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)
The last time we had a Nintendo Direct was back in June. Since then, Nintendo has been relatively silent, especially with the unfortunate passing of Satoru Iwata, who was president of Nintendo, on the 11th of July (may he rest in peace). With having had time to respect his passing, and also to settle their affairs a bit within the company, they hit the ground running with their most recent Nintendo Direct.
The show was hosted by the loved Reggie Fils-Aime and also Bill Trinen. They had some really precious announcements to present, and I’ll discuss the most intriguing ones here.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD: They opened up with this announcement. Due to previous leaks, this news didn’t actually come as a surprise, yet is welcome nonetheless for Zelda fans. Similar to Wind Waker, they are completely overhauling the graphics to take advantage of the Wii U’s hardware, making it as gorgeous as possible while preserving the games charm and quality. Along with the game’s release on March 4th, there will be a new Wolf Link amiibo released. The game will also support the other Zelda series amiibo that are out, though how they are used isn’t completely clear yet. It’s also not clear if they will give us the choice of GameCube style and/or Wii controls. If you pre-order the game, they will include the soundtrack as well.
- The Legend of Zelda (Wii U): There was very little shown on this. All that they really said was that some data on the Wolf Link amiibo could be used in this game, and that this is planned for release next year during Zelda’s 30th Anniversary.
- Pokkén Tournament: While this fighting game being in collaboration with BANDAI Namco has been Japan for a few months, we finally got an official announcement for North America. It’s slated for Spring 2016, and if we purchase within the launch window it’ll come with a Shadow Mewtwo amiibo card that will unlock the character within the game from the start (it can be unlocked through gameplay otherwise). The game looks like a promising diversion from the main series, and will likely be the best show of what Pokémon battles would actually look like in real-time.
- Star Fox Zero: Many of us were sad when we found out the game was delayed, but the brief footage which showed off the transforming vehicles and some of the gameplay helped ease that sadness. The game looks very promising and will hopefully revive the series again. It’s slated for a final release date of April 22.
- Xenoblade Chronicles X: Among a plethora of really huge open-world RPGs like Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3, Xenoblade Chronicles X is promising a world bigger than even Skyrim. Considering the high praise for the first game, this comes as very exciting news. During the Direct they showed off some of the mech customization and combat, while giving us information on installation. Due to the large size of the game, we have the option of installing extra items to speed up the efficiency of the game (similar to how you could install Peace Walker onto the PSP). It’s split into 4 pieces, enhancing various parts of the game. If you get the game digitally, this will all be installed together with the game automatically. Xenoblade Chronicles X is slated for a release on December 4th.
- Pokémon: In a surprise announcement, we will finally be getting some Pokémon games on February 27th. Red, Blue and Yellow will all be available and while the games are being preserved to be like the originals, they will be including a much needed enhancement: wireless trading and battling. This way the multiplayer features will still be preserved, which isn’t always the case with Virtual Console. Hopefully this will set a precedent for future classics that are released.
- Fire Emblem Fates: The next chapter in the Fire Emblem saga is going to be released in two versions. Rather than doing simple minor differences to milk the franchise, the story is actually going to be told from opposite sides of the war within the game, thus giving very unique perspectives. On top of that, they will be releasing a full DLC expansion called Revelation which will be playable on either version and will fill in some of the mysterious gaps that will be established during the story. If you want to get the whole package, then you can purchase a special edition for $79.99 which comes with both versions, the DLC, an art book and a 3DS XL pouch. Fire Emblem Fates will be releasing February 19th.
- Dragon Quest: Not only are we getting a remaster of Dragon Quest VII, but also Dragon Quest VIII. There wasn’t much information given on these, and all we know is that they are planned for first quarter of next year.
- FINAL FANTASY EXPLORERS: A new action-RPG for the 3DS which will implement the job system from the series into a brand new adventure. It’ll also have interesting abilities which will temporarily transform you into famous Final Fantasy characters. The game will come out on January 26th and will include all the DLC that has been released in Japan thus far with the purchase.
- Super Smash Bros.: Possibly the most surprising announcement, Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII was shown off as the next DLC character for Super Smash Bros. There are a lot of awesome third-party characters, and he’ll be welcomed into the roster. He wields his signature Buster Sword and will be using many attacks from the game, including summons. He seems to have a sort of Limit Break that can be used in combat as well, though the details as to how this can be done are not clear yet. His Final Smash looks to be his all-powerful Omnislash. For Super Smash Bros. fans and Final Fantasy fans, this is a really exciting piece of news. We don’t have an official release date, but we were promised more big Smash Bros. announcements in December.
