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The GoodI think all of us would be hard-pressed to find a good Spider-Man game prior to this release, with only vaguely entertaining games like Maximum Carnage or Capcom's fighting games. And that's due to the simple fact that no game bothered to really exploit the most interesting aspects of the web-slinger, by that I mean not beating up criminals while dressed up in red/blue tights, but actually being some sort of urban ninja that gracefully leaps and swings around buildings thanks to his superpowers.
Gray Matter's/Activision's Spider-Man game stands in my mind as the first game that actually bothered to address this and modelled the game around Spidey's superhuman acrobatics and crawling feats. It's also no surprise that this is the character's first polygonal game (which surely made it all possible). Anyway.
Spider-Man is a 3D action adventure title (genre which needs no introduction) in which you throttle around a set of stages following your spider-sense (represented via an onscreen compass) towards a certain objective which usually includes beating up one of Spidey's many foes or solving a light puzzle or another miscellaneous objective (such as tailing an enemy or escaping the law). Along the way you get to fight with several henchmen/thugs with a collection of punch/kick combos and your good ol' webbing which following arcade rules has a set of special moves which allow you to shape it as Scarlet Spider's Impact Webbing, or other useful modes. You also can collect special power-ups and bonus secrets to help you along the way.
Navigating the gameworld is pretty easy thanks to a full-fledged control scheme and interface that allows you to zip-line into any wall or ceiling or instantly start swinging around, with the wall crawling (which you get to use indoors as you work your way through vents and sneak around) turning the ceilings translucent and keeping the perspective. Camera control is automatic, and the controls neglect the mouse (a legacy of it's console origins) but a handy manual camera/target mode allows you to quickly position yourself and carefully explore your surroundings.
While the graphics are a mixed bag I'll at least say that they are extremely well animated, with Spidey specially leaping and moving in very life-like ways (a must since shoddy animation would have really hurt the game), the level design is simple yet attractive, with the most exciting levels by far being the ones that take place around the NY skyscrappers in which the camera zooms out significantly and proceeds to give you a birds-eye view of Spidey swinging around as he chases a foe or escapes the police. It may not sound like much but it would be the most majestic Spider-Man has ever looked since Alex Ross's "Webs" or until the Spider-Man movie.
Last but not least, this game started a trend by being loaded with extras, which include everything from challenge gameplay modes, extra costumes (with different attributes) character databases, and other additions that considerably extend the value of the title.
The BadAs I mentioned, the graphics are a mixed bag, with cartoony and rather embarrasing models (just look at the broadshouldered thugs), shoddy low-resolution textures and really limited draw distance which causes New York to be eternally trapped in fog as the game's engine can't display too many buildings (another console legacy problem). Sound-wise the game is no winner either, seeing as how it conforms to an aspect of the game that really ticked me off and which is that it's a very kid-oriented product. Apparently there are some marketing people that still think that comics are only for kids, so they sugar-coated the whole game with such elements as cartoony criminals that use laser weapons (Remember G.I.Joe?? It's okay for people to be shot just as long as it's not by a firearm and there's no visible wounds involved), a straightforward and simple story, saturday morning cartoon-like music and just plain infuriating voice acting with every character voiced by cleancut cartoony stereotyped voices. The worst one by far however is the inclusion of Stan Lee as a narrator of sorts who treats the player as if he were a two year old retarded kid by going: "...Oy Kiddos!! How are you today? Well if it isn't our jolly friendly neighbor Spidey-man! Let's see in what exciting super-adventures he gets today! Watch out evil-doers! There goes our hero looking for adventure!!..."
Good god... I swear I was never more embarrased from playing a game (well maybe except when playing Tron 2.0 but from entirely different reasons).
The Bottom LineDespite some irritating flaws, the worst use ever of Stan "The Man" Lee and generally making you feel like an inbred gradeschooler, "Spider-Man" is the worthiest title to date to bear the name of the legendary webslinger.
Just make sure nobody you want to respect you is around when you want to play it....