Version tested: Xbox 360
There's a mission, fairly early on in Activision's latest attempt to keep Spidey swinging without the aid of a blockbuster movie, which neatly encapsulates all that is both good and bad about the web-slinger's new interactive effort.
Luke Cage, Harlem's hero for hire, has enlisted our friendly neighbourhood wall-crawler in his crusade to broker a peace deal between warring street gangs. It's a minor problem compared to what lies ahead but Cage insists that Spidey watch over a historic meeting between gang leaders. Sure enough, snipers appear to muck everything up. Twenty-two snipers, in fact. Clearly, someone wants the job done right. A timer appears, and you've got four seconds to get the first rooftop gunman. Get him, and the timer extends so you can reach the next. And so on.
It's not as tricky as it sounds, since Luke Cage has already taught you the Web Strike move, which allows you to catapult yourself from enemy to enemy with ease. Quite why Spidey needs web-slinging tips from the artist formerly known as Power Man is a question for another time, but suffice to say Marvel continuity nerds are going to have a banging headache by the end of this game.
So, you deal with twenty-two snipers, one after another. You may wonder why the twenty-second sniper didn't take his shot when he saw Spider-Man flying feet-first through his colleagues but, again, this isn't a game that benefits from logical thought. There's a quick cut-scene between Cage and the gang leaders with some risible Harlem street dude dialogue and then... "DEFEAT SECOND WAVE OF SNIPERS (0/21)".
It's that sort of game. No task is too tedious or pointless that it can't be repeated ten, twenty, thirty, even two-hundred times in the case of some later (thankfully optional) requests. You'll perform one drawn-out escort mission, or a tiresome chase sequence, only to be told you need to do two more before the game will let you advance. The tasks are never particularly interesting or innovative - it's all "go here, fight everyone, come back".
It's a real shame, since the controls are actually pretty good - a decent mix between simple and immediately satisfying web-swinging and a fluid combat system - but the game does absolutely nothing of interest with these workable elements. You just swing from one mission to the next, in a lifeless virtual New York devoid of any diversions, and the only distraction you'll get from beating up dozens of identical foes to move the story forward is beating up dozens of identical foes in optional missions to earn experience points with which to unlock more moves with which to beat up more identical foes... and so on.
Well, you could search the city for over two-thousand spider tokens in order to level Spidey up and allegedly make him stronger and faster. No?