|a game by||Activision, Neversoft Entertainment, and Treyarch Invention|
|Platforms:||Dreamcast, GameCube, XBox, PC, Playstation 2, Nintendo 64, GameBoy Color, Playstation, PSX, GBA|
|Editor Rating:||7.7/10, based on 14 reviews, 15 reviews are shown|
|User Rating:||7.2/10 - 105 votes|
|Rate this game:|
|See also:||Marvel Games, Spider-Man Games, Third-Person Shooter|
Meanwhile, back at the office... Plunging straight into questions of authenticity, this is a game that truly answers the calling for genuine comic book thrills. All the elements are there: the corny wise-cracks, the larger than life superheroes, the ruthlessly inefficient villains. Spider-Man, in particular, looks fantastic in his transition into 3D and executes his plethora of moves just as would be expected of him. The supporting cast and characters carry off their own distinctive stylings quite well, bringing more to mind the recent Saturday morning cartoon than anything else.
The levels themselves don't hold up quite so well, though. While projecting an adequate comic-book feel, they are still a little bland sometimes. Because of the game's console origins, of course, and we knew from the start that they weren't going to make major improvements, but it seems' a shame when the PC is capable of a lot more detail. Still, that's something we're going to have to live with, so we might as well look at the game itself.
The Supporting Cast
In a genre that doesn't rely heavily on plot, don't expect anything too substantial. While the story draws its influences from the comic, it's basically just an excuse to shove in a handful of differently themed levels leading to a fair few rapidly-skewed plot U-turns along the way. It's self-contained and plays out more like a 'best of' collection than something that carries on the continuity of the comics. No bad thing, of course, and at least they concede to the introduction of something moderately new at the end for fans. With an array of villains throughout the years, they were spoilt for choice when deciding who to include, but most of the more well-known names manage to squeeze themselves in, from Doctor Octopus, Venom and Mysterio, with others like The Green Goblin, Sandman and Kingpin probably being reserved for sequels.
For the truly devoted, there are even a few cameo appearances that integrate the game firmly in the Marvel Universe. The more confusing issues of Spider-Man continuity are explained in brief through the main menu. It isn't necessary to understand completely what's happening to enjoy the game, but it helps that they've put it in to stop Spider-Man newbies feeling confused over what exactly a symbiote is and why there's a man-sized lizard in a lab coat lurking in the sewers. As well as heroes like The Punisher and Daredevil appearing in cut-scenes, you can expect to see throwaway references dotted around the levels in the form of billboards and other things. All topped off nicely by the charming voice of ubiquitous doyen, Stan Lee, introducing the game in his inimitable style.
Don't Make Mine Marvel
And it flows on a downhill gradient from there. Spider-Man's ability to crawl on any surface may look good but, unfortunately, it's hard to control the way you're supposed to move because of the awkward camera. In fact, the whole game is plagued by this problem: it's too slow in trying to keep up with all the action. Especially during the web-swinging levels, where the ability to break off and swing in a different direction is compounded by your lack of vision. The camera adjusts itself automatically but there's no way to stop it and control it yourself, and because of this, the frustration factor is raised considerably.
Marks then for the autotargeting feature, which when fighting does something to alleviate this tardy camera problem. Not a lot mind you, but it helps. Likewise, shooting webs -Spider-Man intelligently targets the closest wall without difficulty, but trying to see it yourself is a different matter entirely, if you don't adjust yourself or enter the ponderous target mode.
Talking about keeping it simple, yep, you guessed it: it's way too easy. There are four difficulty modes but even the hardest setting doesn't take long to complete. That isn't to say it's not possible to die, because it is, rather it's the brevity of the levels themselves. There are 34 levels but most feel too short, some even seem like part of a level split by a short cut-scene. You don't have any lives to speak of, but unlimited continues mean you can soon get past any tricky sections.
What it does have, though, is a welcome attempt at variety. What this means is one level will see you swinging through New York being chased over rooftops by a police chopper, another fighting your way over the top of a train, and a third defeating one of the bosses. While not as mixed as it likes to think it is, it allows you to fully utilise Spider-Man's powers. The main fighting operates on a sub-Final Fight style level, with a high degree of mindless fist-and-forget non-tactical swedging going on.
