Spider-Man has to be one of the most seen superheroes in gaming, with around 30 games at this point starring the web headed wonder. Over the years, Spider-Man games have ranged from really slick and fun titles to utter crap, more recent games following the character have started to make use of similar movement and combat themes that make the games all seem very similar. There has been a reoccurring focus on open spaces and web swinging in these games ever since 2004s Spider-Man 2, the Amazing Spider-Man is no different.
The team behind this game is none other than Beenox, who have become the go to guys for developing Spider-man games of late. Their early work was porting the PC versions of games like the Spider-Man 3 movie tie in game as well as Spider-Man Friend or Foe. The company went on to break away and start developing game themselves, them being the primary developers for Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions and it’s of sequel Spider-Man Edge of Time.
The Amazing Spider-Man is the third game based on the character made by the developer and the first one that is a movie tie in. Despite the reputation that movie tie in games traditionally have, this one does what all the best tie in games do and take liberties with the story. Many of the better games that have a basis in a movie will only tell the story very loosely, while telling their own story alongside it. Amazing Spider-Man avoids even this by having it be something of a sequel in that it takes place after the events of the film.
Because this has come out before the actual movie it is based on has been released, it actually contains some spoilers, including what I imagine to be a rather dramatic character moment for Peter and Gwen. So if you think it likely that know anything about the movie beforehand might ruin your enjoyment of it, then you should maybe take that into consideration before playing this, while in reality nobody actually cares.
The game begins with Gwen Stacy smuggling Peter into the Oscorp building. Despite the covert action of simply walking in the front door, they are quickly caught by Gwen’s new boss, Alistair Smythe. At this point, anyone who is familiar with the comic lore will immediately know who the game’s villain is. Despite one of his scientists bringing in her boyfriend for a look around a dangerous weapon development lab, he seems cool with it and lets them continue looking around.
The scientists are clearing up the remnants of the experiments by Curt Connors, the lab being filled with half human, half animal ‘cross-species’. The cleanup is going as planned until the creatures all react negatively to Peter’s presence and go crazy, thus escaping. One of the cross species, a rat based on the character of ‘vermin’ from the comics has been incubating a virus, and before escaping, infects every scientist in the lab, including Gwen.
With the population of Manhattan being infected by this cross species virus, Spider-Man turns to the only man he knows who could develop a cure, Dr. Curt Conners. He is in an asylum after going on a rampage as the Lizard, ala the events of the movie, and so the game really begins with Spidey breaking Connors out of the asylum to help work on a cure.
The story of the game exists in its own continuity. Most of the classic villains that appear in this game are re-imagined in more realistic sense. Villains like Scorpion, Rhino and Vermin become nothing more than half animal beasts that run on instinct, and are little more than animals themselves. Characters like Black Cat are changed too, with her becoming more of a goon orientated bank robber rather than the sneaky cat burglar she is most know for being.
With the increasing infection rate throughout the city as well as the zombiefied humans around, the game was very reminiscent of another open world game, Prototype, at times.
The between the story missions players will spend a fair amount of time in an open world hub area that takes the form of Manhattan island. Nodes appear around the map that allow players to initiate the main and side missions, but as it is open world, the player can take as long as they want exploring the island before going off on a mission. The story mode missions, called chapters are structured in a linier style, similar to the level design seen in Beenox’s previous two games.
This is the first open world Spider-Man game that Beenox have developed on their own. Their previous games did have large open stages for the player to swing around at their leisure, but there was never one huge map to explore. It seems that they didn’t stray far from their comfort zone though, as most of the game is restricted to liner style levels, and the open world stage is used in very sparingly in the main story.
The island of Manhattan itself in this game seems a bit… lacking. While there are people and cars going around, once you get a few stories up, the game stops rendering them and the city turns into a giant empty concrete play area reserved for people in red and blue spandex. There just doesn’t seem to be enough happening in the city, even the random crime is few and far between.
If you are going to spend any amount of time on the open world section of the game though, you’d be spending a lot of time travelling around the city, and so the most important question is, is doing this fun? The simple answer would be yes, a more complicated one would be ‘yes, but’.
You’ll prominently be getting around by web swinging, which is fine, you go fast and the camera gets in very tight during these sections giving a real sense of the speed and rush of swinging around like a spider doesn’t. It’s very smooth and the game doesn’t give you as much control as other, similar, title have in the past, it’s still a lot of fun.
