Activision has been extremely fortunate to have the Spider-Man franchise at their helm for the past 7 years now. Besides the Tony Hawk franchise, Spider-Man is one of Activision's highest grossing licenses. The same way the movie shattered all box office records, within its first three days of sales, Spider-Man 3 went on to sell over 210k copies for both the Xbox 360 and PS2 combined. But also like the movie, quantity doesn't equate to quality, as Spider-Man 3 is quite a flawed game and shows considerable signs of being a rush job. This is easily the worst Spider-Man movie game to date.
The game starts with a training sequence, where Spider-Man rushes into a burning office building in an attempt to save stranded citizens. Here you will be forced to learn some of the game's basic actions and such – something I really wished to just skip. Once you're done with that, you'll do some minor exploring, fighting, and saving before completing the training. Once you're done with the training, you'll appear on a Manhattan roof-top. Just like before, the city of Manhattan is your hub. In it you will be able to find various missions, on top of also stumbling across side-missions. The game's core consists of 10 different storylines, one of which includes the movie's plot. Meanwhile the side-missions are more pedestrian-based and are just there so that you have various diversions for when you're not doing a core mission. Really, the structure of the game is certainly nothing new, and anybody who's played Spider-Man 2 will feel quite familiar with Spider-Man 3.
In terms of combat, the game feels more like a button masher than anything else. There doesn't seem to be much strategy involved in standard fights, so you'll likely get by quite alright most of the time. But be warned: the boss fights can be very tedious, long, boring and downright suck! As you progress through the game, you will earn new maneuvers for Spider-Man to pull off. Eventually, after completing the game, you will also gain the Black Suit…but don't be too excited. You see, aside from looking cool, the Black Suit serves no purpose. Whatever enhanced powers the game promises with the suit seems to be lost, as I didn't see much of a difference between either suit.The only thing you get is some lousy extra move, and a pointless button mash that you'll have to perform when removing the suit. Yes, clearly they're trying to replicate the struggle that Peter faced in the movie when separating himself from the symbiote, but it really doesn't work very well in the game.
As far as how the game ties in with the movie…it's pretty loose. There are similarities between the two mediums, but the game has a ton of extra content written into its storyline which really separates it from the movie – such as a swarm of gangs controlling different parts of Manhattan and additional villains. That said, while Spider-Man 3 sounds like a fairly decent title, it has some crippling flaws that make playing the game nearly impossible – at least, for me.
These crippling flaws are a mixture of a rotten framerate and horrible camera work, so they're aesthetic issues. The game camera is absurdly unstable and nauseatingly bouncy. Web-swinging has the camera moving up and down, up and down, up and down, ad nauseum. The worst is when you're on foot or inside a building somewhere, the camera is all over the place, swinging, jumping, and twisting around with every little move you make. Add to the broken camera an awful framerate that almost never hits 30 frames, and you've got yourself a recipe for disaster. I've noticed that the Xbox 360 version has a slightly smoother framerate, but still pretty annoying. If you're a bulimic and need an excuse other than your finger, give Spider-Man 3 30 minutes and you'll be hurling in no time. And despite my joke-ish manner, there really isn't anything funny about these two flaws – they could seriously do some damage.
Frame-rate aside, Spider-Man 3's best trait is its enormous scope. Manhattan, while not very accurately depicted, seems to be just about the right size. The draw-in distance for the city goes about as far as the eye can see, which is extremely impressive. There is some decent texture work on the buildings, but other than that Spider-Man 3 fails to impress any further. The roads consist of three different cars, but you'll mostly see hundreds of Ford Crown Victoria look-alikes – very lazy work. On top of that, even though the city doesn't have any draw-in while you're webslinging, you will see tons of cars, pedestrians, and building textures popping up. In fact, you won't just see them pop-up, but also warp and disappear. Spider-Man himself doesn't look terribly detailed, either – none of the characters do. An observing eye will notice that the game was clearly rushed in time to coincide with the release of the movie. Shame, because Spider-Man 3 really could've been the best of the games.
As far as audio goes, if you've heard one Spidey movie-based game, you've heard them all. It's basically the exact same concept recycled for this one: an orchestrated Elfman-esque song plays in the background throughout most of the game, Bruce Campbell does the narrating and calls you a moron, Spider-Man blurts out a quip every 20 seconds, and the actors lend their voices to give the game a bit of authenticity. It's not terrible, but it's nothing new. Though, the voice acting can sometimes feel pretty bland and forced.
I wasn't expecting to be disappointed by either Spider-Man 3 the movie or the game, so I must say that finding out that both turned out poorly was quite a shock to this avid Spider-Man fan. At the end of it all, Spider-Man 3's biggest problem is that it has a camera and framerate that makes the game nearly unplayable. On top of that, a recycled formula would've prevented this game being anything but average. And with a clumsy graphics engine and uninspired audio, Spider-Man 3 is definitely a swing and a miss.