web dome for protection. He can also swing from building to building, make a zip-line for climbing directly to the ceiling, and even has a web target mode with crosshairs for accurate firing. All these options make it more fun to control Spider-Man and give this game a small measure of saving grace.

So aside from the pathetic cut scenes, what is the problem with this game? To start, let's look at the AI and in particular how an enemy reacts to Spider-Man. All the enemies appear to be surrounded by an invisible soundproof barrier. None of them give the impression that they notice Spider-Man unless he happens to be right in their line of vision. Spidey could be beating the tar out of some guy five feet away, but if the enemy is looking at the wall like most appear to be doing, he won't even react. Another issue crops up when the enemies fire weapons; oddly enough, when Spider-Man is directly in front of them, they'll fire into the air at a 45-degree angle. This occurs about 50 percent of the time and is a sad sight to behold. In previous games like Oni, enemies react to you in more than one or two different ways. These games force you to plan an attack instead of charging in, punching and kicking until everybody is taken out.

Through general gameplay, you'll see power-ups and other items that help Spider-Man on his current mission. There are basically only four different items available to help -- life, web packet, armor, and a question mark. The question mark in particular is useful as it gives tips and advice for tackling the problem at hand; it can be ignored if you'd rather figure it out on your own.

The missions themselves are extremely easy and can be completed without difficulty. You'll have missions like saving hostages, disarming bombs, or coming to the rescue of the ungrateful Jameson. If you think increasing the difficulty will help make the game more challenging, you're correct -- but not in a way you might like. When the difficulty is increased, Spider-Man only gets weaker while his enemies become stronger. This creates an environment that only requires more kicking and punching to resolve without increasing the AI one bit. The enemies are just as dumb as before, only now they can take more of a beating and cause more boredom than strategy planning.

With a simple game structure, you'd expect a simple interface. Thankfully, that is what you get. Spider-Man doesn't attempt to get confusing with an overly complicated screen; it amounts to four simple displays consisting of Spider-Man's health, number of web cartridges left, level of web fluid in web, and a Spidey-compass to point you toward your goal. All are useful and uncomplicated, never crowding the screen or causing confusion.

The developers also threw in a number of extras in an attempt to make the game more entertaining. For instance, you can view the different costumes worn by Spider-Man, and read bios and analyses of different characters. You can also view the comics you collect during the game and read about events in the life of Spider-Man. This section includes a brief summary of the comic. You can also see storyboards, viewing the original art used in the creation of the game.

Graphics

Not much about the graphics is spectacular, and some parts like the cut scenes are pretty dismal. I don't know how anyone can justify releasing a PC game with cut scenes this poor -- it's beyond common sense, but not overly shocking in a PC port. The developers might actually have to spend extra time and money creating respectable cut scenes; most games ported from other systems have only a trivial amount of effort put into them.

The rest of the graphics aren't as bad, but are definitely below average. Spider-Man's web is represented by straight lines, looking more like pieces of wire; exploding objects or breaking glass come apart in geometric chunks. Overall, the graphics fall far short of anything released for the PC in the last five to seven years. If you enjoy games with stellar graphics, be cautious of this one.

Audio

Unlike the graphics, the audio is quite acceptable and shouldn't cause any heartburn. The music clips fit with Spider-Man's image, and sound similar to the old Spider-Man cartoons. The voiceovers give believable voices to Spider-Man, the Black Cat, even Jameson. The sound effects, while not incredible, didn't distract from the game and even helped it along at times. If the graphics were of a quality similar to the audio, this game would be much more enjoyable.

System Requirements

PII-266, Windows 95/98/ME/2000, 64 MB RAM, 200 MB hard disk space (minimum), 4X CD-ROM drive, DirectX-compatible 3D video card with 4MB RAM (8MB recommended), 16-bit sound card, DirectX 8.0 or higher (included), Microsoft-compatible mouse/keyboard/joystick/gamepad.