Completing the game comes all too soon. There's an option to go back and play again, to find costumes and comics hidden throughout the levels, but this doesn't take long either. The latter gives access to a gallery of old issue covers and a brief synopsis of their plots. For those interested in the history of the comic they're worth collecting. Then again, it might have been better if they'd showed some of the actual pages inside. As a side note, they don't look that clear either, and could've been put in a higher resolution.
So, it's another console game transition that adds nothing new apart from a higher resolution and mouse support in the main menu. The complete lack of opportunity to fix the camera, is a bit of a disappointment. The same goes with the ease of play. Which is a shame because, as a comic book game, it's one of the best around. It just helps if you can see what you're doing most of the time.
The thing about writing a preview to a game that's already been there and done that on PS, N64 and Dreamcast - and with a sequel on its way - is that all the jokes have been done before. Typical. How am I supposed to fill space with tired jokes about Spider-Man getting washed down the plughole and eating flies if every other journalist in the business has managed to get there first? Might as well get on with it...
We all know the bullet points by now. Done by the people who did the classic Tony Hawk's... blah... faithful to the comic book... blah... topped the charts... So, as the hype of the Sam Raimi-directed blockbuster behemoth ambles into consciousness, Activision have decided to port the game onto the PC. Like most console conversions, though, don't expect much in the way of new features. In fact, don't expect more than minor graphical improvements in the way of new features. Having said that, unlike most of Capcom's efforts, Activision have made sure the resolution can be ramped up to a crisp 1600 x 1200 as Spider-Man swings and slings his way over the towering phallic constructs of New York City. The impenetrable green fog of the 32-bits (conveniently explained by the story) still obscures the latte-drinking neurotics of the blood-strewn streets, though.
Compared to the comics - in which the storyline got so tangled up in a complex web of impostors, clones and spin-offs that they kept having to start again - we'll be getting a relatively straightforward story that ties in many of the elements from that wealth of (dis)continuity. Which boils down to cramming in a host of Spidey's classic enemies for him to fight. Examples? Sinister special effects expert Mysterio, the mechanically limbed Doctor Octopus, and symbiotic alien-suit, Venom. On the side of good, expect cameo appearances by the type of people who'd get pelted with paving slabs, wearing the kind of costumes they did, if they couldn't snap a man's neck with their little finger. True believers can even explode at the sound of Stan Lee's ubiquitous voice introducing proceedings. After completion, players can replay levels to gain familiar costumes and hidden comics, ramping up the longevity and providing further immersion into the Marvel universe.
Hot Spider Sex
As well as standard punches and kicks, Spider-Man can call on his web fluid to complement his moves, pull himself onto distant surfaces, and shield himself from attack. A favourite of ours being the ability to capture, then yank a felon towards a waiting fist. Along with the ability to crawl on any surface, you're getting the whole experience. The question is, whether the camera can keep up. We should have the demo ready for you to try out for yourself next issue, along with a full review where we'll be able to tell you whether this and the controls can carry through the whole game without irritation.
While we know how well it did on console, we're going to pretend we've never heard of it before so we can give you our opinion when it arrives on the rectangular beige monstrosity. Which isn't in fact as stupid as it sounds, as we've seen countless examples of so-called good console games not performing so well on the PC. But there have been a handful that actually do work. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, for instance... hey, wait a sec... Spider-Man does look surprisingly promising, though, and is already acclaimed as one of the most faithful comic book adaptations yet. We just need to find out how it plays in the assumedly arcade-hostile world of the PC.
Listen up, true believers! Once again trouble has entered the life of Spider-Man. A Spidey imposter has robbed a high-tech expo, Venom is on the warpath again, and an unknown villain is plotting to take over the world! Just a typical day for our web-swinging hero.
In this game from Activision, Stan Lee himself promises non-stop, web-slinging, wall-crawling action and just about delivers. The game is definitely heavier on action than plot, though it does stay reasonably true to the comic books and features Spider-Man fighting a cast of characters any fan will recognize. The plot is reminiscent of some of the older issues of Spider-Man, but the villains are all current (hard to believe that Doc Oc is still around).
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The game can be played at one of four difficulty levels: easy, normal hard, and kid. Overall, I liked the how the game played. I enjoyed being able to walk on walls, swing on webs, and in general, do whatever a spider can. I've always liked 3D games where you can 'get off the ground' and this game is no exception. Tremendous jumping ability combined with several web-swinging options makes for a game with high mobility that is a lot of fun to move through.
