We here at GameSpot have been blessed with the latest, hearty build of Neversoft's Spider-Man. Needless to say, we're brimming with impressions. What follows is a brief rundown of the game's first few levels. The levels we got to play seem tight and cohesive, with many opportunities for rich gameplay and a decent amount of distinction from each other. Rest assured that Spider-Man's myriad abilities are sufficiently challenged. Without further ado, here are the impressions!
Stage 1 - Get to the Bank!
Upon hearing mumblings of an imminent bank heist, our favorite web-head finds himself atop a tall skyscraper, with a keen view of the Big Apple's fine cityscape. A voiced-over chat with Blackcat ensues, after which Spidey makes clear his intent to hustle to the bank before any badness goes down.
Maneuvering through the rooftops is a good deal of fun. Essentially, you move Spider-Man to a building's ledge and make him walk (or jump, depending on your destination's distance) off, then after you hit R2, he will swing, most dynamically, to the wall or rooftop of an adjacent building. Many of the rooftops are inhabited by an assortment of undesirables who provide great opportunities to test out Spidey's repertoire of punches, kicks, and web-isms, but their engagement isn't necessary for the completion of the stage. Watch for the cool Spider-sense effect that occurs when you land on a foe-inhabited building - Spidey's head will exhibit the classic "alert rays," and a slight screen distortion will accompany a subtle Dual Shock rumble. Very neat stuff.
At any rate, the Spidey compass will continually point you in the direction of the bank, so you've but to follow it to reach your mark. It's possible to avoid enemies altogether by whisking through the rooftops, as they are not likely to notice you until you're swinging well out of their reach. Some buildings will be farther away than others, which calls for a healthy leap before you activate the swing action, so measure the distances accurately.
Midway through the trek, a cutscene will play, illustrating the would-be robbers blasting two cop choppers out of the sky with their own well-armed gunship. Harsh. Upon seeing this, Spidey decides that the robbers mean business and he hurries to the bank posthaste. The ensuing action largely resembles the first half of the stage, though upon reaching the bank, you'll have to dispatch a small installation of armed terrorists. Given Spidey's arsenal, it should be no sweat. The best strategy is to try to isolate the attackers, and given the rooftop's proliferation of narrow areas, it shouldn't be too hard. It must be noted that the camera often makes battling a bit more difficult than it should be, especially when enemies surround you. When this occurs, take advantage of Spider-Man's mobility and leap your way to a more opportune area. After the handful of gunners are downed, Spidey will find a way into the building, which takes you to...
Stage 2 - The Hostage Situation!
This stage finds Spidey in the bank proper. Inhabiting the interior is a suitable collection of armed ruffians trolling the hallways and harassing the bank's poor, defenseless employees. While it's definitely your job to pummel them, you have to do it in a way that'll prevent them from harming the white-collar captives.
The most effective (and fun) way to go about this is to crawl about the ceiling and drop in on the evildoers when they're isolated from their foul kin. The bank's ceilings are sufficiently tall, and it's easily possible to drop behind the robbers and vanquish them before they have a chance to harm the hostages. Fighting out in the open will most surely lead to hostage casualties, so it's best to keep the combat inside cubicles or within secluded corridors. In this stage, efficiency is as important as stealth - the quicker you take out the robbers, the less of a chance they'll have to retaliate or ice hostages. Remember, though, that the camera is often naughty, so avoid being surrounded at all costs, or you might be in for a most unwelcome beating.
After the enemies are clear and the hostages are freed, Spidey will notice a locked room that must be infiltrated. A quick hit of the R1 button causes Spider-Man to zip up to the ceiling and, being the wall-crawler that he is, roam around, inverted-like. Upon doing so, you'll notice an opening of sorts on the area of the ceiling near the sealed room. Enter it, make your way through the cramped passageway, and drop down into the room. Within will be three buttons and a robber. The robber is easy work, and the buttons on the wall will 1) free a hostage, 2) open the door to the room you're in, and 3) release the lock on a security door, from which more robbers issue - in that order.
The objectives in the room from whence the robbers came are much like the rest of the objectives in the bank: Defeat the robbers in furtive ways and release the defenseless bean counters before they're put to the gun. In this room, though, there's a ton of cool furniture you can throw around, so if you're feeling particularly confident, you can lob many a fixture at the robbers.
When you're done here, the exit to the next area can be found in the northeast corridor, which can't be used, though, until all the hostages are freed. Only then can you effectively...
Stage 3 - Stop the Bomb!
This next stage puts Spidey in a noticeably more cramped room, littered with the expected assortment of robbers and captives. They're easy enough to deal with if you crawl on the ceiling and bludgeon them with web shots, though some of you may feel that a more "personal" encounter is in order. Regardless, it is relatively easy to clear the room. On the far side of the room is another security door that must be circumvented by entering a crawlway similar to the one encountered in the previous stage. Crawl through, drop in, and you'll emerge in a corridor inhabited by two guards and a large monitor displaying white noise (whose purpose was a mystery to me). Once the guards are (easily) dealt with, a door will open near the base of the corridor, and a lone guard will come out. Beating him down and entering the vault room is pretty straightforward.
Once inside, there's a shot of a room with three crooks and two hostages, along with a silent time bomb. Neighboring the room is the vault. Gaining access to the rooms is as simple as pressing the appropriate buttons. The time bomb/hostage room is easy to deal with, though when you open the door, the timer will be set. But two minutes is more than enough time to whip the bad guys. The bomb has to be picked up (like a piece of furniture) and taken into the vault where it can explode without harming anything, save for a few cool millions in gold bars. What a strange message Neversoft is trying to communicate here. Once the bomb is stopped, the first act of this twisty tale is complete. But our coverage of Spider-Man isn't, by any means. Check this space every day this week for continual updates, true believers!