Games based on comic books used to suck. Simplistic, dull and void of character or humour they were derided automatically by the critics and were regular inhabitants of the bargain bin. All that changed when Neversoft created their first Spider-Man game however. They actually got the comic. The game had style, humour and more importantly was actually playable. Now we arrive at the sixth Spider-Man game, this one developed by Treyarchand based on the Spider-Man 3 movie, and 360 Monster had the chance to play a preview build at Activision’s UK headquarters. We think we can be confident in saying that anyone that is even vaguely interested in Spider-Man will be buying the game on the 4th of May.
Those of you that have played the previous incarnation of the movie franchise will be amazed with the amount of progression between the two. The original city, large by most people’s standards, has been increased in size by 2.5 times – and you can web-sling your way through all of it. The whole city also lives independent to the story, people walk the streets, cars and public transport glide past, and crime rears its ugly head. This is necessary, as Spider-Man 3 is completely non-linear. Naturally there is the main movie storyline, but there are also about four others that you can follow, all intertwining with each other. This gives the player a large amount of freedom, and keeps the gameplay fresh should you get stuck on a certain mission. Apart from these, there are also territory-based crime missions, which work in a similar way to the ‘hoods’ in GTA; Spider-Man must complete various tasks in each area to liberate that neighbourhood and gain praise from its residents. The foes you face in these territories are all randomly generated, so each fight should be less monotonous than in similar games.
The first section we played was the beginning of the game, which acts as a tutorial mode. With the somewhat unexpected, often humorous voiceover from Bruce Campbell (of Evil Dead fame) you are guided through the basics of the games control system. Although most of the controls will be second nature to Spider-Man veterans, Treyarch have added far more depth to the combat system. The first aspect of this are the combos – there are so many more than in Ultimate Spiderman. Although you can get by with mashing the X and Y buttons with your face, you’ll find much more joy (and less pain) from learning some of the more complicated button sequences to unleash a world of hurt on your enemies. The more exciting prospect however is the ability to take your battles vertical. Spidey is able to yank a foe skyward with a web shot, deal out some punishment in mid-air and return them defeated (death doesn’t exist in the game) to the ground below. There are also, at least, a quartet of special moves that you can unleash whenever you fill your combo bar, unsurprisingly filled by linking combos together.
Too add to this, the counter-attack system has been trimmed to become far more intuitive. Triggered by dodging attacks via the ‘Spider Reflexes’ mode (essentially a rip-off of bullet time), a button prompt will appear to allow you to initiate an unblockable counter-attack. Spider Reflexes cannot be used indefinitely however, and after the bar representing this is emptied you have to wait a short while for it to refill. Similarly there is also the ‘Spider Sense’ mode, which allows you to see enemies and objectives that would otherwise be hidden – seeing a bomb hidden behind a wall for example. This can be incredibly useful should you lose the location of a supervillain, or in timed missions where you have to find certain objectives. The game has also taken on the Tony Hawk’s Project 8 stat upgrade system. As you fight, web-sling or perform other actions, your stats will slowly increase. This organic system of improvement is far better than in other Spider-Man games, as it is a more natural progression than buying skills from a shop. It also allows you to go back to a mission that you formerly were too weak to do, and attempt it as a much stronger character.
As many of you will know from the movie trailers, the film plot also features the Symbiote Spider-Man. Faster, stronger and darker than your usual strain of spider-themed superhero, ‘Black Spidey’ as our guide liked to call him. You’ll then face the battle that Peter Parker faces to keep control of his own mind, similar to Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones. He also has some incredibly brutal moves at his disposal, our favourite has to be when he knocks an enemy to the ground and then pounds their face repeatedly. Nice! This transformation happens at critical points in the story, and adds variety to the gameplay, as well as satisfying that sadistic streak within us all. To spice up the already hot gameplay, there are also interactive cut-scenes i.e. Quick Timer Events (QTEs) that allow you to pull off awesome feats of strength, agility and luck in pivotal parts of the story. For those of you that have never played games such as ShenMue or Fahrenheit, during a cut-scene the player will be presented with a certain action they need to carry out with their controller. Succeed and you’ll manage to, for example, avoid a car flying towards you; fail and you’ll get smacked in the face by said car, needless to say, that failing will end your progress. Treyarch have been rather forgiving in this respect, as failing the QTE will just return to the beginning of the cut-scene.
The demonstration was presented to us in 720p, on a 42” LCD and the game is looking slick. The whole city is modelled with a good amount of detail, and a good mix of generic citizens populating it. At street level there is always plenty of action going on and, from what we could see, there was very little slowdown. The hero himself looks very good, with muscle definition showing and moving through the suit and good details showing around the mask. Lighting and particle effects were working well, especially when looking at how the reflections draped across the black Spider-Man suit. Environments are now destructible, and various pieces of debris will fly through the air from explosions. There was still some aliasing and environment pop-up visible, but we were assured that this was only an issue in the build of the game that we were playing, and was sorted in the version that had gone gold. There is also an excellent 3D map that you use to navigate the city, which can be panned, zoomed and rotated – making it easy to find your way around. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the game running at 1080p, but it should look fantastic if this is anything to go by.
We didn’t get to see any movie trailers, so we can’t spill the goods on the plot of the imminent Spider-Man 3 film, but what we can tell you is that this game looks set to be the best of an excellent series of games. Watch this space for the definitive review of Spider-Man 3 when it’s released.
Originally Written By: Ali Owen