Time is no friend of video games. This is a highly technical medium, and gaming’s massive popularity in recent years has ensured a blazing speed of progress. Most older games simply don’t play as well as modern ones. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 era. When you sit down to play a PlayStation game in 2017, it not only has to contend with the massive leap forward we’ve made in terms of technology, but also the fact that it’s a product of a radical paradigm shift in design philosophy. Designing games in 3D was a whole new world, and almost all developers were ill-equipped to jump into it at the time. Spider-Man for the PlayStation is no exception.
When I started the game up I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. The menu, music and comic book style opening cutscene brought back memories of late nights huddled around a shitty CRT with my cousin duking it out with Spider-Man’s cabal of villains. For a moment, I had high hopes along with the memories of colorful web-slinging adventures. The memories of this game felt as fresh in my mind as the day my dad brought home a Nintendo 64 copy of the game. Alas, my job is to critique, not stare rosy-eyed at a screen. As soon as I was given control of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man I remembered all of my doubts, and they were not unwarranted.
The game’s plot involves an imposter Spider-Man getting up to shenanigans, and Peter Parker has to track him down in order to clear his good name. Along the way, you’ll run into Doctor Octopus, Venom, Black Cat, Carnage, Mysterio, Scorpion, The Human Torch, Rhino, The Lizard, Daredevil, Captain America, The Punisher and Ghost Rider. It’s cool to see all these heroes and villains and the graphics are full of color which make them fun to look at, even if they are still a bit blocky. The developers really nail the comic book feel throughout the campaign. Unfortunately, your move set is fairly limited, and they have tons of health, so defeating them becomes an exercise in tedium more often than not. By the time the credits rolled, I would say I was mostly used to the abomination of a control set the game presented me, but I would probably get used to smashing my head against a wall if I did it for long enough.
The graphics are obviously from the blocky early stretch of 3D. For the most part, it does alright, as the color and recognizable characters distract enough from the fidelity to let you fill in the blanks in your head and move on with your life. I say for the most part because the camera does it no favors. Frequently clipping in and out of level geometry and passing through walls, filling my screen with pixelated lumps and squares that bordered on making my eyes bleed. Like a lot of early 3D games that didn’t follow the example set out by Super Mario 64, you can’t adjust the camera manually. You have to point Spider-Man in the direction you want to look and wait for the camera to slowly swing around behind you. Needless to say, this hinders any sort of fast gameplay the designers tried to create.
Speaking of, the combat throughout the game has a handful of problems. First off, the hit detection is sloppy at best. There were numerous times where I would stand in front of an enemy and land the first two hits of a combo just fine, but miss the third for some reason completely unbeknownst to me. This happened almost every time I tried to combo an enemy. Sometimes on the third hit, sometimes the second and sometimes I couldn’t even connect the hit to start the combo. It can also be difficult to judge the distance between you and an enemy thanks to the early 3D graphics and a camera operator that seems under the influence. Most enemies have guns as well, so you’ll have to be able to close the gap and attack quickly, which is a proposition the game not only does nothing to help you achieve but actively hinders. This issue could have been mitigated somewhat by the addition of some sort of dodge feature, an exclusion that was very frustrating and felt distinctly against the idea of Spider-Man.
I’m going to have to say that my final verdict is that Spider-Man is a game that should stay in the past. The nostalgia it presents was much more fun than actually playing through it again. It has a colorful cast of heroes and villains that are great to see but actually playing it is an exercise in frustration. Like most games of its era the camera and controls are simply uncomfortable and unruly to a modern player. Perhaps some sort of remastering could mitigate a lot of these issues, but for now, I can’t recommend playing this game for any reason other than nostalgia. Spider-Man is a game I have fond memories of, and that’s exactly what it should have stayed as. Fond memories.
Spider-Man was reviewed on PlayStation 1 using a copy that was previously owned by the reviewer. It is also available on Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, and PC. The game was selected for review by a $50 patron via our Patreon campaign.
Much like most games of this era, Spider-Man's camera and controls are terrible and they break the experience in a number of ways. Sloppy hit detection doesn't help either, and the only thing this game has going for it is the colorful cast of Spider-Man characters who show up along the way.
- Colorful Graphics
- Large Cast of Characters
- Comic Book Cover Level Intros
- Camera is Terrible
- Sloppy Hit Detection
- Limited Moveset