After Batman: Arkham City last year (which was up for Game of the Year here on the Flickcast) set the bar so high for super hero video games, it took a special kind of hero to get us pumped for the next big thing in super hero gaming. And while the movie-tie in (another stigma this game was forced to overcome) doesn’t set new bars for comic book games, it does bring back some of the best things in Spider-Man gaming of the past ten years to give players the Spider-Man experience they have grown to love and crave.
How many times can you swing through a digital New York as everyone’s favorite webslinger before it starts to get old? Last time we checked The Amazing Spider-Man was the fifth time a full virtual Manhattan was available to players to traverse over the course of a Spider-Man game and yet somehow Beenox has managed to find a way to not only keep it engaging but also has added elements to make it even more exciting. In The Amazing Spider–Man, there is an element of speed in the way that Spider-Man travels from one location to the other both in the visual design choices and in the addition of the “Web Rush” feature.
While players do have the option of just holding down a button and moving from point A to B in a casual manner, the real excitement comes from jumping into the “Web Rush” view and picking targets. As players get more adept at it, they can string together series of rushes to get across town at amazing speeds or put themselves into ideal combat scenarios, which is especially helpful when taking on the sniper teams scattered through the city.
Speaking of the sniper teams, combat plays a huge role in The Amazing Spider-Man. The game has a very simple controls in terms of complexity but can still be pretty challenging. Players have a basic attack, dodge, webbing and jump button that can be used together or separately to accomplish various combat actions. Players don’t need to worry about hitting certain light or heavy attack combos like in previous games anymore.
What they do need to pay attention for are Spider-Man’s spider-sense to warn them of attacks that can be dodged with a simple single button press or deadlier attacks that they must actively flee from. Properly executing attacks and dodges leads to various special maneuvers, many of which appear inspired by professional wrestling which is possibly a nod to the character’s original comic book origin roots.
Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of quicktime events during the course of the game whether it is button mashing the webshooters during car chase scenes or perfectly timing a hit of the Y button to grab the flying comic book pages hidden throughout the city. These feel like such an already outdated gameplay cliché that never adds to the enjoyment because the prompt on screen pulls the player out of the scenario playing out in front of them.
A health bar system has been completely removed from the game in favor of a regenerating health system. This means that combat is more deadly than ever as Spider-Man can be grounded with just a few missed dodges. At times though this can be frustrating that someone with super strength can be taken down by just a handful of punches from unarmed street thugs. But, at the same time, it is a nice change of pace to be able to just rest up like a character would in the comics after being punched in the face rather than have to search through areas for gaming clichés like health packs that don’t fit into the mythos of that world.
Story and Presentation
To keep this review spoiler free, the events of The Amazing Spider-Man take place after the events of the movie. So if you plan on playing the game first before catching the movie, some key plot points will be spoiled for you. Without getting into the details of how, a virus similar to the cross species experiments that resulted in the Lizard during the events of the movie is accidentally unleashed in Oscorp and Spider-Man takes it upon himself to set things right.
This virus results in alternate versions of some of Spider-Man’s famed rogues including the Rhino, Vermin, Scorpion and even the lesser known Iguana. While it makes sense for the story, there is a sense of loss for these characters as they are mostly mindless brutes that lack any of the personality of their comic book counterparts. On the other than, the Lizard takes steps as a character similar to what was seen in the movie and the Black Cat comes across as almost a completely new character.
Additionally, there are multiple side quests to keep players exploring the world longer. These include hunting for enemies or objects to photograph or run ins with the Bruce Campbell voiced Extreme Reporter who finally brings a rhyme and reason to why Spider-Man would race across town in time trial like modes.
Graphics and Sound
One thing The Amazing Spider-Man does wonderfully is capture the sense of speed in which Spider-Man traverses the city. The way Spider-Man’s body takes shape as he picks up velocity and the world around him blurs adds to the intensity of the situation. But developers were also smart enough to insert various landing animations to help slow the landing down so it doesn’t look like the Spider should be splattering himself across the pavement.
The character designs of both Spider-Man and the Lizard capture the look of the film perfectly but characters like Gwen or Dr. Connors don’t match up as well to their real life counterparts. The newly designed Spider-Slayer robots feel as if they are coming out of a Transformers movie more than a Spider-Man comic but the other villains redesigned for the game like Rhino, Vermin and others fit well to both the style of the world and make sense considering their new origins.
Noticeably missing from The Amazing Spider-Man is the voice cast of the film. While they were able to bring in fanboy nods like Stan Lee and Bruce Campbell, neither Spider-Man nor Gwen Stacey were voiced by their big screen counterparts. Part of what worked between these characters in the film was their delivery and having a different set of voice actors taking on these roles loses that connection. But, Nolan North takes on the role of antagonist Dr. Smythe which brings a smile to most hardcore gamers.
The Amazing Spider-Man does what it sets out to do. It helps continue the newly rebooted Spider-Man film universe’s story by drawing from the original comic’s characters but in new and diverse ways. It provides a fun, action filled experience and captures part of what makes Spider-Man so interesting from a gameplay perspective. It doesn’t innovate in many ways as much as it improves upon formulas discovered by other studios like Treyarch in the past with their open world Spidey games.
Whether or not you were a fan of the new Amazing Spider-Man movie, this game is still a must play for Spider-Man fans. It draws upon the new fiction but doesn’t require players to know it and does a good job of filling in the blanks on its own. Since laying their claim to the Spider-Man franchise, this is the best game Beenox has brought to the series. It will be interesting to see what they can do next year with the new open world engine and not being tied to the movie.
XBox 360 (Also available on PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS)