It was recently announced that the movie Spider-Man 3 cost half a billion dollars to make and market. You can only imagine the sort of pressure on Treyarch and Vicarious Visions to create a video game tie-in for a movie of that magnitude. Fortunately, this is not a new position for either company, having worked on Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and Ultimate Spider-Man. Just in time for the release of Spider-Man 3, Vicarious Visions has been tasked with bringing this game to life utilizing the unique control scheme of the Wii.
Our story begins right after the second movie ended – Peter has just begun to get his dual life as well as his relationship with Mary Jane in order. Things are finally falling into place for the webslinger, and there hasn’t been a super villain in the city for a while. As you might expect, things are about to change…
The controls are the largest focus of the Wii, but as a result the graphics often suffer. The graphics on the Wii are a mixed bag to be sure. While some characters, such as the bosses and Spider-Man himself, are well textured and look the part, the civilians remind me of characters from Final Fantasy VII on the Playstation 1. Most people are pretty blocky and basic, and in missions where you have to save multiples of them, you are likely to save several identical twins. Even in the first mission you’ll see this phenomenon – some high-poly count giant lizards capture some very compliant low-poly count civilians. You’ll chase them down on some flat-textured grass and beat them down with some high-poly combat moves. Buildings in this version of the game are also a mixed bag. Some buildings look pretty fantastic with reflective glass and a lot of detail, while others look flat and lifeless. Swinging thorough the city is like the combat above – high poly, low poly, high poly, low poly – puzzling. Not to continue to beat on the graphics engine, but there is also a good bit of pop-in and jagged edges. I just feel like the graphic package could have been a lot better if Vicarious was given another few months of work.
The Wii version of Spider-Man 3 uses in-game movies from the PS3 and Xbox 360 version for a few of the cutscenes, but uses its own engine for others. What is amusing is that some of the in-game Wii engine cutscenes (such as Peter’s interactions at the Daily Bugle) look more natural than its high-powered counterparts. Go figure.
Many people have expressed an interest in picking up a copy of the game for the 360 or PS3, as well as a copy on the Wii. Having played all of them, I can say that it is hard to switch between them. Graphically they are vastly different, and in terms of polish they are like night and day.
Spider-Man 3 has an all-star cast – Tobey McGuire as Spider-Man/Peter Parker, Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko / Sandman, Topher Grace as Eddie Brock Jr./ Venom, James Franco as the New Goblin / Harry Osborn, J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jamison, and Bruce Campbell as The Narrator. You’ll note that I’ve not listed the Kirsten Dunst as playing Mary Jane Watson-Parker – although she speculates that she is completely irreplaceable for the movie (http://www.movieweb.com/news/43/19143.php) she is easily replaced for the game. Honestly they could replace Dunst with a cardboard cutout with Nosferatu teeth and it would have the same acting ability. No loss here.
The fantastic cast above puts out a solid performance, each one recreating their movie role with passion and energy. While collectively, other then McGuire and Campbell, their roles are fairly short, it does bump the overall production value of the title quite a bit. Bravo for getting all of the voice actors that mattered to the storyline.
Right from the start (if you’ve played the PS3 or 360 version of the game) you’ll find that the whole cast gets in on some new voiceovers. Bruce Campbell riffs a bit more on your inability to dodge, Peter Parker has quite a few more lines in this version, and many of the other characters have all new lines to go with the new bits of storyline. Granted, some of the lines are a bit cheesier (while disabling an EMP Peter remarks about how much the enemy is going to hate taking his pulse) so expect some groan-inducing moments.
There is one area where the sound falls down. There is one area that the sound falls down. There is one area where the sound falls down. Care to guess what it is? It shouldn’t be hard to spot since it afflicts every version of the game. During combat you’ll hear the same things over and over and over. Often the hints are useful, such as how suggestions on where to go next, or that the police many need some help, but when the instructions are repeated frequently, it gets annoying. You’ll also hear the same ham-fisted taunts against your enemies more often than you want.
The game’s audio does have an issue that comes up fairly frequently. Pedestrians repeat themselves pretty often, and often their thanks or a mission update will be cut off by the loading sequence between missions. Having the cast of the movie makes the voice work absolutely perfect, but a few technical hitches stop it from being as good as it could be.
Obviously the reason to buy the Wii version of Spider-Man 3 over the other versions is the use of the nunchaku and Wiimote. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the webslinging mechanic. To swing, simply hold down the B button and flick the Wiimote. You’ll let go of B to release that web strand. Steering is as simple as guiding yourself with the thumbstick. As Bruce would say “To swing with your other hand…well…use your other hand” and that is exactly what you’ll do. To use your second hand you’ll hold down the Z button and flick the nunchaku. Again, releasing the button releases the webline. Alternating between the two creates a fluid movement, but if you need to quickly round a corner, simply shoot your arm in the direction you want to go and websling again. At this point you’ll pull a very sharp corner and change directions. There is also a lefty-flip option for those of you who need it. Just like on the PS3 and 360 versions of the game, you can also boost your swing by tapping the A button. The same can be accomplished by holding in the primary button on the opposite hand, so while using the Wiimote, pressing the Z button, and visa versa.
