For the most part, the Spider-Man games based on Sony Pictures’ film series haven’t been all that bad. With Spider-Man 1 they perfected the excellent level-based formula from Neversoft’s original game of the 64-bit era, and with Spider-Man 2 they introduced the free-roaming New York City to Spidey games. With so much practice, you’d think that Activision and its army of development houses would only improve the formula for the third game. With Spider-Man 3 coming to all consoles, some amount of confusion is expected however, and all versions of the game suffer considerably. The Wii version doesn’t escape this confusion by a long shot.
Spider-Man 3 starts out promising. The opening sequence has the web-headed hero rescuing civilians from a bombed out office building, while Bruce Campbell offers his typical witty advice. This opening serves as the obligatory tutorial, which is more necessary than ever because of the new Wii controls. The full scope of the Wii functionality isn’t revealed, here because of the constraints of the cramped building environment. Some basic combat and movement skills are demonstrated, but they aren’t very interesting. Only when you get out into the city does the game get very exciting.
Once free to travel amid the skyscrapers, the one defining aspect of Spider-Man on the Wii becomes clear: web swinging. By pressing the B or Z trigger, and then flicking the Wii remote or Nunchuk, you literally cast webs like Spider-Man. This method takes about five minutes to get used to, but after a quick warm-up period it feels more natural than squeezing a trigger button. Some button combos grant speed boosts while swinging, which are accompanied by a nice blur effect. It is fortunate that the brutal villain chases from Ultimate Spider Man aren’t in 3, because cornering with this new control scheme is somewhat clumsy. Aside from that, however, I think Vicarious Visions has nailed the new way to web sling.
The other controls aren’t exactly intuitive but they work. A regular jump is accomplished with the Z trigger, dodging enemy attacks requires a quick flick of the Nunchuk, weak attacks are performed by a remote jab and strong attacks are assigned to the A button. At the beginning this is how most of the game plays out—not quite solid or polished, but enjoyable. Starting out, Spider-Man 3 feels deceptively promising.
For a few solid hours the game is good honest fun, and because it is sporadically entertaining you are able to ignore the numerous but subtle flaws. The first thing that will slowly grow tiresome is the combat. After the fast-paced acrobatics of Ultimate, 3 reverts to the tedious combo system from the other movie games. Spidey starts out with a pathetic 3-hit combo and can only purchase significant upgrades after completing a number of missions.
Upgrading Spider-Man doesn’t make much sense in the first place—he’s a freaking super hero, after all—but it’s necessary if you want to make the combat at all playable. The rest of the upgrades offer some advantages, but are mostly filler. Much like in 2, you’ll use two or three of the attacks and nothing more, which compounds the stale, repetitive feeling that plagues the combat. What’s worse, it looks like the cool web powers from the first games are gone forever, replaced with a few lame lasso combos and impotent little “web splats.”
Spidey feels so underpowered that you’ll probably use the new gimmick, the Black Suit, a lot. The symbiote costume is acquired very early in the game, and acts like an instant upgrade to all abilities. Spidey’s attack power is doubled, every upgrade is unlocked and his health bar increases dramatically. The suit comes at a cost, which seems to be a necessity these days for any “bad” power—a rage meter increases with every punch, and eventually a black aura will begin to consume the screen. While swapping into the suit requires a simple D-pad tap, taking it off involves a remote gesture minigame as Spidey fights the corruption within. Failing to get the black suit off in time results in Peter Parker losing consciousness, and he fails any current mission. Once the suit is off, a short “cool down” period is needed before it can be used again. I enjoyed this duality—it’s more involved than the Black Suit in other versions of the game and added some much needed depth.
That said, you’ll want to get a lot of use out of the black suit. You have it until the very end of the story, but the brevity of the plot means that you’ll lose it before you know it. I suggest cleaning out most of the city before taking on the final story missions.
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