With Spider-Month wrapping up here it’s time to close out these entries with a doozy. Prior to the reboot of The Amazing Spider-Man we were given a trilogy of films from Sam Raimi. These films were all good fun, and were some of the best examples of comic book film adaptations we had ever seen, opening the doors for all the popularity they enjoy now. Of course, big box office summer blockbuster films can’t possibly come without movie tie-in games, and Activision and Treyarch were on the case giving us a new game for each film. In this article we’ll take a look back at each of them and see how they stack up today!
The first entry in the Spider-Man trilogy is actually quite obscure these days. You see, it wasn’t until the release of Spider-Man 2 and the introduction of the open world sandbox that Spider-Man games began to really pick up steam. Most people don’t even recall ever playing this game. The game follows the basic plot of the first Raimi film, however in an attempt to pad out the story the game also gives you some extra levels and boss battles against The Shocker, Vulture, Scorpion and in an Xbox exclusive level Kraven the Hunter. The game is extremely reminiscent of the original PS1 Spider-Man games which we looked at earlier in the month, in fact a little too reminiscent of those games as this entry has ALL of the flaws those games had and actually comes off a little worse overall.
What I liked:
Improved Graphics: This is relative of course, the graphics are improved over the PS1 games which this one so resembles. When I first played this back when it came out though it was a breath of fresh air to have a Spider-Man game not completely covered in fog everywhere you looked. Even the outdoor environments were relatively fog free. You are free to swing around the outdoor environments (invisible walls will turn you around, and if you drop below a certain altitude you die) for the most part with full view of what is around you.
Added Bosses: If the game had stuck 100% to the movie plot it would’ve been extremely thin as not much happens from a gameplay point of view other than two fights with the Goblin. The addition of the above mentioned bosses gives the game a nice change of pace and actually makes the video game Spider-Man better than the film version as he’s much quippier. Poor Shocker takes a real verbal beating from Spidey in this one.
What I didn’t like:
Everything else: Seriously… playing this game again today it’s a train wreck. Lets go down the list of main offenders.
1. Combat is completely clunky, as you only have a list of 3 hit combos you can pull off. With no ability to dodge or block you’re a sitting duck to any enemy you aren’t actively attacking. If the enemies have guns then lord help you because you’ll be dead within 3 or 4 shots from them even on the normal difficulty setting. There’s no real crowd control abilities that Spidey has and there is no spider sense to speak of here.
2. The camera is even worse here in this game than it was on PS1. We are finally given free reign to swing the camera around with the right stick, however the movement of Spider-Man completely ignores what the camera is doing. If you are running forward, and swing the camera to the right, instead of following the direction you are looking Spidey will now be running to the left. You have to completely stop moving, re-orient yourself and then start moving again. It’s all the issues Spidey used to have while wall crawling but now on the ground as well! Of course the wall crawling and web slinging problems are still there as well. When webslinging you don’t even control the webbing, it’s simply a toggle. Press L2 to start swinging and press it again to stop. This makes maneuvering and tight corning damn near impossible.
3. Boss battles are where this becomes a MAJOR issue. The biggest selling point of the game during its release was its “aerial battles”. Fights against Goblin and Vulture take place in the sky, so you must constantly be swinging around as if you fall to the ground you will die. You have very little control over where you’re going and the bosses are extremely maneuverable in the air. Spidey has little ranged abilities other than firing webs, but those are limited to web cartridges (even though in the film Spidey had organic shooters, another holdover from the PS1 games) so you spend most of the time swinging aimlessly around hoping you’ll get close enough to the boss to punch them once.
The rest of the game mechanics are as lackluster as you’d think. The film’s voice cast are present (though Dunst is absent) but Maguires sleepy dialogue sounds uninterested and bland. Dafoe does a decent job with the Goblin though the scenes from the game are poorly animated and goofily written. The only real high point here is Bruce Campbell as the narrator when you find hint boxes in the game. Overall, this game is a complete mess today and not worth any of your time. Avoid it at all costs!
