NOTE: GAME PRIMARILY PLAYED ON PSP WITH CHECKS DONE ON THE PS2 AND Wii VERSIONS
Like the first and second Spider-Man films, there was big expectations for Spider-Man 3 the video game given the leap in quality from Spider-Man (2002) to 2004’s Spider-Man 2. Even though the at the time next generation version of Spider-Man 3 on PS3 and Xbox 360 was the one people were writing about and promoting mostly, there was still a lot of life left in Sony’s second console and the similarly powered Nintendo Wii was selling out like crazy. That year for example, God of War 2 was released and it showed just how great the PS2 still was, so while expectations were rightfully in check that Spider-Man 3 on consoles like the PS2 and the fairly new at the time Wii would not be as sharp-looking or feature rich as their next-gen cousins, there was every reason to suspect that it could still be a game very much worth playing given the quality of past games like Spider-Man 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man.
Unfortunately in the case of Spider-Man 3 on both the PS2 and Wii, it came nowhere even close to the quality of the games that came before it. However in a weird turn of events, the PSP game that was set to launch alongside the PS2 and Wii versions of Spider-Man 3 was given a few extra months of development time to launch with the home video release of the film in the fall of 2007. That time didn’t necessarily fix Spider-Man 3, but it did allow developer Vicarious Visions to make a much more stable version of that version of the game that when looked in the context of a handheld game, is actually not that bad.
The story of the PS2/PSP and Wii versions are unique to those three consoles, featuring sub-plots about exclusive villains like Morbius and Shriek yet still has Spider-Man tussling with New Goblin, Sandman, Venom and an alien costume. It feels the less Spider-Man 3-y of all the versions of the game based on the film, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Those coming in looking for a game that’s more in line with the movie may come away disappointed, but given the reaction to Spider-Man 3 those people were probably a minority. New Goblin is an early boss and then brushed aside and Sandman’s origin is told in a FMV montage narrated by Tobey Maguire in the opening. The plot specific to this game does a much better job of introducing the black suit than the film as you see a lot more of Tobey Maguire’s emotional escalation without the silliness from the film, in fact this is probably the best work from Maquire in these games, and when he seeks out Dr. Connors’ help about the suit, it harkens back to the alien costume trilogy of episodes from Spider-Man: The Animated Series.
The inclusion of Shriek, a character most people only know because of Spider-Man/Venom: Maximum Carnage, is kind of stroke of genius. In the film when Peter tries to get rid of the symbiote, he does so by using the sound from a church bell but the movie didn’t establish that loud noises are a weakness of the symbiote race. It’s something that comics fans know of course, but for audiences who mainly know Spider-Man from movies, his reasoning for removing the suit comes across as strange. By having Shriek, a villain who attacks with sound blasts, you give better understanding to a plot point in the film that may have left some confused. For those familiar with Venom and the alien costume, who didn’t like how either were handled in the film, this version of Spider-Man 3 does a good job of trying to fix that.
Like Spider-Man 2 before it, Spider-Man 3, even on the PSP, is an open-world game where the whole of New York City is your playground to swing around as only Spider-Man can. In my review of Spider-Man 2 on the PSP, I said it was a good decision to not try to cram the console experience into a handheld and I stand by that. As I’m sure developers were still getting used to crafting games on the PSP with its limitations like a lack of a second analog nub for camera control, going big with Spider-Man on the first try perhaps maybe would not have turned out so well. It’s amazing what two years experience with the PSP hardware can do, as Spider-Man 3 on the PSP is easily the best version of this game. About the only area where the PSP game suffers is in how lively NYC feels, as in it doesn’t at all. The console game has citizens roaming around and cars of all types driving around the streets. New York City on the PSP has a distinct lack of people and about the only cars you’ll find are cabs. Graphically though the buildings look far sharper in the handheld game,but all three versions have terrible draw distance which is not good seeing as how you could see almost the entire city from most points in Spider-Man 2.
One area in which Spider-Man 3 trumps the movie game that came before it is in its combat. Fighting enemies never felt great nor was it that fun in Spider-Man 2 and that was after spending currency on complicated combos and advanced moves that incorporated your webbing. The upgrade store is dropped in Spider-Man 3, leaving you with the moves you start with, but the trade-off is that when you attack someone, it actually feels like your button presses matter whereas in Spider-Man 2 you could just mash on the buttons a lot of times and do okay. The camera is zoomed out so you can always see where all enemies are in relation to yourself and Spider-Man will lock on to the enemy closes to him making it that much easier to attack, counter, and dodge. This mechanic is all three versions of Spider-Man 3, but it’s most helpful in the PSP game where you can’t manipulate the camera and fight at the same time.
