You Realised This was a piece of merchandising, right? In case you didn't realise ft, ft says so twice on the first splash screen. 'Official Spider-Man Merchandise', it says, right next to the less official-looking 'Spider-Man Merchandise' badge. They might as well put a little BBFC grid on the back that says, Contains commercial cynicism. Suitable for clueless parents, naive fans and dribbling three-year-olds screaming 'Maa! Maa! Spoo-da-mang!' in the supermarket'.
There, that's my token dig at film tie-ins out of the way. Now I can admit that I've pretty much enjoyed a couple of the Spider-Man games so far, and this fits snugly into that Spideygame mould. Swing around the city solving crimes as you find them. Have your disbelief-suspension molested by 'mission activation' tokens, which progress the various storylines with cutscenes. Unlock more and more moves, and annoy more and more gangs. At worst it's an average string of scraps made bearable by the fact that you're swinging around like a good 'un. And to give Spider-Man 3 its due, the web-slinging feels good.
The missions are divided into fights, chases, defusing bombs, photography and swinging around with Mary Jane. It's not really worth describing all the mission types separately, because they all involve the same thing. You follow waypoints (so many waypoints) and then either have a fight or defuse a bomb. Defusing a bomb is a strange metaphorical process - it's a combination of Dancing Stage-style button-bashing, Paradroid and 'rotating the thumb stick'. Sound fun? It is, a bit. For a while. Not quite so much after the umpteenth bomb tour.
Fighting is a process of building on your four basics - fast, strong, dodge and web - and your ever-growing bank of unlocked special moves. On mouse and keyboard, it's the predictable, unmanageable, third-person whirligig that'll have you puking out a forgotten sandwich, and this is also true of navigating the city. Once you set up your gamepad - and even that proved to be a shockingly difficult feat here - you'll only be lurching forwards occasionally to enter camera mode.
When you consider that the game is far too ugly to be shown on an unforgiving monitor - cel-shaded Ultimate Spider-man looked infinitely better - and that it asks for an unjustifiable 6GB of HD space, and that we couldn't get more than 30 frames-a-second out of a fairly hot PC... Well, it doesn't seem like the best way to spend $30. Our advice would be to avoid the PC version of Spider-Man 3 like a spunk-filled bowler hat.
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I can only imagine what Uncle Ben would say if he had picked up Spider-Man 3: "You're on next-gen platforms now, Spidey, and you sure as hell don't look it." You know that "PS2 game with shiny characters" look that plagues PS3 and 360 ports? It's dripping all over this webslinging-filled action game. That, and vicious slowdown when you break objects. The rest of the game is a pretty straight-up combination of the better bits of Spider-Man 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man (which isn't a bad thing, but we expect more), except with absolutely punishing quick-time but-ton-pressing events. A, B...ugh! A, B, Up...damn! A, B, Up, X...f***! And with each failure we get an unskip-pable cut-scene during which Tobey Maguire sleep-talks through the same stupid line for the dozenth time.
Sharkey seems to have woken up on the wrong side of the web. PS2 graphics? Really? Despite some objects popping in, this PS3/ XB360 version of Manhattan looks great. The story may be more comic book than movie (think rampant lizards, mad bombers, and a gang of Gothic Lolitas), but the action is all here, and mission variety abounds. Webslingin' remains the selling point, but the combat--although built from the ground up for this game--still consists of random button mashing. Also, those quick-time events aren't that horrible, but they certainly falter next to those of God of War.
As these two debate the game's graphics (for the record, I'm more in Sharkey's camp), allow me to tell you about the unbalanced boss fights. Even with the improved combat system, you'll actually dish out little damage, which drags out these encounters (those infuriating button-press sequences don't help here, either...sorry, Brooks). And while I enjoy the mission diversity, I was hoping for a livelier metropolis. I know if I saw my friendly neighborhood Spider-Man swingin' by, battlin' some foes, I wouldn't just stand there nonchalantly. I'd point, scream...do something!