This title is available on PC, PS2, GameCube and Xbox.
Another week, another game on this hype train simply named Spider-Man although to keep you from going insane from all the games with the same title, I’ll refer to this one by its retroactive title of Spider-Man: The Movie. While movie tie-ins are renowned for being heaps of rubbish, the wall crawler has had some decent luck in that department (2014’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 notwithstanding), and it all began here in 2002, with a game based on the first movie in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy.
Considering that it’s 2002, Spider-Man: The Movie looks great and perfectly showed off what the next generation of consoles could do. The difference between this game and the previous year’s Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro are night and day, with much improved draw distance, fantastic modelling and textures (again, for the time) and the ability to see the bustling city below you as you web swing, something not possible on the PS1. Spidey himself is also much improved in the animation department, looking way more natural. The likeness of Tobey Maguire is also shown off well on the character model, which is a nice touch.
The game follows the story of the movie, and considering how good that movie is, that’s a very good thing. However, given that the movie is an hour and a half, the game had to be padded out to add some length. The game’s story is padded out very well, and has appearances from numerous classic Spider-Man villains such as Shocker. There’s also added depth for a lot of moments shown in the film, such as the first few levels showing Spidey tracking down Uncle Ben’s killer by beating up as many gang members as possible, allowing for a bit more screen time with the iconic homemade wrestling suit. It’s a great expansion of an already great story.
The gameplay feels like a natural progression from Spider-Man (2000) and Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro. That means that if you’ve played those 2 titles or read my previous Retro-View, you’ll have a good idea of what the game will play like. You play through relatively linear levels, either web swinging from rooftop to rooftop or inside buildings, and beat up any thugs who get in your way. It worked in the last 2 games, and it works here. The game does have numerous improvements however, the biggest of which is the movement. In the previous games, the buildings in the outdoor levels were pretty close together, and Spidey’s web swing acted like a jump extender more than anything. Here however, levels have been expanded massively, feeling more like a natural city than basic levels. To accommodate this, Spidey’s web swing has been given an overhaul. It doesn’t stick to buildings like in later games, but it feels way more natural and is unlimited, giving an experience that is much more authentic. The openness of the web swinging also allows for combat in the air against foes like the Vulture, and a smart targeting system has been added to help with this, allowing you to lock onto the enemy while in the air, so you can move towards your target efficiently without having to wrestle with the problematic camera.
When you’re not in the air, you’re on the ground beating up thugs, and the combat is quite robust here. You have attack buttons for punching and kicking, and there’s a good combo system in place, in which you can unlock combos as you play to really dish out the pain. You can use your webs to help augment combat, and there’s some good interactivity with the environment, allowing you to pick up items like barrels and lob them at your enemies. In short, you’re in for a world of pain if Spider-Man’s after you in this game. There’s also a light stealth mechanic in this game, although it is very poor and problematic at times, which makes times where it’s optional pointless, and times where it’s necessary needlessly difficult.
As fun as this game is, it’s very short, and can be beaten in a few hours. Thankfully, this was in the era where cheat codes were the norm, and Spider-Man: The Movie is no exception. There’s tons of cheats here, including big head mode, slow-mo mode, and most fun: the ability to play as different characters. You can play as a police officer, any of the thugs you gave a beat down to, and in some versions even Mary Jane Watson herself. The cheat to play as her was removed in later versions due to a scene at the end of the game in which MJ and Spidey kiss, and this scene isn’t altered when you play as MJ. The biggest surprise is a complete side campaign, in which Harry Osborn finds the Green Goblin gear, and goes on to try and solve the mysteries surrounding his father. You go through the same levels in the exact same way, but the different dialogue and Goblin’s different play style makes this a fun novelty. If cheats aren’t for you though, then your time with this game will be very short. While the game does feel like an evolution of the previous games from a gameplay standpoint, there’s also no shaking the fact that it feels a little too familiar at times.
The audio here is quite well done. While the sound effects are rather generic, with the same thump sound when you punch someone that you’ve heard 1000 times, the music and voice acting is much better. The music has the same cinematic grandeur as the movie it’s based on, which really makes you feel like you’re playing a movie. The voice acting is fantastic largely due to the fact that Tobey Maguire and Willem Defoe reprise their roles as Spider-Man and Green Goblin respectively, which means that the chemistry the 2 had during filming is carried over here, so it’s a treat when the 2 are on screen in-game. Even characters that didn’t have their actor reprise their roles have decent actors behind them, such as Josh Keaton as Harry Osborn, who would go on to voice Spider-Man in Ultimate Spider-Man on PS2, Shattered Dimensions on PS3 and even the Spectacular Spider-Man TV show.
Spider-Man: The Movie was a prime example of how a movie tie-in should be done. For the time it looked great, and its gameplay was a natural progression from the previous titles. The music and voice acting was great as well thanks to the actors behind the voice acting and the smart move of emulating the movie’s score. There’s also a load of cheat codes available if you feel like messing around. However, it’s not without its flaws. It is incredibly short, has rather generic sound effects, really frustrating stealth, and the occasional problematic camera. Despite that, this is a title that I’d recommend you check out, as despite its flaws it is a solid, albeit familiar, experience.