|Superheroes come and go.
New ones show up with shiney tights and huge guns, only to be vanquished by those with
flashier spandex and even bigger guns, only to rise again and repeat the process ad
nauseam. Ah, but I've seen it done differently-- by a man known to some as Peter Parker,
to some as Spiderman, and to others as the unproclaimed God of the Marvel universe. He's
part noble warrior, part reluctant hero, and part unabashed smart ass. One things for
sure, there's no other superhero like him. Naturally when I heard that Neversoft, the fine
folks who brought us Tony Hawk Pro Skater, were hard at work bringing Spidey to the
PlayStation I was thrilled. The reality is somewhat less thrilling.
Spiderman does a lot of things right. From the moment the first FMV graces your television screen, Spiderman captures a 70's comic book feel that serves the game well. Along the way you fight various super villians including Spidy's arch rival Venom. Cameos by various other superheroes, like Daredevil, help create the atmosphere essential in any game based on a comic book.
The missions are varied and always come with a sense of urgency. Whether Spiderman is trying to free the hostages, save his friends, discover secret hideouts, or chases down evil villians, he always seems to be a step behind his dastardly foes.
Swinging from rooftop via web slinging is a sensation I've always longed for, and at last I've had a taste of it. Spiderman's 3D movement is an integral part of his character and likely posed the biggest obstacle in creating the game. The result is mixed. Spiderman sticks to walls and crawls effortlessly across the ceiling, weaving in and out of air ducts, dropping on his unsuspecting opponents to deliver a pummeling. The effect is well done when all you're doing is moving around or taking out a guard or two, but the system suffers problems in situations that require precision of movement. The camera becomes an obstacle, often gives poor angles and is very slow to relocate. In addition, while engaged in combat it is often difficult to aim Spidey precisely where you want. It is very disconcerting to be engaged in brutal combat with Venom, especially when you spin Spidy around to launch a web blast at the foe. Although it looks like youre pretty much facing him, when you launch the web blast it flies 90 degrees off to the side and misses by an absurd margin, whileVenom proceeds to beat you senseless. These camera and control issues conspire to make each one worse then either would have been on their own, and represent the single greatest flaw in the game.
As enjoyable as the gameplay is at times, their are also times when the gameplay is less than stellar. For example, one stage in the game requires you to climb up a building while helicopters shoot rockets at you, blowing up sections of the building and and any web slinging wall crawlers unfortunate enough to be on them. The problem is that the helicopters shoot in the same pattern, and Spidey's movement is minimal. He crawls up the building, but while crawling he can't use his webs to help him motivate vertically or horizionally. He just crawls up the building. This means you're going to get blown up a lot. The only way to avoid the blasts of the helicopters is to know in advance which parts of the building they are going to blow up. As a result, success will be found only through trial and repetition. This rewards wrote memorization, rather than razor sharp Spidey skills.
Spiderman isn't a very long game either; a dedicated weekend should take you to the end without too much trouble, although there is a reasonable amount of replay value. Still, Spiderman manages to be a fun game, despite its significant shortcomings. Lifelong Spiderman fans will want to give the game a whirl and will certainly have a good time with it, as will most other gamers looking for a vintage superhero adventure. There arent many other superhero games better, but thats no excuse. Given the games relatively short duration, renting is also an excellent idea for those who are still unsure if it's worth the big money.