However, on occasion, something rather off happens. For example when Spider-Man is web swinging, obviously he needs to attach his web line to something. Most games in the more recent series take this into account, they would actually search out the most ideal spot to attach a web line, and dependent on where the line attached, it would affect the angle of the swing. It seemed like a lot f thought and effort had been made into making the slinging seem realistic.
This game doesn’t seem to do that, a lot of the time Spider-man will simply stick a web line to something directly above him. While the player can’t web swing when too high in the skyline, there are occasions where a web line will be attached to what can only be thin air. While the game never actually lets you see this happen, sometimes it’s painfully obvious that there is nothing for your current webline to be attached to.
While I’m sure this was done in an effort to make travel much quicker and smoother, it’s just so jarring when it happens that I think it detracts from the game. Part of the fun of web swinging in prior games was managing to do it when there wasn’t a whole lot to swing from, you’d be compensating with strange weblines, making the act of doing it a challenge in itself. In this game, that challenge is removed and web swing can become a lifeless affair if you let it. If you just hold forward and the swing button, the game pretty much does all the work for you.
This game does bring an alternative to swinging though with the introduction of a new ability called ‘web rush’. At the tap of the button, Spider-man will automatically travel to wherever you’re currently looking by zip lining, wall jumping and swinging on the surfaces around him, adding a free running element to the game. However, getting around like this take the majority of control away from the player as it is all automatic, and while it may look impressive, is less fun than doing it yourself.
Web Rush can also be used for pin point movement as well, if the button is held down the camera swings into a first person view point, time stops for a brief moment and gives the player opportunity to choose an exact location to travel to mid swing. I like this addition, many open world games with a fast travel system make exact movement quite tricky and you can spend way more time than you should trying to get to a certain rooftop. The web rush ability does give you much more control over the character than you would think and is takes away any frustration when it comes to exact movement.
I’ve talked about web swinging at quite a length already, in short, I think that the webswing itself is lacking when compared to past Spider-Man games such as the legendary Spider-Man 2. But, the addition of the web rush abilities do make a fun alternative and are actually really useful for quick changes of direction as well as pinpoint movement for the sake of the collectables. The web rush isn’t just for getting around though, it also plays a role in combat.
The combat in this game has taken a step away from what we have come to be used to from Beenox in the past. Many of the most recent games in the series focused on a hack and slash style of combat, mashing button combinations to make use of a variety of combos, all in an effort to basically show off, it was as simple as it was satisfying. Combat was more about the spectacle than real strategy, and when fights were difficult, they were frustratingly so, not because they were actually hard, but because they were finicky.
Amazing Spider-Man, once again, goes in a different direction in that it introduces a one button combat system similar to the one used in the Batman Arkham series. Now I’m not going to sugar coat it, to me this combat is a shameless rip-off of the combat used in Arkham Asylum and City, and it’s a pale imitation at that. This isn’t the first time Beenox have heavily channelled Batman in their Spider-Man games, the Spider-Man Noir sections of Shattered Dimensions were heavily inspired by the predator mode of Arkham.
Spider-man has a single attack button which the player can mash mercilessly, once the spider sense symbol above the player’s head flashes, the player must press the dodge button to perform a counter attack. Once a certain hit streak has been achieved, players can perform finisher combos on dazed enemies. There are also a retreat button that quickly zips you to a wall far away from the action to give you a breather and then fly back in using the web rush ability.
Many of Spidey’s moves seem to be inspired by wrestling moves, especially luchador, with him breaking out hurricanas at every opportunity. There are a number of intractable objects usually placed around areas where combat is likely, when used Spider-Man will hurl a vending machine at a crowd, completely decimating them, and trivialising the fight, and these things are there by the dozen in some areas.
I’m really not a fan of the combat in this game. It is nowhere near as smooth as would expect it to be, Spider-man clunks from one enemy to another like he has a low frame rate and the dodge function seems to work sporadically at best. I suppose I have been spoiled by games that use this style of combat much more successfully, however, I think choosing to use this style at all was a misstep and the game would have been much better off in keeping with the hack and slash gameplay that was seen in previous Beenox Games.
However, there is an alternative to the combat that can work in nearly every situation. The game allows players to stealth their way through nearly every encounter if they so chose. Spider-Man’s unique wall crawling abilities make him adept at crawling around a room unseen. Enemies that pass directly underneath the player when they are unseen will be able to be picked up and hung from the ceiling, players can pick off enemies in a room one by one without swinging so much as one punch, or even bypass the enemies completely without them even knowing you were ever there.
