Reviewed: May 10, 2007
Released: May 4, 2007
It's been almost a week since I reviewed Spider-Man 3 on all the other consoles. Perhaps I was subconsciously avoiding what I knew was going to be the worst of all the platform experiences. After all, once youíve had a taste of Spidey in high-def, next-gen how can you possibly relay an unbiased opinion of the game on a console about to turn seven years old.
The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions are nearly identical (along with the PC version for that matter) in game material and presentation, but Vicarious Visions has taken that source material and spun a web of new, albeit limited content designed with the limitations of the PS2 in mind. Itís pretty much an identical experience as to what Wii gamers will be getting, only without the cool control scheme.
And therein lies the problem. Everybody, myself included, is willing to take a hit on graphics and sound when you balance it with the awesome controls and gameplay of the Wii, but when you have to settle for an extremely dated last-gen presentation that actually looks worse than Spider-Man 2 in many ways, with no motion-control redemption, well, this is a tough sell for any gamer, unless the PS2 is your only platform option. In that case, this review is for you.
In Spider-Man 3 you can now take part in new missions as well as re-envisioned missions from the other consoles. Essentially, you get the controls of the PS3 and 360 with the story and missions of the Wii, which include 10 plot lines and about 24 missions. Much like the Wii, the PS2 version allows you the freedom to wear the new black suit pretty much at will with a few noted exceptions and restrictions.
Gangs have moved into the city and are staking their claim to various sections. Youíll need to routinely fight these criminals to keep their hold on the city at bay, all the while partaking in numerous story missions that go several layers deep, exploring favorite characters from Spidey lore and even a few surprises and system exclusive villains.
The game doesnít waste any time in starting off with a BANG as a chopper flies into frame and a building explodes. Welcome to the tutorial and guest narrator, Bruce Campbell, who will amuse and abuse (verbally) as you learn the ropes for the new block and counterattack system that is central to the new Spider-Man experience.
The tutorial lasts about 10 minutes and by the end you should be up to speed with everything you need to know to adequately wear the red and blue long-underwear. Your learning will probably exceed the scope of the tutorial, but soon you will be swinging through town like a pro.
So how about a typical day in the life of Spider-Man, with an entire city at your disposal the possibilities are nearly limitless. You can bring up the stunning 3D map of the city and filter your targets to mini-games, story missions, or crime fighting activities. At any given time there are at least two or more main story plot threads you can follow, and once complete they will unlock the next part in the sequence until you reach the final boss, and then a completely new thread is unlocked.
Missions are about two things; combat and movement. You need to be a master of swinging and zipping and jumping, which are all integral to the massively complex combat and combo system that evolves over the course of the entire game. You will continue to unlock devastating new moves and attacks, but whether you choose to memorize these elaborate movement combos, or merely execute sequences of light, strong, and jump attacks with the occasional web-hit, is up to you. One thing is for certain, whether you know what you are doing or not, the action on the screen is pretty cool to watch.
Two things the PS2 does very differently from the other systems is to offer a unique territorial map of the city that shows the direct percentage influence of the rival gangs as well as the police, and an RPG stat system where you have complete control over customizing Spider-Man throughout the course of the game. You'll gain experience in combat and you can spend those points on new moves, upgrades, and abilities as dictated by a unique customization web. Just pick a path on the web and start adding enhancements to your swinging, attacks, combos, defense, and other abilities. This unique features allows you to enhance Spidey in areas you may be personally lacking as a player.
A very cool gameplay feature is the enhanced integration of the black suit. It was more of a visual concept on the PS3 and 360, but in this game it really becomes part of the strategy. You can don the black suit at any time and gain incredible performance boosts, but you will not earn experience, which means you cannot upgrade Spidey in other important areas of the game. Also, the more you wear the suit the longer it has to try and consume you, a cool dynamic shown by creepy black tentacles that start to consume the screen (and your vision). If you don't shake off the suit you will pass out and return to the previous checkpoint.
Iím usually pretty forgiving when it comes to PS2 graphics. I never try to compare them to next-gen consoles, but after playing recent games like God of War II and Brave, I know the PS2 can do much better than what weíre seeing in Spider-Man 3. What was considered average and acceptable on the Wii sinks to some pretty subterranean standards on the PS2.
Iím sure those relegated to playing games on a PS2 are more tolerant of these kinds of visuals, and yes, Spider-Man 3 is playable and there are moments of coolness, mainly in the animation of Spidey, his swinging and cool combat combos, but the big picture, the city, the block-style buildings with solid colors and no textures, the lack of traffic and pedestrians, and the overall haze and fuzziness of the screen, just made this game personally painful to play.
I was able to pass these lackluster visuals off as ďcomic book likeĒ for the Wii, but I canít even offer that prop for the PS2. Itís just an ugly game. I will give the visuals one caveat. I was playing this game on my brand new 1080p TV, which is pretty demanding about the video source material, so those playing on a SDTV may get some benefit from the inherent blurring and fuzziness of a CRT.
The soundtrack for the game quite cinematic. You have that epic hero fanfare that follows Spidey around, and some nice scoring for the cutscenes and emotional moments. Itís pretty much the same musical experience as the other consoles without all the fancy Dolby processing and surround.
The voice acting is good with surprising performances by Toby, who plays a confident Spidey and a nerdy Peter, as well as Bruce Campbell who delivers some of the most priceless lines in the entire game. J.K. Simmons turns in a character-matching performance for his J. Jameson character while Topher Grace and Thomas Haden Church lend their talents to the game. The rest of the supporting cast is handled with sound-alikes for the important people and reasonably good actors for the rest of the population, although some of the accents did seem a bit forced and out of place at times.
Spider-Man 3 has plenty of good sound effects but they seem to be limited to only the action portions of the game. There is very little ambient city noise, but then again, NYC has never been ďdeaderĒ than in this game. I also miss the occasional cheers and jeers from bystanders and Spidey swings through town and Peterís witty responses.
Spider-Man 3 is a much shorter game on the PS2 with about half the mission content as the other systems, but there is still plenty to do and with the new mini-games, races, and photo ops, so expect about 15-20 hours of gameplay. The PS2 version is also priced about $20 less than the other systems, so you can start saving for that next-gen gaming system.
I loved Spider-Man 3 on the 360 and even on the PS3 to a lesser extent and I really liked the direction Vicarious Visions took the franchise on the Wii, but the PS2 version is quite simply a game that should never have been made. Sure, there are a few million gamers out there who only have PS2ís, but even they deserve better than this.
If you really, really love Spider-Man and have a high tolerance for dismal graphics and repetitive gameplay and the PS2 is the only game system you have in the house, then go ahead and check this outÖmaybe as a rental. Or get the NDS version. You have infinitely more fun.
For as much as games like Brave, Burnout Dominator, and God of War II proved that the PS2 still had some life in it, Spider-Man 3 sucks that life right back out and proves the era of the PS2 is over.