Well here we have it kids, the granddaddy of em all! Spider-Man 2 was the superhero game that blew the doors wide open on the genre and opened the floodgates for all the games to follow. When this game first released it was a revelation, a fully realized 3D open world for a superhero to traverse in, with ambient randomized crime events occurring at seemingly every corner. Never before had a game given so much freedom and done it so well as Spider-Man 2. Of course the game follows the plot of the film, but once again in an effort to pad it out we are given some side plots featuring more Spider-Man villains such as Mysterio, Shocker (again) and even a fight with Rhino where you DON’T wait until he crashes into a wall before hitting him!
What I liked:
The Camera Works!: That’s right folks, it took them this long to do it but they finally got a working camera! Mapped to the right stick you have free reign to swing and move the camera around as you please, but unlike previous Spidey games movement actually obeys the direction of the camera! Move the camera to the right and Spidey will simply start walking in that direction too! The camera also has a fast feel to it which is necessary when swinging around and trying to keep your orientation in check. The game also benefits from its complete open world in that there are very few indoor environments that you’ll be stuck in so the camera getting trapped on walls and other objects is a minimal issue here.
Spidey Canon: While Spider-Man 2 was considered the best of the 3 Raimi films, and some considered it (at the time) the best comic book movie made, it still would be pretty thin for a full-fledged game like this. It’s nice that the extra Spider-Man mythos that gets left out of the films was allowed to flourish here. Fights with Rhino and Shocker are fun as Spidey pokes fun at the stupidity of their powers, and the encounters with Mysterio are really memorable (at one point Mysterio fakes an alien invasion that Spider-Man has to stop). There is also an entire side plot involving Black Cat and her relationship with Spider-Man, it’s a nice little diversion from the main story.
ACTING!: Unlike the first Spider-Man movie game where the performances were phoned in and lifeless, here the acting is much better. Maguire doesn’t sound as dull and uninterested, and they even got Dunst and Molina to reprise their roles who do a decent job. The npc dialogue is interesting and while some of it is goofy it is all in good fun. Bruce Campbell once again reprises his role as the narrator and even recorded 200 hints for the game which can be found all around the game world.
Combat: I haven’t played Spider-Man 2 in a loooong time, but going back and playing it now I see this game was actually the genesis of the comic book fighting style we’re used to that was made famous in Batman Arkham Asylum! Spidey has a range of basic combos he can use to fight enemies but before he gets hit his spider sense will go off, allowing you to hit a dodge button avoiding the attack and giving you a chance to counterattack! It’s not as elegant or nuanced as the current iteration but it works essentially the same way and was likely the inspiration for the system. In a departure from the previous games you also have unlimited webbing to use against enemies and have an activatable spider sense which slows down time allowing you to hit enemies more and avoid their attacks more easily, it even puts a big red circle around enemies who are about to attack you so you know whats coming. The timer for this refills as you defeat enemies and the like.
Endless Things to Do pt. 1: The world of Spider-Man 2 is absolutely FILLED with things to be doing. There are hundreds of collectibles to get, from hint markers to hideout locations, and even a skyscraper token on top of every building in the game. There are smaller crimes that happen organically as you walk around such as purse snatching and muggings, as well as more detailed crimes which you have to speak to citizens to initiate such as carjackings and armed robberies. There are challenge races and missions to undertake all of which give you hero points which you use to upgrade your abilities giving you faster web swinging, more combat abilities, and even some cosmetic stuff like acrobatic jumping styles while swinging around.
Does What A Spider Can: The big draw and selling point of Spider-Man 2 wasn’t just its open world, but how you traversed that world. The web swinging was the most innovative addition to Spider-Man games we’ve seen here. Spider-Man doesn’t simply shoot his webs into the sky and take off, now there has to actually be something physically there to attach a web to. If there are no buildings nearby you simply cannot swing around, it makes sense and fits the logic of the world. You shoot out a web line with the R2 button and can use the L2 button to speed up your swing arc, you then simply press R2 again to shoot another web line or use the jump button to propel yourself forward before firing off another web line. While it takes some getting used to and practice to get down just right it really was the most rewarding ability I had ever seen in a superhero game at that time and I remember the countless hours I spent after beating the game just swinging around the virtual New York stopping random crimes.
