The Spider-Man movie game is from that era when licensed games were plenty and some of them were actually good; this game even came out two weeks before the movie which was the inexplicable style at the time.
This game is old, it is janky, it has some of the most fun unlockables in any game, and I love it.
The Story So Far
We all know what Spider-Man’s deal is: you get bitten, have to find Uncle Ben’s killer, and then you have to work your way through a rogue’s gallery in order to save the city and finish the game. Done.
Now, how about the gameplay? If you’ve played the 2000 Spider-Man PS1 game then this is just a cleaner-looking version. You can ‘swing’ around the rooftops of the city, finding secrets and punching bad guys, until you are directed inside where you’ll have to ruffle some organized crime feathers.
The swinging here is basic but fairly satisfying. You swing my pressing R2, you then move and ascend with the stick, and you can move even faster by holding R2. It’s pretty utilitarian, but it gets the job done.
Does Whatever a 2002-era Engine Can
The stealth is relatively basic, and once you are spotted, the wheels sort of come loose from the wagon, and you are forced to put down the bad guys for good. Thankfully, while the stealth is pretty spotty, the combat is shockingly competent.
You have a basic set of combos (lights and heavies), but you can unlock more combos by exploring the levels. These are typically basic three-button combos that give surprisingly flashy results. This obviously comes from an era before input leniency and input buffering so the combo timings can be a little tricky at first, but once you realize that you just have to mash them as quickly as possible, then you’re laughing.
Even without the unlockable combos, the base combat can be augmented by your web powers (many of which are taken wholesale from the Spider-Man PS1 game). You can wrap webs around your fists to increase your damage, or you can encase yourself in a ‘web dome’ that will protect you from damage as well as cause an AOE explosion. While powerful, these use up your precious web meter, which can only be refilled by finding pickups, so use these powers responsibly.
Another minor quirk of the game is that moving the camera does not influence your direction in any way. This can make movement feel sort of start and stop when on the ground, but thankfully, there is a very of-the-time auto-center camera button (L2) that alleviates this headache.
Well Well, If It Ain’t Padded Pete
In the spirit of many movie-licensed games, the plot here is tenuously linked to that of the movie, but there is also a slue of bosses and scenes that are wholly original. You’ll obviously be battling Goblin, but you will also be fighting Shocker, Vulture, and Scorpion.
Any fight in which you have to be maneuverable can be daunting given the dated controls, but there is a basic camera lock system that will keep you from getting lost during any of the outdoor fights.
The only genuinely irritating roadblock in this game is the ‘forced stealth’ Oscorp mission. In this mission, if you are detected in any way, an unrelenting army of robots will flood into the room and murder you. This is the only time in the entire game where I began to feel anger towards the early 2000s. There is also a slightly less annoying section in which you ascend a collapsing tower in pursuit of the Vulture. If there are any justifiable places for new players to quit the game, it WILL be one of these missions.
The Spectacular Post Game
If there were a list of games from which I would never expect a post-game, then the top of that list would read “movie licensed games”.
Cheats aside, what can you get in-game? If you beat the game, then you can unlock both a Peter Parker skin as well as the ever-gorgeous Alex Ross suit, which will forever be my favorite Spider-Man suit. If you collect a certain number of points throughout the game (points are awarded at the end of each level), then you can unlock Infinite Web as well as CG cutscenes and a 10-pin bowling mini-game in which you swing into webbed-up goons.
If you play the combat training section of the tutorial (a tutorial which, just like the aforementioned bowling game, is voiced by the hopefully immortal Bruce Campbell) and you defeat 59 enemies, then the 60th enemy will be the wrestler Bonesaw.
And now, the greatest unlockable in any game ever. If you beat the game on Hero difficulty, then you will be able to play the entire game as Green Goblin. Let me re-phrase that: you will be able to play the entire game as Harry Osborn, who takes up the mantle of the Green Goblin, has a glider with an entirely new move set, and is voiced by Spider-Man legend Josh Keaton.
Is It Still Worth Playing?
With the absurd number of Spider-Man games that have been released over the past 21 years, is this one still worth playing? I would say yes. There is jank and there are some roadblocks, but complaining about the controls of a 20-year-old game feels like complaining about the lack of power-steering in a classic car: sure, it sucks, but you’ll acclimate.
I would put this right next to Spider-Man 2 (2004) as one of the greatest movie-licensed games of all time. While much of my appreciation and praise comes from the majesty of the Alex Ross suit, this is still a great game and one I’ll happily run through a few more times before Insomniac’s new game releases.
- Early 2000s feel
- Amazing unlockables
- Engaging and evolving combat
- Early 2000s jank
- Camera and Stealth issues