PC games adapted from movies haven't fared well in the past--nor have games based on comic books for that matter. But Spider-Man: The Movie, an action game released simultaneously for no less than five different gaming platforms including the PC, succeeds mostly in capturing the essence of Marvel Comics' popular superhero. That's in part because the development team at Treyarch simply built off the core gameplay of the previous Activision Spider-Man game released on the PC. As a result, Spider-Man: The Movie boasts some impressive graphics (and requires a high-end video card), but it has also inherited some of the older game's faults--the camera is incredibly difficult to deal with at times, even despite some extra camera options available in the PC version. Also, the control can be a little difficult to get used to, and the enemy AI can be pretty bad. Nevertheless, most Spider-Man fans will still have fun swinging in between (and mysteriously high up above) the game's massive skyscrapers or lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting villain. The convincing graphics will also help most Spider-Man fans look past most of the game's flaws.
Spider-Man looks better than ever in his latest game.
If you've played the previous Activision Spider-Man game, then you'll be able to jump right into Spider-Man: The Movie, since most of the basic actions are nearly identical in both games. Unlike its console counterparts, the PC version actually lets you map keys to specific actions--however, this game was definitely designed for use with a gamepad. If you're stuck using a keyboard, then the controls in Spider-Man: The Movie are going to be much more difficult. Interestingly, the PC version lacks the option to switch between the two different types of web attacks and instead forces you to use the "enhanced" control mode designed by Treyarch, in which you press down a web-modifier button and a corresponding action button to perform one of Spider-Man's web attacks. This works well, and unlike with the default controls of the console versions, it prevents you from moving around when you're trying to pull off one of Spider-Man's special attacks, like the web dome or the web pull.
But inevitably, you'll encounter serious control problems that have nothing to do with the layout or how responsive Spider-Man is to your commands. Many of your frustrations with Spider-Man: The Movie will be directly linked to the game's camera, which sometimes seems to take on a life of its own regardless of which camera mode you choose. In the passive mode, the camera doesn't have a default position where it stays directly locked behind Spider-Man, so, for example, even when you're simply running down a hallway or across the rooftops, you'll find yourself perpetually having to adjust the camera and Spider-Man's direction. This problem is significantly magnified when you use the lock-on option. There are many moments in which you'll be heading in one direction and then all of a sudden switching to another so that the camera can compensate to keep both Spider-Man and the enemy onscreen at once. In the active mode, the camera attempts to stay directly behind Spider-Man, but since you'll be making so many sudden changes in direction, the camera can't quite keep up, and you'll still sometimes find yourself heading in an undesired direction.
Some of the outdoor levels are truly spectacular.
The perspective works at least reasonably well in the outdoor areas and during missions that require stealth, which occur quite frequently near the end of the game. However, the stealth element isn't done nearly as well as in games like Metal Gear Solid or Thief, and more often than not, you'll find that taking the time to be stealthy just isn't worth the effort. Spider-Man can essentially hide himself in the shadows, but some shadows offer more cover than others do because you won't be fully hidden--unless the icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen is completely shadowed. The stealth system is not only inconsistent, but also just doesn't make sense at times--clinging to a certain spot on a wall that's completely visible will shade the icon, while lurking in a shadow in a corner of the ceiling will not. If anything, this makes the game more time-consuming and challenging; however, there's no denying that Spider-Man's stealth sequences can be pretty awkward.
Thankfully, there are other types of gameplay that are much more fun. Most, if not all, of these occur in the outdoor levels, which unfortunately are less frequent (and shorter) than the indoor levels. There will be times when you'll wish the game wasn't based on the movie so that it could include more of these outdoor levels, with their fun high-flying action. On the other hand, the indoor levels fall victim to boring conventions--like those requiring you to find items and then backtrack through a level to use them--that at best sometimes give the illusion that the gameplay is deeper and more involved than it really is. It's unfortunate, because Spider-Man: The Movie probably would have been much more enjoyable without these indoor levels.
The basic action elements save Spider-Man: The Movie. The combat is fun and actually requires you to think a little and scan the environment for good places to take on groups of enemies. In some of the earlier levels, you'll have to take on five or six thugs at once, some of whom have guns, making it easy for them to stay back and fire at you while their buddies take swings. In situations like these, you'll find yourself looking for areas where you can take cover against gunfire and fight enemies hand-to-hand at the same time. Of course, in the same situation, you could use any one of Spider-Man's web abilities to help you out. Generally, there are several different ways to approach combat.
The battles against Spider-Man's biggest rivals can be very tough.