The past couple of weeks saw The Amazing Spider-Man win hard at the box office. Does the Beenox developed game do the same on the electronic entertainment front?
A couple days before the movie released into most theaters, the game dropped at local game stores. After seeing the movie, I immediately picked up the game due to an impulse brought about by, admittedly, a high from the movie. I've had a week or so with the game and I think I've formed a fairly informed opinion on whether it will fall victim to the curse of almost ALL movie-based video games *cough Iron Man, Thor cough* or if lightning will strike twice for the Spider-Man movie game franchise.
In picture: sweetness of the embossed cover
Do you remember Spider-Man 2? That game changed history with the control they gave you when swinging around the most faithful recreation of Manhattan in a video game ever. How does this new Amazing Spider-Man stack up?
One of the things I absolutely love about this game is how it feels nothing like the movie. It almost feels as if Beenox got the movie funding and just made a 616 Spider-Man game presented on the surface as the new Amazing Spider-Man movie game. Seriously.
Peter doesn't look or sound like he's in high school, even though this was supposed to be set up a few months after the movie ends. Hell, high school hasn't even been mentioned and I'm, like, halfway through the game. This Spidey doesn't even talk like the movie Spidey.
My sneakers can stick to things!
It's not that I dislike the movie; it's just that I'd much rather play as Spider-Man than Andrew Garfield, ya know?
I would definitely have to say that the graphics in the game are a bit of a mixed bag. Spider-Man looks fantastic, as he should. He looks great web swinging, fighting or just striking an iconic pose. Unfortunately, no one else in the entire city looks remotely human. Okay, that was a tad harsh. It's not that bad; maybe games like Arkham City and Uncharted have spoiled me. Most character models, especially the ones you interact with have a dead expression on their faces and they look weird when talking, especially since the mouth animations don't really match the words coming out.
On the macro level of things, sandbox games never fail to impress me, especially if you can really feel the vastness and diversity of the environment. The Amazing Spider-Man's city looks alive, even if the buildings look similar to one another. A few buildings do stand out, though, like Oscorp. The draw distances are amazing. You can see for kilometers in all directions. Try heading up to a tall tower; look outward to just admire the city. That's why it's sad that most missions take place indoors in generic looking sciencey places or sewers.
I can totally see my non-highschool student apartment that belongs to a friend named Stan from here.
Bosses like the S-02 and the Hunters look pretty menacing and the way they animate is just bananas good! The other enemies, though, are generic looking thugs and infected citizens of Manhattan. I dunno if it'll get interesting past the chapter I'm on, but I don't see that happening.
Batman: Arkham Asylum and City have really set the bar high. It is now the yardstick against which all superhero games are to be measured. And developers aren't shy about acknowledging that, either. Captain America Super Soldier copied it the best they could and it's quite obvious Amazing Spider-Man did the same thing, only you'll notice that it isn't as polished as it was either Batman game. The countering mechanism in ASM is spotty and doesn't work as fluidly as Batman's, and you'd find yourself spamming the triangle button without it really affecting your combo streak. But hey, there's a reason why the mechanic was so popular - it's damned fun. The same can easily be said about it in Amazing Spider-Man, you just gotta find the right rhythm.
Web-striking is pretty fun, but nowhere near as versatile or controllable (except in direction) as the Web-strike in Web of Shadows. It still serves its purpose, but I miss chaining it and getting massive air because of it.
Generic thug kick!
Another system that seems to have been taken from Batman are the stealth takedowns. While it does seem like that's the case, I would argue that it's more influenced by Noir Spider-Man in Shattered Dimensions more than Batman: Arkham Asylum/City even though Arkham Asylum was released in August 2009, and Shattered Dimensions in 2010. When playing on Superhero difficulty, I highly recommend sticking to stealth and taking as many enemies down before they see you. Trust me, it'll go much smoother.
Oh, and that brings me to another thing - Spider-Man is a weakling! On Superhero difficulty, you get hit thrice, you're dead. You can't spider sense dodge your way against projectiles - not even the spit ones. Ironically, this is a mechanic that I really like. Yes, it seems like a cheap way to make the game harder and to force the player to use stealth, but it also provides enough of a challenge that it keeps the game interesting.
If there was one thing that set Spider-Man 2 apart from the pack, it was the control the web swinging mechanic provided the player. It also followed weird "realistic" physics. Your webs stuck to buildings, forcing you to swing from more reasonable heights. You could also shoot two web lines in opposite directions. It was a hoot and a half just slinging your way across the city. Following games made an effort to simplify the web swinging while still maintaining the fun and control. The last time I saw this was on Web of Shadows, which I think nailed the balance perfectly. In Amazing Spider-Man, it got way too simplified.