Once you get the hang of the controls, moving around is easy. The point of view (POV), however, has a couple of problems. Generally, the POV is from behind Spider-Man; the main problem results from the fact that the POV correction lags slightly when you are doing a lot of maneuvering and it can be rather disorienting. The directional controls also get a little cranky when crawling from one surface to another. The final scene features a chase where the perspective is fixed from one direction, which can lead to control difficulties while in side view. But this is only for one scene and does make it look more dramatic.
Combat is varied enough to keep it interesting with a variety of punch-, kick- and web-based attacks. When you are within range of an enemy, attacks will automatically target the nearest bad guy, making the basic combat interface very simple. This makes fighting easy for novices, though more experienced action game players might find it irritating. In general, fighting was straightforward, though I found some of the combinations impossible to get consistently. On the other hand, I was only able to use the Dragon Punch in Street Fighter by accident.
The basic game itself features Spider-Man alternately swinging through the city and crawling around inside various complexes while fighting "flavor-of-the-week" bad guys. There are usually only one or two types of bad guy per scene, with about half a dozen types overall. The end of each major section has Spidey facing off with a main boss, such as Venom or Rhino. I found these fights to be the most fun, though I thought they were needlessly restricted in fighting area, such as when you fight Venom in an enclosed alley as opposed to across the rooftops.
As far as the ending goes, they say getting there is half the fun. Well, in this case, getting there was ALL the fun, so don't expect anything fancy once the last Boss goes down. I also felt that the end sequence was the one place where the game drifted significantly from the genre.
Outside of saving the world, the game has a number of other interesting features. There is a training mode where you can practice beating on bad guys, swinging through the city, and maneuvering around inside a building. There is a records area where you can see how you did in the training area. You can view the cut-scenes and 3D images and bios of characters you have seen in the game. You can also jump to scenes in the game that you have completed and you can even view the credits without having to win. (Woo-Hoo!)
Lastly, there are couple of options that will appeal to the die-hard Spider-Man fans. The first is the Comic Collection -- in the course of the game, you can pick up items that look like comic books. Each of these lets you access one of 32 Spider-Man comic book covers, along with a brief synopsis of the issue. There are also a number of ways in the game and training to access what appears to be all of Spidey's costumes! Some of these even have special abilities, such as the Black costume, which has unlimited webbing.
Graphics & Audio
Overall, the graphics in the game are satisfactory. The characters move smoothly and have a fair amount of detail, though the scenery is a little sparse. The static comic book sequences at the beginning of each scene look a little grainy and can get tedious to scroll through. However, comic book fans will like the feel it adds to the game and you can always skip them. The best thing I can say about the sound effects is that they are thorough. You can hear everything from Spidey's pithy, wisecracking comments to the 'thwip' of the webline. Plus, Stan Lee does his own voiceovers! The music reminds me of the theme to the old Spider-Man cartoons and added to the feel of the game for me. Unfortunately, I can't get the song out of my head now.
Though this game had several good points and was fun to play, it lacked long term entertainment value unless you are a die-hard Spider-Man fan. Swinging around the city loses its thrill and one can only beat up the same six bad guy so many times. It also didn't take that long to beat on normal mode and the differences in difficulty pretty much amount to how many hits it takes to drop your opponent. So, buy it if you really like Spider-Man; otherwise rent, win, and move on.
Making his debut on the N64 courtesy of Activision, Spider-Man takes to the skyscrapers in full force this fall. As one might expect, the animation is noticeably more fluid than the PS version. Don't worry, most of Spidey and Stan Lee's voice-overs should squeeze into the cart, if not every stitch of script found on the PlayStation disc. As for the gameplay, if you've seen Spider-Man do it in the comics, you can do it in the game--sling between buildings, climb on walls and tangle enemies in your web. It makes for some real variety in each level of the game, something not a lot of action titles can claim. Rhino, Venom and, of course, J. Jonah Jameson are some of the familiar faces you'll have to deal with as you help the wall-crawler unravel the sinister plottings of Doctor Octopus.
