Article by: Boyd
The Spider-Man gaming franchise has been rife with moments of excellence in story telling and pure gaming mechanic enjoyment. It has also been mired, at times, in poor story, flaccid programming and execution, and the “cash-in” factor like gamers need a Spidey game every year. In recent years, I remember a mixed bag of Peter Parker-esque adventure, with games like Web of Shadows, Shattered Dimensions, Edge of Time, and Spider-Man 3: The Video Game. This year we receive the The Amazing Spider-Man across consoles to coincide with the release of the new theatrical film. And while it is a departure from the previous installments of Dimensions and Edge of time, I feel developer Beenox is treading, or trying, to recreate the magic that was cast in 2004 when Spider-Man 2 hit the Playstation 2. While it has its moments of awe, spectacle and grandeur on current consoles, at its core it remains a similar, but inferior version of Spider-Man 2.
Story/Presentation: Assuming the vast majority of individuals interested in this game have seen the film (MOVIE SPOILERS AHEAD), the game picks up immediately after the events of the movie. Oscorp industries has a new head in their science division to replace Dr. Curt Conners: Alistair Smythe, notorious in the Spider-Man mythos for his maniacal genius in creating the mechanical and menacing Spider-Slayers, constantly on the hunt for Spider-Man. Well, obviously changes had to be made in order to fit in with the film universe, so players can be prepared, without going into too much detail, to deal with many “cross-species” similar to the Lizard. At odds with these scientific abberations, Spider-Man has no choice but to enlist the aid of the incarcerated Curt Conners to help him take down the cross-species threat and the larger entity of Oscorp’s new science head. Mix in the elements of the sandbox world and gamers will spend a lot of time cruising and “thwip-ing” their way across Manhattan Island.
As a movie tie-in game, menus and load screens are pretty lackluster and standard licensed game fodder, with no flash or polish. Expect to see basic menu options on the main menu screen, and, while there are a wide variety of screens in game that act as upgrade screens and stat screens, once again, they are pretty basic and inert. Don’t expect the flash and production you’ve seen in games like Arkham City. Basic is basic, and Peter Parker deserves more to complement his genius in my opinion.
Gameplay: As previously mentioned, The Amazing Spider-Man hearkens back to the sandbox world of Spider-man 2: The Video Game and, to a degree, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. Players will spend a majority of their time swinging through side missions that involve stopping muggings, car chases, returning infected civilians to hospitals, and high flying race challenges to name a few. There are also, obviously, the story missions which number in 12. The combat system is an aped version that tries REALLY hard to be the one used in Batman: Arkham City… and it succeeds in certain aspects while failing miserably in others. Take for example the stealth mechanic: web up to a ceiling, get over an enemy, web them up quietly… except most of the time you get discovered and have to perform a quick escape, almost always. Annoying, but workable. The combat on the ground, however, is sometimes unworkable. As Spidey is attacked, a “spider-sense” alert icon appears above his head telling the player to execute a dodge, similar to the dodge mechanic used in Arkham City. The problem is it only works occasionally, and is very difficult to see when fighting close to 10 enemies. Add in the fact that projectile enemies force you to use a dodge to avoid being damaged and you have a combat system that is based more on baseline luck than control. Sadly, it makes for a lot of deaths and some very frustrating battles. While progressing through these story levels, there are a myriad of pick-ups that provide experience for Spidey and assist in upgrading his abilities and technology. Most of these pickups, however, are extremely difficult to locate, and judging by my first play through of the the game, I would not want to go back and play through the levels where I missed pickups. Also, let’s continue to ape Batman games and have audio log pickups similar to the tape reels in Arkham Asylum.
The meat of the game is not even the story missions. It’s the sandbox world that MADE ME want to go and complete every side mission, even if at times they are repetitive. I couldn’t even do this for Lego Batman 2. As a gamer, I ardently wished to complete every single mugging case, photographic case (there is a camera Spidey can utilize in order to photograph evidence and enemies to add to the extras portfolio on the extras screen), car chase, and infected citizen case out there. Swinging around Manhattan Island is great… except the swing mechanics aren’t exactly as polished as previous installments. The R2 trigger enables you to throw out webs… only if a building is in front of you. Spider-Man 2 for the PS2 negated that, and you were able to do a lot of upgradeable stunts with the X button in that one. In Amazing, web swinging is as basic as it gets. The best part of the game for me was picking up the 700 comics scattered about, unlocking FULL digital issues in the extras menu. That in my opinion was worth the price of admission, as the game is more exciting doing side quests than the actual story is.
Graphics: Above the city. the graphics and Spidey’s animation are superb… the attention to detail is definitely there. on the ground however, denizens of NYC and places like Central Park are muddy and bland, with a lot of graphical miscues and tearing. Environments inside missions are also nothing to write home about (I got stuck in a wall once while in a mission and had to reboot the PS3. Not exactly fine-tuned by play testing, eh Beenox/Activision?). In a nutshell, NYC up high looked great, but on the ground in mission environs, not so much. I would venture that the graphics on Shattered Dimensions were the benchmark for Spidey games of this era on current consoles.
Sound: The sound design is acceptable… and I say acceptable because of the voice cast. It’s good, but come on… no Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, or Rhys Ifans for the main cast members? This is terrible. Even Sega’s licensed Marvel games had Robert Downey Jr, Hemsworth, Evans, and such for their games, and Spider-Man is a far superior product than those games. The lack of Hollywood talent hurt the narrative of the story itself. Other than that, the sounds in NYC make you feel like you are in the thick of the city, and are pretty convincing for what they are worth. Dolby Digital/DTS support was a natural must as it stands.
Overall: The Amazing Spider-Man is better than your typical movie tie-in/licensed game, but it’s not Batman: Arkham Asylum/City, even though it tries to be. The sheer amount of collectible content, if you are invested, is enough to keep you playing. I played late at night, sometimes til 2 a.m., completed that main game and was still only about 80 percent done. There is a metric shit-ton of content and costumes, bios, etc. to unlock, and it can get crazy at times. It’s too bad the main story missions were not the highlight of this game. The side missions, collectibles and NYC sandbox world was. It’s hard for this gamer to figure out where the licensed Spidey games can go from this, since developers have reverted from the restricted world of Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time to a sandbox environment. I, for one, need something more innovative. In the meantime, for the movie epilogue which The Amazing Spider-Man is, I was happy to play for the 15-16 hours I did, but will probably never touch the game again. I want to see a virtual PSN store version of the original Spider-Man for the original Playstation, a landmark game in its own right, long before Arkham Asylum and City dominated the superhero game genre. Until then, rent The Amazing Spider-Man or purchase if on sale and satiate your craving for web swinging. But, let us see something more innovative in the future.
+ Great open world side missions make you want to complete them
+ Tons of unlockables
- Poorly executed, Batman rip-off free flow combat
- Difficulty with projectile enemies
- Muddy graphics when not webswinging