Written by  :  Rekrul (51)
Written on  :  Jun 06, 2007
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  2.17 Stars2.17 Stars2.17 Stars2.17 Stars2.17 Stars

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Decent game ruined by poor design choices and bugs.

The Good

I've always loved Spider-Man, so I figured that I'd love this game. I started with the training sections and it was a lot of fun to swing from building to building, then crawl up the walls. Spider-Man is well animated and the graphics for the city, are decent, if not outstanding. In the first couple of levels, it was a lot of fun to crawl on the ceiling and drop down on unsuspecting thugs, taking them out from behind. There are extra costumes to use (if you can unlock them), comic book covers to collect and a character viewer where you can see the 3D model for any character that you've encountered in the game and read a short bio. Stan Lee is on hand to do the narration.

The Bad

Sadly, all of the above is virtually ruined by the poor design choices made by the programmers and the numerous bugs in the Windows version.

The first problem is the controls. Spider-Man can only turn in set increments of about 45 degrees. This makes it nearly impossible to line up jumps properly, aim at enemies, or pick up items in a hurry. To compensate for this, the game auto-aims to some extent, however it often makes poor choices about what to aim at, or it fails to aim at anything in particular. There's also an aiming mode, where you can move a crosshair onto what you want to shoot, or where you want to swing to. Unfortunately, aiming mode is so slow and awkward to use (no mouse support) that you can only use it when not under attack. Different moves are often accomplished by using a combination of buttons. For example, to shoot impact webbing, you have to press forward and the web button at the same time. Unfortunately, where other games allow a split second between button presses, Spider-Man requires you to press them at EXACTLY the same time. Because of this, you will often end up doing something you didn't intend because you didn't get the timing right. It also means you can't do things like move and shoot at the same time. Finally, the movement controls are camera relative, meaning that Spider-Man moves relative to the camera and control directions will change when the camera moves.

Speaking of the camera, it only updates its position when you stop moving. Only then will it swing around behind Spider-Man. So, while in the heat of battle, you will often be trying to guide Spider-Man while looking at him from the rear, left, right and front, with the controls constantly changing based on the camera angle.

Then there's the save system, which only allows you to save at the end of a level. So a single mistake means you have to play the entire level over again. Apparently game designers consider endless repetition to be fun.

As if the above wasn't bad enough, the Windows version of Spider-Man is so poorly programmed that it has numerous bugs when run on a more modern system.

Bug #1: When you change any of the game options, it writes a config file called Spidey.cfg to the game's directory. This file then prevents the game from launching on modern systems. This means that you have to delete the CFG file and re-configure the options each time you play. This bug does not occur on older systems.

Bug #2: In the Catch Venom level, there is a cutscene in the middle of the level, after which, Venom and Spider-Man are supposed to swing to a building to continue the chase. On modern systems, Spider-Man falls to his death after the cutscene and the level ends in failure. If you set the resolution to 1280x1024, he survives the cutscene, but swings to the wrong building and then Venom gets away, ending the level in failure. Yes, you read that correctly, on modern systems, the game can't be completed without cheating because the developers made it possible to die in a cutscene!

Bug #3: After running the game once, then deleting the CFG file and running it a second time, the game often loads in slow-motion mode, where just the first of the four logo animations takes about ten minutes to display. Even if you skip the animations, it still takes about 2-3 minutes to get to the main menu and another 2-3 to select the Quit option and activate it. You need to reboot between sessions to avoid this.

Bug #4: Occasionally, the game stops responding to the controller, or it gets stuck moving in the last direction you pressed. Usually it recovers after a little bit, but by then you've failed the level and will have to start it over again.

Bug #5: On a later level called Stop the Presses, I experienced several crashes to the Desktop.

Lest you think I'm running Spider-Man on some super-modern uber-system, I have a 1.8Ghz system running Windows 98SE and a GeForce4 MX440 graphics card. Activision claims this system is too new to run the game without encountering the above bugs. When I asked them why games that are even older, like Half-Life, still run properly, they had no answer.

The Bottom Line

Spider-Man had the potential to be a great game, and indeed the first few levels are fun, even with the control and camera problems. Unfortunately after the beginning, the game becomes a chore to play. The lousy controls combined with the horrible camera system make fighting your way through the later levels extremely frustrating. If I hadn't bought this used for only $1.99, I'd feel ripped off.