The Amazing Spider-Man Review
Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U
Release Date: June 26, 2012
MSRP: $59.99 (at launch), $29.99 (at time of review)
NOTE: This review is based off of gameplay of the PlayStation 3 version.
Spider-Man has always been my all-time favorite super hero. Whether it’s the wise-cracking, the blatant selflessness of saving civilians from common thugs, or just the fact that his powers are friggin’ amazing, I’ve always been a fan of the webhead since I was a child. Spider-Man video games were always a treat for me to play, given how cool it was to don the tights and beat the snot out of thugs. Looking back, though, games like Maximum Carnage and Spider-Man/X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge never truly captured the spirit of the wall-crawler. It wasn’t until Spider-Man (the one loosely based on the 90’s animated series) launched on the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 when he really started coming into his own in the gaming world, and after that, Spider-Man 2 (the movie game) revolutionized how we see Spider-Man games forever, delivering us a wide open Manhattan Island for us to swing around to our heart’s content. Beenox, the makers of the impressive Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and critically-panned Spider-Man: Edge of Time, have decided to bring Spidey back to Manhattan to let him loose on the streets in the movie tie-in of The Amazing Spider-Man, which shares the same title. The result is a game that, while lacking in polish and originality, does a solid job of emulating the Spider-Man experience.
The Amazing Spider-Man kicks off after the events of the movie, meaning that if you haven’t seen the movie (and if you haven’t, what’s wrong with you?), this game will be all kinds of spoilerific. Gwen and Peter are taking an unauthorized tour around Oscorp, scoping out the remains of Dr. Curt Connors’ animal mutation experiments as well as witnessing what the new big brain of Oscorp, Alistaire Smythe, is doing with all of it. During the little “tour”, the subjects begin to react to Peter, as he is genetically-altered himself, and now the mutations are unleashing hell upon Oscorp and escaping into the streets of Manhattan. Making matters worse, the mutations are now viral, meaning the subjects are now spreading a virus around Manhattan that causes people to begin to mutate into somewhat zombified beings. What’s Spider-Man to do except round up the baddies and race against time as he stops the spread of the virus before Manhattan falls under quarantine.
The plot is well-paced, and you’ll have the opportunity to see some familiar faces from Spider-Man’s rogues gallery makes some appearances, which is always a plus, but some of them are interpreted differently than they originally were in the comics, which helps to stir things up a bit. The story also gets surprisingly deep towards the end, reaching heights that actually play on the emotions a bit, administering a little shock and awe, which is something I certainly didn’t see coming, but took it as a welcome surprise. The biggest issue with Spider-Man’s presentation, while the voice work is actually good, is the voice of Spider-Man himself. Now, I’m a fan of Sam Riegel, who’s voice acting portfolio is rather extensive, to say the least, lending voices to Persona 4 Golden, the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, as well as a hell of a lot more video games and anime. However, he really isn’t a very good fit for Spidey/Peter Parker. Don’t get me wrong; he does get the wise-cracking down pat, but how he voices Peter Parker is a total one-eighty from how the character is portrayed in the movie. Andrew Garfield plays him as a shy, quirky, and rather withdrawn character, while Sam makes him into something more out of the Ultimate Spider-Man comics, which is mouthy and with a sarcastic attitude. It’s probably more the script’s fault, but it just isn’t right as a follow-up to the movie, and since Sam has voiced so many characters before, I just couldn’t adjust to him being Spider-Man.
As for taking control of Spider-Man, I’m happy to report that swinging around Manhattan has never felt so amazing and is easily the funnest way to get around in any open world game ever. With just a press of the R2 button, you can zip between buildings effortlessly, and getting around is made even more fun with the new Web Rush mechanic. With this, you can switch to a first-person view as it slows down time, allowing you to pinpoint targets around the city to zip to directly. Once you get a grasp on the mechanic, you can start chaining together web rushes to the point where you’ll feel like a full-blown acrobat with web shooters, flying and flipping around with minimal effort. It really makes you feel like you’re Spider-Man and is probably as authentic of an experience as you’ll ever get since, you know, he’s not actually real nor are his powers attainable.
While you’re zipping and swinging all over the place, you’ll find that there’s actually a lot to do around Manhattan. Crimes in progress make a return, which range from stopping muggings to car chases to resolving gun fights in the streets. With the exception of muggings, these are actually limited in number, which is odd considering it starts to limit things to do once you complete everything. Outside of petty crime, there’s photography missions, recovering asylum inmates and helping infected folks (the story explains all of that), investigating Oscorp secret labs, and collecting 700 comic book pages scattered around Manhattan, which, with the excellent swinging mechanics, makes collecting them a hell of a lot of fun. The only real duds here are the XTreme challenges (yes, it is spelled that way in-game), which task you with insanely easy race challenges and missions that task you with keeping a camera centered on Spider-Man as he swings around the city. Yes, it’s as lame as it sounds.
When you’re not wandering around Manhattan doing small tasks, you’ll be doing story missions, which are all within indoor areas. This is where things start to get hairy. The missions are simple point-A-to-point-B affairs strewn about with collectibles and groups of enemies. Most enemies are setup within rooms similar to the Batman Arkham titles. In fact, The Amazing Spider-Man borrows a lot from that, and it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the elements it borrowed were actually well-polished.
For once, a Spider-Man title has a solid stealth system, unlike the mess in the Noir levels in Shattered Dimensions. However, what’s here is way too simplistic and exploitable. See, one advantage Spider-Man has is that he can stick to the ceiling, meaning he can get the drop on any enemy easily. All you have to do is line-up Spidey over an enemy, and when the enemy glows purple, you swoop in for an instant knockout. What if an enemy sees you, you ask? Not a problem! You can just use the Web Escape button to fly into a corner, where the enemy loses sight of you almost instantaneously. Then, you simply rinse and repeat. There’s barely any challenge from enemy encounters when you can simply exploit this method over and over, showing that barely any thought was really put into the mechanic other than the fact that it works and that it does make you feel like Spider-Man. Well, an over-powered Spider-Man.
When Spidey does have to throw down, things get a little better. Again, the combat system draws from the Arkham series, but button timing is thrown out the window, instead rewarding button mashing. When you’re about to be attacked, there’s a spider-sense indicator that goes off over Spider-Man’s head, in which a simple button press lets him counter the enemy. Once you build a high enough combo, you can start pulling off finishers, which involve flashy flips and lots of webbing. The combat system works well enough, but it can feel a bit stiff, with jerky animations that simply don’t feel as fluid as they should. The evasion system is hit-or-miss, as it can sometimes be unresponsive even though you’ll clearly press the button on time. The camera can also be an issue during fights as objects block your view and the camera itself actually gets hung up on them. The most problematic and unremarkable fights in the game are boss fights, which pretty much devolve into nothing more than mashing buttons, then evading web-escaping when you have to ad nauseum. I also encountered some glitchy animations during cutscenes within boss fights, which drags the polish of the game down a bit. The only fights that really leave a mark are the large-scale fights outside in the streets of Manhattan, which can be pretty entertaining as long as the camera can keep up.
Taken as a whole, The Amazing Spider-Man does the character justice in more ways than it doesn’t. Swinging around a wonderfully-rendered Manhattan without a hitch is a satisfying feeling that you simply won’t find anywhere else, and there’s a lot for the ‘ole webhead to do while he does so. He finally has a functional stealth element that, while it does make things too easy, is at least commendable if only for its inclusion. The combat disappoints, but at least you feel like Spider-Man as he flips around and webs up baddies. For what it is, The Amazing Spider-Man is a worthwhile title for fans of the character and is worth at least a rental for anyone looking for a fun open-world title.