Spoiler alert: Before you begin reading this review, please be advised that this game does contain relatively minor spoilers for the movie. It will not ruin the enjoyment for most people, but I would be remiss if I did not mention it.
In the last few years, developer Beenox has really taken a liking to Spider-Man. Their previous Spider-Man efforts, Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time, have been solid games, but neither of them were amazing. Given a few more years and a movie tie-in, they seem to have a better grasp on the character and his world.
The Amazing Spider-Man’s story picks up right where the movie left off. The Lizard was defeated and imprisoned in an asylum, and now Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy are investigating Oscorp to ensure that Connor’s research is being discontinued. They meet Alistaire Smythe and shortly afterward, all hell breaks loose. It’s then up to Spider-Man to rein in all the cross-species that escaped the labs and bring peace back to the city of Manhattan.
The Amazing Spider-Man’s approach to exploration is like day and night. Most of your free time will be spent traversing Manhattan, but the majority of the story is spent in buildings and sewers. The story plays out over 12 short missions, clocking in at around 5 hours total. As you may suspect, they are very linear and filled with some generic objectives required to progress but mercifully not as mind-numbing as the ones from Edge of Time.
Playing the game in Manhattan is strikingly different, though. You get plenty of stuff to do with a decent amount of variety. All of that stuff is optional, too, so if you just want to get through the story, you can. I wouldn’t recommend it though, because this is where the game shines the brightest. There’s a map that you can use to highlight your next destination and is very effective for pointing you in the right direction. When in the city, you’ll never not know where to go.
You can swing around the entire city and crawl on almost any surface you can see. You can also use “Web Zip”, a new feature that lets you aim your reticule at a point and go there atthe press of a button. Places you can land are represent by a yellow outline of Spider-Man when highlighted. Using the Web Zip to travel in Manhattan can lead to some cool animations; sometimes Spidey will zip to a nearby building and run on the side, Prototype style, before jumping off to your destination in style. Alongside all of the optional side quests, you will find a ridiculous amount of things to collect. There are 700 (count’em) comic book pages scattered around the city. Collecting them all will reward you with digital copies of some of the original Spider-Man comics (in-game only, sorry). A pretty sweet reward, if you ask me.
Collectibles can also be found in each story mission, too, giving completionists reason to go back and gather what they missed the first time.
Being attached as it is to the movie of the same name, it was a bit disappointing to see that the characters do not use the voices of the actors in the movie or their likeness. I thought the movie was very well cast, and it could have made the game even better. Especially so in Gwen’s case, since her design is very bland at best and awkward at worst. Thankfully, Spidey still sounds like himself. He’s well equipped with a plethora of corny one-liners to spout anytime he gets the chance.
Thanks to the game’s very simple controls, you get a good feeling of what it’s like to actually be Spider-Man. Swinging is effortless, taking only the pull of a trigger to perform. Nearly all of the commands in the game can be attributed to a single button, making it very accessible and easy to get into. The animations are pretty fluid during both exploration and combat. Spider-Man will swing and latch on to seemingly nothing and his body will realistically (for him) flail and contort. The camera can be a bit floaty, but otherwise does a good job following the webslinger around the city.
The camera will eventually fail you, though. And I promise, that failing will come in combat and result in more than a few unexpected deaths. The problem is that when you’re fighting, the camera is shoved so far up Spider-Man’s ass that you can’t really see around you much of the time. If there was a way to pull it back and see more of the area you’re fighting in (like in the Arkham games), then the problem would be solved. I can recall several times where it was so close, I couldn’t even see Spidey’s head; this is an issue since you need to see when his Spider Sense is going off to be able to counter enemy attacks.
The combat system itself tries to emulate Arkham City, but ends up more like Captain America: Super Soldier (read: a copy of a copy). That’s not to say it didn’t turn out well enough, just that it could have been much better. The timing is not precise – there’s a certain bit of delay between the button press and the animation. Normal encounters with unarmed opponents aren’t much of a problem, but there are several different types of enemies. Some with shields, others that learned how to block and some with guns. Projectiles really break the combat system and turn it into a game of cat and mouse, so they are to be avoided at all costs, unless you want your Spider-Man to die. And who wants that?
Another incentive not to die is the loading screens. Every time you die, the level will have to reload (even though you’re restarting from the last well-placed checkpoint). I had the game installed, but it still took around 9 seconds to revive my Spider-Man and just loading up Manhattan took up to 18 seconds for me, again, with the game installed. It doesn’t have to load again until you go somewhere else, but damn. At least it gives you little scrollable in-game “tweets” to try and distract you. They don’t say anything interesting, but it’s better than nothing.
The combat system also breaks down in the boss fights. Every boss fight in the game consists of getting in a few hits, dodge, then press the shiny red button when the game tells you to. The patterns are set in stone, and it makes them more annoying than anything. Not once did I face a boss and go “Hey, this is cool.” You’ll see a lot of Spider-Man’s well-known nemeses like Scorpion and Rhino, but they never truly feel dangerous. It just feels like a missed opportunity.
Beenox would have been better off using the combat engine from Shattered Dimensions.
Combat is not Spider-Man’s only option to dispatch his enemies. Seeing as he can crawl on walls and ceilings, many times it’s more fun to sneak up on your opposition and perform Stealth Takedowns. The game is simply more fun this way – it feels great creeping up on them and wrapping them in webs without any noticing what will likely happen to them next. And like everything else in the game, it all happens with just the press of a button once you’re in position.
After completing the game, the post-game play opens up. It’s nothing new, but it allows you to finish up any side quests you missed and return to previous missions and get all the collectibles. When it was all said and done (100% completion), I clocked about 22 hours, as I was kept busy by all the little tinkling noises that the comic book pages made.
The Amazing Spider-Man has its fair share of flaws and no one is confusing it with Arkham City, but somehow, I still had a really good time with it. The 17 hours I spent in the open city of Manhattan far outweighed the confines of the structured missions and being able to get that unique Spider-Man feel was great. Now they just have to work on that “Amazing” part.
Available on Xbox 360 (reviewed), Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS
Buy: Amazing Spider-Man
Full disclosure: I purchased this game for review. I spent just under 22 hours with it and got 100% completion.