What I didn’t like:
Not As Elegant: While the webswinging in this game works, it was the first time anything like this had been tried. In subsequent games such as Web of Shadows and the current Amazing Spider-Man this web swinging has been refined and perfected so going back to the original implementation of it is a little tough to adjust to. While it makes perfect sense that a building MUST be there to swing off of this does cause issues with pulling Spider-Man close to the buildings he’s using. If you are trying to swing straight down a street, it doesn’t really work 100% perfectly because you’ll be attached to the buildings on the right side of the road and naturally swing into the buildings. Also, as I mentioned if there are no buildings you simply can’t swing at all, and if there are only low buildings around you won’t be able to get enough height to start swinging without hitting the ground, it can get frustrating at times.
Jump! Jump!: One weird addition this game had that I don’t recall making it forward to other games is the jump meter. When you press the jump button Spidey does a little hop, to make a full leap you have to hold the jump button until a meter fills up. This can be frustrating as you end up not properly jumping like you’d expect when you hit the button, and if you are just trying to climb a short series of buildings you spend a lot of time standing still filling up a meter. I believe the Hulk games used this mechanic and there it kind of makes sense as the Hulk is a slower more ponderous character, but Spider-Man should be able to make leaps like this with ease.
Endless Things To Do pt. 2: While the ambient crimes are interesting and there really is a large variety of them, at least compared to later games like this, some of them still overlap. Carjackings and car chases are essentially the same crime type, with you just jumping on a car and punching it until it stops. Most crimes are simply you showing up and beating up a bunch of people. The ones that don’t involve violence are just annoying, getting people off of ledges and taking injured people to the hospital becomes annoying fairly quickly as it takes you off track of where you might be trying to go. Also the kid who’s lost his balloon has quit possibly the most grating annoying voice in the history of video games, every time that kid starts whining I just pop his balloon on principle.
Hero Points: As I said already, completing missions, stopping crimes, and finishing challenges all give you hero points. These points are used to upgrade Spider-Man with abilities but they are also used as roadblocks in the story and to pad out the game length. THe game is broken into chapters and each chapter has a set number of goals to complete such as Buy X upgrade from the store, complete this story mission, and then it will have the dreaded collect X Hero Points. This means that you can’t simply do the story missions and complete the game, no if you don’t do enough of those side missions you won’t collect enough hero points to start the next chapter so you’ll have to stop what you’re doing and actively seek these missions out. It breaks up the action and hurts the flow of the game overall. I know they wanted to pad the game and make it feel really huge but it would’ve been fine if we could just complete the story in one shot and focus on doing side activities as the player saw fit.
While there were some issues with the game, overall the don’t really hurt the total package. This game was groundbreaking when it was released and I’m glad to say it still holds up really well. There are some legacy issues here and since a lot of games today took what Spider-Man 2 did and improved on them it is hard to go back to the original version and play it, but unlike the first game I wouldn’t say you are wasting your time playing through this one again. If you never played Spider-Man 2 and are interested in the origins of modern-day comic book games then it’s certainly worth checking out, you won’t be pulling your hair out in frustration like I was with the first Spider-Man movie game.
Which brings us to the third and final entry in our series. Spider-Man 3 was the first of the trilogy to come out on the 360 and PS3, however the version I had was on the Wii. Why did I get it on the wii? Sure the other systems had nicer graphics, but the Wii had something a little bit more…
What I liked:
Wiimote Swinging!: That’s right, the Wii version of the game had fully functioning Wii-mote swinging mechanics! Instead of just pressing the R button like the 360 or PS version of the game you would actually flick the wii-mote to swing out a line from Spider-Mans right hand, but wait that’s not all! If you do the same motion with the nunchuck Spidey shoots a web from his left hand! Remember in Spider-Man 2 when I complained about being pulled towards buildings? Well this fixes that! You can swing on a web from your right hand and as you get pulled toward that side of the road you simply alternate your swinging hand to the other side and problem solved! This is one instance where I actually thought the Wii had a leg up on the competition as using the mote and chuck in parallel with each other really creates a sensation of actually swinging around and it was a lot of fun… unfortunately the wiimotes presence will quickly overstay its welcome but we’ll get to that soon enough.
