IGN Review of Spider-Man 3
Elitist Wii owners who refuse to buy any games not developed specifically for Nintendo's console are, with Spider-Man 3, forced to confront a new dilemma. This effort was created by Vicarious Visions (Marvel: Ultimate Alliance) with the Wii in mind and that shows. The title includes several original story arcs, individual dialogue, unique mission structures and even specialized gameplay mechanics designed for the Wii remote and nunchuk. You can in effect become Spidey and swing through the city with flicks of the controllers. And while all of these details read great on paper -- the concept is certainly sound -- they don't play or (especially) look nearly as fluid or as impressive as any Spider-Man fan might want. Call it a rushed development cycle or blame the technical limitations of the Wii hardware if you'd prefer. The end result is the same: Spider-Man 3 has its moments, particularly when the webslinger is coasting between skyscrapers, but much of the endeavor will all the same have your spider sense tingling.
The Wii version of the title was developed separately from the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 builds and so there are some clear differences, which we'll note briefly and then move on. All of the games cling to a similar primary plot -- the same as the feature film. Peter and MJ are in love and once-close friend Harry is hatching a plan to destroy Parker once and for all. Meanwhile, the Sandman is about to introduce himself to the world and on top of everything else, the black suit and the threat of Venom loom nearby. We won't give away any spoilers, but obviously you'll need to work through this main story arc as you progress through the Wii title, and the same is true of the others. Where they differ is in presentation and execution. In the Wii project, you gain access to the black suit very early on and can don it at any time with some restrictions, which we'll get to below. In the other versions, the black suit is initially only available in certain missions. The Nintendo version also features a robust character-building element.
What it severely lacks, though -- and predictably so -- are the cutting-edge graphics that the next-gen iterations bring to the table. But let's be specific, because this is a big disappointment even if you remove the PS3 and Xbox 360 incarnations from the equation altogether. Spider-Man 3 for Wii puts you into a wide-open city, which is streamed dynamically as you swing about the environments. The metropolis itself is huge -- at least twice the size of the locales in the previous game. While its sheer size is ambitious, the presentation and make-up of the environments are definitely not. The webslinger zips through blurry, unrefined city blocks that pop in and out of existence and are almost entirely void of pedestrian life below. Worse, the framerate is never, ever fluid -- it constantly chugs and dips depending on what Spider-Man is doing or where he is. This is true despite the fact that there are few architectural standouts or separators -- you'll begin to notice that no matter where you go, the area looks pretty much the same as the place you came from.
If you crawl to a very high building and look at the sprawling city before you, you will see dozens of structures completely stripped of textures, as, we assume, the development studio chose to flat-shade faraway objects in order to maintain the still-slow framerate or because it couldn't effectively stream everything in at once. There's polygonal clipping. Collision detection feels off sometimes Some of the battle animations are stiff at best. The lighting system is lacking, too. And yet, all these visual inadequacies considered, you'll probably be most offended by the game's camera, which too often shoots the action from a disoriented view or jitters to and from in an attempt to right itself behind Spidey when he makes a quick turn.
There are presentational problems, to be sure, but Spider-Man 3 is not a complete bust. As we said, the city itself is enormous and you're able to swing through it freely. You can go anywhere at any time, in other words, and when you really master the intricacies of the Wii remote and nunchuk swing system, you'll find yourself acrobatically whipping through the air, jumping off building walls, diving toward a street and then shooting another web, only to go soaring back upward again. It's during these swinging moments that Spider-Man 3 is at its very best and this is mostly true because of the Wii-specific control scheme.
