You may have heard of a little movie called Spider-Man 3 being released. Nothing significant or anything. Oh no. Just one of the largest ever franchises to grace the silver screen. And with it comes the deluge of Spidey related gear, promotions and other fluff we've come to associate with the only webbed wonder bigger than the average celluloid spanning lead and twice as colourful.
All of which means the inevitable Spider-Man 3 tie-in game is upon us, allowing everyone to step into the red booties of the web-slinger and play out various scenes from the film in a timely fashion. Nothing new there.
What IS new, however, is the prospect of playing superhero with motion controls via Wii. Activision gave us the first taste with its worthy conversion of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, where you took on a wealth of characters through a well devised and extremely faithful Marvel related universe. Its careful blend of action role-playing game roots, team-based combat and comic book stylings made for something very few Marvel fans could ignore. A great little game all round, really.
But what it didnít do was give us a true idea of how such comic book games will evolve with Wii.
Something that Spider-Man 3 makes more of.
The 2004 prequel managed to craft a sandbox style of gameplay which combined perfectly with the superhero genre. Spidey was able to swing around the city, stop crimes and engage villains in a way more novel and freedom-driven than before. Spider-Man 3 follows a similar gameplay ethic, streaming its virtual New York on the fly for you to explore where the option is given to take part in story-driven missions or just help stop a number of crimes such as taking out a gang of robbers looking to score money or fruit (yes, fruit; no one can accuse developer Vicarious Visions of not having a sense of humour).
Where Wii changes things from the rest of its movie-licensed brethren is naturally how you control the titular superhero. While there's all the expected basics, like moving via the analog stick and interacting with the A button, the real meat lies in the use of motion controls to get Spider-Man web-slinging. The Nunchuk and remote act as his left and right hands, respectively, so the Z or B button and a directional gesture fires a web out, which you can swing around with the Nunchuk or remote and release by letting go of Z/B. So you can spin web lines from both hands as you wish, to perform what a Spider-Man does best. In essence, you're doing something a bit like what every kid does in the playground -and every shameless fun loving adult- does when they're pretending to be the iconic hero. Strange to look at, yes, tricky to get the hang of, true, but more fun than merely pressing a button?
And that's the point.
Like Electronic Arts swiftly discovered with its sterling conversion of The Godfather: Blackhand Edition, taking typical button pressing actions and convincingly mapping them to motion controls changes things on a huge level (albeit, only if you get it right, which EA does). Even the most basic activities suddenly become thrilling, while more complex ones become extremely rewarding. Dual swinging in the fashion you can via the Wii controls isn't really possible in other versions of Spider-Man 3, which says a lot. Not to say it doesnít take time to get used to this level of interaction, because it's likely to jar you until you get the swing (sorry) of it, but it's difficult to chastise Vicarious Visions for wanting to flip the script a little when so many of us have been waiting for developers to start getting adventurous with Wii's possibilities.
Combat in Spider-Man 3 is equally as physical, with flicks of the remote plus button presses to perform varying strength attacks, Nunchuk waggling for spider-sense spurred evasive manoeuvres, and using that same peripheral to rotate the camera by tilting it left or right. Once you get the relevant upgrade, you can even spin a web strand at your foe and twirl him around your head like a lasso, with the appropriate motion.
We already have punches and grabs simulated well with Wii's controls. How about slashing-claws via waggling? Creating magnetic fields that you manipulate with the remote, like an Elebits gravity gun?
It's all quite daring, but gives us an idea of how comic book titles could evolve via Wii and truly lends a unique feeling of the superheroic to the superhero genre. Not that it was lacking before, but things open up quite substantially. It must be noted that Wii's version of Spider-Man 3 is missing a few things the Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 versions have, such as certain abilities, missions and obviously a comparative drop in visuals, but ultimately it's a tantalising glimpse at how developers will be approaching games of its type on Nintendo's machine from this point on, regardless of whether Spider-Man 3 is actually great or poor.
Which should make things very interesting.
Licensed comic book games arenít restricted to superheroes, despite them being the vast majority, but if you take a look at the ones coming up from this year onward, there are some interesting candidates on the horizon. This summer, Take-Two Interactive's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer will be using Wii's controls to make special moves a little more tangible. For example, the Thing's overhead double fist smash attack is done by motioning the remote and Nunchuk as the craggy hero would, pulling them down to the ground. The force your character shows on screen is reflected by the force you put in. Nice idea.
With Hulk, Batman, Magneto and Wolverine movies all in the offering for the next few years, the potential to see this sort of thing become more refined and polished is really only limited by a developer's imagination and ability. We already have punches and grabs simulated well with Wii's controls. How about slashing-claws via waggling? Creating magnetic fields that you manipulate with the remote, like a Half-Life 2/Elebits gravity gun? Lobbing objects by mimicking a throw move? There's lot there to play with in every respect.
And we're only just scratching the surface.