Matt: Activision unveiled Spider-Man 3 at an event last week, and since I have been a longtime fan of the games but don't know much about the comics, I brought Mike Nelson from MyCheats with me to explain the story. As it turned out, he had some valuable comments on the game itself too.
Mike: Yeah, this is Tobey Maguire's last tenure in the suit before he goes on to better things in Hollywood (not saying Spider-Man's bad, but he's better than this). And the game looks huge. Just watching the intro. movie alone left us in awe, and I was wondering if you can actually see that far in real New York. I was impressed.
Matt: Personally, the size of the city doesn't matter much to me, but hopefully it'll lead to a lot of mission variety. Activision claims the missions will be a lot more story-based this time around ("We took painstaking steps to make sure every single mission had something different about it," says Activision's Chris Archer), which I see as a huge step in the right direction, since mission quality has been one of the key weaknesses in past Spider-Man games.
Mike: The missions sound nice, and I hope there are "absolutely tons of them." But the "cineractive" stuff -- where players participate in cut-scenes via button presses ala God of War -- has me worried. I get the whole thing about cinematic gameplay, but from what we saw, it looked more like we were watching a series of on-screen button combos. Yes, it looks cool, but I think it would be more fun to actually control Spider-Man when you do a backwards somersault off of a moving train to punch Sandman in the face.
SCREENS: When the camera gets up close to characters in the game, it looks just this good -- believe it. [Click the image above to check out all Spider-Man 3 screens.]
Matt: Well sure, but isn't that the whole point -- that movements that specific wouldn't be possible with standard game controls? My issue with these QTE-like scenes is that the ones we've seen don't have as much impact as those in games like God of War or Shenmue where every button press triggers great animations.
Mike: Personally, I was secretly hoping Activision would reveal how we wind up with the new suit. Didn't happen. But Archer says that you can actually pick up the suit at any point in the game, after a few intro. missions. The Rage system you can then trigger feels like a tacked-on idea. Sure, you can throw enemies farther, and punch them harder...but you're a superhero. You should be able to do that anyway.
Matt: It is kind of like the developers are grabbing all these ideas that have worked in other games and assuming they will work well in Spider-Man too. And they totally might, but it feels like these cineractive moments aren't quite there yet (and I kind of hate Activision for making me call them that). The button-pressing moments seem a bit rough, and even when you trigger the Rage meter the combat still doesn't look very meaty. The game looks gorgeous, but I don't think we've seen a single original idea in it yet.
Mike: But we've got that cheese factor! That's original right? It's a mandatory mainstay that should be in all comic games. I'm glad it's there, bad A-list actory voice quality work and all.
Matt: On the seriously good side, I'm extremely happy to see the return of the charge jump and reworked swinging controls. Ultimate Spider-Man seemed to dumb down Spider-Man 2's controls in favor of accessibility, which meant no leaping high from standing still or some of the more dramatic movements.
SCREENS: Like in Ultimate Spider-Man, the combat is stylish, but from out first look doesn't seem to have a bunch of meat behind each hit. [Click the image above to check out all Spider-Man 3 screens.]
We didn't get to try the new controls, but Archer explains the nuances: "We really based it mostly on Spider-Man 2's swing system... but we added a lot of things to it that actually allow you to control even more aggressively, so you can actually hit left, right and down and get quick turns left, right and down instead of having to just use the physics. So not only do you get all those cool physics based maneuvers but you can quickly respond to things." Sounds perfect.
Mike: Speaking of the physics, I'm curious to see how the environmental interaction plays out with the web -- especially after playing Crackdown for the last few weeks and seeing how we could interact with so many things. It seems like there's a lot of potential there for something big using the web in a Spidey game.
Matt: Yeah, we've been able to throw enemies around before. I think ultimately what I'm looking for is more polish on each of the new features rather than just fistfuls of them. That's why Spider-Man 2's swinging system was so good in the first place, and nothing I've seen here has generated the level of excitement I felt when I first saw that. But it's hard to deny that this game has a ton of potential with the story-focused missions and the scale of everything.
Mike: Well, the story is still secret. Speaking of secret, in the comics he actually picks up the black suit during the Secret Wars and later finds out it's an Alien symbiote that tries to take over his body. The only way they could make that work is if the first 10 minutes of the movie was all text... but you wouldn't know about that since you don't read comics.