Activision stopped by the videogames.com offices today and let us check out a playable version of its new Spider-Man, in development for the PlayStation and the Nintendo 64 (although we only saw the PS one). The game is being developed by Neversoft, the crew behind the highly acclaimed Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. And from what we've seen of Spider-Man so far, it seems to be on track to become another hit for the Neversoft bunch.
According to Activision, Neversoft's goal in this title is to make players feel as if they really are Spider-Man. This means being able to crawl along and swing from any skyscraper with complete ease, fling webs at enemies without a second thought, and get a true sense of surroundings with spider sense. After spending over an hour with the title, we'd have to say that Neversoft has succeeded. You can swing from building to building just by hitting the R2 button, and Spider-Man will automatically latch on to a building's side when he's close to it. This makes for moving around in the cityscapes perfectly easy. You can also pan around an environment in a first-person perspective using the L1 button. This can create quite the dizzying effect - imagine hanging off of the side of a 100 story building and peering down. But the first-person view can come in quite handy - as you look around you can also find a target that you'd like to project yourself toward and then web sling yourself to it.
When you are on a level environment (such as on, or inside, a building), you can walk around and fight enemies through web slinging or hand-to-hand combat. The game offers up a few different web attacks, such as one in which you launch a ball that covers an enemy, rendering him harmless, or one in which you place webbing on your fists to better bash others. There is also a defensive move in which you will cover yourself with web so as to deflect enemy fire - the completion of the move, however, is actually offensive, as remnants of your shield are fired on foes. The hand-to-hand combat includes the standard set of punch-and-kick moves.
The game features a spider compass of sorts in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen that indicates where you should be heading in order to complete your mission. In addition to this, you have spider sense that will often kick in to inform you of enemies in the vicinity. The spider sense comes in the form of arrows that point you in a direction. Throughout the game, the Marvel character Black Cat will also pop in to help guide you with advice and direction. And if that isn't enough help, there will sometimes be question-mark symbols that you can open for clues as to how to complete certain tasks.
One of the coolest features we came across in the game is that you can climb onto the ceiling when you are inside a building. When you do this, the camera moves to an overhead view, and the ceiling itself becomes mostly transparent, letting you see all of the action. Enemies won't be able to see you while you're climbing on the ceiling (unless they've spotted you before), and this allows for a whole unique element of stealth. When you're climbing on the ceiling you can still attack enemies. One of the coolest attacks we've seen from this position is one in which you sling webbing down onto your enemy, grab him with it, and swing him into a wall. This is one of the game's best attacks, and one you must see in action.
There will be plenty of Spider-Man's other enemies and characters that you will find in the title. At the end of one stage we battled The Scorpion, who posed little challenge to our mighty Spider skills. Currently, Activision and Neversoft are looking into several different characters to use as bosses - we suggested Dr. Octopus as an ideal boss to use. Wouldn't he look neat in 3D? Activision agreed, and said he's a possibility. Marvel fans can look forward to seeing some familiar faces and places throughout the game as well - in one area we actually swung our way to the Fantastic Four's Plaza building in the midst of some skyscrapers.
Graphically, Spider-Man is a marvel (pun intended - ouch). It makes use of the Tony Hawk engine and once again stretches the limits of what the PlayStation is capable of. The city environments are incredibly vast, and everything remains clear and smooth as Spidey swings his way through them. And there are plenty of effects used such as transparencies for walls and items so the player's view of the action is not obstructed. We also noticed some classic Neversoft touches, such as a TV screen in one room that was playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Subtle, but cool.
Soundwise, most of what we heard was filler - the final version will feature voice talent from the TV show. In terms of music, what was there would often be triggered by enemies or events. There was one sequence in the game where you swung yourself up a building while helicopters attempted to gun you down - this had some upbeat techno-ish music playing in the background that fit nicely.
Activision states that there will be eight main levels in the game, all filled with many sublevels and missions. What little we've seen of the title looked great, and we hope that the rest will look great too, eventually. The screenshots included are of the PlayStation version of the game. Look for Nintendo 64 shots soon.