The Amazing Spider-Man Ultimate Edition
Genre: 3-D Action/Sandbox
Release Date: 03/05/2013
I have to admit, it really does seem like Marvel is doing its best to destroy their Spider-Man franchise. First we had the “One More Day” fiasco where Spider-Man sold his marriage to the devil to save Aunt May’s life. However we did get two pretty good series as a result – Venom and Scarlet Spider. Now we have the “Superior Spider-Man” where Peter Parker has died and Doctor Octopus is wearing his flesh. Pretty creepy and well deserving of some ire, but it led me to pick up Spider-Man comics for the first time since “One More Day” as I was curious how things would unfold. So even though Marvel’s actions have been pissing off a lot of Spider-Man fans, it’s also intriguing others.
That said, Marvel’s not the only one taking risks with Spider-Man. Sony made the movie, The Amazing Spider-Man simply to keep the rights of the character film-wise. I found the movie to be pretty terrible. In fact it was not only one of the worst super hero movies I’ve ever seen, but neither my wife or I could finish the film – it was that bad, and we’ve made it through a lot of B-Movies. Then of course there are the Spider-Man video games. Looking through our archives the last Spider-Man video game our staff conclusively gave a thumb’s up to was Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, which Mark, Joel and I all put in our “Top Ten Games of 2007″ list back in the day. Sure he’s appeared in other video games like Marvel Pinball, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 and Avengers: Battle For Earth, but when you put the wall-crawler in a game on his own, they tend to be buggy convoluted messes. Edge of Time? A below average mess. Shattered Dimensions? Both the 360 and PS3 versions received reviews from Mark and myself that summed the game up as fun, in spite of its many flaws. So when I realized I was going to have to review The Amazing Spider-Man Ultimate Edition which is a licensed movie game and was made by Beenox, I was understandably pessimistic. Still, our own Michael O’Reilly reviewed the PS3 version of the game last year and was pretty positive towards it, so perhaps the Wii U version would garner the same reaction from me.
Well, it didn’t. The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition wasn’t the worst game I’ve ever played, but I can honestly say it’s not very good either and that once again, Activision really needs to hand the reigns of the Spider-Man license off to a different dev team.
Let’s start with the story, which is pretty much a middle finger to the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” line that ASM is known for. Indeed, this Spider-Man is sure to give Mark an aneurysm, so it’s a good thing I’M reviewing this. The tale of Amazing Spider-Man starts off a few weeks or months after the movie ends. Peter Parker is snuck into Oscorp with Gwen Stacey where the two discover that Alistair Smythe has taken over the research of Curt Conners and although he and Oscorp have claimed said work has been destroyed – it hasn’t. Worse yet, the strange half breed manimals have an adverse reaction to Peter’s presence (since in this movie based continuity, he’s a cross-breed himself) and somehow manage to break out of their topor and/or chains due to his being there. The creatures then run amok through Oscorp headquarters, killing or infecting people (including Gwen) left and right and eventually break out into New York City proper, letting chaos reign. Good job Spidey.
It gets stupider as Spider-Man decides the best thing to do is enlist the help of Curt Conners and make him work on antidote to the lycanthropic like infection that is now spreading around the city. Of course THIS Spider-Man doesn’t choose to secure help through police of government means and instead not only breaks Conners out of his mental institution, but practically burns the whole thing down to the ground and lets all the madmen run free in the streets like this was Washington D.C. during the Regan administration. Does Spider-Man try to recapture any of the escaped lunatics with possible homicidal tendencies or even show the slightest bit of remorse at his actions? He does not. He just takes Conners back to Stan Lee’s apartment where he becomes an accessory to identity theft and credit card fraud. Things just get more insane and convoluted from there. Suffice to say, this is not the Spider-Man many of us grew up with nor is it the Spider-Man anyone would care about. Sure he sarcastic and glib, but he’s mostly a smug dick who doesn’t take any responsibility for the atrocities his actions and lack of forethought have unleashed on the city and he really only cares about helping Gwen because hey, booty call. The Amazing Spider-Man is terribly written from beginning to end and at no point do you ever begin to care, much less like any of the players in this game.
The graphics have a lot of issues as well. Besides the extremely long loading times, you’ll notice a lot of screen tearing, slowdown, frame rate issues and occasionally even freezing up after you completed a series of fast paced web-slinging and wall running. There’s really no excuse for some of these issues and what’s worse is that you encounter them from the second the game begins. The in-game cinematics where you have no control over anything but the camera give you screen tearing from the get-go. Any time you move the camera in these scenes (or any throughout the game), the top fourth of your screen takes a few frames to catch up with the bottom three-fourth. It’s highly distracting and you have to wonder how tearing of this magnitude made it past quality control and playtesters alike. There is also a lot of flickering anytime the game gives you only camera control, so you’ll feel like there is a very slow acting strobe light somewhere in the background and it too is annoying.