Bottom Line

To sum it up in one word, this game is disappointing. With poor gameplay and embarrassing graphics, Spider-Man definitely looks better on the shelf than on your computer. Why the cut scenes were left in such a miserable state is puzzling, but the developers must know what they're doing. Unless you run around in a Spider-Man outfit at night, jumping across your neighbor's roofs, you might want to wait for the next installment and hope it gets better attention.

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Spider-Man Downloads

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Overview

If there was ever a game made for the Marvel fanboy, Spider-Man by Neversoft is it. Aside from all the goodies and secrets to unlock in the game, there is a great ambiance that perfectly captures what it’s like to be Spidey. Great attention was given to make Spider-Man fans happy -- fun touches ranging from a wardrobe of alternate costumes to a collection of comic book covers. Getting all those items calls for careful playing and replaying of the game. However, my favorite detail in the game are the voiceovers by the inimitable Stan Lee, the purveyor of superlative prose.

Mostly identical to its older single player N64 and PS1 siblings, Spider-Man for the Dreamcast offers a fun blend between the puzzle-solving action of Tomb Raider and the two-fisted pummeling of Street Fighter. The player will swing from building to building, zip from wall to wall, crawl from ceiling to floor. When facing hand-to-hand combat, the player can pull from a complicated arsenal of movements to clean every croney’s clock in order to save the day. This is a fanboy’s dream come true. And that’s a good thing.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

As much detail as the game designers gave to the ambiance of the game, it is a shame that the same attention wasn’t given to the controls. You will definitely want to pop into the Training mode after you give the main game a swing to fine tune your Spidey skills. The controls and 3D environment will abuse you over and over again until the very end of the game. Fortunately, the camera will auto-center behind you, leaving very few polygonal obstructions to ruin your aim or block your vision. The game also makes great use of the Jump Pack, giving your hand a jolt every time Spidey’s spider sense goes off. Recognizing the spider sense can give the player clues as to when danger is near and when secret passages are available to explore. Unfortunately, navigating the 3D environment while webcrawling can get tricky. It’s not uncommon to be heading down when you meant to head up, or left instead of right. As Spidey creeps about stealthily this won’t be a major detriment, but when the player tries to quickly navigate out of harm’s way during the many chase scenes, he may come to curse the almost randomness of the controls. Spider-Man just doesn’t do what you tell him to do -- depending on which way he’s facing or on which wall he’s clinging. There is a physics model at work here, but it’s so mystifying at times it will get you screaming louder than JJJ after an argument with ol' Webhead himself.

This is also a game that cheats terribly to lengthen the gameplay. For example, in the last battle with the mutated Doc Oc, no matter how fast you flee from him, he’ll always be magically behind you. There’s a meter at the top of the screen that is meant to indicate how close on your heals Doc Oc is, and you’d laugh to see the Doc icon fly across the meter to catch up with you if it wasn’t so frustrating. Several of the levels (usually the "getting chased" ones) simply aren’t fun due to the lousy controls, the abusive AI, and the cheating, leaving the player longing for more hand-to-hand combat. But don’t despair, true believer! There are plenty of opportunities for our favorite webslinger to toss toadies around while quipping insults. You’ll get to fight the likes of the Scorpion, the Rhino, Venom, Mysterio, Doc Oc, and Carnage, plus their minions. The fighting is so fun, you’ll take time just to pull off the tricky moves, even if it means getting clobbered. In fact, most of the game is spent placing Spidey’s fists firmly in the faces of his foes.

Graphics

One of the aspects of this game that Neversoft nailed down was giving the player the illusion of being Spider-Man. This is best experienced when webcrawling. The 3D models have been redone for the Dreamcast port -- they are clean and detailed, adding a realism to the game as you crawl up, over, and under everything in the game that will thrill every Spidey fan. Picking up heavy objects is shown in the labored movement of Spider-Man’s pace. Zipping from wall to wall, or crawling along the ceiling gives Spider-Man that creepy insect-like feeling that is so cool about his character in the first place. Even letting the game sit without any movement for a minute gives the player a reward in excellent character animation as Spidey suddenly hangs upside down and snores, or sings the Spider-Man theme song -- depending on his mood. Neversoft did a fantastic job capturing the essence of Spider-Man in the character model and you’ll enjoy having Spidey doing even the most mundane tasks. The excellent in-game graphics are in stark contrast, however, with the laughably clunky graphics of the cut-scenes. Here the game shows its roots in the 32 & 64 bit world. The cut-scenes should have been rerendered, but one can imagine that Activision may not have wanted to pay that bill for the ever-shrinking Dreamcast market. Not all cut-scenes are poorly rendered, but many of them are indeed painful to watch. We’ve come to expect so much more because of the power of the Dreamcast architecture.

