Spider-Man Hands-On

Treyarch's Dreamcast port of Spider-Man is in its beta phase. What exactly has the team done to take advantage of the DC hardware?

If you've played both the N64 and the PlayStation versions of Neversoft's Spider-Man, you can surely attest to the tangible spike in quality Treyarch managed to achieve. The environments were less warped, and the action was a bit smoother, which made the already great game just a bit more playable. From what we've seen of the upcoming Dreamcast port, however, we can surmise that the jump in quality won't be as noticeable.

The first things you'll notice about the Dreamcast port are the sharper, more solid environmental textures. Where the PlayStation and N64 versions of the game had respectively warped and muddy textures, the Dreamcast version renders the cityscapes of New York marvelously clearly, solidly, and with a welcome stability. Structures' contours seem much more substantial, which lets you gauge depth and plan your movements more accurately. The improvement is totally an aesthetic one, though, and any gameplay enhancements resulting from the textural cleansing can probably be deemed side effects.

As for the rest of the game, nothing really seems changed much, from a visual standpoint. Some of the character skins seem a bit sharper, but none of them seem to have been in any way reworked. Rhino, in particular, seems to have most benefited from the Dreamcast hardware--his suit seems just a bit grittier and its surface a bit rougher and more stonelike. Spider-Man himself seems basically unaltered; the webbing pattern on his suit, which many were doubtlessly craving to see rendered, is absent, sadly.

More importantly, however, the game itself hasn't changed. As with the N64 version before it, the Dreamcast version is a direct port, which in no way deviates from Neversoft's fantastic blueprint. For those unfamiliar with any of the game's previous versions, Spider-Man is an amazing take on the action and adventure genres, which puts you in control of a truly engaging character. Neversoft's Spider-Man character is a wholly faithful representation of the one in the comics, with every power and ability intact. The games feature great control schemes, which accurately map all of Spider-Man's pertinent powers. The game lets you do a variety of things with your webbing: You can throw blunt web-balls at your enemies, use it to swing from platform to platform, and create a web-shield, among other things. Spider-Man also has a whole set of physical attacks at his disposal, including punches, kicks, and some grapples. Everything is intuitively mapped, making all these things not only fun to perform but also painless.

The Dreamcast version's control scheme manages very well, despite its shortage of buttons. The only action that was compromised in any way was the zip-line. Since there's no dedicated button for it on the Dreamcast controller, it's achieved by holding down the left trigger and the A button in tandem. The rest of the scheme is conveniently mapped, as per Neversoft's formula, though, so both newbies and returning fans will feel right at home.

On a positive note, Treyarch seems to have resampled many of the game's sound effects, resulting in a crisper, punchier aural presentation. The voice acting hasn't changed, which is to say that it remains spot on and mostly amusing throughout. The game's FMVs are also supposedly being reworked to incorporate new character models and textures. We're anxious to see the results.

The Dreamcast port will probably disappoint fans hoping to see a drastically reworked game. While the final version will supposedly see a few graphical elements improved, nothing is being seriously changed. The game's camera--which was the original game's roughest area--behaves identically to the earlier versions, and Treyarch has revealed no plans of changing it, which is a bit unfortunate. On the whole, however, Spider-Man is an excellent game, and its Dreamcast port should prove no different. Gamers should find it intensely satisfying, provided they're not expecting something drastically different from the versions they may have seen before.

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