8/4/2007 11:53:28 AM
Spiderman 3 Nintendo Wii Review
By Rich Dixon
There are two words that strike fear in the heart of any seasoned gamer: "Movie tie-in." The history of video gaming is littered with the mangled corpses of games that were produced as a companion to a theatrical release, and the number of movie tie-ins that were actually good games could be counted on the fingers of one hand, with plenty of fingers left over to make obscene gestures at the company executives who caused such games to be produced in the first place. And so we come to "Spiderman 3," a game that was released in concert with the movie of the same name, and which -- despite all good sense to the contrary -- was met with reasonably high expectations. "Spiderman 2," after all, wasn't a bad game, so maybe everyone had figured out how to make a good Spiderman game. This time it wouldn't suck, right? Right?
I really don't know where to start with what's wrong with this game, but let's begin on the surface: the graphics. This game would have looked embarrassingly bad five, maybe even ten years ago. You might already have heard that the New York this game takes place in is composed of a series of brown, featureless boxes masquerading as buildings (until you're right up close to them, when the details suddenly pop in). That's certainly true, and likewise it's true that the "Central Park" in this city is a bland stretch of trees and grass that would look like the real thing if the real Central Park was the most boring, uninviting park in the country. But that's still not the best example of crappy graphics in this game. No, for that you have to play through to a fairly early mission, where you rip open the back of a truck to recover the stolen cargo inside. When I did so, at first I couldn't find the cargo -- turns out that sixteen wheeler was carrying a cargo about the size of a paperback book, which was lying right at my feet. Before I saw that, I checked for the cargo in the back of the now-open truck, and it was then that I got the shock of my life: this truck was carrying severed heads!!! And worse, they were ghost heads that were floating right at me! "Spiderman 3" had suddenly revealed itself to be a survival horror game! Run for your lives! Actually, though, it turned out that those were not severed heads, they were merely the heads of pedestrians who were ... wait for it ... walking right through the parked truck, and their heads were the only parts of their body that visibly poked up through the metal truck floor. There's clipping, and then there's a bug like that, which immediately makes you wonder whether the developers farmed out this game to the freshman class of Digipen. The only word I have for a graphical error of that magnitude is "incompetence."
Let's talk a bit more about the pedestrians. Like "Spiderman 2," this game is supposed to play out in a sandbox world, a game type that we call came to know and love through the GTA series. And, if you've played GTA, you know that you can mess with pedestrians: hang out to listen to the funny things they say, or attack them and see them defend themselves, or fire your weapon and see them scatter. A big part of the success of that game is the sense that you're living inside a living world. The world of "Spiderman 3," though, is populated by drugged out automatons who notice nothing. You can't attack them, you can't block them (they walk right through you -- apparently you and the truck both lack substance), you can't get them to react in any way. So, essentially, this is just like GTA, except with all the fun parts taken out.
Speaking of no reactions, let's move on to the voice work. I'm actually a fan of Tobey Maguire; I've enjoyed many of his movies, and I thought it was a good decision casting him in the Spiderman movies. But man, did he ever sleepwalk his way through the voice sessions for this game. Maguire delivered every line with the same pace and intonation. It's quite obvious that he didn't care how the game came out, and so we're left with a Spiderman protagonist who consistently sounds like he couldn't care less about what's going on around him. Not fun.
So, enough bitching; time to tell you a bit about the missions and Wii mechanics. This plays pretty much like every superhero game I've ever played: you initiate a mission that will require you to fight wave after wave of enemies in order to finish. There are a few movie tie-ins, such as the black ooze from space that turns you into Venom -- and extracts a terrible cost in the process -- as well as the movie characters and conflicts that are involved there, but there are additional problems you run into, such as an infestation of lizard creatures. Fighting these enemies off requires you to master certain Wiimote and nunchuk controls, some of which work better than the others. I like the way that web-slinging works: you pull the B trigger and cast the Wiimote as if it were a fishing rod. That made sense to me, more so than the melee controls that involved shaking the Wiimote back and forth, or the web-sling/punch combo that involved the A and B buttons in combination. Several times moves didn't work as advertised, and Spidey took a lot of abuse because he responded so slowly to my control choices. In general I thought the combat controls were loose enough that I dreaded extended combat scenarios, rather than looking forward to them. If there's one thing that playing as a superhero should be, it's fun -- in this game, it more often felt like work.
So when you put it all together -- embarrassingly bad graphics, a bland and uninteresting world, uninspired voice work, and loose controls -- you end up with a game that's almost impossible to enjoy. In short, it's your typical movie tie-in, and clearly the developers were more interested in producing a game by deadline than they were in producing a game that you'd want to play. Some day, maybe, the game industry will figure out how to produce movie games that are actually worth buying; in the meantime, you'd be well advised to stay away.
Graphics: 4. There's no excuse for a modern game to look this way..
Sound: 5. Somebody get Tobey Maguire a cup of coffee.
Gameplay: 6. Would have been a lot more fun if more thought had gone into the controls.
Story: 6. Eh. See the movie if you want the story.
Replayability: 6. I have no interest in playing this one all the way through once.
Overall: 6. "Spiderman 3" is the latest in a long series of bad movie tie-in games.
Spiderman 3 Nintendo Wii Review