SpiderMan has seen quite a truckload of videogames in his day and was always one of Marvel Comics' biggest successes. Not only did SpiderMan have the catchiest opening tune back in the days, but he also had the best cartoon show which was always neck and neck with X-Men. SpiderMan and X-Men have always been the most popular comic franchises and both comic figures have received their fair share of videogames ranging from NES to Super NES, Genesis, GameBoy and even GameGear (R.I.P). Just like X-Men, I (and many others) would set my alarm clock to seven o'clock AM so that I can be ripe and lively when the new episode of SpiderMan would come on TV. Every episode I would be wishing to myself that this is the finale in the chapter and SpiderMan finally destroys Venom. I was so happy when Eddy Brock (Venom) was stopped and Spidey sent the Venom off to space. But just as the Venom chapter finished another one picked up and was the thing that I always loved about SpiderMan's cartoon, it always kept the anticipation at boiling temperature s. Another bond between SpiderMan and his good buds The X-Men is that both comic franchises were so popular that not only did they have their own shows but, videogames, toys, stickers, peel-off tattoos, lunch boxes, clothing and even footwear. It was clear that Stan Lee had one hell of a franchise on his hands and it was without a doubt an extremely popular one among kids and adults alike.
I have played an extensive amount of SpiderMan games ranging from numerous consoles. But for the last couple of years I have always felt that the pinnacle in SpiderMan games was always SpiderMan and Venom (SNES) and Separation Anxiety (SNES). SpiderMan and Venom was a great game which finally coincided SpiderMan and his arch enemy Eddy Brock (Venom) because Venom's girlfriend I believe was kidnapped and he would do anything to get her back, so who better to ask then you neighborhood friendly SpiderMan. SpiderMan and Venom featured great 2D side-scrolling visuals with some amusing gameplay and really brought out the comic book experience. Following Spidey and Venom was a sequel which was titled as Separation Anxiety, this game introduced Carnage who is a mental nutcase attacked by the same chemical that created Venom, which if I'm not mistaken was called Symbiote. Although this so called biological chemical had a side-effect that caused Carnage to "separate" from himself forming five new Symbiotic creatures. And now SpiderMan and Venom are back at it again saving the universe from destruction in the sequel to SpiderMan and Venom. So Spidey finally receives his very own 3D adventure videogame solely based on most of his popular comics, but is SpiderMan a plain game or one of high magnitude? Read on!
Who would have ever thought that an adventure game as gorgeous looking as SpiderMan would be constructed from a videogame skateboarding game engine. Neversoft the geniuses whom we've never heard of until Tony Hawk made a 900 our way this October has taken the Tony Hawk engine and created one of the finest looking adventure games to grace our current 32/64 Bit consoles. Comic book based videogames are usually plagued by awkward game physics, poor graphics or an irrelevant story. Thankfully none of those features smite SpiderMan in any way. First we get down 'n dirty and talk about SpiderMan's visuals. For starters I can safely say that SpiderMan has the largest environments ever seen in a videogame PERIOD. For the past few years I have always thought that Ape Escape and Mario 64 had the most largest scenarios but I was dead wrong. As soon as I was granted the ability to web-swing all over New York City my eyes were filled with tears of joy, that finally my dream has come true, this is probably the closest that I will ever get to being SpiderMan. Not only are the environments huge and recreate the whole "city" landscape but you are also bestowed the power to swing onto any viewable building in sight. If you see the Fantastic Four's headquarters then be my guest and swing your way over to it, or maybe you want to have some fun on the New Yorker building or some sleazy hotel building, your wish is SpiderMan's command, all you have to do is position yourself jump and hit R2 and Spidey will swing away.
With all of these extremely immerse environments comes the everyday draw-in that surprisingly isn't too noticeable thankfully due to the fact that you have to keep your eye on SpiderMan and his compass most of the time, so taking leaps of faith is definitely not an option because all of the buildings are in viewable distances and the following buildings appear in the fog as SpiderMan is making his approach towards the next building. Basically the structures appear in a ghostly fashion instead of a "popping" fashion like what Gran Turismo 2 suffered from. That out of the way let me mention a black eye in SpiderMan's visuals, the CGs character models are poorly constructed and it shows that Neversoft is clearly lacking skill in that area. The physical beings (with no costumes on) look plain awful with very bad facial detail and blocky looking bodies. On the other hand the superhuman forms of SpiderMan, Venom, and all the other covered characters in the game look good, except for The Black Cat. Her facial features are horrible, her face is completely distant than what it looks like on the cartoon, and this is probably the only bad thing I have to say about the game in general.
Now it all comes down to the final category and that is the character detail. Using the Tony Hawk engine that proved to be a success in almost every way for Neversoft, they have re-used the very sophisticated game engine and tweaked it even further for more precise looking characters. SpiderMan has without a doubt never looked any better, I've seen some pictures of the Nintendo 64 version of SpiderMan and they don't even compare to the Playstation's visuals a bit. The character detail on SpiderMan is so incredibly smooth, there are no seeable break ups between joints or any other body features so everything is as smooth as silk. Neversoft has thoroughly re-created the comic book experience by making every in-game baddy juiced with finely detailed bodies. When it comes down to visuals Neversoft has got the dart in the center, but is the gameplay any good?
