Reviewed: May 4, 2007
Released: May 4, 2007
I’m writing this review for Spider-Man 3 on the “high” of having just seen the midnight showing of the movie and coming off of nearly a week of solid web-slinging on multiple formats. How does this third installment in the action-packed Spidey series, and first venture to next-gen systems, stack up with its predecessors and even the other formats? Read on…
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 Wii gamer in mind. Now you can take part in new missions as well as re-envisioned missions from the other consoles, playing them in all-new and very physical ways. Enjoy original story arcs, new dialogue (even during the tutorial), and a whole lot of remote and nunchuk flicking as you swing your way through this latest installment (and first appearance) of Spidey on the Wii, not counting Ultimate Alliance of course.
The 10 unique storylines from the other games have been trimmed down to just five including the plot thread from the movie, but the Wii does throw in two exclusive villains, Morbiius, and Shriek. You are also allowed access to the black Spidey suit much earlier in the Wii version of the game and can wear it pretty much at will with a few noted exceptions and restrictions.
In this new vision of New York City Peter Parker has pretty much cleaned up the town and everyone is happy. His vigilante status has been replaced with the “hero” moniker, at least as far as the police are concerned. J. Jameson still has issues but seems to be coming around once you save him from some nasty kidnappers. Peter and M.J. are quite the item and Peter plans on popping the question. Everything is good in the Big Apple…or is it?
Gangs have moved into the city and are staking their claim to various sections. You’ll 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. Spider-Man 3 doesn’t stray from its gaming roots and you still get to seek out numerous collectibles and mini-games hidden around this massively redesigned city about to become the ultimate playground.
The game doesn’t 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 of the revamped combat system and web-slinging system tailored specifically for the Wii. Plan on a solid 20-30 minute learning curve to get the hang of playing this game in a way you are neither used to nor prepared for.
The tutorial lasts about 20 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. Unlike the PS3 and 360 where you aimed with the left stick before shooting some web, here you just flick your left or right hand toward a building and press the buttons to shoot in that direction and swing. It really is quite intutive once you stop fighting the system and just immerse yourself in the role of Spidey.
Combat is a bit more problematic having you flick the remote side to side for fast attacks and combine those motions with button presses, jumps, and the occasional dodge (downward flick of the nunchuk) when your Spidey sense tingles, indicated by an icon and a tone in the remote's speaker. You can also downward swipe both controllers to finish a combo with a strong attack. My only real complaint with the combat system is the huge lag between inputing your motions and the resulting animation on screen. This often leads to you getting far ahead of our hero in a lengthy combo.
Those button pattern matching QTE's from the other games have been replaced with some Wii-specific moments that have you furious waving your controllers around to open doors or break chains. It's not as reflexive as the QTE's but it can wear you down. In fact, Spider-Man 3 is a somewhat physically demanding video game, at least in comparison to many other games on the system.
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 phenomenal to watch.
Two things the Wii 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 Wii-exclusive gameplay features 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 (literally) you will pass out and return to the previous checkpoint.
I've learned not to expect much when it comes to graphics on the Wii. After all, this system was designed and targeted for gamers who want to PLAY their games differently. To it's credit, Spider-Man 3 looks good for what it is and I would certainly stack it up with last-gen systems. It is certainly better than the horrible PS2 version, and whatever limits the graphics put on the experience is more than made up for with the cool control scheme.
The city is still huge, which means you get a lock of blocky, textureless buildings, pop-up, and unimpressive character models and traffic. One good thing about the overall presentation is that this version of Spidey looks more like a living comic book than a high-tech video game. I was extremely disappointed in the fact that there was no progressive scan support or widescreen mode, so characters all have fat faces during the cutscenes and the game is full of jaggies and even some chugging framerate issues.
The Spidey model is unbelievably cool, and you can tell a lot of work went into making his movements as smooth and lifelike as possible. The came offers a clunky camera system whereby you rotate your camera by tilting the nunchuk. It works in theory but the rotation speed is often far too slow to match the reaction time required by many situations.
The HUD and menu screens are nicely designed. The 3D map, while not nearly as impressive as the other systems, works well and is complete with all the necessary icons and crime maps, and I love the spiderweb upgrade interface.
The soundtrack for the game is worthy of a film…for all I know it could be some of the same music. You have that epic hero fanfare that follows Spidey around, and some cinematic scoring for the cutscenes and emotional moments, and then you have this totally awesome “In the Heat of the Night” music while you zip around the night sky.
The voice acting is excellent 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. They even have console-specific one-liners and the Wii version may be just the best when it comes to humor, at least during the tutorial. 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 just plain good actors for the rest of the population.
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, which is just plain wrong for NYC, especially when you can look down and see bumper-to-bumper traffic across the city grid and not hear a single horn honking. I also miss the occasional cheers and jeers from bystanders and Spidey swings through town and Peter’s witty responses.
All the important stuff is here like water, fire, rumbling trains, sifting sand, metallic pipes, echoes and reverbs, sickly thwacks as you punch an egg sack, and all sorts of thumps, oofs, and groans of endless combat. The Dolby Pro Logic II mix does a great job of putting you into all the action with great sounds and cinematic music.
Spider-Man 3 is a much shorter game on the Wii, with about half the mission content as the other systems, but there is still plenty to do and with the new physical gameplay, you'll easily get lost in this game for upwards of 20 hours. Plus, it also offers plenty of exclusive features like immersive controls and a totally customizable gameplay experience thanks to earned XP and your ability to choose your own upgrades. The Wii version is also priced about $10 less than the other systems, so it won't break your budget.
Spider-Man 3 takes the franchise to new and exciting levels of gameplay with a control scheme that will have you swinging and fighting just like Peter Parker. This is probably as close as any of us can get to actually becoming Spider-Man without getting bit by a spider, so grab your remote and nunchuk and jump off the nearest skyscraper for the biggest thrill ride of the summer.