Spider-Man 3 Preview (Xbox360)

When people begin to take a retrospective on the Ďnext-gení of gaming in years to come, itís clear that one thing above all will stand out. It wonít be increased texture size, HD resolutions, post-processing effects or new shader models, itíll be the fact that the easiest way to show off a spanking new tech engine is to create a really, really tall building, and then have the main character jump off the top. Thus begins our demonstration of Spiderman 3, the Treyarch developed hotly anticipated videogame tie-in to the Sam Raimi flick, due for release on May 4th 2007.

If ever there was a license to showcase this new-found obsession with verticality in gaming, Spiderman is definitely it. As the 360/PS3 title is put through its paces, it becomes instantly clear that the familiar web-slinging approach of the previous generation has been retained, but the sense of scale drastically expanded. Spiderman can still perform the same well-established wall-climbing acrobatics and continues to be able to swing through Manhattan without needing to aim at any particular purchase-point. It seems that keeping the accessible, free-flowing style the series has become known for is a priority for Treyarch and with several well-received and commercially successful Spidey titles in the back catalogue this comes as no surprise.

Familiarity can breed contempt however, and the developers are at pains to point out several new additions to the formula. Chief amongst these is an expanded combat system which takes into account the switch between Spiderman and the alternate black-coloured version, adjusting attack style and power as a result. Once again our new friend verticality steals the show, with a new focus on mid-air combo attacks. The enhanced aerial repertoire includes the ability to knock enemies off the top of a building, lock on with a well-timed web, and pull them back up for a further pummelling. Not content with the new level of humiliation inflicted on your chosen target, the expanded physics engine even allows you to string people up to any object in the game and use them as a virtual punch bag. Leave them hanging around in this state for long enough and the police will eventually come and place them under arrest.

Given the vastly improved abilities of the next-gen hardware, Manhattan has also been given a makeover. Expanded both above and below ground, the city now includes over 20 miles worth of subways and sewers to get lost in. Wary of the challenge that this may pose for new players, the map system has also been suitably modified. The overview now encompasses a simple zoomed out perspective of the entire island, with key areas and missions clearly labelled and easily navigable. The impressive part is that this appears to be all in-engine, with the camera simply pulling up and away from the city, then zooming back down to ground level at your chosen location. Load times were sparse throughout the demonstration, with the majority of the world streaming off the disc in real-time, even during transitions from external to internal locations. There appears to be a good level of detail in the city streets, buildings and traffic, although environmental effects and shadowing were conspicuously low-key in this particular build.

We were disappointed to learn from producer Chris Archer that the title will ship with no online or multiplayer modes in any form; however as far as single-player content in concerned, Treyarch definitely seems to have taken a leaf out of the Crackdown school of game design. Whilst there will be plenty of story-driven missions to mirror the content of the film (complete with RE4 or Shenmue-style QTE events during cutscenes), the player is also free to tackle random crime events occurring on the streets. There will be three major street gangs infesting virtual New York, each with an independent storyline woven into the main narrative and distinguishable via art style and weapon sets. The entire island is open at the start, and although there are ability upgrades to collect throughout the game, there will be little that you canít do right off the bat. Thatís no bad thing, and with the new physics engine in place should hopefully encourage exploration and some sandbox-style emergent gameplay. Fancy stringing up multiple gang members off the side of a bridge in front of an oncoming train? I know I do.

Whilst Spiderman 3 is definitely still rooted in a tried-and-tested game structure, the amount of new content on offer is promising and left us wanting to explore the city for ourselves. If Treyarch continues along this path to the May 4th release date, we should be in for a traditional but supremely fun experience.

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By ScythSoulces (SI Core) on Sep 15, 2008
I had a great time with this game, I mean Spider-Man has allways been my faverit hero(only with the dark suit on him at the time).