Spider-Man 3: Collector's Edition

$10 More For This?!

Collector or no, there's not a big enough Spidey fan out there that would feel they got their money's worth on this deal.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: May 9, 2007
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Collector's Editions or Limited Editions or Pre-Order-Only Bonus Editions of games are becoming more and more common. What began with the process of offereing a pre-order goodie has started to morph into movie tie-ins and retailer-specific editions of upcoming games, but for the most part, they just boil down to being a rip-off unless you're the hardest of the hardcore.

I'd like to think I represent the kind of Spider-Man fan that Activision was going after with their $70 (!!) version of Spider-Man 3. The PS3-exclusive version nets you a lenticular motion card with frames from the movie (mine was of Spidey punching through Sandman's gut), and then a bunch of movies that you have to install before you can begin playing the game.

Now, I'd already steeled myself in preparation of watching movie stars that no doubt have trouble saying video game, much less playing them, talking about the game and movie, but even I had to smirk a little at the all-too-common, "these games are getting so detailed... it's like a whole wooooorld in there!" comments. They seemed earnest enough, but even the interview with what looked like a heavily grease painted Bruce Campbell was disappointing. But hey, you get to play as the New Goblin, right?

Well, right... sorta. All you can really do as Harry is fly around the city on the hoverboard (which, admittedly, actually flies pretty well with the SIXAXIS controls), and compete in races. I'm fairly sure one of the end battles where you fight against Sandman and the game switches to control of Harry is exclusive to this version too, but it seems there was a sound bug and the entire mission sounds like it's taking place under water. Whoops.

Spending another $10 for what amounts to an unlockable character, watch-'em-once-and-forget-'em interviews, and a trading card is, in a word, disappointing. Don't do it, even if you pray at the altar of Stan Lee six times a day. It's not worth it.

To be honest, Treyarch is turning out to be one of those developers I never really know if I can count on. They'll come up with an effort like the original movie-licensed Spider-Man outing that just plain stinks and then follow it up with a flawed-but-fun sequel that nails the feeling of being Spidey. By the time Ultimate Spider-Man landed, I was convinced they had locked down what made their particular brand of web swinging and combat fun. Then they go and mess it all up with Spider-Man 3.

It's like the third game does things terribly differently from Spider-Man 2; the main draw here is still all about swinging around a dense recreation of Manhattan, but once again, the stuff thrown in to pad the experience and make it a real, y'know, game is left lacking. Compounded with a frustrating camera and see-sawing difficulty between story missions, yet some boss fights that can feel quite solid, the game is just a mix of stuff that works wonderfully and moments where the game trips on itself and does a face plant.

It should probably be gotten out of the way that the same web swinging dynamic that made Spidey 2 so fun returns here, tweaked and simplified a little (you only have to press one button to web zip along in a straight line, you no longer have to press X to cut your web lines), but nonetheless still rife with "wooo hoooooo!" moments that give you a little peek into what it must be like to wield all that agility. To charge a jump and sail as high as Parker does just feels right in a way that's hard to describe, and when you finally do get a chance to don the black suit about halfway through the storyline, you've used to Peter's acrobatics enough that there's a tangible difference.

Slugging a perp and watching them go flying a couple hundred feet is indeed intoxicating, but that same combat devolves quickly into milking a handful of moves because they'll keep you in the fight and avoiding the five second wait after you've died just to tell the game you want to do it all over again. It's emblematic of the whole experience, really; the tools are there to make a really cool play-how-you-want-to quasi-sandbox feel, but in reality you're really just repeating things over and over again.

Let's start with the combat, which has gotten significantly more involved -- not just in terms of the moves you have at your disposal (unlike the older games, though, these are fed a little too rapid-fire at times, leading to lots of pausing and consulting the in-game help to remember how to do stuff), but in how much combat there is in the game as a whole. Being able to charge up punches and kicks is all well and good, but you're often surrounded by enemies so much that you just have to jump and button mash in the air to stay alive. It's only in the one-off moments where you only have a single enemy and maybe a straggler to tend to that you're even able to use most of the advanced moves.

At least, though, the story-driven parts of the game (there are 10 threads to tend to, and you can tackle any of them as they appear) are doled out in such a way that you'll almost never have to complete one to get another (they funnel you down that road just once when the black suit comes into play). Sadly, with all the different storyline threads, none are treated with any kind of careful pacing. Yes, you get cutscenes for stuff (and sometimes they aren't even related to the mission or characters at hand), but there's really only a handful of missions per character (the movie trio of Sandman, Venom and New Goblin are here, but so too are Lizard, Kraven and Kingpin, among others). Even the core part of the game, the introduction of the black suit and Peter's shift in attitude as it corrupts him, is handled so sloppily that it almost feels like an afterthought.

Sprinkled liberally throughout the storyline and eventual boss battles of the game are "Cineractives" Shenmue-like moments where you have to press a button during an interactive cutscene to keep things going. If you're quick and you nail it on the first try, the moves that Spidey kicks off are straight out of the comics, and they look awesome. Unfortunately, there will be moments (especially near the end), where things are mixed up so much that you'll probably have to try and re-try things a half-dozen times, which kills the "holy crap, did that just happen?" feeling.

If it were just the story-driven missions that petered out into repetition, that would be one thing, but as anyone who painstakingly scoured the city in the past few games will tell you, there are plenty of tokens to collect (there's stuff in the sewers, stuff in every story mission, stuff at the top of skyscrapers -- there's even a "skydiving" mini-game where you jump from the top of a building and try to wind your way down through rings). If you want to get health and ability power-ups (beyond swing speed, which just seems to go up as you swing around), you have to get involved in the random crime bits going on in the city. See, there's a whole crime rating that, when mixed with the game-only story missions about the three rival crime syndicates trying to take over, helps you clean up the Big Apple. Unfortunately, these are just as repetitive and dull as they have been in games past.

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