Nintendo's new remote and nunchuk have been created as a means to facilitate a more intuitive control method so players who find traditional controllers daunting, in other words, should be able to grasp the philosophy behind gesture-based movements. However, in Spider-Man 3, the opposite is true. The controls aren't immediately accessible. In fact, we found the PS3 and Xbox 360 iterations of the game were much easier to jump into. And yet, if you put a few minutes into the Wii project to unravel the true functionality and inherent flexibility of the gesture system, we think you'll agree that it ultimately offers a more responsive and rewarding control experience. There are several reasons why we like it, so we'll start from the high level and go down. Using the nunchuk and Wii remote, you can effectively control Spider-Man's left and right arms respectively, which can't be done in any other version. Couple that with the ability to steer in mid-air with the nunchuk's analog stick and you end up with a dynamic that -- once you learn how to use it, which takes some time -- just feels better. Swinging Spidey through the city locales is easy, for the most part. You hold the Z button and flick forward to send a web shooting from the super hero's left hand or you hold B trigger and do the same with the Wii remote to shoot forth a web from his right hand. Simple, but there's more to the system than initially meets the eye. You can, for example, flick strongly to the left with either device and Spidey will cut sharply into the direction. The gesture system performs spectacularly most of the time, although we have encountered occasional issues -- Spidey may accidentally swing to the right when we gestured to the left -- a notable mishap. As you play through the surprisingly deep title, which runs a good 15-20 hours if you progress beyond the main story arc and partake in the many side missions, you will come to master the timing of flicks and releases. Press B, flick forward and hold the Z button and Spidey will cast a web with his right hand and sweep satisfyingly through the air. Depress the B trigger and he'll release his web, but depress the B trigger and Z button together and he'll gain a web boost, soaring higher with entertaining acrobatics. Plain and simple, it's fun.
Unfortunately, Spider-Man does eventually (and too often for our liking) have to drop back down to the ground in order to cue missions and fight enemies. There are primary objectives involving a number of villains, from the Lizard to Kraven, Venom and the Sandman, and additionally you'll be asked to fight off gangs or help out the police in some fashion. The game doles out new challenges using a randomizer mechanic so that no goal is ever quite the same as another, which keeps the action somewhat fresh. We write somewhat because most of the missions are still similar. You will too regularly have to stop a gang from kidnapping some fellow or from setting up bombs on buildings, for instance. To the developer's credit, it has done a lot to mix up the battle system, which might have been just as redundant with a lesser company. Spidey gains experience points, which can be used in conjunction with a robust skill tree to buy a series of gameplay-enhancing upgrades. Spider-Man starts off only with very basic abilities and will advance you upgrade him, enabling him to swing enemies around with web lassos, dive off walls, and execute much bigger combos. The system adds a dash of RPG to the overall experience and it's very cleverly implemented because it plays devil's advocate to using the black suit.
Press the D-Pad left and Spidey will don his black suit at any time. There are immediate advantages to going black, but there are also disadvantages -- the game successfully capitalizes on this relationship. With the black suit on, Spidey is meaner, quicker and stronger, period. He can jump higher, punch harder, and generally rock any enemy's world in half the time it takes to do the same with the red suit. But with all of its upgrades, the red is ultimately the more powerful of the two costumes and if you don't use it throughout the game you'll never gain experience points and will in turn never be able to buy those upgrades. Furthermore, using the black suit for extended periods of time can be a gamble, as the symbiote tries to take over. This is represented on-screen with cinematic flair -- the tentacles from the costume begin to creep into your view, narrowing your vision. If you let them take over the screen, Spidey will eventually pass out and you'll need to start over from your last check point, which is a fresh dynamic. To ditch the black suit for the red, you'll need to take part in a quick mini-game centered on flicking the Wii remote and nunchuk in several different and random directions. These gesture games, as we're dubbing them, are both enjoyable and a welcomed break from the monotony of the battle system.
We come back to those on-ground frustrations now. Despite all the buyable upgrades and the smart dichotomy between the red and black costumes, fighting with enemies is usually not very fun for several reasons. First, the camera really doesn't work. Undoubtedly out of buttons and options, Vicarious Visions chose to map all camera control to tilt motion on the nunchuk and it just doesn't suffice. In the heat of battle, you might need to reposition the camera quickly, and that's never possible. To do it, you have to hold the C button and then tilt left or right with the nunchuk, but it's slow and it's distracting, especially if you're simultaneously gesturing with the Wii remote to attack. The second reason is that flicking the Wii remote to make Spidey throw punches is unresponsive. To perform combos, you shake left and right in sequence, but by the time you've gestured your fourth punch, the super hero is usually dealing out his second one on-screen. And then there is the issue of collision detection, which is lacking in this game, and thus when you connect with enemies, you don't always get that satisfying "umph" of really hitting them. When you also consider that gang enemies repeat the same one-liners over and over and over again as you encounter them, the experience lacks overall polish. It's all just functional enough to be forgivable, but it's hardly ideal.
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