The Amazing Spider-Man|
Activision has enjoyed an incredibly successful run of Spider-Man video game titles since it first acquired the Marvel license in 2000. From the original Neversoft and Vicarious Visions releases on the first-generation PlayStation, through the two Treyarch open-world PlayStation 2 titles that accompanied the Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 films, and onto the current-generation PS3 titles, especially Spider-Man 3 – Activision’s string has been amazing. That’s not to say there has not been a few stumbles along the way (case in point: Edge of Time), but in general, Activision has seen to it that their developers consistently deliver quality experiences with the Spider-Man license, and the franchise is widely considered one of the best in the superhero gaming franchise.
But there is competition – most notably Rocksteady’s’ Batman: Arkham Asylum (2010) and Arkham City (2012) titles. The Arkham games borrowed heavily from the free-roaming Spider-Man titles, but were able to capitalize on the dark and seedy world of the Batman comic books and delivered a stealthy and strategic gaming experience worthy of DC’s trademark caped crusader. The Amazing Spider-Man returns the favor by adopting some of the features unique to the Arkham games, throwing a little God of War into the mix, and in turn delivering one of the best Spider-Man games to ever grace a console.
The Amazing Spider-Man follows the events of the current cinematic release (starring Andrew Garfield as Parker) – and by the word “following the events,” I mean that it is set immediately after the end of the film. That being said, folks who do not like spoilers will want to see the film first as some secrets are uncovered within the first few cutscenes. They may want to skip the next paragraph too.
The game finds Peter touring the Oscorp building following the incarceration of the gene-splicing mad Dr. Connors (the Lizard). While Connor may be locked up in a cell, the Oscorp scientists have been continuing Connors work and have amassed a menagerie of cross-bred creatures. One such creature escapes, infecting those in its wake (including Pete’s love interest, Ms. Gwen Stacey). Parker quickly dons the updated Spider-Man suit and sets out to enlist the help of Connor to develop a vaccine.
The game returns to the open-world design of the three prior movie-based titles. Gamers once again are free to explore the entirety of Spidey’s Manhattan setting – north to south, east to west, top to bottom (and even below the streets). It is amazing how fun it was to return to the Big Apple and sling and swing between the massive skyscrapers, revisiting familiar sights from the previous games. It might not be a perfect rendition of NYC, but they do a pretty good job delivering a authentic experience.
Spider-Man has a couple of new gameplay mechanics this time around that really help to bolster the strategic aspects of the game; most notably the Web Retreat, Web Rush, and Web Strike moves. Web Strikes are (ironically) copped directly from the Arkham games, and both succeed in taking what was once essentially a button-mashing beat-em-up and transform it into an exercise in stealth control.
Web Retreat is a defensive move that sounds exactly as its name implies – at any time, with a quick flick of a shoulder button, Spidey will immediately shoot a web to the closest unseen area in the level, and rocket there to get a breather, regain health, and/or generally just give gamers a moment to assess the situation and devise a plan of attack. Feel overwhelmed? Web retreat! Don’t know where to hit the boss next? Web retreat! It’s a quick and dirty way to keep from being obliterated, and you will need to use it, because this isn’t your run of the mill brawler.
Web Rush is a lot like the famed bullet time – first made famous by the Matrix movies, later by the Max Payne video games – and is a variation on the Spider Sense. Basically, once triggered with the shoulder button, Web Rush will slow the action down to a crawl. The gamer can then scan each environment, in which a series of golden silhouettes will appear – possibly climbing up the side of a distant wall, perching upon a light post, or standing on the top of a building. The gamer simply selects an appropriate silhouette, and upon releasing he button Spider-Man will move to the new location with a film-quality cutscene. Web Rush definitely adds a cinematic authenticity to the game, all while making navigation to specific locations a piece of cake.
Web Strike is similar to Web Rush, except that instead of selecting a specific location in which to move, the gamer is selecting a specific enemy in which to attack. The most enjoyable aspect of Web Strike is that upon releasing the appropriate shoulder button, gamers are afforded the option to either use a simple attack or enter a button combo relating to special attack. Considering that The Amazing Spider-Man rewards gamers with experience points for using different attack combos, it adds a new dimension to the gameplay.
The Amazing Spider-Man offers only 13 story missions, although the game can easily lead to dozens of hours of gameplay depending on how many side missions and collectibles the gamer wishes to hunt out. True, the side missions can be a bit tedious at times, but fans of collect-a-thon games will enjoy the plethora of comic book pages and photo ops scattered throughout the Big Apple.
Bookending the main storyline segments, The Amazing Spider-Man features a series of epic boss battles that come straight from the storyboards of the God of War series. Each of these enormous bosses easily eat ten to twenty minutes of gameplay to defeat, generally though the use of button-based quick-time attacks, relying heavily on the three new Web mechanics mentioned earlier. Thankfully, the game allows for mid-boss battle checkpoints, so dying three-quarters through a boss sequence does not require a complete restart.
While the PS3 version of the game supports the Sony Move system, it is not the most appealing use of the motion-based controllers. I will have to admit I was expecting to be waving my hands up to recreate the swinging motions, but instead the controllers were little more than point-and-click mouse replacements. The fact that on my 37” gaming television the targeting locations were too closely spaced for any real precision – I found myself quickly falling back to the standard SIXAXIS controller.
Visually, the game is not as impressive as I would have hoped. Whereas the earlier games wowed me with their versions of NYC, The Amazing Spider-Man elicited more of a “been-there-done-that” sort of feeling. In fact, it is as if Beenox simply re-used the same models from the previous games without even updating them to today’s standards. The vistas were rife with jaggies and broken surfaces, and the pop-up was reminiscent of the early PS2 days.
On a more pleasant note, while none of the film’s actors actually voiced any of the characters in the game – the actors that did sign up performed superbly. I’ll admit that the game featured a few too many cutscenes for my taste, but the fact that the cutscenes were so well-acted made them worth watching.
The Amazing Spider-Man takes the best aspects of the Batman: Arkham games and plops them in the middle of the high-wire trapeze act that has made the franchise so successful. I had a blast playing The Amazing Spider-Man and still look forward to more fun ahead.