The realm of gaming is nothing new to the webbed wonder, having spun a web across consoles old and new, from the sidescrolling days of the original Nintendo system through to the Playstation One and beyond. He’s found success in the open world antics of Spider-Man 2 and more recently tinkered with a level-based, combat heavy style of play.
Beenox has taken a bold step in returning the web-head to the sandbox of New York City, allowing players to once again go behind the mask and take on the role of hero with all the random crimes, car chases and web-zipping they could hope for. In concept this is nothing new, but has the developer at last uncovered the formula to making a truly amazing Spider-Man game?
Platform: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3
Genre: Open-World, Action-Adventure
Release: (EU) June 29th, 2012, (NA) June 26th, 2012
Taking off from where the silver screen reboot left off, the game begins in a manner reminiscent of Deus Ex: Human Revolution as Peter is taken through a brief tour of the facilities at Oscorp. Things quickly go sour, so it’s up to the hero to clean up the mess, take down the rabid cross-breeds and stop the spread of infection to the New York populace. To complicate things further, Smythe’s droids consider him as just another cross-breed, and so attack on sight regardless of his intentions. The story features the return of a key character, but also contains one pretty big (yet unavoidable) spoiler to the film itself. It’s not a bad story by any means, the dialogue is solid and well-acted, plus the fresh take on some familiar faces will keep you intrigued for the majority of the adventure.
It would be unfair to compare Spidey’s latest to that of DC Comics’ Dark Knight, but ASM does borrow a few tricks from Rocksteady’s acclaimed Arkham series. Most notable is the combat system; where Web of Shadows introduced a solid combo system with upgrades and web-centric techniques, things are much more about reaction here. When his Spider-sense tingles, a tap of a button will result in a dodge and so the combo continues. Combining Batman’s praised fisticuffs with the web strike found in Web of Shadows, the combat is tailored to the hero’s spider-powers in a way that is both fanciful and realistic considering his skill set. When all else fails, Spidey can retreat to a high wall or target the group with one of the environmental hazards, be it a gas canister or back alley dumpster.
Stealth also plays a big role in conquering the indoor environments, becoming a necessity when faced with a room full of heavily armed enemies. Guards aware of your presence will actively search with flashlight and weapon drawn, but it’s never too hard to find a shadowy spot and take one out from above. Attempting to manoeuvre the wall-crawler for the perfect takedown can be disorientating given the irksome camera, but you’ll feel a real sense of empowerment when it comes together and you time your stealth move correctly. The game does the right thing by forcing you into the shadows by way of powerful foes, so it’s a shame that the developer never gives you more interesting locales in which to play hunter.
Murky treatment plants, polished facility surfaces and enclosed warehouses are about all you’ll be seeing during your time with the main story mode, and the indoor side missions hold only a few surprises. It’s just as well that the city which Spider-Man protects is such a joy to explore with the fresh spin on Spidey’s locomotion. There’s a real rush as Spidey web-slings over traffic and then soars into the air, courtesy of the detailed character model and close camera. In a grand design choice, no longer are you merely swinging the spider from afar, but actually swinging through the streets with him. It’s easy to complain that the webs no longer physically attach to the buildings themselves, but this goes unnoticed during play and the trade-off is more than fair given the sense of height and speed.
The city itself looks much more impressive than what was seen in 2008’s Web of Shadows, though there’s still the sense that this is a world built entirely for your amusement. Without Spidey to swing around and impress on a visual level (which his fluid animations really do) this New York would be lifeless with stock pedestrians and cut and paste vehicles. The Web Rush move which has been so touted by Beenox is a key element of traversal, slowing time to a crawl to reveal points which Spidey can zip to in a heartbeat. While necessary throughout the game, this comes in especially handy when you need a breather in battle or must pass through environmental hazards in a hurry. This coupled with the close camera has reinvigorated open-world web-slinging, making you feel like the hero without complicating the controls – in this sense, it might also be the most accessible 3D Spider-Man to date.
Collection nuts will be catered for here with a total of 700 collectible comic pages, numerous indoor audio logs, unlockable character models and alternate costumes to acquire. Then of course there’s everyone’s age-old favourite – concept art! Beyond that, you won’t find much reason to go back once the story and side missions are done. It’s unlikely that most players will plump for that elusive 100 per cent completion figure, but it’s a nice touch that a few of the activities veer away from the usual grunt bashing antics. Searching an area for points of interest in the name of picture snapping is rewarding in itself, requiring a keen eye rather than quick trigger finger.
It may not have achieved the status of definitive web-slinging title, but The Amazing Spider-Man is a solid step in the right direction for the troubled hero. It’s ironic that the development team has put its best foot forward with what essentially serves as a form of movie merchandise, but to call it a simple tie-in would be to do the game a disservice. It does suffer from a few hiccups in the gameplay department and the limited interiors result in repetition at around the halfway mark, but for all intents and purposes this is the most fun you can have as the web-head on current systems. You can’t keep a good wall-crawler down, and so true believers and newcomers alike have every reason to take Spidey for one more spin through Manhattan.
8.0 – Great. An enjoyable experience, fans and newcomers of the genre will be entertained. Any noticeable flaws are largely outweighed by the positives.