Written by: Rik

Date posted: January 24, 2012


You’re dressed as the amateur wrestler ‘The Human Spider’ in early levels.

Actually, it just says Spider-Man on the box, but just like everyone else, we’ll go with Spider-Man: The Movie to avoid confusing it with the other Spider-Man game called, er, Spider-Man that was released a couple of years before this one. The game we’re covering here isn’t the sequel, though – you’ll be thinking of Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro, which sadly isn’t one we can cover here as, unlike its predecessor, it was never ported over to the PC. As I said, we’ll call this one Spider-Man: The Movie to differentiate and, er, because it’s based on the 2002 film (or movie) also called Spider-Man.

Clear? [As mud – FFG reader]. Just be thankful that this is at least pretty much the same game on PC as it is on PS2/Xbox, because later games in the series of movie-based tie-ins involved the PC lot getting a completely different (and, inevitably, worse) version. [Checks Wikipedia] Oh, apparently there’s an extra couple of levels in the Xbox version. Well, er scratch that last bit then.

Look, basically, Spider-Man: The Movie – it’s got Tobey Maguire in. Yeah? He’s Spider-Man. And, er, Willem Defoe. He’s the baddie, the Green Goblin. Not Kirsten Dunst, though. She’s not in it. Her character is. But she’s not. It’s the game of the movie, and they’ve got people from the movie in it, and it’s kind of like the movie. Okay? (Although actually, thinking about it, it’s not really like the movie at all. But we’ll get to that.)

Matters of naming and licensing aside, the structure and format of Spider-Man: The Movie is remarkably similar to that of the other Spidey games named above. Memories can be fuzzy things, and certainly it’s been a while since I played those games, but my main thought throughout Spider-Man: The Moviewas how familiar it was in terms of structure and content. Clearly, it looks a lot better, though, with the extra processing grunt of the next generation of consoles allowing the city to be rendered in more detail, and giving a greater sense of scale to those sections when you’re web-slinging from skyscraper to skyscraper, and the cop-out fog effect utilised previously to spare the blushes of the original PlayStation has been dispensed with.

Your Spidey-sense warns you of impending danger. Didn’t do much good here, though.

The fogging effect was one of a number of complaints my friend and colleague Stoo had about the PC port of Spider-Man when he reviewed it a few years ago, acknowledging the limitations of the technology available at the time, but also expressing a desire for the titular hero to be able to go down to interact with the city at street level in subsequent games. While the fog’s certainly gone, getting close to the ground still remains impossible, and should you do so here, Spidey will simply die and it’s game over – which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Another – related – hope for the future expressed last time around was the inclusion of more of an adventure/exploration element, rather than simply focusing on swinging around and beating up villains. Unfortunately, though, “swinging around and beating up villains” pretty much sums up the experience here, and nothing any more ambitious than that is ever attempted. There’s some variety on offer, but generally each mission either involves one or a combination of the following: punching and kicking goons in the face; chasing after a villain; dodging weapons or objects thrown in your direction; fighting a villain in a ‘boss’ battle. (There’s a couple of stealth levels, too, which may or may not have been simply because it was trendy at the time. I’m not a fan of sneaking around bits being shoehorned into every single game going, but others may well see it as a welcome bit of variety). As you might expect, you generally use your fists and webbing during combat, with most of the moves from Spider-Man reappearing here. Despite your super-strength, some tactics are required during combat beyond just mashing the buttons, and you’ll need to make the most of Spidey’s agility and wall-crawling skills to defeat a room full of even the most dim-witted goons.

Giving Vulture what-for.

It can be quite satisfying once you’ve got a hang of the controls (although you’ll certainly need a joypad as playing with the keyboard will be beyond even the most nimble-fingered of gamers) but the enjoyment is often undermined by the erratic behaviour of the third-person camera. Frequently you’ll find Spidey facing, or running towards, the camera, leaving you with little or no idea of where you’re going or where the bad guys are. You can faff around with the mouse to set things straight, but needless to say it’s not exactly ideal when you’re in the middle of a hectic action sequence. Similar problems occur when wall-crawling and web-slinging, with sufficient frequency to make it more than a minor problem.

Certainly, when camera issues occur at the least opportune moments, the sense of frustration is tangible, especially as there are no mid-level saves, and the game does seem to have been designed so that you fail each level a number of times before progressing. Although uneven-tempered gamers are likely to find themselves repeatedly declaring that the game is broken and they’ll never play it ever again, the levels are short enough to prevent repeat plays being too much of a chore, and generally there’s enough fun to be had to dissuade you from giving up completely. Personally, I found the boss-battles to be the most enjoyable sections, particularly those that take place in the air against the likes of the Green Goblin – which are also the moments when the game comes closest to replicating the movie experience.

Sometimes your enemies will create distractions with potentially civilian-harming consequences. The Green Goblin’s down there somewhere.

If anything, though, these battles are slightly over-used, because by the end of the game, you do seem to have fought the Green Goblin (both in the air and on the ground) about 100 times, which is fair enough considering he’s the main villain in the movie, but it’s probably also why a whole host of other baddies who don’t appear in the film have been parachuted in to add some variety. In the early stages, you’ll also face off against the likes of Shocker, Vulture and Scorpion, although their appearances are fairly fleeting and rarely adequately explained. Elsewhere, much of the movie’s plot seems to have been either ignored or changed. Those hoping for a decent storyline, or even a workmanlike re-tread of the film’s events, are going to be disappointed (for more on which, see Spider-Man: The Movie: The Movie (spoilers!), above). As we mentioned earlier, some of the movie’s stars lend their voices to the game, and although the action-packed focus means that they don’t have an awful lot to work with, both Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man and Willem Defoe’s Green Goblin deliver some decent back-and-forth quips during battle. Elsewhere, Sam Raimi’s chum Bruce Campbell also pops up to give advice during training and the early levels.

Overall, Spider-Man: The Movie is a little disappointing. It provides a decent helping of Spidey-related action (albeit one afflicted by some fairly terrible camera problems) but without ever threatening to deliver anything more. With the exception of improved graphics, it’s largely the same game as before, and each and every one of our other complaints about Spider-Man could very easily be levelled at this. It’s still worth a look for Spidey-fans, although one suspects that by now most of them have already seen what it has to offer. For the rest, I’d recommending watching the movie again instead (or doing something else altogether).