Superhero games are usually hit or miss affairs, with “miss,” unfortunately, being the usual mark. Developer Beenox has a track record that lies somewhere between. It’s handled Spider-Man’s video game exploits for the past few years, producing games such as Spider-Man: Edge of Time and Shattered Dimensions–and they’ve been decent. Beenox’s newest Spidey license title, The Amazing Spider-Man, changes that.
The Amazing Spider-Man works as a movie game tie-in is because it doesn’t follow the movie at all. In fact, the plot of The Amazing Spider-Man game takes place after the film. This is quite possibly the games’ strongest element. And while the game does reference the movie from time to time, it only does so for about the first 2-3 hours. If you know the origins of Spider-Man, but haven’t seen the film, then nothing should surprise you. On the other hand, if you don’t know about the wall-crawler’s true origins then you might want to see the flick before you decide to pick up the game.
The Amazing Spider-Man is the first Spider-Man game to feature open-world gameplay since 2007’s Spider-Man 3. The Amazing Spider-Man is set in Manhattan, but unlike Spider-Man 2 this Manhattan is a bit less accurate. Most of the landmarks are there and you can swing by Times Square and Harlem, but don’t expect to find the Apollo Theatre or your favorite neighborhood bodega. You can see all of Manhattan and even the outer boroughs (though you can’t leave Manhattan) from one of the game’s tallest buildings, but the distant edifices are noticeably blurry. The closer buildings are nicely rendered, but those off in the distance almost look like they belong in a cardboard diorama.
The game suffers a few other graphical flaws, too. NPC’s character models, including the supporting characters, look as if they were ripped from a middle-generation PlayStation 2 game. The game cycles through one NYPD police officer model (who looks suspiciously like comedian Louis C.K.), and one female model as if they’re the only people in the entire police force.
The Amazing Spider-Man not only has sandbox gameplay but it also has a game style specific to being indoors during story missions. Most of the time, you will find yourself roaming the highly populated Manhattan where you can web-swing and wall-crawl to your heart’s content. Beenox re-introduced a navigational technique that is a personal favorite of mine: wall-running. The island of Manhattan truly feels alive when you’re swinging around. NPCs approach Spider-Man and actually converse with him about the situation at hand, or previous story elements. They scream out for him when you swing by, point him out to other NPCs, and even give you compliments. Peter himself also enjoys his role as Spidey and screams out enthusiastically as he flies through the sky with grace. Manhattan is filled with side missions that consist of high-speed car chases, police deadlocks, races, muggings and more.
Spider-Man also has a new trick up his sleeve with the “Web Rush” technique. Web Rush is an ability that used either in or outside of combat. The whole point of it is to let you be Spider-Man. While in “Web Rush,” you see the world through Peter’s eyes, which allows you to carefully pick a destination, or set your own, and then watch as Spider-Man displays his acrobatic talents and quickly moves to the location depicted. Web Rush can also be used offensively against enemies as a “Web Strike” to open them up for combos or a number of strategic elements. In one mission, for example, I inadvertently alerted a number of guards to my location. I could have easily taken to the ceiling to hide again, but I used Web Rush to chain into Web Strike and attack the closest enemy and trap the others with webbing, giving me a chance to pick them off one by one.
When it comes to combat, Beenox has taken a lot of key elements from the Arkham games. Much like Batman in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, Spider-Man can stay unseen in the shadows, walls, or ceilings to stealthily take down enemies without alerting others. The combat system, unsurprisingly, suits Peter Parker more than Bruce Wayne due to his unique Spider-sense ability. When an enemy is about to attack Peter, a white warning will flash over his head and a quick press of the dodge button will allow him to automatically dodge the attack. However, if a red warning flashes over his head then the move is unblockable and Peter must evade it entirely by any means, the most useful being the “Web Escape” option with allows Spidey to web his way to the corner of a wall he’s facing.
Web Escape lets players catch their breath for a moment should things become too hectic, but given enough time it is possible for enemies to notice you again. Taking other elements from the Arkham games, The Amazing Spider-Man lets players level up through combat or completing story/side missions for experience and, by leveling up, Peter’s combat knowledge gets increased and he gains a variety of new moves or techniques. The game also has tech pieces to collect that allow Spider-Man to upgrade his gadgets. Spider-Man’s tech upgrades mostly revolve around his suit and web-shooters. These useful upgrades range from combat or ballistic resistance to rapid fire web-shooters.
Speaking of combat, Spider-Man has more than just stealth-based attacks to take down his opponents. His in-game fighting style is based off of Lucha Libre and the Luchadors of Mexico. As such, Spider-Man shows off his combat prowess with spins, flips, and the occasional suplex to deal out punishment. Build up a combo multiplier and the web-head can use a “Signature Move” to finish the baddies, all while showing off his athleticism. The repetitive combat is as simple as pressing the attack button until someone dies, and it is possible to see the same kicking or punching animation two or three times in a row. There are the occasional enemies that require a bit more strategy though with force fields, riot shields or a group of snipers who don’t like to wait their turn.
In a continued homage to the older Spider-Man games, such as Spider-Man 2 (2004), Beenox has packed The Amazing Spider-Man with a ton of collectibles. There are exactly 700 collectible comic book pages scattered throughout Manhattan, but fear not for they shimmer with an ethereal glow so they’re not that difficult to spot (and when you collect up to 500 of them the other 200 appear as yellow orbs on your mini-map when Peter is near them). As your comic book page tally increases, you unlock actual issues that you can read in-game including the first appearance of The Lizard and Amazing Fantasy #15 (first appearance of Spider-Man). The game also has a photography mode (a nod to Peter being a photo bug no doubt), where you complete side missions or take photos of enemies to unlock character bios and 3D models. If that’s not enough, Beenox was kind enough to hide Spider-Man logos all throughout Manhattan for you to snap pictures of. It might not sound special but finding these logos and getting those pics unlock extra costumes from other Spidey universes for Spider-Man to wear. Some of those include the 2012 Scarlet Spider, the Future Foundation Suit, and even the 2012 Symbiote Suit which hasn’t made an appearance outside of the game, yet.
The Amazing Spider-Man game is the best superhero movie tie-in to come along in some time. Webhead fans have waited almost eight years for a high-quality Spidey game, and The Amazing Spider-Man delivers by truly making you feel like you are the man behind the mask. There are some environmental and NPC issues, but don’t let that stop you from picking up this very solid action title.
[For information on how to unlock the many Spider-Man costumes in the game, click here.]