Just like its movie predecessor, the videogame version of “Spider-Man 3” is a study in duality. But while the film contrasts Peter Parker with his dark, black-suited self, the videogame is a constant battle of sometimes sublime graphics vs. jittery animation and awkward controls. While “Spider-Man 3” can at times be a wondrous thing to behold — a feature film rendered unto the hands of gamers — it can also be a harsh mistress.
“Spider-Man 3” gives gamers a chance to roam the whole of Manhattan, as reimagined by Activision, swinging from spider web to spider web. It’s a vast, impressive undertaking that creates a true open world where the player decides how quickly the story progresses.
Gamers can, for instance, spend hours battling the city’s gangs, taking pictures for the Daily Bugle, defusing bombs, or base-jumping from high-rises for bonus points. But to further the plot and get wrapped up in some of game’s epic battles and sketchy scene-setters, players have to jump into missions.
The missions, while a bit random, do a workable job of tying together the appearances of villains like the New Goblin, the Sandman and Venom into one game. Much like the movie, however, the inclusion of so many villains makes the plot feel jerky at times.
That’s also a great way to describe the graphics. Solid renditions of actors Tobey Maguire, James Franco and Topher Grace stand out all the more since the extras who fill the city’s thriving gangs and seemingly imperturbable populace look like cardboard cutouts.
Manhattan’s huge scope is handled well, but sometimes all those buildings, cars and crowds seem to overwhelm even the high-end Playstation 3 console, forcing pieces of the scenery to pop in and out of existence. This doesn’t happen enough to make the game frustrating or ugly, but it does distract from the fun.
Fights are a blend of smack-down and ballet. Spider-Man’s moves are suitably acrobatic and as fun to control as they are to watch. The general button-mashing of the basic fights is broken up with the occasional need to push the correct series of buttons in time with onscreen cues to deliver cinematic knockouts to some of the more important bad guys.
There are occasional issues with the gameplay, however. Using the PS3’s motion-sensing controller to maneuver the New Goblin through the sky on his jet-powered Goblin Glider, for instance, is a nearly impossible task.
While the bulk of the game is about beating up bad guys, the most fun is had webbing through the city’s vast canyons of skyscrapers. At these moments, “Spider-Man 3” captures the promise of videogame based on films, by helping players to feel like they have truly become one of their favorite characters.