Review: The Amazing Spider-Man
There’s just something special about superhero games, something that meant that I was excited about the newest in a series of games that I’d long ago burnt out on. I’ve always been a fan of Spider-Man, having faithfully played each of the previous games as they came out. But then, as time marched on and endless games plastered his name on them, I began to enjoy them less. Over time I stopped playing entirely, discouraged by the endless procession of mediocre games.
Yet despite all that, when I slotted The Amazing Spider-Man into the tray – the disc, not the person – there was an excited buzz. As luck would have it I’d been to see the film the night before and the enjoyment I took from that coloured my expectations for the game. I expected a colourful game full of wisecracks, one liners and topped off with a damn good villain.
I was pleasantly surprised by what I got.
The Amazing Spider-Man (the game) serves as a continuation of the story seen in The Amazing Spider-Man (the film) rather than a rehash of the story, so if you’ve yet to watch the film, then both the game and the next few paragraphs will be bristling with spoilers. You have been warned.
The story picks up a few months after the events of the film with Oscorp desperately trying to restore their tattered reputation. Dr Curt Connors’ fall from grace left Oscorp floundering, and they brought in Dr Alastaire Smythe to stem the rot. Smythe redirects the company’s focus away from the genetic experiments that spawned the Lizard, instead focusing on his own area of expertise – robotics. However, the legacy of Connors’ work remains in the form of several cross-species creations. Smythe plans to ‘dispose’ of these, but before he can they escape infecting many of Oscorp’s employees with their infectious strains of beast DNA. One of the infected is Spidey’s love interest, Gwen, whom he has to try to save. To this end he breaks out his old mentor and nemesis – Curt Connors, the Lizard.
As Connors works to create a cure for the virus that turns men into beasts, it’s up to Spider-Man to keep the citizens of Manhattan safe and uninfected. To add to his problems, he also has to contend with Smythe, who intends to save the city in his own way – with robotics. A lifelong rival of Connors, he sees Connors’ breakout as a challenge, and refuses to take any assistance from either Connors or our masked hero. In fact, he actively tries to interfere with their work, targeting both Spider-Man and Connors. Spider-Man has a real challenge to keep the citizens of New York safe while he keeps himself alive.
This would normally be the point in the review where I rubbish the writing of the hastily written film tie-in, but I have to admit that I’m very impressed. The writing is generally excellent and it manages to effectively keep the roguish charm of the film, despite a plotline that is perhaps a little lacklustre. Spider-Man keeps his newfound charm over the more melancholy tone of the last few games, While Curt Connors is wonderfully tormented. Smythe is perhaps the weakest element, but he is still a solid overarching villain. Appropriately though, Spider-Man keeps the spotlight throughout, and his chirps and wisecracks throughout keep the action, that can seem repetitive, nice and fresh. The game even takes a few potshots at some other familiar franchises, with Spidey’s quip of “No batmen out there doc, that would be ridiculous” a personal favourite.
The Amazing Spider-Man has been heavily compared to Rocksteady’s Batman games, a comparison that is not unfair. However, it is not, as I’ve heard some suggest, “Batman reskinned into the Marvel universe”. Although it does borrow several elements from the Batman games, it retains an identity of its own. The combat is instantly recognisable, making use of some standard elements. There is an attack button, a dodge button and a jump button. Also, because you are Spider-Man after all, there is also a webslinging button. Similar to the Batman method, every hit you land ups the multiplier, the higher it goes, the more impressive attacks Spidey can pull off. Getting hit flatlines it, but thankfully you have spidey-senses that flare whenever there is an attack incoming, giving you time to dodge and keep that multiplier. Sound familiar? Although the mechanic is lifted from Batman, it’s been executed very well, and although it lacks the same meaty impact that I was expecting, it delivers some very satisfying finishers that make great use of Spider-Man’s flexibility and web shooters. Somehow they’ve given a familiar mechanic a bit of freshness and fun.
Much the same could be said of the other mechanic they’ve been accused of appropriating, the stealth takedown segments of the game, and while the two are certainly similar, Spider-Man lends it new life. No longer limited to perching atop slightly out-of-place gargoyles, you can roam the shadows and take out isolated enemies. The fact that you’re playing as Spider-Man is what adds that extra flexibility, as you can roam almost any surface, and your escape routes are not limited to overhangs or said gargoyles. Despite the fact that it was essentially lifted from Batman, it’s been really well implemented and fits the game brilliantly.
