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Game Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

The history of games based off of comic books has been a bumpy one. They’ve had their ups and downs. We’ve laughed with them and we’ve cried because of how god awful they were. In a long list of games based off comics only a handful have ever been not only good, but great and successfully captured what it’s like to be that character. It’s a challenge to get that right, and we all know there have been many many tries to capture the essence of our favorite heroes. But then comes the real challenge of having to make a game based on a movie based on said characters. Then it just becomes a juggling act. Not only do the developers have to bring over what worked in the film into the game, but they also have to bring aspects over from the comics as well. And for the most part they end up failing big time. Though every now and then they’ll get something right that leaves us with a glimmer of hope for the future.

When the Spider-Man 2 game came out, everyone, and I do mean everyone, was surprised by how well they captured what it was like to swing around Manhattan as Spider-Man. It was one thing when we were kids running around the house pretending to be shooting webs and swinging, but to actually play a game that gave you the freedom to move around like Spider-Man was one of the greatest things to ever be done in video game history. You ask anyone that played this game and they will tell you about the hours they spent just swinging around and having a blast. Even to this day that game still holds up. Sure it had a ton of flaws to it and it was extremely repetitive, but who cared?! You could swing around Manhattan and do crazy flips in the air!

So when Sony decided to reboot the Spider-Man films it came as no surprise that an Amazing Spider-Man game would be developed. But then came the news that developer Beenox would be responsible for it. They already had two Spider-Man games under their belt. Sure only one of them was good, but surely they’ve spent enough time with the character to finally give us the penultimate Spider-Man game that we’ve been waiting for. Something that would makes us play in awe like Spider-Man 2 did when it came out. I’m sorry to say however that Beenox did not deliver.

Hmm I feel like there’s something important I should be doing, like saving people. Nah I’ll just sit here and look cool.

Beenox had a much larger development time than most movie tie-in games ever get. Also they were tied down to trying to stretch out the film’s narrative into a 12 hour game. Instead they set the story to take place after the film to give them more creative freedom. Unfortunately none of these factors helped the game and in the end it just wasn’t “Amazing”. And that makes me a sad panda.

As I said the story takes place after the events in the film. Everyone’s favorite nerd/hero decides to visit Gwen Stacy at Oscorps during it’s restructuring, trying to save face after the whole Lizard fiasco, but sure enough you find out that Oscorps was still experimenting with cross species and through a series of unfortunate events the experiments get loose and start infecting New York forcing our hero to take action. Now let me mention one thing that really infuriated me. Remember those interviews where the developers stressed that since this was an epilogue of sorts it would in no way spoil the movie. Well guess what, it still spoils to movie. So if you plan on playing this even after this review, make sure you see the movie first. I almost broke my TV in half because of this. And it was only 15 minutes into the game. But I digress. The story for the most part was okay. Not great, but not bad either. However it feels like it was written just so they could use the villains that were in the game. And of course since it was sticking with the cross species theme their rogues gallery was rather limited. While the first 2/3 of the story are fairly dull it’s the last 1/3 that goes all out and makes me wish that it had been that way throughout the game. This is suppose to be a city on the verge of collapse and yet for the most part you never get the feeling that the city is in real danger.

Most of this has to do with the face that for a city with millions of people, it’s really bare. In case you’ve never been to Manhattan you should know that at any given moment there are a lot of people out and about. In here though the city just doesn’t have any life to it. New York traffic is non-existent in this game. I don’t know if it was due to the limits of the engine or just laziness on Beenox’s part, but if I’m swing around Manhattan I should feel like I’m in Manhattan.

Helloooooooooo Nurse!

But surely the gameplay must be awesome? They’ve been working on Spider-Man games for the past 5 years. Surely they nailed what it’s like to be Spider-Man! Well yes and no. This is were they both dropped the ball and made a step in the right direction. Combat in this game is finally what we’ve wanted out of  a Spider-Man game.Here they went with a free flow combat system (I wonder where they got that idea from?) and for the most part it’s works well and is fun. BUT there are a few things that could still use some tweaking. For starters the camera too close up on Spider-Man. Not really close, but close enough to where I can’t see all the enemies surrounding me. Take Batman Arkham City for example (and yes I will be making comparisons). During combat in that game, the camera was pulled back allowing you to see your surroundings and plan out how you were going to take down everybody. Here though you’ll find plenty of time where enemies are of screen and will be attacking you either up close or from a distance but you won’t know it until they end up hitting you. Granted you have “spider-sense” and can counter attacks much like in Arkham City, but it doesn’t help unless you can plan out your next move. Another minor complaint about the combat was that it was a tad sluggish. Spider-Man has superhuman agility and when moving from enemy to enemy should be doing so with lightning speed (or however fast spiders react). There come points when the combat becomes repetitive and feels more like a chore than something that you want to do.