Most levels have competent graphics, though some stand out more than others. You will find the last levels of the game the most interesting to move around in. Unfortunately, the bad control mentioned above and the bad perspective of the camera in the last level of the game against the demented Doc Oc make navigating the corridors very difficult -- almost impossible. Doc Oc is merciless and hesitation is instant death, so you can’t afford to lose sight of your character behind a wall, or even not know which way to point Spider-Man. Here’s a tip: when in doubt, pull Spider-Man towards you. The forward facing corridors are invisible until you jump into them.

Fortunately, details were given to all the Spidey aspects of the game, including new Spidey powers like exploding web shields, web-covered fists for extra pummeling, and my personal favorite, tagging baddies with a webline, then pulling them off their feet into walls. The graphics are so convincing, you’ll think you can start hanging from the ceiling yourself!

Audio

Voice acting in this game is a notch above the norm. Certainly the villains can be silly in their melodramatic megalomania, but all actors used will help you believe the characters actually care about what is happening. J. Jonah Jameson was great, and so was the voice for Spider-Man -- his constant banter and quipping never got on my nerves. In fact, the dialog was very entertaining. Nice touches came in the narration by Stan Lee, one of the fathers of the Marvel Age of comics. I wish the game soundtrack was of the same caliber, though. Aside from the funky main theme, the background music was often dull, uneventful, and repetitive. Perhaps they too showed the limitations of the port and should have been redone to take advantage of the Dreamcast's sound capabilities.

Originality / Cool Features

As mentioned earlier, there are many goodies to unlock. The gallery has all the comic covers and storyboards you can unlock in the game so you can appreciate the art. The special menu contains alternate costumes, some with extra super powers, plus detailed character information with voice-overs by Stan Lee for all the characters used in the game. There’s even a level select and cheat menu for inputting codes to unlock various features in the game. These are the touches that make this game a labor of love for fans of Marvel Comics and Spidey.

Bottom Line

What made this game difficult to rate highly was the poor controls -- more time should have been spent fine tuning these aspects. It’s neat to access secret costumes, but how fun is a game that has the player fighting against the controls during crucial sequences? A player should also be rewarded for excelling at a game, not be punished by a cheating AI for being too good. Spider-Man can be most frustrating when the player needs to learn how the game expects him to play through a level instead of doing what might seem intuitive. And yet, for all its detractions, the game was fun and entertaining and a delight to play most of the time. Spidey fans may even want to add another 10-15 points to the score I gave this game just for all the effort they put in to capture the world of Spider-Man.

reggie posted a review

Overview

With great power, comes great responsibility. These were the words burned into Peter Parker after failing to stop a criminal who later murdered his Uncle Ben; thus began the career of one of the world's foremost superheroes. When I first received this game to review, I must tell you, I was excited. Not only am I a fan of Spider-Man, but I had been hearing good things about the game. As I fired Spider-Man up in my PlayStation I was immediately drawn into the Marvel Universe.

There is a virtual who's who of characters in the game, both good and bad. The cast included The Human Torch, Daredevil, The Black Cat, Lizardman, The Rhino, Doc Octopus, Carnage and Venom to name but a few. Having Stan Lee (the creator of Spider-Man and countless others) involved in the game was a stroke of genius. Mr. Lee provides narration and a certain quality which told me this was not just another superhero game. Anybody care to remember Superman for the N64?

