The Amazing Spider-man movie is a solid reboot of one of the most beloved comic characters of all time. As with all other Spider-man movies The Amazing Spider-man has an Activision published tie-in game. Its developed by Beenox, the developer of the two most recent Spidey games Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time. Both decent games (more-so Shattered Dimensions), they took Spider-man away from his comfort zone and dropped him into God of War style brawlers. Without the open world, Beenox was able to make two visually stunning games that were to act as practice runs for the big show, a proper movie licensed game.
Alot had been promised with The Amazing Spider-man, like the long awaited return to open New York City, the benefits of a 4 year development cycle, a graphical power house equal to what was in their previous two games and probably the most exciting was the idea of a Spider-man game that was both open world and had a combat engine that wasn’t broken. Beenox simultaneously accomplishes all of these things and misses the mark on them at the same time.
Set directly after the events of the movie, the game dives deeper into the cross species mutations that were established by the film. Because of this, spoilers will be found early and often in the game. I suggest checking out the movie first. This review may also contain light spoilers too, FYI. It comes to light that Dr. Curt Conners’ cross species experiences were much farther along than originally expected, and because of the Lizard situation in the movie all of his genetically altered subjects were to be incinerated, you know, to protect the public. Peter Parker visits Oscorp with Gwen Stacey and through a series of events Spider-man has to save the city again, this time from a mutant outbreak.
I’m not going to pretend like the story is super compelling, but Beenox found a great way to implement giant robots, mutants and classic Spider-man villains without any of it seeming silly. I was really impressed at how established characters like Rhino, and Scorpion were seamlessly implemented into the world. Alistair Smythe’s character was used well, and was a fitting alternate villain to the already defeated Lizard. Despite the characters working well, it was odd that none of the talent from the movie worked on the game.
Previously, actors like Tobey McGuire, James Franco, Kirsten Dunst and the rest of the movie cast would provide voices for their characters in game. This is not the case in The Amazing Spider-man. I’m sure it was a cost cutting measure, but neither the voices or the likeness rights were purchased. Actually throughout the entire game you never see Peter Parker. The cut scenes are first person, so in theory, YOU are Peter Parker. While all of this somewhat detaches the game from the movie on which it is based, ultimately it doesn’t hurt the game.
What does hurt the game is its somewhat disjointed structure, and heavy reliance on non-open world scenarios. The previous Beenox games were tight, scripted combat sequences that were strung together to create and maintain the narratives. The Amazing Spider-man wants so badly to be one of those games, that the open world almost seems inconsequential. Sure, there’s plenty of side stuff to do and tasks to handle, but 90% of the story beats take place in completely detached environments. That’s fine and dandy, but there’s a reason open world games have all of their content in the open world…its called load times.
Loading in and out of the NYC is a long, long process, at least on the PS3 it is. It takes so long that the load screen has been burned into my eyeballs. It leaves me feeling like the open world was added half-way through the process. I’m know the onus of making the game big enough to stand next to the movie is strong, but gluing an open world to traditional action game does have its downsides. Had the open world been skipable/optional, the load times may have been better and the transition between the two would have been less clumsy.
Two things that did not make the transition from previous games well were both the web swinging and the combat. In the past games, mainly Spider-man 2, Ultimate Spider-man, Spider-man 3 and Web of Shadows, the web-swinging through New York had to be precise. Your webs had to hit buildings and the speed/momentum involved was important. The webs had to be aimed and managed with the buildings around you. This game game goes way back to the swinging of Spider-man 1 and the Playstation/Dreamcast Spider-man games. The right trigger is the auto-swing button, Spider-man’s webs stick to thin air (maybe clouds?) and he travels through the city almost too easily. The swinging is so automated, that the player could physically get up from the TV, go fix a sandwich, and as long as he/she did so while holding the right trigger, Spidey would make it across town, albeit rather slowly.
Sure, that’s a personal preference, and there’s nothing technically wrong with travelling through the city as is, but it feels less like a game and more of a formality. Another thing that is technically a personal preference, but equally disappointing is the abandonment of the God of War style combos in favor of a more timing based Arkham Asylum-like punching system. I loved the combat in the other Beenox games, and seeing the change hurt my heart. It was such a jarring change, that I spent a plurality of the game relying solely on stealth kills so I wouldn’t have to deal with the new combat system. Frustration finally subsided when I got used to the new combat, but Spider-man’s lack of resilience to dude punches didn’t help the matter. Three hits and you’re dead…so players must stay on their toes and watch the spider-sense very closely.
Since I played this on the PS3 and had access to a full Playstation Move setup, I feel obligated to comment on the Move functionality in game. The Move gives the player the ability to point and aim the web-zip maneuver, that’s it. The web zip is one of the more important moves in the game, but everything else is mapped to the regular buttons. Oh and the Move setup also makes the camera really hard to control. I cannot recommend the Move controller for The Amazing Spider-man.
With all of that said, I still enjoyed the game and most of my complaints are due to disappointments stemming from expectations built from experiences in other games. Spider-man game veterans may have trouble adapting or may even dislike the changes made to several elements, but new players, which I’m sure there will be plenty of, will probably drop right in with no problems. The load times are a killer, and the pervasive use of quicktime events may turn hard core gamers off, but the epic boss battles and striking visuals maybe enough to distract you from any complaints you may have. The Amazing Spider-man could very well be the best looking Spider-man game ever made, but its definitely not best game in the series.
Verdict – A totally competent piece of supplemental material for a really good Spider-man movie.