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Spider-Man 3 (PlayStation 3) artwork

Spider-Man 3 (PlayStation 3) review

"Such moments rock, but they’re counter-balanced by tedious missions. Early on, those revolve around stopping the various gangs that are battling for control of the city. Later, you have to take on super villains. The problem with these missions is that they’re not particularly fun, not when you could be out swinging around the city, riding on top of cars and whatever else interests you."

When you initially boot up Spider-Man 3, you’ll have to wait about five minutes while the game pre-installs itself on your PlayStation 3. Five minutes. It sounds like a long wait (and it is), but it’s worth it because it helps give Spider-Man 3 what few games before it have had: an environment that feels alive. It’s the game’s strongest point, and it never really stops providing the fun most web slingers will seek, but is it enough to make the game a must-have? Well, not really.

Early on, after a tutorial mission humorously narrated by Bruce Campbell, you’ll probably swing around the city just for the heck of it. You’ll marvel at the way lights flash by, the way the city skyline glints fleetingly in the buildings you swoop past. You’ll blink at the glow of street lamps, the auburn traffic lights. Glide down toward the asphalt and through the din of traffic and you’ll hear truck engines rumbling, car horns honking. I can’t remember a time when there have been more moving vehicles in a game, when the flow of traffic has felt more natural. It’s odd that something so simple adds depth to the experience. There are plenty of people, too. They all stride through the streets with apparent purpose, and you might even catch cell phones ringing as they go about their daily tasks.

Still, traffic and pedestrians are only the start. As Spider-Man swings high into the air, you can practically feel the wind whipping against your face. It’s oddly exhilarating, in part because every building you pass feels like it’s actually there (some of them you can even enter, if it suits you). Sure, you can look across the skyline and see duplicates. Art imitates life, but the developers clearly worked to keep the potential issue in check. Flags extend on poles from some. Heaters decorate others, or spires or billboards. Despite the variety, load times and automatic saves never really interfere with your sense of freedom. Maybe there’s a slight on-screen stutter while you’re passing into another zone, or you’ll see a note on the bottom of the screen mentioning that a save is in progress, yet there’s really no pause. You’re free to continue exploring and looking for that next hooligan.

Stopping crime is fun in Spider-Man 3, because you’re never compelled to do it outside of in-game missions. If you like, you can just keep moving and avoid the confrontation. Certainly, your webbing is enough to keep you out of harm’s way, yet Peter Parker isn’t really the sort that minds lending a hand when mankind is in peril. Not only that, but you can gain boosts to your life. Besides that, crime prevention is fun.

One example leaps to mind. Let’s say you’re exploring the park when menacing music begins playing. You switch on your spider sense and swing the camera around in time to spot a pink shape racing along the road. It’s a sedan, driven by one gang member while his fellows lean out the windows firing guns into the night sky. You leap into the air, send out a strand of webbing, then begin the pursuit. Your quarry careens erratically as horns blare and cars crash against one another amidst the chaos. Finally, you land on the car’s roof. You kick away the men’s guns and then kick their faces for good measure. The vehicle beneath you swerves dangerously as the men slump against the car doors, unconscious. You jump next to the front of the car, land on the hood and begin to dismantle it as the driver tries to shake you free. When he crashes into a parked truck, he bails and you follow. He tries to fend off you attacks, but you break through his feeble defenses and kick him into the air, then follow up with a few more quick punches that finally subdue him.

Such moments rock, but they’re counter-balanced by tedious missions. Early on, those revolve around stopping the various gangs that are battling for control of the city. Later, you have to take on super villains. The problem with these missions is that they’re not particularly fun, not when you could be out swinging around the city, riding on top of cars and whatever else interests you. In the missions, which sometimes last way too long, you’re locked into tedious objectives and oftentimes those revolve around battling a room full of thugs that can overpower you with gunshots before you can recover from a punch or kick you might have taken.

There are frequent checkpoints, thankfully, but they always take you back to the moment just before the last bit of dialogue, which you then have to mash the ‘start’ button to skip through. Also, there are button-based special events where commands pop up on screen and you have to swiftly react to avoid failing a portion of an objective. These look cool if someone happens to be watching you play, but they aren’t particularly fun and you almost never know they’re coming. Sometimes, they even dictate how well you survive a surprise attack. That just feels cheap.

As you satisfy the conditions for each mission, others become available on the map. Even if you’re following them in an approximate order, the story seems to go all over the place and characters are introduced left and right that you won’t know unless you’ve seen the movie or read the comics. Too many chunks are missing, which removes any dramatic effect they may have had. A linear narrative could have avoided this issue. Ultimately, the only reason to play the missions is so that you can participate in the various boss battles and improve the percentage of the game you’ve unlocked, yet neither is particularly satisfying when you can have the most fun the game offers right from the start. Special moves are also unlocked, but they’re mostly just for show.

Basically, Spider-Man 3 is a good game when you’re playing it the way you want. When you decide to punish yourself by playing through the missions for the sake of some added variety, everything fades. The end result is a product that’s certainly fun in shorter bursts, but not something that’s likely to entertain anyone but true Spider-Man fanatics for more than an hour or so at a time.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (May 19, 2007)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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