Given the extreme stages that you are in, the game's fun, excitement and enjoyment has a lot to do with the vast atmosphere in SpiderMan. If it wasn't for the great swinging and slinging then the game would have a more claustrophobic feel to it, but with these never ending environments, SpiderMan is probably the best breath of fresh air. SpiderMan is more than a beat 'em up, some people may call it Fighting Force with Marvel characters but believe it or not SpiderMan actually includes some stealth material as well. Just like SpiderMan himself you can tap R1 and he will launch himself up on a ceiling and crawl around until jumping down and whipping his opponents butt. The fighting is basic, you have Square and Circle that control Spidey's physical attacks such as punch and kick, meanwhile you have the Triangle button that controls your spouting off web that traps enemies, and X is the jump button. SpiderMan has a few neat moves he can pull off too, Punch while in the air will send Spidey shooting down with a kick to his opponent, by pressing Square in the air Spidey will launch a fierce punch sending himself downward against an enemy. Then out web-head also has the power to shield himself completely and then send hardened particles of the web-shield at enemies for some good damage. Another sweet move that SpiderMan has is the power to turn webbing into a weapon by making hardened spiked web gloves which will really help out in boss fights. There are other moves out there and I'll have you know that SpiderMan is quite a deep game.
Like Activision's X-Men brawler, SpiderMan also features a slew of hidden secrets that need to be unlocked by accomplishing a variety of things throughout the game. What was a complete shocker to me is that SpiderMan is a cameo-infested game, which isn't a bad thing at all. Cameos by The DareDevil are made and even the Human Torch makes it to just give Spidey a little word of advice. Everything about SpiderMan shouts the words "comic faithful". Everything in SpiderMan is nailed on the mark, from the narration of Stan Lee to the one-liners that SpiderMan pulls off ever so... oh what's the word 'corny'. You know that SpiderMan's one-liners are a bit stale, but you can't help but at least smile at them. When I say that Neversoft nailed everything dead-on on SpiderMan I mean it, aside from the little things like narration, one-liners, the great character cameos, some plot twists and even a pretty cool team-up in the game, the one thing that Neversoft got on the mark was the re-creation of comic book to videogame. I give Activision lots of praise for pulling off a wonderful job.
SpiderMan has almost every single foe that SpiderMan has fought in the past. The infamous Venom, Lizard, Scorpion, Doctor Octopus (Octavious), Rhino even Carnage gave SpiderMan a hard time. SpiderMan also has a great Training mode where you can get a head start and learn most of the basics. Some of the things you'll need to be aware of in SpiderMan is the Spidey Compass that is located to the bottom right of the screen. As SpiderMan you can explore the open 3D landscape of New York City, Tunnels, Sewers, even catch a ride on top of a train. If you are wondering what SpiderMan is all about let me explain the story. SpiderMan opens up in a CG opening with Peter Parker and Eddie Brock at the Scientific Convention snapping photos of everything that Doctor Octavious is showcasing, but all of a sudden an imposter dressed as SpiderMan appears and takes Doc Oc's invention, the crowd is leaving and Peter Parker and Eddie Brock (who both know each other's secret identity) bump into each other and Eddie Brock didn't stop to think for a moment that there are two SpiderMan's in one place. So Peter Parker leaves, the segment ends with Eddie Brock getting ticked off at SpiderMan and transforming into Venom. The game is filled with tons of dialogue and computer animated sequences and that maybe why the character detail is so plain. Anyways SpiderMan's action may be a bit simple but you can always go stealthy or do a few combos by experimenting with the punch and kick buttons. I also want to mention that you can adjust the difficulty in SpiderMan, and the game has a feature called Kid Mode, which is a special mode where younger kids play SpiderMan on a more easier/tolerable level, and the controller configuration is set for younger hands too. The only phrase that describes SpiderMan is "the total package". SpiderMan has everything going for it, lets head over to the Sound category next.
Narrated by Stan Lee SpiderMan is the perfect example of how a comic book based videogame has to be done. The quality is perfect, most of the voices from the cartoon appear in SpiderMan such as Peter Parker, Felicia Hardy (Black Cat), Rhino and James Jhona Jameson (JJ). But some of the voices like Venom, Scorpion and Doc Oc sound a bit different than the TV show but that may be just me, although they still sound great. The voice acting is timed superbly and even during gameplay you will hear Parker throw in a few of his one-liners just to make the gaming experience feel even closer to the cartoon. To those web-head loyalists out there I will tell you that SpiderMan opens up with his original cartoon theme, yep you heard me the 'original' cartoon theme, not that one that they played on the re-makes! Boy it's been ages since I've heard it. And finally Stan Lee narrates SpiderMan flawlessly, he describes everything that just happened and tells the gamer what he needs to do next. It is a real plus.
With the Kid Mode playing the game for youngsters can be so much easier, but the default setting is without a doubt a great and easy configuration to get used to. As soon as I got control of SpiderMan I quickly got the feel of his movement, his swinging and running. The ability to wall crawl on almost any wall viewable is a great feature and is another trait that bonds the comic and game even closer. I have a complaint with the control though the analog sticks have no sensitivity at all, but I guess I can understand that with this being an action game and all, but still the feature would have been nice.
SpiderMan is definitely this years best adventure game as far as I'm concerned. With all the features all the great stages that you will want to play over and over again SpiderMan is a bang for the buck. The some of stages may be a bit short but there are quite a lot of them and rumor has it that you can play as SpiderMan in his Venom symbiote costume. SpiderMan is an exceptional game, there are many different modes, secrets, and best of lots and lots of variety. Pick up SpiderMan, it is one of the most enjoyable games out there and you will want to beat it over and over again. Now if you excuse me I have some web-slinging to do.