Video Game Review: "The Amazing Spider-Man?" More like "The Acceptable Spider-Man"
Out of the gate, The Amazing Spider-Man has a lot going for it. Not only does it bring back the open-world free swing that Spidey game fans haven’t seen since in a few years, but we also get a new story that, in all seriousness, isn’t half bad. The story would make for a solid movie or a great comic storyline. Plus, with solid graphics, voice performances, and some interesting boss battles, the game is enjoyable across the board. But, it does suffer from a few flaws that bring it down from great to just good.
After a bit of a slow start – the game starts off with a genuinely interesting Oscorp promo video, followed by about ten minutes of exposition and setup for the game’s story – the game roars to life. Spidey is thrown into the mix of a monster breakout as a fair amount of mutant experiments escape from Oscorp, meaning our Webhead has to deal with those genetic freaks and the tracker robots Alistair Smythe (the new science head at Oscorp) has sent out to find them. A pretty basic plot, yeah, but admittedly fun. Along the way, Spidey has to turn to Dr. Conners (aka The Lizard) and a few other notable guest stars in order to complete his work.
Trudging through the game, you honestly won’t come across anything remotely original. The story is pretty predictable and standard, with Spidey having to fight hordes of robots and asylum inmates before getting to each boss battle. That is basically how the game breaks down, level after level once things get rolling. Actually, that’s not entirely true. There are some genuinely great moments, but they happen to be sandwiched between some dull parts. So yes, it does get repetitive, though the same ol’ fisticuffs are broken up from time to time thanks to the odd side-mission that needs to get done to further the plot along.
Honestly, I can forgive a lot of the repetitiveness and flat-out stealing this game partakes in because of the beautiful open-world moments. The webslinging, at times, is really breathtaking. Nab on to a helicopter and you get this tremendous view of the city…if you happen not to hit a glitch which causes Spidey to jump around the corner of the screen. The scope of this is really impressive. While the city is not as detailed as I think it could’ve been, it’s still remarkably well done and a pleasure to swing in. Some of the dynamics don’t exactly work – especially when you happen to websling while not seeming to be connected to anything – but it’s still easy to get lost in. Webslinging is simple enough to do that it’s easy to just completely zone out and aimlessly swing about.
The web-rush feature, which allows Spidey to slow down time, find a perfect perch and then zip to it, is a neat little addition to the game. It does feel a bit familiar, similar to what was used in previous Spider-Man games, but it comes in handy in situations such as the robot battles (the first of which is a good tussle that helps you learn the advantages to the system). Web-rush helps you save time and even kick a little bad-guy ass, so it’s definitely worth using whenever you can. It may drop the difficulty some, but it will come in handy with some of the light strategy work required.
While those features really stand-out, I found that the rest of the fighting mechanics weren’t anything really special. The fighting mechanics are a blatantly lifted from the Batman: Arkham Asylum game series, though less polished. It comes down more to button mashing then anything, and even then that seems like too much. There’s no real strategy required, save for the odd retreat to rebuild some lost life. Outside of that, just swing away until the room is clear. It doesn’t get any more complicated than that. A plus is the additional of using environmental objects, like soda pop machines or dumpsters. Webbing one and smashing it on the ground will usually stun the bad guys, making it easier to web up and take a few out. You’ll be doing those same actions a lot, though. The game really piles on wave after wave of bad guy, often to the point where it gets frustrating and tedious. This title also supports Playstation Move, but the peripheral add-on was not used when playing this game.
Another thing that caught my eye is how the assorted fights recycle animation from previous Spider-Man games. The developer of The Amazing Spider-Man, Beenox, handled the last two Spidey-centric game titles – Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and Spider-Man: Edge of Time – and a lot of the fighting and webbing animation is nearly identical. When Spidey performs a takedown in this game, it looks mighty similar to Spider-Man Noir’s takedown from Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Many Spidey’s movements (his running cycling, how the character moves, etc.), seems very similar Beenox’s previous Spidey efforts. It’s not a strike against the game at all but this does get a little distracting, and seems like a missed opportunity for the developer to really put a unique spin on this game to make it really stand out.
In what seems to be a bit of fad lately, the game also employs a few ‘quick-time event’ sequences. This isn’t too overbearing but they can be confusing at times, with the objective not exactly clear.
The visuals here are pretty fantastic across the board, save for a couple of glaring mistakes. Spider-Man swinging through the city is amazing, especially at dusk – or at night, or doing the day, or anytime at all really! It always looks fantastic, and the superb use of shading and lighting is pretty jaw-dropping sometimes. It is fairly obvious that the development team spent the majority of its time perfecting the open-world moments for Spidey. As I said earlier, you can just get lost in these moments and it’s obvious that hard work went into making these webslinging moments really special. Spidey looks just as good too, and his increasingly tattered costume is a nice extra touch.
There are a few clunkers, though. Gwen Stacy doesn’t look all that good, and neither does Dr. Conners. In fact, most of the human characters look very stiff and are usually saddled with almost non-existent facial expressions. Early in the game, Spidey and Conners talk to Gwen Stacy through a computer and…well, just watch the Stacy model. It is possibly some of the worst character animation I’ve seen in a long, long, long time. We’re talking pre-Reboot bad.
The dialogue and story is good for the most part. Nothing too remarkable, but not terrible either. It’s a nice mix of groaners from Spidey, lame quips, posturing, and fake science babble. Every once in awhile dialogue will get drowned out when more than one character speaks, or some on-screen actions will essentially mute whoever’s talking, but the dialogue is rarely crucial enough that this warrants any worry.
Despite what seems to be an overwhelming amount of complaints, this is actually a fun game. It’s not a great game, or one that will be remembered years down the line, but a good one to pick up – especially now with the price dropping to roughly $20 to $30. With the The Amazing Spider-Man feature film now also available on home video, watching the movie and following up with this game would make for a solid one-two punch. It’s a good game, but one that could have been better. A little more development, a bigger budget, some more in-depth features, and this could have been something to rival the amazing Batman: Arkham Asylum games. Instead, what we have is a fun movie tie-in game with debatable replayability that’s worth at least a rental. The game may not be amazing, but it’s probably the best Spidey video game in years. While it falls short of greatness it does deserve a little bit of love from the fanbase, and its current price tag should make it an easy purchase.