If it weren't for the indoor areas, I'd like Spider-Man a lot more. When you're swinging over the streets of New York, either looking for bad guys on rooftops or locked in mortal combat with the likes of Green Goblin or Vulture, this game is superb. Even though one misstep could send Spidey plummeting to his doom, you always feel like you're in control of the situation. But then you enter some warehouse or subway station, and it all goes to hell. On the ground, Spidey suffers from a lackluster combat system, an awful camera (that never seems to swing around when you want it to) and the same boss fights no matter which supervillain you happen to be facing. I mean, is it too much to expect that Shocker would fight you differently than Scorpion or Green Goblin? Spider-Man feels like a bunch of great ideas that weren't fully realized, except for the web-swinging and aerial fighting. At least those levels give you a reason to sit through the ground-based missions. Oh, well. Maybe next time Treyarch can match Neversoft's first Spider-Man title.
With Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, developer Neversoft showed they could make a game that lets players do absolutely everything actual skaters get away with in real life. So you better believe Neversoft's Spider-Man game gives Spidey fans that same level of freedom. "Spider-Man can stick to anything in the comic books, so we'd be cheating players if we didn't let him do that in the game," Todd Jefferson, associate project leader at Activision, told us.
That's probably the first thing you'll notice when you put Peter Parker's alter ego though his paces in Spider-Man. Unlike Gex, who only adheres to specially marked surfaces in his adventures, Spider-Man can clamber everywhere in this game. He can stick to any wall, scale any building, even scurry along ceilings to sneak past enemies ("Bad guys never look up, from our experience," Jefferson said.).
Of course, Neversoft has reproduced every other Spidey skill, too. His super strength lets him lift furniture with ease and chuck it at enemies (one mission even has Spidey carrying around a one-ton bomb). Spider Sense is represented with arrows on screen that point in the direction of danger, while the Dual Shock rumbles a tactile warning. Our hero's webshooters do more than just squirt weblines for swinging around town. As long as your supply of goo holds out, you can have Spider-Man weave several types of handy web weapons (see sidebar). Or you can just kick, punch and toss bad guys with button combos that unleash Spider-Man's signature fighting style (the character's already coming to life with 270 animations, and more will be added).
Despite Spidey's many abilities, control is simple. He launches web lines automatically when he's swinging around town. Holding L1 puts you into a sniper mode, making it even easier to web up baddies from a distance or target a ledge you want to swing from. Tapping L1 centers the camera behind Spidey, although the view gets disorienting when you crawl from a horizontal ceiling to a vertical wall.
The game is made up of eight levels, which are broken into areas straight from the comic. Neversoft is using voice actors from Spider-Man Unlimited and other recent Spidey 'toons to make the characters as authentic as possible. Of course. Marvel Comics' vast resources are open to the team, as well. "We worked with Marvel very closely with this game," Jefferson said, "right down to Black Cat's costume and Scorpion's new armor. We got lots and lots of reference material." An N64 version of Spider-Man is also in the works (a separate developer will handle the port). Activision has no plans to release the game for the Dreamcast at this time.
It's hard not to like Spider-Man. It brings back a lot of warm, fuzzy memories from my teenage years. Stan Lee even does some narration. But it does have a couple of annoying problems I can't overlook. First, like many 3D action games out there, Spider-Man suffers from a camera that gets funky in enclosed areas (and in Spidey's case, when you're stuck to a wall or ceiling). This camera issue makes otherwise cut-and-dry battles extremely tedious--especially if you get fouled-up and fall to your death. Boss battles are particularly tricky since they often take place in a room of some sort. Outside of the camera stuff, battles with regular enemies get tiresome since it's often the same thing again and again. True, you have a few different web tricks, but most of the time it's like the combat in Fighting Force. But before I get too negative, let me tell you about all of the game's good points. The levels are fresh and incredibly innovative, often playing out like a comic book. In other words, the game's consistently fast-paced. And any fan of comics will agree, it's great to see so many Marvel heroes and villains in one game--represented accurately to boot (worlds apart from those lame Acclaim superhero titles). It comes down to this: It's not quite as polished as some Neversoft games but it still has excellent gameplay, graphics, music and sound. No doubt, you'll have a lot of fun playing through Spider-Man, unlocking all of its secrets.
Without a doubt, this game lets you do everything a spider can. You can cut loose with super-duper strength and nifty webbing tricks and, better still, you can adhere to nearly every surface. Such ambitious game design makes for a few nasty problems, however. Both the camera and control go a little haywire when Spidey crawls into some nooks or leaps suddenly to a horizontal surface. Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun just swinging around town. And the game packs a surprising amount of gameplay variety beyond regular of' webslinging. The story is a jumble, the game's a bit short, later bosses get really frustrating, but hey-this thing's still fun.