Combat on the Wii is vastly different than any other version. To attack you’ll wiggle the Wiimote back and forth. You’ll also add in the A button or swinging both buttons down to initiate a strong attack. You can also jump into the air and then swing the Wiimote downwards to toss out an air attack. As you earn experience and unlock new attacks, you’ll get instructions on how to put together the different gestures to rip up your enemies.
During combat you can use vault attacks to leap over an enemy to attack them from behind. This is very effective as it can move around an enemy’s defenses and put the hurt on them. As your enemies become more powerful you’ll find that you use this technique fairly often, so learn it soon and use it often.
In a great example of how to use the Wii gesture system, the web rodeo attack is far more entertaining on the Wii than on the other platform. You literally swing the Wiimote in the air like a rope, hurling your enemies into solid objects. Mmmm… interactivity.
Much of the gameplay in Spider-Man 3 on the Wii is hinged on the control system. Since the controls work so well, we’ll focus heavily on the differences in the way this version plays versus the other platforms.
As I said above, the Wii version of the game carries many of the same concepts as the other platforms, with the same general story arc and villain lineup. What is different is the way that this version approaches that game arc. The game is more serialized in that you’ll be taking missions that lead directly into the next mission which leads to another mission. The other platforms tend to be more free-form, not requiring you to do anything in any particular order. This version angles more on the crime prevention angle and working with the police to put a stop to it than the super-villains. While they are always present, the crime wave seems to be more pressing.
Adrenaline builds up as you deal damage to your opponents. When you see a white aura on the screen you can unleash the attack by pressing down on the D-Pad and B. The first adrenaline attack you’ll get is the ability to shoot web balls at everyone in the room in rapid succession, likely incapacitating them. Using the “Point of Interest” markers on the minimap you can track down various missions. These missions show up as checkered flags for races, exclamation points for interesting things you should investigate, or the face of villains if it links to a boss battle.
As you accomplish missions you’ll get experience. You can use this experience in the Hero Upgrades portion of the scrapbook. The Hero Upgrade system is very different than the PS3 and 360 versions of the game. You’ll earn experience through combat and mission completion that you can use to purchase new and more powerful combinations. The system is set up like a web, however, so you’ll have to purchase prerequisites to reach the more powerful items. Some webs have crossbars to other attack variations, so plan accordingly. There are air attacks, melee, web mounts (works best for larger enemies), adrenaline attacks, web attacks, acrobatics (like double jump) and vaults to upgrade, so you’ll be busy trying to earn experience points for a while.
Track down informants to try to stop the gangs that are infesting the city. The Apocalypse, Dragon Tails, H-Bombers, and Waste Tribe are all battling against New York’s Finest for control of the city. When you work with the Police they’ll often have other chained objectives that you can accomplish to learn more about the crime activities within the city. Occasionally you’ll get notices that the police are cracking down in particular areas of the city – assisting them helps clean up the various areas of the city. You’ll also see a visual improvement in the various areas of the city. Trees and grass that were drab and lifeless will spring to life over time and become green again, showing your impact in the city.
There is one skill that is used very differently in this version of Spider-Man 3 – the web yank. With the web yank you can pull enemies towards you, as it is with the other versions, but in this version you can also disarm an enemy if they begin to taunt you. This can mean the difference between victory and defeat for some enemies as they are all but unstoppable with their toys in hand.
The Wii version of Spider-Man 3 does have one large divergence – the Black Suit. The Black Suit unlocks after about an hour of play and allows you to completely devastate your enemies. You can use the suit at will, but it comes at a cost. The Black Suit causes your aggression and rage to rise and will eventually attempt to take control of you. If you let the Black Suit grab hold of you for too long it’ll cause Peter to pass out. Before this happens you’ll see a narrowing of your vision telling you that you should switch back to the Red Suit. By pressing up on the D-Pad you can switch back to the Red Suit but first you have to complete a series of gestures. Using the Black Suit often will cause the gestures to become more difficult and there will be more of them. You’ll need to rest for a short while before you can unleash the Black Suit again.
The storyline for the game features many of the same elements as the Xbox 360 or PS3 versions, but how they are implemented and how the stories are told are very different. It is as if you handed two artists paintbrushes and asked them both to paint the same thing. No matter what you’ll end up with two very different views of the same general concept. While the PS3 and 360 versions arguably have more polish than the Wii version, all of them are entertaining in their own right.
As I’ve said time and time again, the structure of this version of the game is quite a bit different than any other. There is still a wide variety of missions, and a very large city to do it in. While there aren’t as many storyline missions or villains to take on as the other platforms, the unique control scheme makes for a more interactive experience that some could argue is, in the end, more rewarding.
One thing you need to be aware of is that this version features some loading. Between almost every mission you’ll get a 3-4 second load sequence. This does break the immersion a bit, but it doesn’t detract a great deal.Vicarious Visions has worked very hard on this title to ensure that it utilizes the unique control scheme of the Wii in the best way possible, and they have succeeded. The city is bigger and the storyline is expanded to take advantage of that. While there are graphic issues and sound issues, at the end of the day the joy of two-handed webslinging through the city just can’t be beat.