Spider-Man Review

By: John Doe

I grew up watching Spider-Man and reading the comics back in the early 70's. I am only familiar with the one and only Spider-Man theme song, which I have often said should replace "The Star Spangled Banner" as the American National Anthem. Hey it's catchy and almost everyone knows it, so why not? Plus it would be cool to see Whitney Houston sing it at the World Series. I reeled in shock and horror when Peter Parker's girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, died at the hands of the Norman Osbourne's alter-ago, The Green Goblin. I was doubly shocked when Norman Osbourne, bit the big one in the next issue. I was there when Peter married Mary Jane, I witnessed the birth of Venom and later Carnage, not to mention the whole clone deal and the death of Aunt May. So, just like many of you, I know my Spider-Man. I have also played every video game incarnation of the webbed wonder, my favorite being Spider-Man Versus Kingpin on the Sega CD. What Neversoft has done here, defies everything you've ever thought you had known about games based on licensed characters. Spider-Man the game, is really great. Who would have thunk it?


Two years ago I attended my first E3 in LA. What game made the biggest impression on me? Spider-Man. And it was only on video, you couldn't even play it. When I received the one level Demo in OPM this past Winter, I was blown away at how the game was coming together. Once again, the majority of my time at E3 2000 was at the Activision booth, playing the game. Then I begged Rhy-Ming at Activision to send me a build of the game back in July, which she did. I loved every minute of it. I was blown away at the vision of Neversoft. They obviously have a great love for the character, and it shows through in every single aspect of the final product.

The whole concept behind this game is to throw you into the life of your friendly neighborhood wallcrawler, and Neversoft made sure they did just that. Spidey has every power he ever had in the comics (and then some, more on that in a moment): Wallcrawling, webswinging, spider sense, web weapons (web yank, exploding web dome, web spikes for his fists, impact webbing and web trap), proportional strength, agility, high jumping and of course, fists and kicks and combos of those. Controlling your hero takes some time to get used to, because this is a character who can go on walls and ceilings, upside down and rightside up and everything in between, so the perspective changes quite a bit. The camera does act up every now and then, but I'll live with it. As you swing around virtual New York, you'll be amazed at how easy Spidey is to control. You'll marvel at how cool it is to stick hundreds of feet in the air to the side of a skyscraper, while taking out thugs on the rooftops below.

The story is ripped right out of the comics. Someone has impersonated Spider-Man and stolen Doc Ock's latest contraption. That makes Spidey Public Enemy Number 1, natch, so you'll spend a lot of time avoiding the boys in blue while trying to clear your name. Along the way, you'll encounter a laundry list of some of Spidey's greatest foes: Rhino, Scorpion, Mysterio, Venom, Doc Ock and even Carnage, along with some friendly faces too like Daredevil, Punisher, Human Torch, Black Cat, JJJ and Peter Parker's wife, Mary Jane. The story is moved along by CG cutscenes as well as the odd one using the game engine. Lengths have been taken to keep the soul of the comic intact, and in true Marvel fashion the game truly plays out like an interactive comic book, with twists, turns, and a whole lot of action. I don't often laugh at video games, but Venom and Spidey had some great comical exchanges. Even Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee shows up to do the narration, which is only fitting.

Neversoft used the Tony Hawk engine for the guts of Spider-Man and it turned out to be an excellent idea. The game is graphically sharp, moves at a nice clip, the animation is top notch and the camera, although a little quirky at times, is pretty respectable. Unfortunately the mouths don't move during the cutscenes, but that shouldn't stop you from buying this title. The acting is great, and just as over the top as you'd find in the comics. For once, "over-the-top" actually fits in a videogame! Rino Romano who provided the voice for Spider-Man in the Spider-Man Unlimited animated series, returns to mouth our webheaded hero again.

