The past Beenox-developed Spider-Man games provided us with some new and interesting gameplay mechanics that, while nice touches, made them feel less like true Spider-Man games. One took away the open city, and the other added the ability to play as different Spider-Men from different eras. With the release of The Amazing Spider-Man, the open world has returned, and there is only one Spider-Man to play. There are also some new concepts that were added to try and make this game stand above all the others.
The Amazing Spider-Man games starts where the upcoming movie leaves off. This was a pretty big problem for me. In the opening 5 minutes, we get a spoiler of how the movie ended and we find out who lives and who dies. This would have been fine had the game came out after the movie. When I played through the beginning, I was grumbling under my breath, wondering why the epilogue hit the market before the story it wraps up. Granted, the spoilers haven’t ruined the entire movie, but they did ruin the end, which is unforgivable.
For the sake of not ruining the ending of the movie for those that will not play the game until after visiting the theatre, I will avoid spoilers. A virus outbreak is spreading in New York that is turning civilians into animal/human hybrids. Comic fans will recognize longtime Spidey hunter Alistair Smythe, who in the game has created robots that hunt down these cross-species (including Spidey). Not only does our hero have to deal with finding a cure for the virus, he has to deal with Smythe’s robots and villains the likes of Rhino, Scorpion and others whose origins have been changed to fit this game. They are now cross-species instead of wackos in costumes.
While I found the updated origins for some of the villains interesting, I found myself getting bored with the story fairly quickly. One mundane level that sticks in my mind involved chasing Vermin in the sewers. Every time I would get close to him, he would bolt, and the chase would continue. I eventually got to a part with 4 or 5 different tunnels he could have escaped through. The cool thing about this part is that Spidey makes a web that extends to all of the tunnels. By cycling through the strands and following the one that vibrates, he can track down the baddie. Of course, once you chase him from one tunnel, he runs through the others until all have been traversed. Eventually, I caught up with him, and he ran topside only to be chased into another sewer system with even more tunnels. Eventually I got to fight him. This level was exhausting, repeating the same mechanic for about half an hour.
The story tries to hold my attention, but I just stopped caring towards the end. The game is about 10 hours long, but really should have been around 5-6. Once the story has been completed, there are a ton of side quests you can complete that include stopping muggings, assisting the police with car chases, rescuing infected civvies and doing outrageous stunts for an extreme news reporter. These are your typical side quests, and while they are fun at first, they do get repetitive after doing them for a while.
The thing I liked the most is the return to open-world. I loved web-swinging anywhere I wanted to go in Spider-Man 2 and 3, and I loved it in this game, too. Speaking of web swinging, I noticed that there has been a minor change. No longer do you have to push the button over and over to swing on new webs. Now, you just have to hold the web swing button and the rest is done for you. All you have to worry about is moving the thumb stick. The downside to this is you can’t control the speed, which is one of things I loved about web swinging in past titles. But I found myself overlooking this problem as he is pretty fast nonetheless.
The combat is pretty fun and is similar to that found in the Batman games. There is an attack button, a dodge button, and a signature moves button. When you are surrounded by baddies and one is about to attack, your Spider-sense tingles and, if the dodge button is pressed in time, you will counter the attack. While this is similar to Batman, it’s not as fluid. Releasing a whooping on bad guys is easy and enjoyable, though. Just keep hitting the attack button, and Spidey will unleash punches, kicks, and even wrestling moves to those that try to bring him down.Once these guys are beaten enough, a circle-squiggle will appear above their heads which indicates that you can take them down with a signature move- once you’ve unlocked the ability.
There are a number of things to unlock, divided into two different groups. One group is for Spidey’s abilities, and the other is for his tech, like upgrading your web shooters. Earning ability XP is simple. All you have to do is beat on some enemies, get combos, rescue something or collect comic book pages that are spread throughout the world.
If you are a fan of stealth, then you will be happy to know that there are some sections designed around the mechanic. Several missions have you sticking to the shadows of the ceiling to take down bad guys. There are stealth takedowns that are available, making it easier to thin out the herd of enemies. I am not the biggest fan of stealth, but its pretty simple to do in this game. Unfortunately, it is kind of broken. On more than one occasion, I was able to do a stealth takedown while another enemy was looking directly at my victim. This caused some problems, as once I eliminated the enemy I was stalking, the other one obviously saw me and preceded to shoot me. Spidey can’t dodge bullets in this game, but there is a web retreat that can be performed if he gets bombarded by enemies or bullets. This allows him to make a hasty escape, and confusing the enemies in the process.
Another new gameplay element that was added to help in combat or just swinging around the town is web rush. When this is activated, time slows down to allow you to find objects that can help you defeat a group of enemies or get to a location that needs to be traversed to quickly. Yellow icons appear if you can use web rush. These show exactly where and in what position Spider-Man will land. You can also tap the web rush button get to the locations without slowing down time. I really liked the addition of web this tool, because it let me get to places a lot faster than normal web swinging.
In all, The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t a bad game, but it’s not great either. The story is forgettable, the camera can be a pain when you are on a wall or ceiling, the stealth is broken and the side quests get repetitive. Despite those flaws, the game can be fun. The combat is simple and works pretty well, the upgrade system is good and web rush is a blast to use. The voice acting is good, considering no one from the movie lends their voices, and Spider-Man has a good amount of quips (although most are repeated over-and over) that gave me a chuckle. If you are a fan of Spider-Man, the game is worth picking up, but if you aren’t, you might want to wait until the price drops. If you are planning on picking this game up, see the movie before purchasing it so you can avoid the spoilers. You have been warned.
Review copy provided by publisher. Primary play on PlayStation 3.