Hello all! Last week, I covered a traditional JRPG that was more about the quieter moments, as opposed to the epic ones.
This week, we do whatever a spider can. Sort of.
Spider-Man was the first 3D outing for the titular Marvel Comics webhead, releasing first for the Playstation in August of 2000 (versions for the N64, Dreamcast, and PC would launch the following year). It was published by Activision and developed by Neversoft, of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater fame. During a scientific demonstration by a (supposedly) reformed Otto Octavius (Dr. Octopus), Spider-Man appears and steals Octavius’ experiment equipment. Only problem is, Peter Parker is at said experiment taking photos, and so this Spider-Man is an imposter. The real Spider-Man must track down the imposter, find out why he wanted the equipment, and deal with practically every Spidey villain ever.
Spider-Man is a mostly typical third-person action game, albeit one where you have the powers of Spider-Man. This includes climbing on walls and ceilings, swinging on webs, and super-strength. The game mixes things up quite a bit by introducing levels where Spidey has to swing from rooftop to rooftop in order to either escape or pursue someone, spread between the more traditional “beat up everyone” levels. Combat is simple enough; you orient Spidey towards an enemy and throw punches and kicks. There’s a pretty big emphasis on web powers; Spidey can tie up enemies, create web-fists for extra damage, and even create a web-shield—it’s like a dome that Spidey surrounds himself with before exploding it in a shockwave-like attack. It’s pretty crazy, but fun. The web powers can make you feel somewhat overpowered at times.
But, with great power, there must also come great responsibility, of course, as Spider-Man’s webbing is a limited resource that must be refilled by picking up web cartridges lightly sprinkled throughout the area. During my playthrough for this article, I found that your web fluid can run out pretty quickly if you use web attacks haphazardly, so it’s smart to mix it up with more traditional attacks. So it never becomes a serious issue if you pay attention to your web attacks and keep a healthy reserve of fluid available.
There’s also a multitude of boss fights, each of which require some light puzzle solving in order to damage the likes of Scorpion, Rhino, Mysterio, etc. The boss fights are cool, but extremely dated in design, considering this game is 17 years old now.
When I went back to replay Spider-Man, I felt like most of the game would seem dated now. And it kind of is. Again, it’s 17 years old; the Playstation 2 was still two months away when this game came out. Spider-Man has sparse level design, dull swing mechanics (your webs attach to the sky, like in the 90's Spidey cartoon) and the combat is spotty at best.
And I like this game in spite of all that; I’m likely biased, being a big Spider-Man fan, but I enjoy how well this game gets Spider-Man. Games like the SNES beat-em-ups Maximum Carnage and Separation Anxiety were kind of fun, but you could have replaced Spider-Man with just about anyone and you would’ve had the same game. He rarely uses or requires web-shooting in those games, nor does he even talk much. This Spider-Man game, by contrast, has you using the full suite of spider-powers in order to succeed, and features a wisecracking Spider-Man, as it should.
The sheer amount of Spider-Man characters—hell, the amount of Marvel characters in general—is a dream come true for comic fans. Daredevil, Black Cat, Captain America, Punisher, Venom, Doc Ock, Lizard, Carnage, and more all appear in this game. Fan service-y it might be, but it’s still a lot of fun, and it gives the game a comic-book feel that it needs. The voice acting is great in that Saturday morning cartoon way (some of the voice actors are in fact from the 90s cartoon) and the industrial rock-ish soundtrack is pretty catchy.
I honestly didn’t like Spider-Man when it first came out. I’m not really sure why. I think it was a popular opinion of the time, in the group of people I knew and occasionally associated with, that this game was bad. And I wonder if their opinion influenced my own at the time; that happens to all of us when we’re kids/teenagers. I suppose I went into Spider-Man with presumptions about it; I did, in fact, play it through to completion (and 13-year old me thought the batshit finale was awesome), but I distinctly remember having an inexplicable negative attitude towards this game. An attitude that would be somewhat galvanized by the eventual arrival of Spider-Man 2, which made me forget entirely that this one existed.
I’d been warming up to the idea of revisiting the PS1 Spider-Man for some time; I’ve mentioned repeatedly in this article series that you don’t know a game until you, yourself, play it. And I’ve also mentioned a couple of times that one’s opinion of a game could change with time. That’s true of my experience with this particular Spider-Man game; it’s a game I remember disliking, but it’s easily one of the top Spider-Man games out there now. One can see the foundation this game laid for future Spider-Man games; I had thought Spider-Man 2 was the lead influence, but it really started here. The gameplay might be simple, the graphics are classic PS1 chunky, and the game is linear, but it’s still the 2nd best Spider-Man game, and I’m glad I got to replay and appreciate it. If you have mixed feelings about a game, give it another shot. You might be surprised.
Oh, and this game is narrated by Stan Lee, which is basically the best.
Thanks for reading my stuff! Yell at me on Twitter about why I’m wrong, and/or suggest other games I should cover! Hit the comments! And, I’ve got a new site coming soon, so stay tuned.
Next week, I revisit an Xbox 360 oldie (we can call them that now; this one is 11 years old) that features aliens and an awful lot of snow.