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Critical Reception: Activision's/Treyarch's  Spider-Man 3

Critical Reception: Activision's/Treyarch's Spider-Man 3

May 9, 2007 | By Danny Cowan




This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to the Xbox 360 version of Spider-Man 3, a popular recent release that wavers between "admirable," and "rage-inducing." according to reviews.

In the wake of widespread disappointment over the Spider-Man franchise's latest film outing, reviews for the video game adaptation of Spider-Man 3 are similarly mixed. The PlayStation 2 port appears to be the most poorly received thus far, earning an average review score of 48 out of 100 at Metacritic.com, while the Xbox 360 version featured here today clocks in at a higher but still mediocre rating of 66 out of 100.

"This Old Man" at GamePro contributes one of Spider-Man 3's highest review scores with a rating of 4.25 out of 5 in Fun Factor. "The bad news is that the game isn't great," he admits, "but the good news is that for all its warts, Spider-Man 3 still manages to be a fun and interesting title worth your time."

"This Old Man" claims that like its prequel, Spider-Man 3 excels at providing simple fun in an expansive free-roaming environment. "Thanks to a tight control scheme and great level design, slinging around the virtual city is one of the game's great thrills," GamePro's reviewer notes. "The game also features a ton of things to do as it follows the Grand Theft Auto formula wherein you find various markers to activate a huge number of missions and side activities."

The author mentions that some flaws mar the experience slightly, however. "The combat is decent, with combos and fancy moves galore, but all too often, it degenerates into a button mashing exercise," he critiques. "It's also a chore to have to swing all around the city just to get to your next objective; an instant start option would definitely be welcome."

"But beyond that, the game is a blast to play," he concludes. "It will probably act as the perfect compliment to the movie, and it's certainly a great addition to the franchise."

Eurogamer's Kristan Reed is less generous, scoring Spider-Man 3 at 6 out of 10. "Just like 2004's Spider-Man 2," he begins, "it's an admirable game for a decent chunk of it, but one that's beset by the kind of horrible camera issues and rage-inducing difficulty spikes that leave the average gamer utterly exasperated."

Reed acknowledges that camera problems may be inevitable for any Spider-Man game, but feels that they are intrusive regardless. "With Spidey able to cling to every surface, there's always the chance that you'll utterly confuse the camera if you try to be over-ambitious," he admits, "and as a result, most missions appear to be deliberately designed so that you're fighting in largely open areas where this can't become too much of a problem."

Reed continues: "Call it a necessary quirk of the way the game allows you to stick to every surface, or just call it badly implemented - either way, there's never a convincing sense of it being the most graceful approach."

Spider-Man 3's implementation of quick-time events is also problematic, according to Reed. "Failure during a button-matching sequence often results in the game needlessly replenishing a portion of the boss' health," he writes. "Not only is this massively unfair (and not something other games do), it wastes a vast amount of time as you tirelessly chip away at the last dregs of their health bar to get to the quick-time event point again."

"Having had such a blast in Crackdown recently, it really hammers home the point of how old Spider-Man 3 feels at its core. It's stuck with last-gen game design, and hasn't really moved with the times," Reed states in conclusion. "If the button-mashing, combat-heavy missions aren't underwhelming enough, or the under-use of web swinging doesn't deliver enough disappointment, then the often-iffy technical side of the game rounds off a less-than-stellar package."

Scott Sharkey at 1UP.com, meanwhile, rates Spider-Man 3 at 5 out of 10 -- the lowest score the game has yet received from any online review outlet. "You know that 'PS2 game with shiny characters and lots of bloom lighting' look that plagues PS3 and 360 ports of last-gen titles?" he asks. "It's dripping all over Spider-Man 3. Except it's not a port."

"Maybe it's not entirely fair to compare current-gen titles to last-gen standouts like God of War or Chronicles of Riddick," Sharkey continues, "but it's undeniably bad when a game looks like ass next to aged titles running on even more aged hardware."

Sharkey also shares many of the same complaints cited by other reviewers, particularly in regard to badly executed quick-time events. "The rest of the game is a pretty straight-up combination of the better bits of Spider-Man 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man, except with absolutely punishing quick-time button-pressing events," he writes. "I've been getting pretty used to this kind of gameplay element over the last few years, but the timing in these things, especially in later boss fights, is absolutely unforgiving."

Otherwise, Sharkey describes the majority of Spider-Man 3's gameplay as sparse and simplistic, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. "Most of the stuff that was fun in Spider-Man 2 remains fun here," he says. "And by that, I mean 'swinging all over the place just for the glee of it.' Spider-Man 3, however, is still an open-world game where there isn't a hell of a lot to do in that open world."

"If you really liked Spider-Man 2 and/or Ultimate Spider-Man, you won't go wrong giving 3 a shot," Sharkey advises. "Its foundations are still solid, but I honestly expect a little more built on top of them by now."

As Sharkey suggests, Spider-Man 3 could still be a worthwhile venture for gamers in search of an adventure that does not stray far from the template established by recent Spider-Man games. For fans expecting Spider-Man to meet with significant advancements in gameplay on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, however, a rental might be an option worth considering.


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