Once you get the hang of the controls, all of Spidey's webslinging moves look and feel just right--it's cool just to watch him go. Production values are top-notch as well: great voicework (and lots of it) and crisp graphics courtesy of the Tony Hawk engine. But the damn camera! It's too slow to catch up and it's constantly moving where you don't need or want it to be. Also, the fighting system may seem deep with all the different web moves you have (tying guys up, pulling them toward you and smackin', shooting web-balls), but the most effective method ends up being a pretty boring punch-punch-punch, repeat. Maybe not a classic, but still worth a try.
Set for release in early 2000, Spidey will be with us thanks to Activision and the developers at Neversoft. We were recently lucky enough to be the only magazine to get some hands-on time with the game, and we can report that it really does the license justice. Swing from building to building, crawl along pretty much any surface, and do a cool thing where you pull bad guys toward you with your web. Neat.
Attention, true believers! Rather than going for a quick buck by simply churning out a crappy movie tie-in, Activision has crafted a solid, impressive Spidey adventure. The first thing that will grab you is the slick graphical presentation. This GBA marvel instantly impresses with incredibly smooth character animation and cool transparency effects augmenting the backgrounds. The developers even squeezed some high-quality full-motion video clips onto the tiny cart. Gameplay fares nearly as well as the visuals. As the friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man, you swing between buildings, pummel wrongdoers and snap thrilling shots for The Daily Bugle. Moves are plentiful and fighting is fun, but maneuvering the wacky wallcrawler can be frustrating. He sticks like glue to ceilings, walls and floors, and this intrinsic stickiness can get in the way of simple things like walking. Even so, this gloopy collision detection doesn't detract too much from the overall experience. Constantly changing level objectives keep the game fresh, and the plentiful boss fights against well-known villains will thrill fans of the comics. Perhaps the biggest problem facing the game is the misguided bonus stage, a confusing 3D web-swinging scene through New York. The poor little GBA wasn't built for this kind of thing, and the results aren't pretty. Stick to the proper game, and you'll have a gleeful time with Spidey.
If you think Spider-Man on GBA is just gonna be some hack rush-job to cash in on the movie, I don't blame you. That sort of thing happens way too often on this system. But not this time. Spidey is a solid, if not spectacular, side-scroller. And the level design is great. You'll need to master every one of our hero's abilities in order to make it through each stage. Unfortunately, Spidey's radioactive powers aren't enough to ward off poor collision detection. Get anywhere near a vertical surface and watch web-head instantly attach himself to it, generally resulting in some damage. It's very disorienting and keeps this game from greatness.
Spider-Man duplicates the go-anywhere, stick-to-anything gameplay of the big-console versions. You can crawl on any surface, web-sling in every direction, wield super-duper strength, do whatever a spider can. Trouble is, some of the thrill gets lost on the li'l screen. Spidey doesn't stand out well against some backgrounds (get ready to squint them eyes). A few boss battles get frustrating 'cause it's hard to make out enemy animations. Too many levels have you hunting items within a time limit; more gameplay variety would be nice. But the further you play, the better things get. Later levels pack slick traps that make accurate webshots a must.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
- Manufacturer: LJN
- Machine: Super NES
Spider-Man is back, trying to round up all of the evil arch-villains who have escaped from the asylum for the criminally insane. Does this sound kind of familiar? Well, there's a good reason for that. All this was done before (and better, too) in another game.
- Manufacturer: Acclaim
Having scored a decent hit with Maximum Carnage, Acclaim is tossing everyone's favorite web-slinger into his second title in six months. This time around he's taking on over 20 Marvel villains, and his only help is a cameo by the Fantastic Four. Also available for Genesis.
At long last, Activision's Spider-Man is almost done and should be swinging sometime in August. The game is close to completion, and we're impressed with the attention to detail that has been given to each of the major villains (such as Venom, Rhino, Doctor Octopus, Mysterio and Scorpion.) To defeat them, you'll have to use a combination of web attacks (projectile, shield, entrapment), tricky wall climbing and a flurry of punches. You might get a little vertigo--after all, most of us aren't used to attacking something while perched upside-down on the side of a wall. Luckily, the game has a smooth learning curve, and if that's not enough, you can select the handy "Kids Mode." And finally, as a nod to the fans (and symbolic of the thought that has been put into this), Stan Lee has been tapped to narrate the game--pretty cool, eh?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.