Got that flow: Unlike the 360 and PS3 versions of the game, the Wii game is much more linear, however I think this helps the games flow overall. In the next-gen systems you have a map with all the missions you can choose to do and this leads to being able to do missions haphazardly. You can start the Lizard storyline, but right in the middle of it move over to the bombing story and jump all around the board. In the Wii version these storylines are all woven together in a singular straight line which keeps you from getting off track with certain storylines and helps weave them together better. It also cuts down on some of the chaff missions making the Wii game a much more streamlined version of its counterparts.
Even MORE Guest Stars: Just like the previous games, extra villains and cameos have been added into the game to pad out the films storyline. The film already had 3 Spider-Man villains (Venom, Goblin 2, and Sandman) so you’d think they wouldn’t need to cram more into the game, however they certainly find a way. The film story and villains don’t even really play a part in the game until the last quarter of the game, prior to that you’re facing off against the Lizard and Kraven the Hunter as well as some encounters with Morbius and Shriek who I never would have expected to see in a Spidey game.
Fashion Sense: The Wii version also has the distinction of allowing you to swap your suit whenever you want. Once you’ve obtained the black suit you can simply switch it on and off. Wearing this suit increases your attack power and gives you some new powerful moves, however it can overwhelm you so you can only wear it so long. After successfully removing it you have to wait a little before you can put it on again. Though that is the only restriction to wearing it, in the games bigger brother versions the suit was limited to certain missions.
What I didn’t like:
Wiggle Waggle: Yup. Here it is folks, the black spot of the Wii controls. While web swinging is all good fun the combat is as you’d imagine a horrible waggle-fest. You waggle the controller for basic attacks… BASIC ATTACKS! You have a stronger attack which you initiate with the A button and web attacks are done via the B button. You can string these together to form combos but the basis of all your attacks is simply moving the wiimote around like a moron. In addition to all this waggling is of course some silly motion control moves such as circling the wiimote around your head to swing baddies around you on a web line. The game also replaces all of the other versions quick time events with waggle motions so instead of mashing A to open doors you’ll be waggling the controller up and down repeatedly, it just gets silly after a quick while.
Crime Time: Once again the game is full of side missions and petty crimes to stop and once again they are used as a hurdle to pad out gameplay. This time there is a new mechanic where different gangs own different turfs across Manhattan. You can go on patrols in these areas stopping various crimes and if you clear out a patrol the area is returned to police control and you don’t have to worry about it anymore. THis gives you experience to buy upgrades which is fine. What isn’t fine is when you start a new mission and they basically tell you “We think this gang knows something, go and patrol their turf until they talk” which essentially means we don’t want you to finish this game so fast, go do random side missions until we’re ready to let you move on. It’s annoying and breaks up the flow of the game. Also the patrol missions are even less varied than they were in Spider-Man 2. I appreciate that there are multiple gangs each with a distinct look, but when all the missions basically boil down to waggling a remote at some goons for an hour I’d rather pass on these.
Overall I don’t really have much to say about Spider-Man 3. They took the formula from Spider-Man 2 which was a clear winner and simply reproduced it. It’s not a bad game, in many ways it’s better than 2. Being next-gen at the time it had improved graphics and audio. Though the cinematics in the game make everyone look like weird lifeless bug people… it’s still serviceable. The open world is there and the side missions are there, however the storyline is kind of all over the place compared to 2. Between the two games I’d say Spider-Man 2 is worth looking at for historical perspective, while 3 was simply a game that’s just there. At least they got Bruce Campbell back to be the narrator again…
So there you have it folks, a quick trip down memory lane with the Spider-Man trilogy based on Sam Raimis films. What started off completely rough and basically unplayable became one of comic book gamings greatest triumphs that influences comic book video games to this day. Without Spider-Man 2 I think the landscape of these games would be very different today. It was the one game that showed a superhero game could be more than a quick cheap cash in and the formula can even more easily be applied to non-movie versions of games such as Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and Ultimate Spider-Man, another pair of great open world comic book games. While I can’t honestly say any of these games are worth going back and playing through if you missed them the first time around, you’re better off playing their modern counterparts, I can say we are better off for having them and they’re worth thinking about when we see what currently works and doesn’t work in our open world games. That just about wraps it up for our month-long look back at Spider-Man and I’m not entirely sure how to close this out, so in the immortal words of Stan Lee himself… “EXCELSIOR!”