It’s not just technical snafus that plague The Amazing Spider-Man. New York City, while large, is pretty nondescript looking with only a small selection of buildings that you will see repeated over and over again. The city is also missing most landmarks, making this not NYC, but some generic large location. Compared what Beenox did here to what Team Bondi did with L.A. Noire. Not only as that city four to five times as massive, but it had tons of buildings, vehicles, character designs and actual landmarks from the real life City of Angels. Compared to that, and other free roaming games from even a generation ago like Morrowind and The Amazing Spider-Man feels kind of chintzy in both detail and scope. This is highly disappointing and I think back to even PS2 Spider-Man games that offered more variety, as well as a more realistic NYC than this.
Finally on the visuals front, we have character design. I have to admit I was really unimpressed with how everyone looked in this game. Not only are the visuals noticeably of a lesser quality than the 360 and PS3 version of the game (which makes no sense as the Wii U should produce better visuals if time and care are put into the game. Just look at Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Wii U Edition) , but the original character designs for characters not in the movie are pretty awful. I’m glad they took some B-level characters like Vermin and Iganus (should have been Stegron), but they all look terrible. Even Scorpion and Rhino look like they belong in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles instead of something Spider-Man related. Then there’s also the focus on everything being “cross-breed” associated. Why not doing something more interesting? Hell, at least they could have had Kraven the Hunter come in to try and dispose of these monsters (they aren’t super villains in this game due to their origins). It would make sense and would have been far more interesting that Beenox taking every Spider-Man villain with the slightest animal connotation and making them into what we have in this game. Oh man, just THINKING about Morbius in this game makes me sigh.
The aural aspects of the game are probably a highlight of Amazing Spider-Man, but even then they’re below average, which tells you the overall quality of the game. The soundtrack is quite nice, but there’s not a lot of variety so you’ll hear the same pieces over and over again. As well, there is a strange audio dynamic going on where things are either exceptionally loud or very quiet. Case in point, the music is often very soft but then at times it gets loud enough to drone out some of the mumbling voice actors who can’t enunciate their lines to save their lives. It also doesn’t help that none of the actual actors from the movie could be bothered to voice their own digital videogame incarnations. There’s also the little chiming noise that occurs when you are near a collectible of some kind. You can barely hear the noise most of the time, so you may want to turn the music off if you’re after things like all 600 comic book pages.
Voice acting is completely phoned in, with characters muttering rather than speaking and absolutely no one reads their lines with any emotion or passion. I’ve played Saturn or PSX games with better voice acting and that includes the original Resident Evil. Combine this with the lack of any real quality to the sound effects (fighting noises, bullets, wind, etc) and you have yet another aspect of Amazing Spider-Man that is far from spectacular.
Let’s move onto the gameplay, which is generally the area where Beenox games fall apart big time. Here, they actually do a better job than with their previous Spider-Man titles, but you can tell the gameplay is designed to be a huge rip-off of Batman: Arkham Asylum from the combat to the exploration phase. Unfortunately for ASM, we not only already have a Marvel Comics based rip-off of Batman: Arkham Asylum in Captain America: Super Soldier, but that game was actually well done whereas this…is not. Seriously, just go get Cap’s game and what a surprise…it’s by Next Level Games – the last dev team to garner unanimous praise for a Spider-Man title here at Diehard GameFAN.
There are two aspects to gameplay in ASM. The first is the overworld where you are web-swinging around NYC, stopping petty crimes, taking pictures as side quests or finding collectables. The second are actual “levels” where you have a specific linear goal to accomplish and there isn’t any room for exploration. The controls are the same for both, but one lets you explore with very little combat or puzzles while the other is the inverse. As well, you have a choice of two controllers. You can either use the GamePad or the Wii U Pro Controller. I strongly recommend the GamePad, mainly because you can use the built-in screen as the map or for selecting power-ups, but because you can switch the entire game to the GamePad screen and play it like a handheld title if someone in your household wants to watch a movie or something. Definitely go this route.
The controls are simple. It’s basically Arkham Asylum except you have constant webslinging as an option instead of one time grapple gun shots. You even have an emphasis on stealth and sneaky attacks that almost unfold exactly like the ones Rocksteady animated in THEIR game. In ASM though, they are webbed up instead of trussed up. There’s not even an attempt to disguise the game as anything but a bad AA rip-off similar to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow makes no bones about being a God of War clone.
Combat is basically button mashing. You hit the Y button for all your attacks. As you get a combo going you’ll be able to unleash special attacks. Again, this is exactly like Arkham Asylum. There’s Jump button, a webshot (batarang) button and an all purpose Spider-Sense based dodge button. You can just spam attack and dodge without any rhyme, reason or skill and you’ll make it through the majority of the game unscathed. There are some enemies that can get a lock on you, so you’ll need to make use of the Web Retreat and Web Rush options. Web Retreat is a speedy retreat where Spider-Man runs away and hides in the shadows where he can’t be seen even though he’s in bright red and blue. Whatever. Web Rush is a catch all collection of quick based actions ranging from a slingshot attack to a high speed launching yourself at a wall, through laser grids or some object to interact with it. In the overworld, you can use it to slow down and see if there are any collectables around in mid-jump or mid-swing. What’s here is pretty simple and for the most, part the controls work fine, although there were several times I noticed lag between command input and their actual occurrence on screen – especially with Web Retreat.
