doing Spider-Man games for an incredibly long time - their current
catalog lists games
all the way back through 2001. There have been gems in that
list, there are a few stinkers, and there are a decent number of
"so-so" mediocre titles.
In recent days, it seemed like
they were trying to figure out what the audience wanted in a game,
or more to the point, trying to pierce the vapors and
infinitesimal essence of something that, for lack of a term, we
might call "fun." Spider-Man: The Movie had taken a wild ride
of a movie, but hastily dumped it into the patterning of previous
games, and never quite gave the thrill that the property deserved.
The designers of
Spider-Man 2 had turned around and touched
on something ephemeral, something that gamers wanted. It offered, in
lieu of the bland "levels" and rigidly focused gameplay of the
earlier Spider-Man titles, the ability to travel the whole of
Manhattan, to swing merrily past cheering and booing crowds, to
right wrongs or simply allow wrongs to happen in the pursuit of
certain red-headed ladies instead.
In other words, Spider-Man 2 was
the moment when they really found the "fun" of Spidey's world.
Unfortunately for Activision,
when they pushed to duplicate this achievement, they fell flat.
Ultimate Spider-Man felt rushed. Spider-Man 3 tried its best to
re-create the fun of its predecessor, but wound up shooting itself
in the foot with some glaring errors, most notably the "button push
segments" that have become inconcievably common (and mind-numbingly
boring) in far too many major franchises, but also the bizarre,
nearly random way in which combat resolution occurred, a phenomenon
once described to me by an onlooker as "whoa, is Spidey spazzing out
Enter Spider-Man: Web of
Shadows. Something of a move to go back to basics, something of
an attempt to strike out on their own... and finally, a game that
gets back around to the real goal of a Spider-Man game, which is
giving the player the freedom to do what they want while in control
of Spidey himself.