One would not expect a game based on a movie to be the standard by which all other games in a franchise would be judged, but there have been exceptions. Rare’s Goldeneye is still THE Bond game. And Spider-Man 2, based on the movie of the same title, is still the Spider-Man game that all others must be compared to. The first open world Spidey game, Spider-Man 2 had you living the life of our costumed vigilante as never before. The long steel canyons of Manhattan Island became your playground as you raced to defeat goons, rescued lost balloons, and climbed to the tops of many of New York’s famous landmarks, all while using a web swinging mechanic that has been viewed as the best of all time ever since. The mini games might have gotten old the longer you played it, but knowing that at any time you could boot up your system and go swinging and be in total control is a feeling that would be a hard one to eclipse.
Unlike most movie games, the story here doesn’t tell the tale of what happens during the movie. Instead The Amazing Spider-Man gives you a completely new adventure that takes place a few weeks after the events of the movie. Because of this, there are some movie spoilers which you may want to avoid if you even care about the new movie. Anyway, whatever, here be spoilers. After having put Doctor Connors away in a mental institution following the end of the movie, Peter Parker visits Oscorp late one night to investigate Gwen Stacey’s belief that the experiments which created the Lizard and Spider-Man are still ongoing. She is proven correct and an incident occurs which releases these mutants into the general population. Anyone who touches these are infected themselves, and Parker decides that only Connors can help, so he busts him out of the mental hospital. Of course that doesn’t go terribly well either, so a bunch of crazies escape. Spider-Man is now an outlaw and must work to save his good name while at the same time protect Manhattan from the robots Oscorp’s new president Allistar Smythe unleashes on the city in order to kill the mutants, and from the mutants themselves. There, got all that? Good. Because that’s as far as I take that bus.
The game is actually quite well written, and Spidey’s trademark humor shines through in all his interactions with opponents big and small. I’ll say it, the game is genuinely funny at times. The plot could easily fill a few issues of the comic books, and I’d say they would fit right in.
During the loading screens the game gives you a Twitter-like feed that explains how the citizens of New York are feeling. I laughed at a lot of them, but after you play for a little while you realize there aren’t going to be any more of them. I wasn’t exactly expecting hundreds, but something more than 30 would have been cool.
The music here is more subtle than in some other games. You’re not wearing headphones as you web swing so you aren’t going to be flipping through the channels until you find the right music to pummel bad guys with. It is there, though. When things get dramatic so does the music.
Sound effects are a little disappointing. Swinging through the air you can get up to some pretty high speeds, but you wouldn’t know it from the way it sounds. Guns sound fairly weak, and even your punches lack any of the impact you might expect to hear from a superhero game.
The voice work is excellent. Spider-Man/Peter Parker, Dr Connors, Gwen Stacey, and even Allistar Smythe are able to deliver terrific voice acting, and it helps the story immensely.
The Amazing Spider-Man looks pretty slick at first. The game flows well, the character himself looks quite good. But then you start to really get into the game and you start to see some flaws. The city feels like it is made up of about 10 different buildings, all thrown across the city. Landmarks which have existed in past Spider-Man games don’t make appearances here for some reason. The Empire State Building, even though it was actually just outside your hideout window, was not quite as regal or big as it could have been. It just seemed smaller than it should have. Maybe it was due to the massive Oscorp building dwarfing it, I can’t say. And why is there no reference to any of the other superheros in the Marvel universe? New York is positively infested with superheroes in Marvel’s universe, but not here? Fine, you can’t have Ironman show up. But Stark Tower? Four Freedoms Tower? Manhattan here feels really generic.
The motions and actions of Spider-Man feel as though they had Spidey himself come in and don a motion capture suit to do the stunts. I don’t know how much of it was animated and how much was someone jumping around in a mocap suit, but the mixture is exactly right.
Lastly, the loading times here are atrocious. The game takes place indoors and out, and the game has to load every time you switch between the two. So you get the mission at your lair, then load the open world, then if it’s an indoor mission you have to enter the building and load that, then you exit the building upon completing the mission and webswing back to your lair in order to do the next mission. It all feels about as long as that sentence just did. Even some of the events in the open world force you to endure loading times.
So now to the crux of the matter. How did Beenox do with their version of an open world Spider-Man? Is the web swinging as good as Spider-Man 2? Well that depends. You don’t have nearly as much control as you did in the old game. You don’t spend upgrade points on your web swinging to increase how fast you can go. You don’t even have to be near a tall building to swing, you can fire your web into the air and hit the SHIELD heli-carrier or whatever you choose to make up in order to continue believing that a Spider can’t fly. This was apparently done because a focus group liked it. I don’t know. There are certainly times during the story where you will be thankful you don’t have to hit a building to keep web swinging, but it takes away from the enjoyment for a guy like myself.
Despite that, though, the game does start to grow on you the more you play. You discover that you can climb if you swing one way, or go faster if you move another. The game even includes a method of flinging yourself around like Thor. It’s called Web Rush mode, and you are essentially firing a web outwards and then as it hits something, tugging on it to fling Spidey on the suggested pathway. If there is no way Spidey can get there without hitting something, then the character will move along until that point, then bounce off a wall or flip over something and continue on its way. I’m describing the motions terribly here, but if you were to see it in motion you would understand. Imagine that Spider-Man was the original Parkour artist (Just call him Peter Parkour) and you might come close to what I’m trying to say. Web Rush is a definite alternative to web swinging if you are starting to feel a little seasick from all the up and down.
Another thing you don’t have to do here is learn new combos. You do unlock new skills as you level up, but compared to the move sets that could be unlocked in previous games this one is a breeze. You can also research new technology for your suit by gathering tech from destroyed Oscorp robots and by investigating different Oscorp labs located around the city.
