Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3 / PC
I would love to tell you this is the best Spider-man game yet, and in a lot of ways it is. I’d also love to tell you that I played a finished game. While I played a retail game, I did not feel like this game was finished.
Thus, the bad comes first. This game is extremely buggy on both the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. Do not expect to play through this game without frustration from freezes and complete system crashes, because it will happen and it will happen often. There is a pretty frequent auto-save, so most of the time you won’t lose much, but there are occasions where you’ll have to play an entire sequence multiple times, not because you fail at it but merely because of the game glitching.
The game seems to struggle especially hard with one of the two-time bosses, Electro. The Electro chase sequence has you hop across about half of Manhattan in pursuit of the shocking fiend, eventually having a final battle across an abandoned partial elevated train track and a final quick time event (QTE) to finish him off. The first time I played, after the 10-15 min chase scene, I succeeded on the QTE and was triumphant for about 30 seconds, until the game froze and I had to restart my console to continue to use it. The game had presented my victory, but had not autosaved yet, and I had to complete the sequence again. After three more instances of freezing, I got to my second boss battle with Electro. Sure enough, about three quarters of the way through the battle, the game froze, requiring a restart. This happened two times in a row, and the third time was the charm.
The actual gameplay is a lot of fun. It’s easy to get caught up in the optional side missions (and there are a LOT of them), as the swing and fight mechanics are by far the best in any Spider-man game to date. Swinging is easier and more natural, and the web based combat (after completing a couple training missions with Luke Cage) is constantly thrilling. Not once did I get bored with fighting once I unlocked the “web strike” move, and the simple branching upgrade system kept things fresh all the way to the end. Once the city degenerates into a full on symbiotic madhouse, there are such a great wide variety of enemies that you find whole new ways to chain moves together. This is exactly what a game controlling Spider-man should feel like, and aside from the very rare bad camera moment when transitioning from ground to wall fighting and vice versa, this part of the game is as close to perfect as you get in an action adventure.
The story is compelling, both on the good (red suit) and bad (black suit) sides. It’s relatively easy to maintain a pretty even balance, allowing you to receive help from every possible ally, hero and villain alike, and enjoy the power moves of the black suit and the graceful hop and bop of the red one. Brian Reed’s dialogue shows a perfect understanding of the characters. Moon Knight is just crazy enough, Black Widow has a need to be in control, Black Cat is sexually overcharged, yet subtly insecure, and Peter constantly deflects through comedy.
The voice over actors are good but not great, and while Peter is still a little more whiny than I’d like, at least it’s not Tobey Maguire, whose voice alone is not enough for his style of line delivery. The major standout here is Steve Blum, who has now established himself as THE voice for Wolverine. It’s amazing how his voice for that character has evolved to something far beyond the “Gravely-Spike Spiegel” he initially used in the first X-Men Legends game.
So, good story, great dialogue, great swinging and fighting gameplay, good lock-on and camera work all add up to a pretty darn good game. The graphics are beautiful as well. There are a couple chase sequences, which remain the bane of my gaming existence, but they intersperse these with enough fighting that you’re not just running and jumping for 15 minutes straight. There are also a few QTE sequences, usually to top off a boss or miniboss battle. They’re short (only 3-5 button presses for most) and keep the same order, so if you mess up once, you at least know the first few in your second go around, which starts immediately. With the insta-continue, I don’t know why they are in the game at all, though. It seems like something tacked on to list as an extra feature.
Overall, this game would without a doubt be the best Spider-man game, and one of the select few awesome comic-to-game adaptations. Unfortunately, being as bug-ridden as it is on both current gen consoles (I did not get a chance to play the finished Wii version, but the version I played about a month prior to gold had entirely different bugs of its own), I can’t give it that distinction. I understand the desire to get this game out on the early side of the holiday season, especially with the massively crowded landscape this year. With no movie tie-in to demand a certain release however, it seems this is one game that could have really benefited from that extra month or two. The freezing problems I experienced are rampant, as well. Anecdotally, I have heard of 6 other people having similar issues, and as I said, I had them on both consoles. It’s a real shame, because the first Spidey game to get nearly everything right wound up hampered by technical glitches.
As a final note, for owners of both PS3 and 360, the PS3 version strangely does not include Trophies (strange as Call of Duty: World at War and Quantum of Solace are both due to include Trophies, and both come from Treyarch/Activision as well), so if that’s part of the fun of a game for you, go for the 360 version. That’s really the only noticeable difference, as the graphics are virtually identical, the gameplay is equally polished, the control scheme is mapped the same way, and the bugs are present in both. This is a great, fun, thrilling to play Spider-man game, but it requires a lot of patience for anyone looking to play through the whole story, especially if you want to play through twice to get both versions. It’s still a must own for die-hard Spider-fans, but others can hold off, play some of the other stellar and anticipated games coming out this fall, and pick this one up when the price drops.
The handheld versions of the game offer different takes on slightly similar stories, complete with other, more varied heroes/villains to call upon for help. They are both more quickplay oriented, and pretty straightforward beat-em-ups. The DS version in particular makes for a fun classic side-scroller, though a bit repetitive. Still, a fun game for the short subway or bus trip, but not one you’ll want to dive into and complete at all costs.