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Spider-Man 3

Platform(s): Nintendo DS, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision


NDS/Wii Preview - 'Spider-Man 3'

by Andrew Hayward on April 8, 2007 @ 12:10 a.m. PDT

Spider-Man 3 allows players to experience the actions of heroic red suit Spider-Man, and for the first time ever, his darker, more mysterious black suit persona. Set in a 3D side scrolling world and delivering complete touch screen handling, players must draw upon Spider-Man’s vast array of moves, attacks and upgrades as they choose their path and embark on a wide variety of city-based missions and multiple movie-based and original story arcs.

Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Release Date: May 4, 2007

Unlike the more traditional button-based gameplay of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, Spider-Man 3 for the Nintendo Wii and DS will make use of each system’s respective means of input to deliver a more physically active gaming experience. On the Wii, this means using the Wiimote and Nunchuk combination to initiate combos and swing around the city, while the DS version has portable gamers swiping and tapping on the touch-screen to battle their way through a crime-infested Manhattan.

During a recent visit to Activision HQ in Santa Monica, I had the opportunity to try out both versions under the watchful eye of developers from Vicarious Visions. With a title this eagerly anticipated (especially one connected to the biggest film of the summer), it is imperative that essential story details and gameplay innovations are kept under wraps for as long as possible. As I was only able to play a small amount of each game, this should be (as far as I know) a spoiler-free affair.

Well, except for this one: Spidey dies in the end.

Kidding! What Spidey does do is swing effortlessly around Manhattan in search of wrongdoers, though the “effortless” part hardly applies to the Wii version of Spider-Man 3. With Wiimote in hand, you can hold down B and whip your hand in any direction. Like clockwork, a web will shoot towards the nearest building and you will be launched into the air. Once you let go, you can either repeat the action or switch to your left hand by holding the Z button on the Nunchuk and whipping in another direction.

It worked reasonably well, but it’s definitely trickier than the typical analog stick/right trigger combination. And though I would not classify it as a tacked on feature, don’t be mistaken: this is not some hyper-detailed “Spidey sim.” For the most part, this is still the same action experience you’ll find on the other console systems, albeit with a more physical approach to web-swinging and skull-cracking.

I was actually surprised at how well the attacks worked with the Wiimote. A swing to the left or right instigates a quick attack, while an up or down movement (or pressing A) triggers a heavy attack. Executing a combo was as simple as performing a couple of crisp movements, and dodging an attack is as easy as moving the Wiimote when an indicator appears onscreen. While I did not have much time with the combat aspect of the game, it seemed competent, if not as extensive or fluid as in the PS3 and 360 versions of the game.

After playing a bit of the combat tutorial, I was skipped ahead to a segment in which New Goblin (Harry Osborn) swept in with his glider and attacked Spider-Man, leading to a mid-air battle just above the streets of Manhattan. As I held on for dear life, I was tasked with climbing up onto the glider while avoiding the cars below. Shifting Spidey’s weight with the Wiimote and Nunchuk to avoid the numerous vehicles was a tricky venture, and not one that felt especially intuitive in the heat of the battle. Jamming repeatedly on the A button (to climb) was causing me to unintentionally shake the Wiimote, as well, which led to several weight shifts into incoming traffic. Sorry, Spidey.

It will be interesting to see if the motion controls actually serve to improve the gameplay or merely get in the way of it. As I mentioned earlier, the web swinging felt competent, but it did not feel like a defining factor in terms of gameplay quality. The significant visual downgrade (compared to the PS3/360 versions) is likely to turn off multi-console gamers, but those armed with just a Wii should find Spider-Man 3 to be a solid action experience. Just don’t expect anything too different from its last-gen predecessor.

On the handheld front, Spider-Man 3 for the Nintendo DS somewhat resembles its portable predecessors. It’s a 2.5D adventure – 3D visuals with mostly 2D gameplay – that depends almost entirely on the touch-screen for input. In fact, the face buttons act solely as a substitute d-pad for left-handed gamers. Navigation and web-swinging require only basic movements – tap up on the d-pad to jump, then left or right to swing in that direction.

Considering the side-scrolling gameplay, this ultra-simplistic movement scheme definitely works in the games favor.

Things get a bit trickier when the touch-screen comes into play, as various combinations of slashes and taps lead to physical attacks and the shooting of webs. Slashes to the left and right lead to punches and kicks, while an upward swipe triggers an uppercut and a downward slash allows Spidey to dodge attacks. Tapping the screen twice leads to the shooting of webs, and you can apparently swing tied-up enemies into walls and nearby structures.

When you have executed enough combos and special attacks to fill your rage meter, Spidey’s black suit automatically triggers and gives you additional power and abilities until you take on damage or stop battling. I can only hope that a very detailed tutorial kicks off Spider-Man 3 for the DS, as I found the combat system to be a bit sketchy based on my limited time with it. Perhaps it was the lack of force feedback or a large visual display, but I found it tough to string together multiple attacks.

Spider-Man 3 looks to be one of the more value-packed action games on the DS, as the side-scroller is expected to contain a dozen hours of play over its four story campaigns (two are from the film). As a non-linear experience, gamers can explore eight interconnected areas spread across Manhattan, and can freely travel between them either via the map screen or by simply swinging from one to the next. With an Ultimate Challenge mode and a bevy of side missions (including races and gang-elimination segments), this may be one handheld game that keeps gamers busy well into the summer months.

A Game Boy Advance version is also in development, but details are non-existent and the game was not shown at the event. It seems easy enough to dismiss the Advance iteration of any franchise because of aging technology, but if the GBA version of TMNT has shown us anything, it is that a well-developed old-school side-scroller can handily outclass a clunky console action attempt. We’ll find out for sure when the final boxed copies of all three versions are unleashed upon the public (alongside the film) on May 4th.

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