The story begins as the newly reformed Doc Octopus is giving a lecture on his latest scientific invention -- Spider-Man shows up, steals the invention and causes all sorts of panic. Now normally a person would wonder why Spider-Man is causing all this trouble, problem is, Peter Parker and Eddie Brock (Venom) are in the audience covering the story for the Daily Bugle. So there you start, somebody has stolen the invention and pinned the crime on Spider-Man. What happens next is one very good game... read on true believers!

Gameplay

Spider-Man is a fast paced, full blown action game with lots of neat surprises. Spidey dukes it out with terrorists, mutant henchmen, bank robbers, lizardmen and many recognizable bosses. Now so far you would think that I thought this game was pretty darn good and, don't get me wrong, it is a good game, but it's only fair that I also tell you about some problems I had. First, Spidey is a quick superhero, jumping up and down, dodging bad guys. Problem is, Spidey is too fast for the camera to stay with, sometimes you can actually send Spider-Man off the screen and lose your bearings, causing you to die -- this will happen often when you fight Venom. Secondly, if I hear "I'll get you, Venom!" one more time I'm gonna go nuts. Yes, this high quality game falls victim to repeating phrases. And last, why would it take asuperhero who can lift huge objects (safes, really big bombs, manhole covers), three punches to knock out a bank robber? Mutants? Probably. Lizardmen? Surely. But bank robbers? Never. Now that I got the nit-picking out of the way, it's on to the goods (which far outweigh the bad). The game is primarily viewed with a 3/4 view ala Tomb Raider. On one level you are swinging rooftop to rooftop in New York (look for the Fantastic Four's Freedom Plaza, it's cool) taking out mutants who are looking for you. Next you are crawling though the ductwork of a major bank thwarting bank robbers' plans to kill hostages and blow the building up. Another level has you running from the police department as you scale skyscrapers and construction sites while dodging gunfire and rockets. This game hardly lets you rest. If it isn't lizardmen trying to knock you into New York's sewers, then it's the Rhino attempting to make you his hood ornament.

As you progress through the game you will find various items. Web cartridges refill Spidey's webbing, health icons replace health and comic books replace...?????? Comic books? Yes, comic books are hidden throughout the game and once collected they can be opened to reveal real history in the Spider-Man saga that has spanned over 30 years. But the end-all be-all of hidden icons is the costumes. In the real Spider-Man comic, Spidey has worn at least six different costumes. When found they allow for different gameplay. For example, find the alien simbiote costume that Spider-Man got in the mid 80's and Spidey will be all black like Venom (who later got the costume) and never need web cartridges, since the alien regenerates them. Other costumes only allow Spider-Man to carry two cartridges instead of the normal 10. This is for those who like a challenge. On another "web" note, Spider-Man can use his webbing for other uses. Put some on his hands and he punches harder. Surrounded by bad guys? Use the webbing to make a dome. Throw some impact webbing (courtesy of the Scarlet Spider) at a group of mutants and it makes em' gooey. Finally, what the devil is the Spidey armor? I have never seen it in the comics but I'll be boogered if you don't find it in the game. Wearing it allows Spider-Man to take more damage for a period of time. Controls were easy enough for the basics, downright frustrating for some of his special moves. Just know that if you jump in the air and quickly hit the kick button, it will knock the crap out of all non-essential characters.

Graphics & Audio

Spider-Man has better than average graphics but nothing too terribly spectacular. Characters are blocky looking and framerate does come into play (see above) but the overall feeling is: who cares? This is a Playstation game and it's reached its fullest potential.

The game overall looks and sounds good. What should be noted is the voice acting. Seven actors voiced 22 characters in the game and they did a bang-up job, minus the repeating phrases. The music was also pretty cool in a retro sort of way. Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can. Wasn't that on the 70's TV show? The game was made by Neversoft, a division of Activision. Good job guys! It also has an "Everyone" rating so parent and child can kick some supervillain butt together.

Bottom Line

What can I say about this game? It's the best superhero game on the market, it's really a lot of fun to play and it manages to walk the fence perfectly between overly serious and stupid/goofy. Since playing this game I have charged myself with a mission: With great video games comes great reviewing responsibility -- and this is a great game.

reggie posted a review
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