Developer: Beenox / Publisher: Activision / Played On: PlayStation 3 / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Teen [Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence]
Spider-Man games have endured a vast and varied history. Video games based on the infamous web-slinger date as far back as the Atari and nearly every console since. As many Spidey fans are aware, all entries that followed have differed somewhat significantly in their fun factor.
For The Amazing Spider-Man movie tie-in game, developer Beenox took the mechanics of what makes a fun Spider-Man game back to the drawing board, crafting a new way to experience what it’s like to be a man who can do whatever a spider can.
Though it ultimately made a few too many safe design choices, The Amazing Spider-Man is one of the most fun and thrilling Spider-Man games in recent memory, and is certainly the best Spider-Man game Beenox has ever made.
The narrative of The Amazing Spider-Man game takes place directly after the events of the newest movie, with you in the shoes of Peter Parker, real-life alias of New York City super hero Spider-Man. The introduction to the game unfolds with Peter and girlfriend Gwen Stacy as they tour the Oscorp Laboratories after-hours, notably the company run by Alistair Smythe (of whom Stacy is the personal assistant).
The tour is cut short when the half-animal/half-human outcomes from the cross-species research labs break loose in Oscorp and eventually the city, infecting Smythe and Gwen in the process. Peter quickly dons his Spidey costume and begins a quest to save the day and stop the outbreak of infection across Manhattan. This drives him to ultimately acquire the assistance of some notable names like Dr. Curt Connors (a.k.a The Lizard) to help craft an antidote for the city.
Along the way you’ll come across a number of familiar enemies that have been “re-imagined” to follow the movie’s re-imagination of Spider-Man’s origin story – including none other than the likes of Rhino and Scorpion, who have both been victims of the cross-species tampering at Oscorp.
Given that the game is an epilogue, it should be noted that the game is perfectly fine with spoiling some of the biggest key points of the movie, including who dies (and by whose hand).
Thankfully for fans of past Spider-Man games, the story in this entry is not nearly as forgettable. Having not been tied down to the movie’s original script and given the opportunity to create an epilogue of sorts gave the game’s creators some room for creativity, and it’s a fun ride. Oh and don’t worry, Spidey still makes funny, sarcastic quips the entire time – as is tradition.
Where past Spider-Man games have placed their camera far back from Spidey, allowing the player to see his surroundings more effectively, The Amazing Spider-Man opted to bring the camera in tight, and I mean very tight. This helps to create a more “Wow, I totally feel like I’m web slinging right now” feeling to maneuvering around open-world Manhattan, instead of an “Ok, I’m controlling Spider-Man with my controller” feeling.
The city is pretty large and overall it looks great. Reflections of Spidey off of buildings and glass panes are a nice touch, and the costume is impressively designed (especially as it gets torn to bits over the narrative’s progression).
However, there are a few moments where things don’t look that great, like how billboard textures get super muddy and pixelated when approached closer than a few feet, and how sometimes city textures take more than a few moments to pop in. They’re infrequent though, and excusable given the level of fun you’ll have zipping around town.
Unfortunately, the major portion of the game takes place indoors and isn’t as much of a spectacle. No sunrise, no day/night cycle, and nothing to really explore – the indoor spidey experience merely dangles in the realm of linearity.
Lastly, there’s a notable addition that will really only matter to long-time Spidey fans: Spider-Man actively reloads his web shooters off his utility belt, just like in the original 60’s comic and the 90’s TV cartoon. I don’t want to use the phrase “more realistic” here, especially since I’m talking about a game where a teenager with spider powers whips about New York smacking bad guys around, but you get the picture.
There are two ways you’ll be playing The Amazing Spider-Man: indoors and outdoors. One of the two is exciting and enjoyable, bringing to the forefront familiar memories of great Spider-Man games gone by, while the other is simply not nearly as engrossing.
With that said, slinging around the open-world is an absolute blast. Not since Spider-Man 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man of last generation have I had this much fun web-zipping, flipping, and wall running my way around New York City. You can hear the wind blowing by you as you rocket down towards the city streets; you can hear the honking of cars and busses as you whiz by, slinging a new web just seconds short of skimming the asphalt below.
The newest feature added to the game is Web Rush, a mechanic that allows you to slow down time and see the world through Spider-Man’s eyes – ultimately allowing you to choose where to swing or what to attack. You can chain these together to get to locations quicker, or you can use it to give yourself an extra few seconds of thinking time before continuing.
It’s a fun mechanic that doesn’t necessarily replace the web-zip mechanic of games past, but feels more like a bullet-time style enhancement.
Much like other open-world games, Manhattan acts as the significantly-sized hub for you to venture around in — starting quests, side-missions, and exploring to your heart’s content (surprisingly fun in and of itself). In addition, you’ll be able to collect up to 700 comic-book pages that sit (and sometimes fly) around the streets and rooftops of the city. Collecting them is a bomb, and that’s coming from the guy who’s already collected 150 of them independently of the main story – but there’s an absurd amount of them and no way to track them on your radar, which might push many collectors to the brink of insanity.
Thankfully, the more comic pages you collect the more fully-featured, original comic books you unlock for your reading pleasure — a nice distraction for nostalgic Spider-Man veterans.
Apart from the one or two main story fights that occur outdoors, the open world unfortunately isn’t the home of the game’s driving story missions. The game instead opts to progress the story through a number of indoor missions that involve crawling and brawling your way through laboratories, underground tunnels, and a few too many sewers – all of which are hard to distinguish from one another due to their design similarity.
There’s nothing broken or inherently wrong with the indoor levels (they’re leaps and bounds better than last year’s Edge of Time), but they simply lack the energy, fun, excitement and freedom of open world Manhattan that you only get to taste between the game’s many indoor segments. You’ll spend the majority of your indoor time (and game time overall) stealthily taking down enemies, using combos and web-powers to ensure victory against those who oppose you.
As for the boss fights (just about required for every Spider-Man game), they’re straightforward and generally lack strategy. So long as you learn to dodge (a.k.a. button mash) and finish up with a couple of roundhouse kicks and punches, you’re only a minute or two away from winning each boss battle on Normal difficulty.
The game implements an upgrade system similar to Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time, in that you’ll use collected tech pieces in the game and level up acquired upgrades to give Spider-Man bonuses and moves to use in battle. While all pretty familiar, it’s notable that Beenox altered the base combat mechanics – with Spider-Man using less in the way of web-weapons in favor of an ultimately more stylish Lucha Libre fighting manner.
Ultimately, the outdoor areas are a blast mechanics-wise – it’s just a shame there’s so little to do outside of collecting and repetitively helping out civilians. That said, for all you item-collecting fanatics out there with a thirst for 100% completion in your games, this game will give you exactly what you’re after.
Though the indoor levels are far less enjoyable than the outdoor open-world and certainly far more frequent, The Amazing Spider-Man is a fun, fresh romp through Sony’s newest reboot of the Spider-Man origin story.
While the open-world levels definitely could have used a wider variety of things to do (given that they’re the most fun part of the game), and the indoor levels continually felt repetitive and nearly indistinguishable from one another, I can’t glaze over the fact that The Amazing Spider-Man brings gameplay that’s a breath of fresh air into a franchise that really, really needed it.
The Amazing Spider-Man has laid an awesome foundation of gaming mechanics through its open-world design; I just hope to see more of it embraced in future games.
Swing on true believers, and excelsior.