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Spider Man | The Movie | review | game | Lollipop
Spider-Man: The Movie
(Activision for the PC, PS2, XBox, and Game Cube)
By Eric Johnson
To answer one of childhood's most pressing questions, if I could choose to have the powers of any comic book superhero, I would choose Spider-Man. Now that may sound a little hip considering the fact that the Spider-Man film has worked out quite well and the marketing factory is churning out products like vaccines during a plague, but the stone cold truth is, he can do some obscenely cool shit. He can climb walls, he's super strong, a great jumper, superhuman reflexes, is able to perform bizarre and inhuman acrobatic maneuvers, and, of course, spew out white sticky web fluid from his wrists. These are all fantastic skills for urban living. What ain't cool is when a perfectly-rendered video game character is created for a game that lacks the simple freedom to enjoy it.
From stem to stern Spider-Man: the Movie is a very pretty reproduction of the PS1 Spider-Man game released a few years back. While neither a remake nor a sequel, it retains all the elements that made its predecessor the best comic-based video game ever released and slaps on a considerable graphics upgrade thanks to the newer technology. Retained is the unparalleled, perfectly-executed and unusually satisfying visceral experience of controlling this most unusual of comic book heroes. As Spider-Man, you can do all the aforementioned cool shit. Exaggerated, superhuman acrobatic skills illustrated by the likes of Todd McFarlaine are wonderfully realized and easily executed, thanks to a complicated but easily-accessible control system. Given the pure number of actions you can perform (jumping, climbing, zip lining, back flips, somersaults, and a dozen different web tricks) it's amazing that the game is as easy to pick up as it is. Swinging from one skyscraper to another is a stunning experience because, thanks to a tenfold improvement in graphics, you can finally see all the way down to street level and gaze upon a New York City rendered with an amazing degree of detail. Traffic, pedestrians, and hot dog carts are visible from 70 stories up. Unfortunately, you won't be able to go down to street level and hop on top of a cab, or hunt muggers, because the one thing this game doesn't give you is freedom. Indeed Spider-Man: the Movie, despite the fact that it's a great deal of fun, is rigidly divided into levels. Standard issue three-dimensional run, jump, punch and kick levels are not that much different from ten million other games. Granted, in that context, it's one of the better generic platform titles out there, but something more innovative should've been thought of for this amazing character.
The plot is precisely that of the film with a whole lot of extra padding, enough to expand the movie's two-hour runtime into a twenty-hour game. This is accomplished by including violent encounters with the entire rogue's gallery of classic Spider-Man villains; including the Scorpion and the astonishingly goofy Vulture. Voice-over work by Toby Maguire and B-movie patron saint Bruce Campbell would be great if it did not herald the unfortunate return of incredibly grating g-rated sassy banter, and smart-ass commentary.
For a game obviously slapped together to take advantage of a big-budget movie, Spider-Man: the Movie does alright. What I'd like to see is a superhero game that doesn't restrict you to levels, but that allows you to seek outside quests (much like Grand Theft Auto 3). Stopping a liquor store robbery, interrupting a bank robbery, saving people from burning buildings, all that true-blue hero shit that comic books are packed with. Now that would be a virtual superhero fantasy camp I'd like to check out.