There a varying enemy type, from regular thugs and armed guards to half mutated citizens and robots. Each type does require a different tactic, for example blockers require you to jump over them and attack from behind. Some enemies can only be taken out with a special move that is only active once you build up your combo meter. And for those of you expecting a punch of web attacks you may be disappointed. The only web attack you can manually do are shooting webs at enemies and grabbing them from a distance and throwing them though the latter move does prove useful. All other attacks using webbing are only done when using a special attack.

Stealth segments were another weak point. Where as in the Batman games you needed to plan ahead how to dispatch your foes, here you could just go at them. The AI is almost non existent here. Regardless of how many enemies you take down the other guards for some reason are oblivious to the fact that a few of their friends are missing. If they catch you taking out someone then they turn on their flashlights and search the walls and the ceilings though the beams of light are easy enough to crawl around and you can always just web zip across the room and lose them.

 

Now we get the free roaming aspect of the game. Remember how much fun it was in Spider-Man 2 to swing around New York? Well it’s not that fun here. For starters gone is the fact that your webbing connects to buildings. Nope this is old school Spider-Man who can swing in mid-air. See part of what made swinging so much fun in Spider-Man 2 was that it relied heavily on physics. You had to be near a building to swing. Let go at the bottom of an arch and you would go faster. Banking turns was something that had to be mastered. Swing required you to learn it and master it in order to get around New York efficiently. Here you just have to hold on to the swing button and occasionally move the left analog stick to change direction. Instead of making it fun, Beenox opted to make it look cool. The camera is closer up on Spider-Man to give you the feeling that he is falling and swinging fast. But there’s a difference between something looking fun and actually being fun and swinging in this game just isn’t fun. What is different however is the Web Rush ability which with the quick press of a button allows Spider-Man to quickly move to which ever point in the distance was selected. You can also hold down the button to slow down time in order to carefully select your destination. What follows is a cool animation of Spider-Man doing what ever he can to get to the spot chosen. This is actually faster than normal web swinging and you’ll find yourself doing it a lot.

Come at me bro!

Side missions are extremely repetitive. At this point in game development there should be no excuse to having overly repetitive side missions. Your only options for side missions are stopping muggings, stopping getaway cars, stopping shootouts, rescuing sick people, and taking pictures. That’s about it. I don’t know about you but I can only stop the same exact car from getting away so many times. They couldn’t even give the car a different texture for crying out loud! And for a super hero game, there was not one random side mission. All the muggings and what not are right there on your map to look at and mark. So your telling me that there are no cops that could stop any of these crimes? That Spider-Man has to swing half way across town to stop something that would be over with by the time he actually got there? The only side missions mildly entertaining are the photography mission which have you taking pictures of evidence of something that happened in the city. And they were only interesting because all the evidence would hint at other Spider-Man villains.  You also on occasion have to break into secret Oscorps labs and hack computers, but each one plays out exactly the same with the only difference being the room.

Oh and then of course you have your terribly designed boss battles. Here a breakdown of each boss battle: Find the boss, attack the boss, dodge attacks on occasion, rinse and repeat until boss is beaten into submission. That’s it. Zero strategy. Sometime weaker enemies will hop in the fray to make things slightly more difficult, but that’s about it. What happened to Spider-Man having to use his intellect to figure out a way to beat the bad guys? It’s like Beenox completely forgot that Peter Parker is highly intelligent.

The upgrade system is straightforward and it works for the most part, though some moves unlock a little to late in the game and you do wonder why they weren’t available earlier. Then of course you have a ton of collectibles, because no free roaming game would be complete without them. You do gain some experience and scattered around are comic book pages that unlock actual issues of old Spider-Man comics which is neat.

Overall the best way to sum this up is this: Amazing Spider-Man is essentially an HD version of Spider-Man 2 except the swinging isn’t fun but the combat is much better. Beenox had a chance to really make something special here and instead they got lazy on us and pushed out a game that seems that have had little thought put into it. They took a step in the right direction so maybe they will eventually gives us the Spider-Man game that not only we the fans deserve but the character deserves as well. All I’m saying is if Rocksteady can take a more complex character like Batman and make an amazing game for him, why can’t the same be done for Spider-Man? Where’s the love?

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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Reviewed by Peter Rivera on July 7, 2012

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