They say that constraint can force creative people to produce a better product; a week ago, I trashed Spider-Man 3 Collector’s Edition for being a sprawling, unrewarding mess. Granted I was harsh, but so was it. With less than a third of the content, then, the Wii version promised nothing but a shorter trip to the wastebin. However with one Peter Parker-like flash of genius and a Wiimote later, Vicarious Visions has straightened out the gameplay and swung Spider-Man 3 from disaster to decent.
Spider-Man 3 is a straight-up RPG brawler, a loose translation of the Playstation 2 game of the movie of the comic book. Got it.
[image3]In the Wii version, Spidey gets his new black suit very early on, and gets more time to enjoy the symbiote’s speed and power. But he also has to fight to change to his normal red tights before the black suit knocks him unconscious. It’s like E! Wild On Spidey, except Tara Reid has super-strength and clothes.
The main star isn’t Spidey, though. It’s the Wii controller: you punch by shaking the remote, throw and slam enemies by spinning your hand, and swing across the city by flicking and tightening you grip over the trigger buttons. The swinging takes some time to adjust to, but since Vicarious Visions has cleaned up the combat, it’s a fun curve to swing along.
Nintendo propaganda says that motion controllers like the Wii remote allow developers to model game actions after actual physical movements. That’s all fine and dandy but in Spider-Man 3, I get the feeling that the unique Wiimote actually forced Vicarious Visions to get back to the drawing board and sketch up some of the cleanest Spider-Man combat in years. Spidey has about a dozen moves, each controlled by a distinct and separate motion or combo and every move has a specific in-game purpose.
[image1]The large move list seems overwhelming at first, but after swinging around awhile, your spidey-sense will be well attuned to the responsive controls. Adjustable difficulty and forgiving animation times also help put the "friendly" back into friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. All stats and skills are explicitly laid out in a web-shaped RPG menu: earn experience to buy longer combos, damage upgrades and new moves. It’s a civic responsibility to know what you’re beating on thugs for, especially when it isn’t their stolen money. The interface’s learning curve delivers a constant stream of dopamine as well, for you will earn new moves up through the final boss showdown.
While the core game is strong, the rest of the package is stringy. All the wee struggles (no pun intended) to keep up with massive New York City are interrupted by pesky load times and spinning cutscenes with barely enough fabric to convey the threadbare plot or game objective.
The weakest knot is Spider-Man 3’s lame boss fights and ‘cinteractive’ segments. Most boil down to punching a diminutive supervillain in an empty box with only single objective. Far from grandeur or spectacle–the "boss" fights are "just" fights. The newer, fresher material Wii shows clear improvement over the ported stuff, however. For example, there’s a brain-busting psychological fight that resembles Kratos’ schizophrenic episode in God of War. The exclusive bosses fit in nicely, but I wouldn’t chase down the Wii version solely for its subplots or its overarching storyline as a whole.
[image2]Spider-Man 3 benefits from a ton of official voice work and orchestral music however. Plus, the game seems to add a lot more civilian dialogue for an extra bit of atmosphere. Bruce Campbell never stops talking as the narrator, which comes off as part comedian, part annoying backseat driver–a role Peter Parker would relish.
In contrast to its rewarding upgrades scheme, Spider-Man 3 has some of the worst unlockables in a Marvel game to date (don’t waste your life on the hundred meteorites), but it does have the fun of a Dynasty Warriors-esque game that continues long after the story has said its piece. Four gangs fight against the police for territory, trading ground as you patrol from above. It gives an immersive feeling that the city is bubbling even while you’re focused on your solo missions and emerges the unlockable diamond in the rough.
Speaking of rough, the game is graphically inconsistent. Cut scenes are a strange mix of abbreviated, low-quality renders from the next-gen versions, and short, different-looking stingers which were clearly made to fill in the Wii story. NPC and even enemy animations occasionally turn into glaring four frames-per-second slideshows, and the long draw distance compensates by stripping most of the textures from the world.
While New York City could be flashier, Spider-Man 3‘s intuitive controls, clear gameplay and stubborn symbiote makes this brawler fan content. If you’re looking for the Spider-Man experience and you want to practice your web-slinging, make the Wii version your destination.