May 10, 2007

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Spider-Man 3 (XBOX/360/PS2/PS3/Wii/DS/PSP/PC)
Treyarch, 2007
By Glenn Given production@hippopress.com

Swinging willy-nilly through Manhattan finally loses its lustre with Spider-Man 3, a multi-platform missed opportunity, now with even more unskippable cutscenes!

Tobey McGuire isnít quite the droning somnambulist that a William Hurt might be but his line readings here are as flat as the world in Flatland, the 1884 novel that satirized Victorian society in its metaphorical two-dimensional reality and the interactions that the narrator, a square, has during his trip to the one-dimensional Lineland and his encounter with the third dimension as a sentient sphere passes through his plane of existence. Imagine that, every time you fail a mission (which, considering the annoyance level of scripted button-pressing action sequences, is fairly common). The missions themselves, aside from the generally pleasing boss battles with New Goblin, Sandman and Venom, are of the ho-hum variety. The structure is mostly borrowed from Spider-Man 2 ó that is to say, it doesnít get more complicated than swing here, beat these guys up, swing there and save this civilian. And while the act of navigating Manhattan as our favorite radioactive-arachnid victim is fun, it is generally lifeless.

Sandbox adventure titles like GTA, and especially the recent super-cop title Crackdown, get it. Your environment needs the spark of life to make it worth playing in. Thus it is especially disappointing for a former New Yorker like myself to see such a vibrant city so empty of interest. Sure they got the skyline right but thatís where Treyarch stopped. Cars and pedestrians idly wander by in looping circuits and strolls through what I know to be roiling kettles of culture and joie de vivre and it makes Spidey cry.

Might I add, for being on the ďnext genĒ consoles, Spider-Man 3, you donít seem all that shiny. Sure you got some light blooms and some smooth textures but itís not that swell, and the creepy uncanny valley that your character models fall into really makes my skin crawl. If you arenít going to pull out all the stops and make hyper-realistic simulacra then youíd be better off going cartoony (which worked so well with Ultimate Spider-Man).

At the end of the day Spider-Man 3 isnít bad, itís merely showing its age and stubbornly refusing to evolve as other action titles have so successfully. Still, itís a joy to hear Bruce Campbell instruct me on web-slinging. C ó Glenn Given