Since his initial appearance in Marvel Comics way back in August of 1962, Spider-Man has entertained and inspired millions of people around the world. Arguably one of the most popular and prolific super-hero character of all time, Spider-Man continues to sell 15 million comics a year and has been the basis of at least three separate Saturday morning cartoons and a syndicated comic strip published in 500 newspapers daily. In May of 2002 the webhead even made his big screen debut, grossing one of the biggest weekend takes for an opening film ever. Capitalizing on the popularity of the Marvel superhero, Activision games has published several games based on the Spider-Man for the PC and several other console formats, to mixed reviews. The latest installment in the wallcrawler's series of games, Spider-Man: The Movie, takes the franchise in a slightly different direction than in previous releases, expanding upon the positive aspects of the games core design. However, it also contains many of the same inherent core design flaws that plagued the earlier games as well.
Paralleling the feature film, Spider-Man The Movie follows along the same story line, opening with Peter Parker's infamous change into the arachnid styled crime fighter. Later, the game takes on the more traditional comic book trappings, letting players follow the adventures of the webhead as he battles some of the more popular comic book villains, including Shocker, Vulture, Scorpion, and of course the Green Goblin (as seen in the film). For those familiar with the 2001 Spider-Man release for the PC, you'll notice the same combination of action/arcade/adventure gameplay which makes it a breeze to jump right back into and start playing again. For first timers, a nice little walkthrough tutorial is purposely installed in the game's initial setup (with a tongue-in-cheek narration by famed actor Bruce Campbell) which allows beginners to learn the basics of Spider-Mans controls and other in-game features. Though not as intensive as the tutorial on the 2001 release, Spider-Man The Movie allows players to continue their training in game if they wish, by simply walking over the 'question mark symbols' that are randomly scattered throughout the game.
Spider-Man The Movie contains many of the same gameplay elements that made its predecessor a very popular and not-so-popular title among gaming enthusiasts. For starters, the game control is very reminiscent of an arcade fighting title, but with spider-mans rock'em-sock'em mentatlity, that shouldn't come as a surprise. So with that in mind, if you don't have a gamepad you're pretty much out of luck. Though the game can be played with keyboard and mouse control, performing the combination moves can be somewhat of a daunting task.
Though not an entirely new direction for the Spider-Man game franchise, this new version does contain quite a bit of other new and positive features that should make it appealing to those that gave the game in 2001 a chance. To start with, the game's core design has been totally revamped, moving it from the 'animated' feel that its predecessor gave to a more life-like character modeling system. This goes for both the rendered cut-scenes as well as the in-game play. To help add to the 'realism' of the game even more, actors Toby Maguire and Willum Dafoe both lent out their vocal talents to their respective characters from the film (Spider-Man and the Green Goblin). The combat scheme was also upgraded slightly, allowing for more versatility in moves and fighting abilities. The more noteworthy addition to Spidey's abilities came in the form of an upgraded zip-line feature, allowing players to now move horizontally from area to area instead of vertically towards the ceiling. Not only that, but the zip-line ability can now be used while scaling objects, allowing Spider-Man to move that much more quickly during those long crawls.
Spider-Man is a unique character with special abilities, allowing him to walk on walls, swing from high above, etc. Because of these abilities, Spider-Man The Movie approaches its form of gameplay from a unique perspective, allowing Spider-Man the character the ability to move in three dimensions almost simultaneously. Though this process does mimic the web-head's spider like movements, it proved to be difficult at times to keep control of the follow-through camera movements when fighting or just moving quickly in general. Seeing how this was a major problem in the previous Spider-Man title, the developers of added a new camera lock feature that allows for players to hone in on what particular axis path. Not a complete fix for the problem, the camera lock did help every so often.
Though most of the gaming experience
surrounding Spider-Man The Movie was positive, to be completely honest, we have
to let you know about a couple of major problems that came about during the
initial loading and play of the game. To give a little background, the system
that the game was tested on is a 6 month old Athlon T-Bird (P-III equiv) 1.2ghtz
system, 512 MB RAM, and sporting an almost brand new 128MB geForce 4 Ti 4400
video card. The initial run of the game went without a hitch, allowing us to
venture into the tutorial stages of the game after bumping up the video settings
to the usual 1024x768 level. Well, the troubles began right after the first real
game level load up, right after the tutorial. During the cut-scene, the game
freezes up, forcing a hard boot. We re-start the game, and find that each and
every time we try to load up a new game, it freezes and crashes the system
again. Checking out Activision's FAQ and help pages revealed no helpful clues to
the problem. Only after removing the game files from the system, reloading it,
and then keeping all of the video settings at their default levels (a poor
800x600) were we able to get the game to run without any difficulties, albeit a
diminished level of video quality. Very disgruntling, to say the least. Although
Spider-Man The Movie turned out to be a fun game to play, we can't help but
think of what the experience would have actually been like if the full potential
of our video card's abilities had been accessible with the game.