Keep in mind, this is only about half of the content that was shown during the Nintendo Direct, almost all of it promising. After a long wait, they managed to throw a lot of information at us in order to show us that they haven’t forgotten. There’s a lot of good content coming out in the next few months, and if they keep this momentum going this could be great news for Nintendo fans moving forward. It’s been a tough year, but things are certainly looking up. Check out the full Nintendo Direct below to see everything that was announced.
Spartan Assault is a twin-stick isometric shooter. It's not a unique concept nor does it offer much to stand out from the plethora of titles you can find that are in the same genre. That being said, it's still a fun and solid game and for Halo fans, is a reasonably fun diversion from the main series.
The game is told through the viewpoint of Spartan Palmer through a set of simulations. It's about the battles that take place on a remote planet shortly before the events of Halo 4, that helps to sort of lead into Halo 4. It explains a little about the faction of the Covenent that isn't following the truce established in Halo 3. Beyond that, the story is mostly simple, but has just enuogh depth to motivate continuing the adventure.
The real joy in the game is how some different concepts are applied to the standard twin-stick formula. For clarification, a twin-stick game is where you use one analog stick to control movement of your character and the other stick to aim your weapon (think Geometry Wars). Some of the different missions that are thrown at you are survival, escort, dealing with hitting specific targets or throwing certain unique enemies at you (cloaked, or vehicles, for example). The game difficulty actually progresses quite smoothly, so that you never feel like new concepts are thrown at you out of the blue.
The game also has a very distinct Halo feel in the way that vehicles control, artistic direction, music and sound effects. Everything is solid aesthetically and I never felt like anything was hard to distinguish and I never felt anything was poorly done.
Before you start each mission, there is a briefing screen that will show you what weapons they start you with and what armor ability you get to start with. There are a decent variety of weapons, abilities and vehicles pulled from the Halo games to keep things interesting. From this screen, you can select skulls like other Halo games. These skulls add difficulty modifiers which will also add score multipliers (such as disabling your HUD). You can only activate two skulls at a time, but I like this because it adds interesting ways to approach each mission, which in turn adds a level of replay value for those of you who like a good challenge. As you complete missions, you acquire points that you can apply to buying one of three high-powered weapons in either (or both) of your weapon slots, three really useful armor abilities and three boosters (such as double points). These can help you get through particularly nasty situations if you're trying to hit certain scores, because they don't deduct any of your score to use nor do they disable achievements. You can also use real money to buy these CR points if you like, but playing through the game will get you more than enough for when you need it.
As you complete each mission, your score can be within three tiers: a basic level, one star, two stars or three stars. On top of that, there are challenges for completing certain objectives within each mission (usually repetitive tasks such as using a certain weapon to kill 20 enemies, for example). If you're an achievement hunter, this gives you a few objectives to work towards, though some of it can be irritatingly repetitive.
As with any Halo game, there is also a multiplayer feature. There are approximately 5 unique missions designed to be played with a second player cooperatively. They follow all the same rules as the single-player missions. While these missions are very fun, it's unfortunate that they not only standalone from the actual campaign, but that they are so few in comparison (the campaign contains 35 missions). There isn't even any real story to speak of in it, so they are really just a fun diversion, but bear no significance, which is quite a bit disappointing.
Overall, though, the game is a fun diversion and a reasonable length considering the price tag. It has a relatively simple but still mildly interesting story and it has a difficulty that is scalable enough (through the use of skulls) to tailor to the challenge level you want. While the co-op is lacking in length, everything that is in the game is fun. If you enjoy twin-stick shooters and are a fan of the Halo universe, then this will likely be a very solid purchase for you. If you enjoy twin-stick shooters but don't care about Halo, it offers just enough unique gameplay quirks to make it worth consideration as well. Halo: Spartan Assault is the second venture into a new genre for the series, and it does it well.
Note: This game is available on the Xbox 360, Xbox One, iOS, Windows 8 and Windows 10. This review is based solely on the Xbox One version, though the versions all offer almost exactly the same content and control the same (in the case of PC, you use the mouse for aiming and you use the WASD keys for movement, or you can just plug in a controller). According to the official site, the Co-op missions are only available on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, yet every version of the game is listed as having 2-player modes. I only own the Xbox One version so I can’t confirm or deny this. Keep this in mind if purchasing the game on a non-Xbox platform.