You get the black suit in this game like in the film, but outside of a few missions where you have to wear it because of story reasons, there’s little incentive to have it on as there’s no real overall advantage over the classic and trusty red-and-blue. There’s a quick-time event mini-game with timed button presses that adds some struggle to removing the suit which gives a gameplay mechanic to Spider-Man’s struggle with the symbiote which admittedly is pretty cool. As the game can be completed by only changing costumes when the story deems it necessary, there’s even a penalty for keeping it on for longer periods of time, the extra effort put in for this authenticity probably wasn’t worth it.
Spider-Man 2 on PSP was a tricky game to play sometimes because it was a 3-D game where the only way to manipulate the camera was on the directional buttons that happened to be right next to the analog nub. Spider-Man 3 also has this same control set-up, but it’s actually not that much of an issue. Web-swinging around uses the same momentum system from Spider-Man 2 and it’s surprisingly easy to get around without the camera being a pain. There’s a button to re-center the camera behind Spider-Man and in most cases, that’s all you really need. Similarly internal levels, like a sewer stage during the Lizard mission, are actually fairly open and not as cramped feeling as previous 3-D Spider-Man games and they’re surprisingly not that much of a chore to get around but of course you’ll want to get through them pretty quickly to get back to the open-world sections, just like Spider-Man 2.
A problem with Spider-Man 2 and its pseudo-sequel Ultimate Spider-Man is that both games were artificially lengthened by making you complete repetitive side-missions in order to progress the story and that’s a trend that sadly continues with this version of Spider-Man 3. You’ll have to do the same few mundane tasks over and over to get back to playing the missions you actually want to do involving villains from the film and comic books. There’s no Mary Jane thrill rides like in the PS3 and Xbox 360 game nor balloons to fetch for kids, but diffusing bombs and other activities aren’t that much better or engaging. Even with these side-distractions though, Spider-Man 3 is a terribly short game that only requires a sitting or two to finish the main story and I can see why Spider-Man fans who couldn’t upgrade to a new console back in 2007 were upset about this. For a handheld game the total playtime doesn’t sting that much, but for the two consoles in which this arrived on that I’m assuming most people would’ve consumed this on, it’s downright insulting.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE VERSIONS
Spider-Man 3 on the PS2, PSP and Wii are fundamentally the same game with the PSP game among the three looking the sharpest detail wise but feeling more empty in the main city. The PSP game is easily the best of the three, but for anyone who wants to play this version of Spider-Man 3, the PS2 is probably the easiest one to recommened in the availability as well as play department with the Dualshock 2 controller allowing you to easily manipulate the camera in the environment with its second analog stick. The PSP SKU has an exclusive mode called “Conquest” which is basically a score attack mode where you have a time limit to complete as main side-objectives as you can. As these missions aren’t that much fun in the main game, they don’t do much to add value to the PSP game.
The only version I would actively tell anyone to avoid is the Wii game. Combat, camera manipulation, even web-slinging are mapped to obnoxious motion-controls with web-slinging being the worst as you have to hold a button on either the Wii-remote or nunchuck and then flick your wrists to shoot a web-line. I’m sure the developers intention and the marketing push was to make the player feel like they’re Spider-Man, but about all it actually accomplishes is making your wrists hurt. Spider-Man 3 is a prime example of how terrible first-generation Wii games, especially those from third-parties, were and why I’m glad that we’re now two generations removed from that device.
Spider-Man 3 is not a terrible game, but whereas Spider-Man 2 was a movie tie-in game that also happened to be a terrific Spider-Man game, Spider-Man 3 feels like a movie game through and through with its overall rushed feeling. It’s a less attractive game, on both consoles and PSP though the handheld game looks clearly better in most respects as it was given more time to cook. You still get to swing around New York as Spider-Man which is still fun, and the this version specific characters like Shriek and Morbius make this a great companion piece to the film and combat is tighter, however everything else is a downgrade. When taken as a handheld game, Spider-Man 3’s flaws are far more forgiving, but if you don’t have a PSP lying around it’s not a game that’s worth buying a one in order to play, but by all means if you have one and are a Spider-Man fan it’s a worthwhile purchase. The less said about the Wii port and its atrocious motion-controls the better.