Ah, movie tie-ins. The whipping boy of the gaming industry for as long as anyone can remember. With so many poor games out there based on movies, it’s easy to want to judge all other movie games solely on their performance next to other licensed games. Is that fair? Or should all games be held up to the standards of Zelda, Halo, and other blockbusters? It’s a double edged sword, and frankly, games like Spider-Man 3 make that call all the harder to make. It’s head and shoulders above most quick-cash games, with some impressive production values and a not-entirely-half-assed execution. However, judging on this alone, the game would deserve a nine or ten. Unfortunately, that’s not fair, so I’m going to walk the line here. No, Spider-Man 3 is not a terrible game, and in many areas it shines as brightly as Kirsten Dunst did in that scene in the first Spider-Man. You know the one I’m talking about. However, there are many aspects of the game that stick out like a sore thumb, not unlike that butler who appeared at the last second of the movie. Again, you know the one I mean.
“No, Spider-Man 3 is not a terrible game, and in many areas it shines as brightly as Kirsten Dunst did in that scene in the first Spider-Man. You know the one I’m talking about.”Spider-Man 3 is, in a nutshell, trying to be Grand Theft Auto for do-gooders. This means you get to play around in a giant, detailed city- in this case a wonderfully rendered Manhattan- and take missions at your own leisure. However, it lacks all of the things that made Grand Theft Auto so successful… namely, driving cars, shooting it out with other mobsters, and hilarious crime sprees involving ridiculous amounts of guns and pedestrians.
Now, of course, some of this is understandable. Peter Parker is no gangster, and nor does he pack any weapons in that tight spandex suit of his. Still, it would be nice to see some interaction with the citizens of the Big Apple. Besides beating up thugs, there is absolutely nothing to do on the streets, as Spidey cannot interact in any way, shape, or form, with ordinary people. They barely even acknowledge him, either, which is occasionally eerie. Are people really that used to him by Spider-man 3? This is all a step down from the Spider-Man 2 game, in which people would rarely shut up about you, and at least jumped out of the way when you came barelling down the sidewalk.
The upside to all this is that the swinging portions of the game are excellent. When you’re zipping around at 100 miles per hour around the tops of skyscrapers, everything is grand, and really captures the Spidey experience. Manhattan is rendered beautifully here, detailed down to the last alleyway. It’s just a shame that more wasn’t done with it. Apart from the gorgeous city, though, the game isn’t entirely attractive, either. Spidey and his rivals all look fine, but civilians and other people look absolutely freakish, especially in cutscenes. These scenes have a nasty habit of zooming in a bit too close, revealing low resolution textures and ugly models. Some areas even lack lighting completely. Eww. This is a problem many open-world games face, and it’s a shame the developers of Spider-Man 3 didn’t do much to cover it up here.
The missions are a mixed bag. It’s ironic that some of the more enjoyable outings are actually the random crimes, events that pop up when Spider-Man is just chilling in the city. Things like stopping a robber, or a getaway car, quick little jobs that usually just require the superhero to come down to earth for a minute and beat the snot out of something. The other missions, story arcs which require a bit more involvement, aren’t always as fun. Sometimes, they can drag on and on for ages, with frustrating bosses and boring objectives. Some take you to special areas, all of which are very bland and boring, and also take a very long time. Funnily enough, the plot of the movie is told in two missions – compared to the other storylines in the game, which have about six missions each. The storytelling is extremely half-assed, and the ending is absolutely hilarious. Unlike the silver-lining style ending that was handled with some maturity in the film, we are treated to a syrupy and almost implausible finale that will most likely have players in hysterics. It’s that bad. The fact that the real actors from the movie were recruited makes it even more unforgivable that the game’s treatment of the story is so crappy.
Still, with all of its problems, Spider-Man 3 manages to be a fun game. Compared to the vast cesspool that is the movie gaming industry, it’s a gem. However, brought into the real world and held up against industry standards, it’s simply good. Fans of the webslinger, or people who are willing to overlook the usual movie-to-game translation problems, will have a good time with it. I’m sure that younger gaming fans especially, will be able to appreciate swinging around in pajamas. The rest of us can find an entertaining game hidden underneath a pile of little flaws.