What does £5 mean to you? A week’s pocket money? A couple of pints of lager? The bus fare into town and a cinema ticket? Activision have something else in mind. They think that by knocking a fiver off Spider-Man 3 (it’s £24.99 in most stores) they can be excused for its shoddiness, and hopefully the poor saps who open their wallets won’t feel wholly cheated when they discover it’s a rushed out mess. Obviously that’s not the official statement from Activision; it’s just our own view. Respect!
If you haven’t played Spider-Man 2 then you might not feel quite as disappointed, as the things that were fun in that game – like swinging around NYC and the witty one-liners (mostly those delivered by narrator Bruce Campbell) – still do please. But for some reason we can’t comprehend, the developers have managed to make a game worse than Spider-Man 2 in every respect. The only thing that has been improved is that Spidey’s webs now attach themselves to the sides of buildings and such instead of pure nothingness, which goes a long way to making Spidey zip through the air more fluidly.
We’re well aware that the PlayStation 2 is no spring chicken, but the graphics are approaching appalling. There’s more pop-up than the children’s book section in Waterstones, the buildings are mostly featureless and Central Park, with its blurry 2D trees, looks like an environment lifted out of an N64 game. At night when the street lights come on things look a bit more respectable, and the cutscenes are generally ok, but that’s only because they use the character models (not real time, obviously) from the next-gen versions.
Ah, the cutscenes. They’re short and to the point, but so much so that the plot from the movie isn’t very well explained. You don’t see the black goo come crashing down to earth in meteorite form, for instance – it just appears out of nowhere and attaches itself to Peter Parker. The next thing you know, you’re able to turn into emo Spidey. This ability spices up the button-hammering combat no end as you can only use the black suit for a limited amount of time before passing out. When transforming back a series of buttons need to be pressed in perfect timing, with the sequence becoming more elaborate depending on how often you use the suit. The enemies are very polite when you do this, standing perfectly still like a bunch of gentlemen thugs.
Then there’s the small matter of the speech samples. They’re totally out of synch – we once rescued the same person (a fat bloke in a white shirt) five times in a row and each time he had a different voice, ranging from an Indian man to – rather oddly – a girl. On one mission he actually changed personalities twice, going from an ill-mannered New Yorker to a posh gent. It seems like a petty thing to spend a whole paragraph discussing, but it really highlights how little polish the game has received. Also notable is the way that loading screens often kick in before the celebratory ‘mission completed’ music has even finished.
It’s not a game that’s so poor that we couldn’t bear to play it – in actual fact some aspects, like the four rival gangs battling for turf, are fairly involving. It’s just simply not accomplished in the slightest. It’s really short too – the storyline can be finished in around four hours, leaving just a few extras to go through including some photo missions and collectable objects. The ‘Official Movie Merchandise’ logo that flashes up on the screen while the game initially loads sums everything up – this is intended for desperate fans to spend their money on, along with the Spider-Man 3 toothbrush and pregnancy testing kit.