Recently a couple of us COG (Canadian Online Gamers) staffers had a chance to check out a hands-off demo of “The Amazing Spider-Man” at E3 in LA earlier this month (June, 2012). The demo lasted about 20-minutes and certainly had us impressed. Not only did the game look great but it appeared as though the franchise was headed back in the right direction where Spidey truly thrives – an open world free roaming environment where there is more web slinging action than you can shake a stick at. The Spider-Man video game franchise has seen some ups and downs over the past years, and with the big-screen movie Spidey about to get a reboot, with a new movie launching in just over a week, the timing is perfect for the video game franchise to get one too. So does The Amazing Spider-Man deliver that definitive Spider-Man gaming experience I have been craving for years? Well the short answer is no; however, this is about as much fun as I have had with the web slinging hero since I can remember.
Before I get into the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the game, I should start off by telling you The Amazing Spider-Man features no cooperative gameplay or multiplayer component at all (offline or online). As a result, this review will focus solely on the game’s single player aspect which is unfortunately all that is offered. Sure there is some extra content in the menus you can view, yet I have to admit I was a little disappointed by the lack of a co-operative mode as I was really looking forward to some co-op web slinging action with my daughter. This being said, The Amazing Spider-Man’s single player campaign is packed full of content and is a game that is about as rich in content as any other open world game I have played in recent memory. It will take you anywhere from 12-25 hours to play so do not be fooled by the lack of additional modes.
The Amazing Spider-Man game occurs after the events of the big screen movie. Oscorp executive Alistair Smythe is in the midst of creating some cross-species experiments. Alistair uses the research of Dr. Curt Connor, otherwise known as The Lizard, for these experiments. Naturally, these experiments start to go sideways and the “cross-species experiments” escape causing chaos in New York City and cause citizens to become infected. In attempt to take down and control the cross-species, Alistair develops some oversized robots; however, they merely end up doing more harm than good. Spider-Man remains the last resort as the cities civilians are becoming infected by the minute, the “experiments” continue to run amok, and the robots have failed to co-operate.
As far as storylines go, The Amazing Spider-Man is decent. The narrative is compelling and I did find the dialogue entertaining. It picks up where the movie leaves off and it expands upon the Spider-Man universe. The story essentially leads you down the path of “what happens next”. The idea here is that you watch the movie, come home, and stay immersed in the Spider-Man universe by playing the game. All in all, the story is able to do just that as I found myself immersed in it while wondering what villain I would encounter next. The story was able keep my interests up, but like most Spider-Man games it is not a critical component to the gameplay.
Much like Spider-Man Web of Shadows, The Amazing Spider-Man allows you to free roam the virtual re-created New York City by swinging from building to building while taking on the single player chapters (13 in total), stopping petty crimes, collecting comic book pages, taking photographs, infiltrating heavily secured labs, completing various challenges, stopping car chases, investigating a disturbance in a sewer, saving infected civilians, etc. Needless to say I was impressed with the amount of variety in the game and the amount of things you can do is incredible. In several instances I found myself just killing time collecting comic book pages, which are scattered throughout the city. I would look up at the clock and realize I just wasted over an hour doing this. With all the things you can do in the game completionists will likely need 30-hours or so to finish every aspect of the game.
In terms of the 13-chapter single player progression, I was surprised with how difficult it was. I found myself using every one of Spider-Man’s attacks and frequently employed the use of my “Web Rush” in order to survive. Granted many areas are a breeze, but do not kid yourself many areas are a challenge and you will have use every tool on Spidey’s tool belt in order to progress.
So what is Web Rush you ask? It is Beenox’s innovative new game mechanic that gives you real-time navigational and combat choices. Spider-Man can trigger Web Rush at any time. Whether it is swinging in mid-air or when a bunch of enemy AI surrounds you, Spidey can deploy Web Rush in order to free himself from any dicey situation. Web Rush acts very much like Web Zip from previous games, but instead Web Rush pauses the game and allows you to select a location within sight and travel there quickly. I found the Web Rush mechanic to be a terrific addition as having a variety of situational choices makes for some interesting combat and unforgettable sequences.
What good is a Spider-Man game if slinging through the air is broken and unsatisfying. Well fortunately, this is not the case in The Amazing Spider-Man as slinging through Manhattan never felt so damn good. It remains one of the best things about the franchise and is easily one of the best aspects of the game. The developers did a fantastic job in this respect as they have nailed down Spider-Man’s movements and swinging actions to near perfection. This year the camera has been pulled in tight bringing you even closer to the action. The combination of the New York City backdrop combined with the gameplay of swinging through the madness that is NYC creates an immersive atmosphere that only adds to the entire experience.
The only downside to the swinging mechanics is that the camera can sometimes have a mind of its own. In tight spaces it is really noticeable as attempting to swing in tight hallways results in some problematic camera issues. At times these issues can hamper the gameplay and can punish you as you attempt to regain control while a boss is beating you down. This being said, I found the camera much better this time around in terms of climbing up buildings. In Spider-Man Web of Shadows for instance, climbing up the side of buildings was a nightmare as I constantly wrestled with the camera looking for that perfect camera angle. I would lose all sense of direction. This time around, controlling the camera is much more refined, but is by no means perfect. In many ways this is understandable given Spider-Man’s dynamic 360 degree movement and I am sure that this must keep the development team plenty busy trying to come up with the best possible angles.