One of the most impressive elements of the game was the webrush mode, where Spidey concentrates real hard on zipping to various locations. He concentrates so hard in fact, that it slows down time, and the game takes on a first person perspective to give you a glimpse of what Spider-Man sees through those compound eyes of his. Webrush mode is a great addition to the game, as it makes pretty much every part of the game better. Sneaking, combat and the free-roam are all vastly improved by the way it’s implemented.
The free roam itself is pretty impressive, sending Spider-Man swinging through a beautiful rendition of Manhattan. It’s fluid, open and it feels genuinely free. There’s no set way to traverse the city, though doing it by foot could take a bit long. The map is also sprinkled with mini-quests, mostly with the aim to save the citizens of Manhattan. The execution differs between quests, ranging from simply beating up some bad guys to transporting infected to the city. The web swinging is slick, but a little confusing. Webs seem to attach to thin air, but despite that the sensation of speed and action is brilliant, and interspersed with fluid free running It all combines for an awesome time exploring the city.
As you do progress through the game Spider-Man becomes better and better at his job, and he levels up to reflect that. Levelling up is fairly standard, gaining experience for everything you do – defeating enemies, completing objectives and collecting collectibles. When you do level up you get an upgrade point to spend on various skills. You can also upgrade your suit in a similar way, spending Tech points that you get from defeating mechanical enemies.
The thing I was most impressed by a seemingly meaningless detail – as Spider-Man goes through his ordeals and takes damage, his suit takes damage as well. In the beginning it is only superficial damage, a cut here or a tear there, but as you go on there are massive holes torn and wounds shown beneath. It’s possibly a sad thing to be so impressed by, but it does show the depth of detail that the developers have put in.
There are a lot of other little features that are also good fun. Raiding Oscorp for example, or the Beyond Good and Evil style photo missions, which are clever changes of pace. You also get a great bit of insight into the emotions of Manhattan through a Twitter style message board that grows steadily more panicked as the infection spreads.
Yet despite all the great little details and the refreshing personality that the game manages to stamp on some familiar mechanics, there still enough problems to get in the way of enjoying the game.
Right from the get go the controls are light and infuriatingly imprecise. Small jumps morph into floaty leaps without reason, webs fire off in random directions and Spidey attacks whoever the hell he likes. There is an auto-aim function, but it tends to take aim at anyone in range rather than the person you’re actually looking at, so sometimes combat is a little frustrating.
As frustrating as it can occasionally be, it’s still pretty simple and at times frustratingly easy. There is little attempt to scale up the difficulty of the enemies, instead increasing fight difficulty by just throwing more enemies at you, and the few enemies that do pose problems generally attack in ones and twos, meaning that picking them off is a simple matter.
As for the fights that should be difficult, Boss Battles, the game should hang its head in shame. Defeating one boss is pretty much as simple as defeating the next, generally a matter of zooming in, mashing the attack button for a while, dodging their attack and moving into a scripted quicktime event. Although the QTE’s are visually impressive, every boss battle is littered with them, making them both easy to complete and not very satisfying.
As for the bosses themselves, well, they’re the thing I found most disappointing about the game. Spidey’s villains are some of the best comic book villains there are, with brilliant dialogue and generally interesting characters. Bosses like Rhino and Scorpion are series mainstays and well-loved, but the game has gagged them, making them mindless beasts. It steals a little of the magic from a game that generally holds the Spider-Man feel brilliantly.
The missions leading up to the boss battles quickly become familiar, and many of the locations quickly become samey. The levels are also littered with poor checkpointing and some very irritating platforming that you invariably have to do more than once. To makes matters worse, the platforming sections often feel completely pointless. At one point I simply walked through the bits I was supposed to avoid, with absolutely no consequences.
Not only that, but the sections are made far more irritating by the unbelievably bad camera control once you take to the walls and ceilings. Finding yourself crawling in a direction completely opposite to the one you’re pointing is annoying. It only makes it worse when you crawl into an enemy’s line of sight, or a turret that takes great glee in shooting you down.
Flaws aside though, this is one of the best superhero games you’ll come across. It throws you into the role of one of the most well-loved heroes of all time, and does it better than most. Spider-Man is witty and great fun to listen to, and though the story isn’t all that great, the game more than makes up for it, just as long as you don’t come across the same problem I did, with the game somehow managing to crash my 360.
But really, the Amazing Spider-Man is Spidey through and through, and damn fun to boot. If you love Spider-Man or the recent film and you think you can manage to ignore those little flaws then the game is more than worth a play.
Review: The Amazing Spider-Man Results
What we liked:
What we disliked:
Quicktime boss battles
Awful camera when climbing