Once again, I am going to compare this game with Shattered Dimensions, Stealth was the major gameplay element in the Spider-Man Noir sections of this game, and in all honesty, it was done better there. It’s hard to tell where you can be seen and where is a ideal hiding place, and despite the fact that these are ‘stealth takedowns’ it seems that anyone looking in that direction when you web down with bring the whole room in on your head meaning that you’ll need to zip around until you are hidden from sight again.
The problem in this is that going from the ground, to a wall, to the ceiling can be incredibly disorientating and half of the time you’ll need a second to figure out which way is up, literally. That being said though, it’s great that the game gives the player the freedom to choose a play style and allows them to decide if they want to go in fists swinging, or to simply slip by as if they were never there. It’s not very often that a game of this sort provides multiple ways of playing, all of which are actually viable.
An area where the game does shine though in my opinion are the large scale spider-slayer fights. Throughout the game, Spider-Man will be pitted against huge robots out for his neck, these battles take place in Manhattan and thus have a massive arena. These fights have the player swinging around their massive foe looking for a weak spot while being constantly on the move. The tight camera angle and constant movement on the part of the player makes these fights the most fun parts of the combat system, they’re very cinematic and the ability swing round clog a vent in a giant robot before catching yourself on another web line is brilliant.
It’s a shame that there are only really two of these fights and then the flying hunter’s only attack as a punishment for failing to web up a search probe in time.
One thing the Beenox always seem to nail is the character of Spider-Man. One of the best things about the character is the fact that he never shuts up. Spidey is constantly talking smack to everyone he encounters. Throughout this entire game the character making cracks at this enemy’s expense, even though half of the enemies you fight in this game are mutants or robots who probably can’t understand a word he is saying, he still does it, and I love the character for it.
The characterisation of Spider-Man and his supporting cast in this game are probably one of the game’s strongest point and as an old ass Spider-Man fan I can appreciate that the developers had an equal admiration and understand of the character. Because it really shows in their games.
Graphically, the game is fine. It looks how it should. It goes for a more more realistic style, being a continuation of the movie, rather than the comic book style that was seen in the two most recent game. One little feature I did like though was that the more damage the player takes, the more damaged their suit gets, meaning that you need to go back home every now and then to find a new suit.
As you would expect, there is a lot to do in the game aside from the main missions, each of the game’s stages take place inside, in locations such as sewers or in buildings, during these sections there are a number of collectables hidden throughout the level for those diligent enough to stray from the beaten path, these come in the form of magazines, audio logs and photo opportunities. All of which gain experience that can be spent on combat and tech upgrades for the player.
Out in the open world sections there are about 500 comic book pages to collect, these things are everywhere, the cool thing though is that for every milestone you hit, you unlock an entire digital copy of a comic book depicting a certain character from the game’s first appearance. I really enjoy it when games provide worthwhile Easter eggs for those diligent enough to finish these huge collection quests.
There are all your other random crime and mini missions spread all over the open world map to keep you busy between the missions.
Spider-Man games have quite a detailed measuring bar to stand against these days, the character seems to be getting a game every year or so, and thus the games need to keep impressing after the last one. The Amazing Spider-Man was a fun experience, but it was by no means the best Spider-Man game I’ve ever played. It’s a mixed bag, I really enjoyed the new additions such as the multi use web rush ability as well as the spectacle of the giant boss fights, but it just also lacked in areas that were common throughout the game.
The combat is probably my biggest issue, it made a change that was completely unnecessary in my opinion, and while the combat isn’t terrible, it’s certainly not brilliant either. Spider-Man attacks are too clunky and it doesn’t have the right flow that a traditional hack and slash game would have had. It was to the point where the combats would be my least favourite part of the game I would often a void them at every opportunity.
That being said, I have to give Beenox props for allowing players to just bypass the combats using stealth, whether it was intentional or not, it stopped my experience form being much sourer than it could have been.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a solid game, while it’s by no means groundbreaking it has equal parts greatness and problems. I appreciate it on the level of being a huge Spider-Man fan, but I have to wonder if someone who isn’t as into the character as I am would have gotten as much enjoyment out of it.
The lingering issues of the combat and ability to trivialise web slinging, two things that make up a majority of what the game is, could really lose the game points in the eyes of someone who is on the fence about it. Despite the open world hub, I wouldn’t describe this as a fully open world game as the entirely of the plot takes place in linier stages. In the end, I would recommend this game, just because I have played more Spider-Man games than is normal doesn’t mean I should nit pick this game to death. It’s a very fun game that really puts the player in the shoes of the webslinger, it knows the character and is, more often than not, a joy to play.
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