All you had to do was hold down R2 and you could easily get from point A to point B without trying, without having to really "swing." Of course, you could choose not to do this and find your own rhythm. This is all well and good but a lot of the fans feel like it was dumbed down to a point that it lost all of its appeal; it just isn't as fun anymore. I kind of tend to agree. Oh, and your webs attach to clouds or satellites or something. Although you do swing at approximately the same height as the buildings around you but a lot of the time, you can clearly tell you're swinging from nothingness.
I'm swinging from nothingness.
What it did get right, though, is the illusion of speed. Like they said in interviews, they pulled the camera much closer to Spider-Man to give the player a sense of velocity and it worked out ridiculously well.
The Web Rush is just like the Web Zip from previous Spider-Man games, only on steroids. The player can slow down time, point to a specific area you want Spider-Man to go and let him fly. It comes in very handy when you need to get somewhere quick or if you need help navigating through a level. My only problem with it is that it slows down gameplay considerably, but I guess you can't have it all.
Fuck you, physics!
The Web Retreat is exactly like Web Zip, but backwards and it's used to get away from incoming fire or hiding from enemies. That works remarkably well and it should be commended.
Voice acting isn't by Emma Stone or Andrew Garfield. And I thought that was a good thing. Sam Riegel and Kari Wahlgren did fantastic jobs on their respective characters. Steve Blum, as always, was awesome. Most of the voice acting, even the random citizenry of the island, is decent, at worst.
Ambient noise in the city is really good. It makes the city feel alive with the sound of choppers flying overhead, the screeching of the brakes on the buses that populate the streets, even down to the random chatter shared by NPCs. It's really good.
One of the best uses of sound in the game was for finding collectibles. Using the PS3 7.1 headphones, I could pinpoint the locations of the comic book pages with surprising accuracy just from the sound. I was quite impressed.
I haven't actually finished the game yet, but so far, it's easy to see that it won't win any awards for the plot. So far, I haven't really seen anything that I'd call a gripping turning point in the story, but at least it doesn't suck. It's enough to keep me interested. I'll come back and edit this if it turns out to be super fantastic awesome.
I don't wanna post spoilery stuff, but if you want the basic gist of it, it's essentially Web of Shadows except Venom is Smythe and instead of symbiotes, you've got the infected.
While not going through the main storyline, Spidey can swing around the city and save people from thugs, stop police chases, save cops from a stand off, rescue infected people, take the eXtreme reporter challenge or even go and take freelance photography gigs. There's a lot to do, but they don't spawn randomly so when you're done with them, you're done with them.
Other cool stuff
Each level has a plethora of collectibles that unlock some bonus content. You've got magazines, audio clues and even tech points to upgrade your gear. It's pretty sweet; and having to find each one gives every level some semblance of replayability. However, it is just so damned fulfilling being able to find everything in a single go.
In the city, Spider-Man gets to collect comic book pages. If you want a good reason to explore every nook and cranny of the virtual city, this is it. Getting a certain number of pages unlocks a comic book that you can read in the bonus menu. You even have Amazing Fantasy #15, I think, and Gwen Stacy's first appearance.
It's best to look for them at night. Because they glow, they're much easier to spot. Once you reach 500, the remaining 200 pages in the world are marked as gold dots on your map. After going on an extensive hunt for the pages, you may be missing a couple, but worry not. Just go to the Oscorp building and look up.
Spidey, being a little shutterbug, can also collect pics using his handy dandy camera. When he takes an image he doesn't like, he'll even give you some constructive criticism. You can use the camera for missions or just collecting funny pics you come across.
Apart from collectibles, Spider-Man can also unlock a number of different costumes. You start off with the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man costume, but you eventually unlock time-released costumes by taking pictures of Spider-Man logos that appear around the city, kinda like at very end of the movie. He can unlock the Big Time suit, Future Foundation suit, Negative Zone costume, Black Spider-Man suit from Spider-Man 3, and my personal favorite - Kaine's Scarlet Spider costume. You can also zip around in the vigilante suit if you participated in a Carl's, Jr. contest in the US.
Where's the classic red and blue costume, you ask? It's only available if you got the pre-order or if you purchase any of the DLC, so us Asians are pretty much out of luck.
Not so cool stuff
The one thing every Spider-Man game cannot get right is the camera due to the complexity of the way the character moves. It gets confusing, especially when you stick to the walls.
It's a fun game that'll keep you hooked for a few hours, especially if you're a Spider-Man fan. I still think Web of Shadows is a better game overall, but this can easily hold its own. I'd say this one is a renter. Buy it used or you and a few buddies could split the cost and share the game.
GeekOut Rating: 7.5/10