Spider-Man is one of the most popular and beloved characters ever to grace the pages of Marvel comics, television and the silver screen. His various incarnations have been hugely successful and have served to increase the web-slinger's popularity all over the world. One of the most popular of these incarnations has been the video game series from Activision. And now, with the "Spider-Man 3" movie set to hit theaters in May, Activision has been hard at work on the video game version of that story. Recently, CBR News used our spidey powers to scale the walls of Activision's tower in Santa Monica to spend some quality time checking out the game.
The hugely anticipated action-RPG "Spider-Man 3" follows other Activision video game titles based on Marvel comics including "Marvel: Ultimate Alliance" and previous Spider-Man games such as "Spider-Man 2" and "Ultimate Spider-Man." Spider-Man 3 follows in the footsteps of those games, but also puts a next-gen spin on things with a totally updated and revised game engine created specifically for this new game. This revised engine, and other innovative next-gen enhancements, allows for an unprecedented level of gameplay and interactivity which takes place in an expanded and dynamically evolving New York City. Because of these new features, and more, this game will appeal to and challenge novice and experienced gamers alike.
Not only has the game engine been totally redesigned for "Spider-Man 3," the game also includes other new features never before seen in any video game. Some of these features include the ability to roam freely throughout New York City setting your own pace and goals, instead of following a pre-determined timetable and set of goals, which is the way most games work these days. In those other games, you need to defeat a certain bad guy or overcome an obstacle while following a schedule in order to advance. In "Spider-Man 3," you determine your own course of action and move freely from location to location in the city, making the story evolve uniquely for you.
In addition, the game has an all-new combat system which allows players to perform unique, Spidey-specific combat moves, combos, attacks and maneuvers allowing for a great deal of flexibility and interaction during combat. But that's not the most exciting part. For the first time in any game, players will get to play the game while wearing the notorious Spider-Man black suit, which provides its own unique powers and abilities -- and also carries with it a terrible price if you wear the suit too long. Will you control the suit or will the suit control you? The choice is yours.
"The black suit gives players a unique opportunity to experience what its like to have the suit start to control you. At first it's great. You get a lot of advantages with the black suit, including rage mode, which lets you beat up lots of bad guys easily. But that strength has a price. The more you use it, the more likely it is the rage could start to control you completely. And that's not good for anyone,'' game producer William Schmitt of Activision told CBR News.
Chris Archer, the game's Executive producer, was also extremely enthusiastic about the black-suit feature of the game: "The black suit has the potential to do a lot of damage to you, and others, if you're not careful. With great power comes great responsibility and that's never more true than with the black suit."
Even though the game was developed to take advantage of the capabilities of next-gen consoles such as the Xbox 360 and the PS3, players using other consoles and devices such as the Nintendo Wii, PS2, PSP and PCs shouldn't feel left out. In fact, Activision and its partners Vicarious Visions and Beenox Studios have gone to great lengths to ensure the game plays well on any platform and have included features and gameplay specific to non next-gen devices. One of these features, included exclusively on the Wii version, takes full advantage of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers' capabilities allowing players to experience Spider-Man gameplay in an entirely different way -- the Wii Remote and Nunchuk become your webshooters - which makes for a unique game experience.
When you start the game, you are Spider-Man and go through an initial training phase, which is necessary to acquaint you with your new powers, abilities and the features of the game. After you complete your training, the real fun begins as you are thrust into the game's storyline, which mirrors that of the upcoming film pretty closely. However, in addition to elements of the game taken from the film, there is also a great deal of new material, characters and story added to the game as well. "With the movie you've only got about 45 minutes or an hour of action to choose from and include in the game. So for the game, we needed a lot more going on," said Archer. "We needed to add a whole bunch of story elements, characters, obstacles and bosses to make the game as exciting as possible for players."
Although many story elements, characters and other action was, by necessity, written specifically for the game, hard-core Spider-Man fans who consider the web-slinger a comic book character first and a video game character second don't have to worry that Spider-Man will be somehow different in the game than he is in the pages of Marvel comics or on the big screen. "We work very closely with the whole Marvel team and the studio to make sure what we're doing is in-line with their vision for the character, " said Archer. "We have many, many meetings and go through an extensive approvals process so that we're all on the same page moving forward."
Even though he's busy making the Spider-Man feature film, director Sam Raimi is intimately involved with the process of creating the game as well. "We meet with Sam frequently and show him what we're doing," continued Archer. "He really likes the process and its great to work with him on the game as we all want the same thing: the best game possible."
Schmitt was equally as enthusiastic about Activision's relationship with Marvel, Sony and director Raimi. "It's great to work with people like Marvel and Sam Raimi who get what we're trying to do. They don't think of the game as less important than the movie but as a part of telling the 'Spider-Man 3' story."
Spider-Man isn't the only character to appear in the video game, of course, because what fun would it be to take on the persona of Spider-Man if you couldn't pummel some arch-villains into submission? So, movie and comic book baddies Sandman, Green Goblin and Venom appear prominently in the game. In addition, the game also has a great deal of other challenges and bad guys for Spider-Man to overcome. Rival gangs have taken control of parts of New York and as Spidey challenges them and defeats them, the population grows to appreciate him more and the city remains in control. If he fights the gangs and loses or is forced to retreat, the city falls deeper and deeper into chaos until eventually, the citizens turn on their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
This kind of interactivity is due to a uniquely advanced AI mechanism that allows gang members and other villains to react and change their tactics as Spider-Man attempts to outsmart or defeat them. "The bad guys and the bosses really think and plan. They react to your moves and change tactics or call for reinforcements depending on what you do. It's really cool and really enhances gameplay. It's almost like you're fighting real people. Almost," said Schmitt.
Archer added, "By having all these advanced features, we really tried to make the game as interesting and exciting as possible, even if you've never seen a Spider-Man movie or read a comic book. Fans and non-fans alike can just enjoy the game for what it is: a great time."
The "Spider-Man 3" video game will be available for all next-gen platforms like Xbox 360, PS3 and the Nintendo Wii as well as for the PS2, PSP and PC. It will be released in May, just in time for you to enjoy it along with the movie's release. So Spider-Man fans, if you've ever stayed awake nights wishing you could do whatever a spider can, spin a web of any size and catch thieves just like flies, well look out because you're going to get your wish when you pick up your copy of the "Spider-Man 3" video game.