After combat you earn XP based on how you did and can use that to unlock new abilities for Spider. There’s only a fraction of what we’ve seen in other Spider-Man games (or Arkham Asylum) and you also have to collect a separate type of experience known as tech points to power-up your webs. Two kinds of experience always reminds me of the infamous localization decision for Lunar: Eternal Blue for the Sega-CD and it’s similarly annoying here.
Most of the game is exceptionally easy. Battles, including boss fights, are cake walks that involve dodging and button mashing with little to challenge you. This is true regardless of difficulty setting. You’ll find it much harder to scour over every nook and cranny of a level for all the collectables. Of course, if you miss any, you can always go back, but that means playing THE ENTIRE LEVEL OVER, whereas most sandbox games let you just go back to that location. Unfortunately ASM is designed that well, so if you miss something and you are a completionist, get ready to do and see a lot of the same, long boring and far too easy levels over and over again looking for items. So I suggest perhaps an item guide of some sort to help you out if you care that much about the game.
So what we’ve seen is that The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition is not a very good game. It’s poorly written, the visuals leave a lot to be desired, the aural aspects could have been a lot better and most of the game play is taken directly from Rocksteady’s Batman games but aren’t as tight or immersive. The game’s also easy and dull to where playing two hours will feel more like eight or ten. So what does ASM: UE have to offer? It has to have something, right? Well, if you like collectibles ,there are tons of them. There are six hundred comic book pages to collect. Collect enough and you unlock full issues of the old Spider-Man coming book going back to the early 1960s. Unfortunately, the comics are a pain to read in the format they are included and you will more than likely just flip through them. As you play through the game you’ll also unlock character bios (called “figurines for some reason), concept art and a few other things. All in all though there’s not a lot of bonus material in-game and what’s here is either lackluster or implemented poorly. Even in the sandbox options, there are a very limited number of crimes or photos to take and they are all highly generic and feel it. You’ll do a few of them and find yourself wondering why because they all blur together. They’re just not fun- much like the rest of The Amazing Spider-Man in a nutshell.
Now the Ultimate Edition of this game does come with four pieces of DLC (and two costumes) that weren’t in the original PS3 or 360 version of the game unless you paid extra for them. It’s nice to have them here as “freebies,” but then none of the DLC is really all that interesting and none of it is played “in-game.” Instead it’s all mini-games that have no affect on your core experience. In one, you’re playing as Stan Lee, swinging around looking for script pages similar to Spidey looking for comic book pages. Another has you playing as the Rhino trying to destroy as much as you can within thirty seconds (a non timed variant is available too). The Oscorp challenges are rip-offs of Space Invaders and Snake and the fourth has you play as the Lizard in what is basically a re-skin of the Rhino content. None of the now on-disc DLC is very good in the first place and it certainly isn’t a draw to make the overall ASM experience any better. If anything, this “Ultimate Edition” highlights not only how NOT to do DLC but also shows that Beenox did all of these for a cheap cash grab rather than adding anything that actually contributed to the ASM game itself. It’s downright shameful to be honest.
So in the end, there really isn’t anything positive to say about The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition. The story is terrible, the game look terrible at times, the auditory aspects as phoned in or just plain wonky and the game plays like a third rate Arkham Asylum. It’s exceptionally easy and I was bored thoroughly as I played through this buggy and highly repetitive experience. The big question is WHY someone would buy a crappy Arkham style game knock -off when they can just purchase Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition for the Wii U. If you really want a game for your WII U with Spider-Man in it, there’s Avengers: Battle for Earth which is actually quite outside the box and fun and if you truly need to have an Arkham style game with Marvel characters, Captain America is a far superior game in all respects. There’s honestly no reason to pick this turkey up unless you will purchase anything and everything with a Spider-Man branding on it.
Short Attention Span Summary
The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition is far from either of those adjectives or even Spectacular or Superior if we want to throw out all the most used descriptors for Webhead. What you’re actually getting is a third rate Arkham Asylum/City ripoff that should only be experienced by the most devout Spider-Man fanboys. The story is terrible and nonsensical at times, The visuals has regular screen tearing, frame rate issues and slowdown and the game is laughably easy regardless of difficulty setting. The Wii U version packs in all the DLC onto the disc, but considering said DLC ranges from Space Invaders rip-offs to thirty second button mashing contests, one has to wonder why any of that DLC was made in the first place save to separate fools from their money. The bottom line is that The Amazing Spider-Man is more turkey than arachnid and I wouldn’t even recommend renting this.