In terms of the controls, The Amazing Spider-Man is fairly deep and the early ongoing instructions are very helpful. Mastering the various combat mechanics can take some time but others are picked up quite easily. Overall the actions were fairly responsive. There is however no way you will be able to breeze through this game button mashing every enemy you encounter. Stealth combat is pivotal to your success and upgrading Spider-Man is also helpful. The Amazing Spider-Man introduces an XP system where everything you do in the game counts and earns you experience points (XP) where you can ultimately upgrade your abilities. You can upgrade things like Spider-Man’s web attack, ground attack, artillery attack, power strike, etc. You can also purchase tech upgrades which include such things as increasing the rate of your web blasts or improving the elasticity of your webbing. Some may argue the upgrades are not as deep as in previous Spider-Man games; however, the upgrades menu, which is located in Spider-Man’s cell phone, is clean, easy to look at, and easy to navigate. So to that end, I certainly prefer The Amazing Spider-Man XP and upgrade system over previous games in the franchise.
The XP system gives The Amazing Spider-Man plenty of replay value and the use of Spider-Man’s cell phone as your main hub is terrific. When you access the cell phone Spider-Man can view a Map of the city and place a navigation point where he wants to go. Spidey can also check his email, view some game stats, and of course view the upgrade area. The amount of collectibles in the game is impressive as well. It is endless and you can spend a countless number of hours searching for these collectibles.
The game’s missions themselves are also fairly entertaining but I did encounter some issues. For starters the boss fights, although difficult at times, seem to follow the same pattern. Dodge the attack, strike when he opens up, sling out of the way, rinse and repeat. I am of the opinion that some boss fights with a little more variety in terms of combat would have been nice. I also found some of the missions repetitive as they followed similar patterns where Spidey would have infiltrate an area, take down enemies in room after room, then finish off with the inevitable boss fight or a room inundated with even more enemies Sure it is enjoyable, and a challenge at times, but I often found the experience seemed to drag out. I should also mention sequential button pressing (quick time events) rears its’ ugly head during the game on occasion, but for the most part these sequences are easy to pull-off and I did not mind them as much as I typically do.
Overall, the visuals in The Amazing Spider-Man for the Xbox 360 are top-notch and are at least on par with Edge of Time and Shattered Dimensions. I can’t help but think the franchise has come a long ways since Spider-Man Friend or Foe which arrived not too long after the arrival of the Xbox 360 console. In any event, The Amazing Spider-Man is fantastic looking game. From the menacing looking enemies to the new Spider-Man suit to the New York City backdrop, the game really looks great.
Most notably, the character animations are something special and the new and improved Spidey suit looks stellar. The amount of detail that went into his suit is unreal right down to the treading on the bottom of his feet. Even his eyes feature wonderful detail. As Spidey progresses though each level his suit also becomes worn down and the effect is fantastic. There is a scene later in the game where Spider-Man has absolutely taken a beating and is hobbling from one room to another. The suit’s back, arms and legs have been ripped to shreds. The game’s accompanying animations are simply fantastic. When his outfit is in good shape, his suit color is bright and vibrant and truly a treat to watch in high definition. Other in-game characters such as The Lizard, Rhino, and Scorpion also look good too and are easily recognizable. The only issue I noticed with the characters would be sometimes their hair would suffer from some of the “jaggies”, but otherwise I have no major complaints with the games characters.
In terms of The Amazing Spider-Man environments, the game scores high marks. The New York City landscape is spectacular. The city really comes to life and the enormity of it really sinks-in as you web-sling through the air. The people in the city react to you and even take your picture with their mobile phone after you save them. The city is certainly alive and you will notice a fair amount of detail as you look down while swinging or web blasting though the air. The lighting effects in the sky are also well done and you will even notice how the lighting changes as you move from dawn to dusk. There is even an overcast effect and another ashen effect, but I cannot tell you too much about that without spoiling some of the game. In terms of the water, I was a little disappointed and found it odd I could not swim in it as I could in previous Spidey games. When you jump into the New York City harbour the game automatically launches you back onto the sidewalk. This is certainly not a deal-breaker but odd nonetheless.
Much like the games visuals, the sound is very good as well. For starters, the game’s soundtrack is well done. The music really gives you the feeling you are immersed in a Spider-Man big screen movie. The music sounds very similar to the Spider-Man movies of past and I would not be surprised if someone told me the game was even done by the same composer who did the musical score for the movies. It sounds that good. Even as I am writing this I am replaying the tunes over in my head. The music effectively amps up as the action becomes intense and it settles right back down when you are finished stringing up the enemies. I was pleasantly surprised with the voice work as well. Bruce Campbell as the Xtreme Reporter was fantastic and our web slinging hero was pretty good as well. Dr. Connor and Alistair’s voice work is also superb. Everyone’s voice in the game is clear, easy to understand and believable. Really, what more could you ask? In-game sound effects sound good too but they are nothing spectacular. As an example, the web slinging and punching effects are bang-on but they just didn’t wow me. On the whole I had no concerns with the sound effects and battle noises; I just didn’t find myself awestruck.
All in all, Spider-Man has bounced back in a big way with The Amazing Spider-Man. After last year’s disappointing “Edge of Time” game, the Spider-Man franchise has rebounded going back to the style of gameplay that really works for our web slinging hero, and that is one which is a free roaming open world environment where he is free to do whatever he feels like. Whether it is tackling the single player chapters, collecting comic book pages throughout the city, or breaking up crimes, the amount of variety and replay value in the game is endless. The Amazing Spider-Man is not an amazing game, it but is a very good game that Spidey fans will absolutely want to pick-up this summer.