I've got to say, I've heard many good things about the first two Spider-Man games which were based on the Raimi movies. I realize I'm playing a game from 2 generations ago of gaming, so I need to be fair in assessing it's quality based on its time period...but at the same time I need to keep it relevant to today, since that is when I played it.
Considering that this is a relatively early Xbox game, it actually looks pretty good. There is a decent amount of variety in level environments. They managed to take the city and turn out different settings in order to assure your eyes don't get bored. The character models are actually pretty well done as well. The thugs all look almost identical, as do the robots, but the more important characters (who you see plenty of as well) all look pretty detailed. I was especially impressed with the Spider-Man model. Unfortunately the animations don't exactly match this same quality. I don't know if this is just me being bias based on current gaming or if the animations are actually bad, but I felt like there just wasn't enough fluidity. Another issue I had was with draw distance. The draw distance of static models is actually pretty far (you especially notice this in the city swinging stages), but lighting and NPC models seem to have a short draw distance (also best noticed in the big city swinging stages). This posed an especially frustrating problem in a couple stages where you had to chase a villain through the city. If you got too far away then you'd lose. The problem is that all of a sudden enemies would appear in my view or I would see a helicopter when it would be too late for me to change directions. I would then get caught and die. This was VERY frustrating. All in all though I'd say the game look pretty good for its time.
The sound, as well, is good both and bad. There are some very endearing sound effects and Willem Defoe does an absolutely amazing job as Green Goblin. Most of the other voice acting is bland and boring. Tobey's part as Spider-Man was especially bad. He sounded like he was bored out of his mind when doing the recording, and it is painfully apparent when playing the game.
There is one thing I can speak very highly of when talking about this game: variety. While the game may not have an open world to explore, it handles its missions very well. I never felt bored at any point in the game, because they continually throw some kind of a new challenge at you. It's never random either, because it all rotates around the theme of the villain you are currently chasing. You will have to be stealthy, you will have to chase a villain through a sprawling city, you will have to go through a booby trap infested building, and you will have to survive an onslaught, among other fun things. As far as movie games go, this certainly managed to capture the charm of the license and the movie without ruining the movie experience itself. The story shares a couple of similarities, but ultimately follows a path a little more familiar to the comic books, yet is still fairly independent. While this is a good thing, the quality of the story is a little disappointing.
While the game develops the plot of the Green Goblin, it feels like half of the other villains just happen across Spider-Man and then something bad happens. Because of this, parts of the game seem pointless from a story progression point of view.
Another glaring issue with the game, and perhaps its greatest and most debilitating flaw, is a combination of very clunky controls with an atrocious camera. For one, you can't control the camera vertically. For a game that revolves around so much vertical movement, that’s a massive oversight. Secondly, the controls don't convert very well when the camera starts to move. If the camera rotates at all you need to stop moving until its done then move again, because the controls don't keep up in a very logical way. You will end up moving in an odd direction otherwise. Another issue is with a great idea executed poorly. In order to climb walls, you just walk up to them. Sounds simple and easy, but the problems arise when you are in combat or in a heated situation and are trying to navigate. Thanks to the terrible camera, I found myself randomly on the wall when I was merely trying to avoid a blow to the face. Finally, there are no checkpoints in this game. This game's difficulty is not very well balanced. I found some levels to be an absolute cinch and others to make me want to pull my hair out. Most of the challenge arises from the terrible camera, but some of it comes from the combat difficulty. They will throw a ton of enemies at you at once, where you will be constantly slugged or blasted and there is no way for you to escape. Let's not forget that any enemy that shoots a projectile seems to almost never miss no matter how I would try to dodge it. This would result in many unnecessary deaths. Couple this with the fact that there are no checkpoints in this game, and you might be able to understand the frustration. Imagine going almost all the way through a level and then dying due to a random occurrence or a button press not being detected. Then you start the stage from the beginning amidst a cloud of frustration. Luckily most of the stages are fairly short, so the problem won't arise often but it does happen often enough to be worth mentioning.
While it seems like all I did was complain about the game, there are some solid parts that will make you appreciate it in the end, but mostly fans of Spider-Mans will be able to forgive these things. I feel like this game had a lot of potential. As a movie-based game, it could have been something extremely special. In the end though, the game just has too many broken parts and the license may or may not be enough to carry you through. The decent number of collectibles coupled with the entertaining variety and the fabulous boss battles might just be enough to help you cope with the frustrating elements of this game. In the end, I certainly enjoyed the game. I just hope that these glaring issues aren't present in its sequel, when I finally decide to play it.
NOTE: I played this on the Xbox. Since I’m fairly confident there are no substantial differences between the versions, feel free to get it on any platform you prefer if you want to play it (Xbox, PS2, GCN and PC).
- Teepu (Bowser05)