Unlimited continues and well placed Save Points make the game move along briskly without every getting too frustrating until near the end of the game, when the difficulty ramps up quite a bit. You can play Spider-Man on 3 difficulty levels (Easy, Normal and Hard) and there is even a great option called "Kid Mode" which allows young children to play the game with little difficulty and an easier control scheme. My four-year old daughetr tried it, and she had a great time, although I got supreme doo-doo when she told my wife that she "killed a bad guy." "But they just flicker and disappear honey, he didn't die," I said trying to not get "the look." I got "the look" and more. My only complaint with Kid Mode is that they should have taken steps to eliminate deaths from "falling," as some young kids may have trouble with spatial relations, especially in a 3D game.

Not only is the game a blast to play, but there is just so much to do. The game offers a Training Mode, which helps you develop your spider skills in a few various time-limited tests: Time Attack, Survival Mode, Speed Training, Target Practice and Item Collecting. Throughout the game you can find comic books hidden in the levels. You can then check out the Gallery and see which ones you've found and bone up on some Spider-Man history. The Gallery also allows you to view the movies you've unlocked, check out the characters in the game, look at the storyboards and view the comic covers that separate stages. You can also find costumes hidden around the levels, which then allow you to play the game as that version of Spider-Man as well as provide various powers that the costume had in the comics. There are 10 in total and range from Spider-Man 2099, to Captain Universe Spidey (anyone remember that?) to the Scarlet Spider to Peter Parker himself. Even though it's sort of just pallette swapping, the ability to play as these other costumes is a testament to just how far Neversoft went to make this game fun from beginning to end. There are also a slew of hidden cheats like the obligatory Big Head Mode, Level Select, etc. One of the coolest codes is the What If? Mode. What If? refers to the line of comics published in the 80's that dealt with parallel Marvel universes and the events that contributed to their existence. For example, What If Spider-Man had stopped the burglar that shot Uncle Ben? The What If Mode in the game simply changes some events, some big, some hardly noticeable, but enjoyable just the same. It doesn't affect any FMV sequences, but if you keep a sharp eye out you might notice some bizarre things.

Complaint Dept. The one problem with Spider-Man may be it's length. It isn't a very long game, and some stages can be quite short. Those who thrive on getting from beginning to end just to beat a game will have a few hours of game time ahead them; others who will go back and explore will get more out of the game. We aren't talking 40 hours of gameplay here. This is an action game, not an RPG. The length of the game really doesn't matter as everything has been done to perfection, but some sticklers might take issue with it.

Even though I've already admitted to being a Spider-Man fan, don't think that I am quick to embrace all things "Spider-Man" especially when it comes to video games based on the character. I have played my share of crappy games based on Spider-Man and other superheroes: Batman, Superman, X-Men, you name it, and I've probably suffered through it. If anything, I am the harshest critic of games like this because I expect so much. I am happy to report that the hype is true: Spider-Man from Neversoft is the best Superhero game ever made. Hands down. All of those companies trying to cash in and make a quick buck on a license, take notes on how to really do it. Neversoft took their time and created a game that will forever be the benchmark of superhero games. If you aren't willing to spend the time, or if you do not love and understand the property you are dealing with, then you will fail. Neversoft and Activision will reap the monetary benefits from Spider-Man (and Tony Hawk 1 & 2) and they deserve every last cent. Companies who make games based on their own intellectual property (Crash, Metal Gear etc.) will benefit greatly if their game turns out to be a winner, because they own all the rights. It is in their best interests to make the game as good as it can be. Third Party companies who make games based on licenses usually do so to make a fast buck and throw a well-known character into a cookie cutter game that could easily star anyone from Scooby Doo to The Incredible Hulk to Mary Kate and Ashley. The attitude seems to be "Why spend all of this development time on a character we don't even own? Screw that! Just throw them into this and people will fall over themselves to buy it. Why do all of this extra work for a game that we may not even have the license to do a sequel?" It's obvious Neversoft didn't think like that. Spider-Man is a triumph that finally proves that superhero games can be entertaining and incredibly fun to play, if the proper care is taken. I anxiously await the sequel. Supremely Recommended!!






Back To PlayStation Index