The PS3 version of the game also includes the ability for you to use the Move controls. I was eager to see what the game would be like using them. Sadly I could not bring myself to keep playing using that method. It just felt too jumpy, too jittery. I don’t really know what they could do to improve the controls, to be honest, I think it’s just a limitation of the hardware. It’s not really designed with games like Spider-Man in mind. Thankfully the Dual Shock controls work quite well.
An open world game is expected to have certain things to keep the fun going once the story is finished. GTA San Andreas was the king of this, of course, with its police missions and fire missions and ambulance missions and…you get the point. Other titles have had their own takes on these side missions, like Saints Row and inFamous, to differing levels of success. Still other games don’t really need side missions because their primary gameplay mechanic IS the sandbox. Games like The Saboteur or Just Cause 2, where blowing stuff up was the game and was the only reason for the game.
The Amazing Spider-Man does offer up some distractions, but it is certainly no San Andreas. Among those offerings are rescuing crime victims from muggings or robberies taking place around the city. You can also assist the police in ending particularly violent sieges. There are also a number of high speed car chases going on around the city that Spidey needs to assist the police with to ensure nobody is hurt. Then there are the infected civilians who are in need of transport to the hospital or the escaped mental patients who need to be returned to police custody. Lastly, there are around 700 pages of comic books which can be collected all across the city to unlock actual comic books which can be read.
The comic book pages are interesting. 700 seems like a lot, and I’m not going to disagree with you, but it’s not done like fetch quests have been done in the past. You must collect however many there are in one comic book, and then once that’s done the city gets a new dose of comic book pages. They are almost always placed in roughly the same areas, and by using Web Rush you can easily scan the area and fire off a web to snatch the page. There are even pages that are magically flying around the city that must be acquired by using Web Rush to grab them.
One mode of adding length to the game that bears mentioning is the photo mode. Basically you take photos of different things across the city for a news reporter you run into mid game. If you succeed in taking a good photo, the reporter will give you some information on how to defeat them. I like the idea of this more than the execution. There is no real mention of Peter taking photos for the Daily Bugle here, so all it winds up being is Spider-Man walking up to different locations and taking photos. And while Peter isn’t being paid to do this, he demands excellence in his photo composition, so if you are even slightly away from the optimal shot he will tell himself that it’s not good enough. I would have liked it better if there had been a grading system or something, so that a bad photo would get very little information while an excellent photo would tell you everything you need to know.
And finally there are the Xtreme Racing and Xtreme Video challenges. Honestly these are pretty easy. Xtreme Racing is just Web Rushing from flag to flag, and Xtreme Video just requires you to keep the camera focused on Spider-Man as he flies about the screen. The only reason to play them other than the trophies that come with completion is to listen to Bruce Campbell earn some cash for appearing in another Spider-Man game, and even then he isn’t exactly given a lot to work with here.
In truth the only difficulty you’ll have in this game if you play it on normal difficulty is the boss fights. There are three in particular that are right up there when it comes to frustration levels, but the rest of the game feels as though it just breezes by.
Much of the combat is inspired by Batman Arkham Asylum’s Predator Challenges. You can enter a room and wall crawl your way to a handy location, then take out opponents by dropping down and cocooning them in webbing then zipping them back up to a handy light pole. These stealth kills are totally the way to go, but if you happen to stumble into a fight you again fight multiple opponents in a manner that would feel very familiar to Batman fans – if Batman had web shooters, of course. You build up combos by landing hits on opponents which enable you to take out enemies who are dazed. Taking damage loses your combo string, and you can upgrade just how fast you can use your combo to finish off your opponent.
While the combat is inspired by Batman, the rest of the game feels like it was inspired by one of Activision’s other titles. Specifically it feels like the game evolved from Prototype. Almost as though Prototype was the prototype for the this one. You are on the island of Manhattan. You have super powers. An outbreak occurs that changes people into mutants. You have to fight those mutants and military types. Of course, as Spider-Man you’re not going around massacring civilians and consuming them for health. I guess that would be a Venom DLC pack?
The story is good enough to keep your attention for its entirety, but the side missions are not as good as I would have liked and so the game itself is not as addicting as it could be. I suspect someone decided that making a game with a good story was better than making a game with a boring story and lots of mini games in order to ship on time for the movie release. I don’t disagree with this decision, but the game is an open world and when the mini games only last for a few days you might say I’m going to be disappointed.
This would be the prime example of a game that deserves to be a rental. The campaign isn’t overly long and the open world is fun while it lasts, but the chances of you playing this game in September are pretty slim.
I love it when Spider-Man is self deprecating. In the original movie Aunt May chastises Peter because he’s not Superman, and Parker gets all bashful and kind of smiles at the audience. The same thing happens a few times during the game here, only not so obviously. At one point you are chasing a mutated rat through a sewer, and Spidey makes a joke about bringing pizza to four adopted turtles. It’s a cute joke on its own. But then you do research for a review, like I did. And you find out that the voice actor for Spider-Man is a gentleman by the name of Sam Riegel, who also happened to work on the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, and the joke gets even better.
One final point. The developers have decided that allowing players to climb to the very top of the Empire State Building and then diving off to the pavement below is to be frowned upon. You can jump, but Spidey always manages to avoid a deadly impact. I don’t care about this, but I know people who do, Batman fans typically. But anyway, there you go. Don’t play this if you want to smush Spidey like a bug.
Control and Gameplay: Very Good
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Above Average
FINAL SCORE: Enjoyable
Short Attention Span Summary:
I was really hoping this game would be good enough to earn our Amazing score. Alas that’s not to be. The Enjoyable Spider-Man it is.