The Spider-Man games have always enamored me; the concept is fantastic–swinging around a city in a fanciful way, beating up thugs in the streets, and swinging some more. Even though the idea for the Spider-Man games has been great, the execution hasn’t always been there. The past few games in the line have been picked up by Activision studio Beenox, and haven’t been open world. Does the team have what it takes to make the transition?
Let’s be frank, the last two Spider-Man games haven’t been what everyone hoped they would be. They weren’t open world, so you couldn’t get that awesome web-swinging vibe everyone wanted, and not a ton of people were super keen on switching between Spider-Men. Luckily, since Amazing Spider-Man is a movie tie-in (how often have you heard those words together), Beenox didn’t have much of a choice but to go back to the tried and true formula. In Amazing Spider-Man the world is open and massive, providing ample space to swing to your heart’s content. Even with this great freedom seems to come quite a bit of great restriction. Sure, you have an entire city to move about in, but in no way shape or form can you swing the way you want. Parker has a mind of his own, throwing out webs when he decides is the most opportune moment, leaving the player to just hold onto a button. Sure, you get some pretty fantastic cinematic angles, but that’s only good for the person watching over your shoulder, not the person, ya’ know, actually playing (I don’t know if you can even call it playing at that point) the game.
Oh the collectables! Throughout the bulk of Spider-Man you’ll be swinging across the city, but while swinging you won’t be doing a ton else besides picking up comic book pages… Seven hundred pages to be exact. In an open world game I, for the most part, expect some sort of “Hey pick these things up” item throughout the world, but to this degree just seems kind of extensive. To the point where my impulsive nature can’t even enjoy roaming the city without running into, and having to collect, every page I see. It’s a nightmare. The one redeeming factor? After you collect five hundred, the rest will appear on your minimap.
You’re swinging high above the city, looking down you see some thugs robbing an old lady of her purse. Gracefully you swoop down to street level, and go all Batman on their asses? Combat is a weird mish mash of Arkham City… and hiding on ceilings. Straight bowing up on dudes is as fun to perform as it is to watch. Spider-Man has no problem with basic street goons, taking them out in a flashy style, and he does this with quite an arsenal: punches, kicks, web attacks, and even some Mexican-style wrestling grapples. Each is as effective as the other, putting hoodlums in their place since 1963.
The stealthier sections, however, don’t tend to work out as the developer would have liked. Often you’ll find Spidey in the sewers taking down some mutants, which who would have known, have a bit more stamina than the regular old street gangs. Initiating stealth is as simple as getting up on a wall and not being seen. Sounds simple. Unless the game doesn’t convey when stealth is a good option, which is the case here. Many a times I found myself taking Spider-Man swiftly into a group of baddies only to get my ass handed to me… Multiple times. When I finally jumped in all stealthy and ninja like, I was greeted with a camera that was easily disorienting, and to boot, a fair segment of the game that wasn’t fun to play.
The one absolutely solid thing Amazing Spidey has in his utility belt is a great soundtrack and sound design. Rocking thugs in the street feels and sounds great. Punches have that perfect light, but solid thud you’d expect from a Spider-Man punch. Blazing behind you while you’re doing most of the swinging busy work is a fine orchestral mix. The way the music comes to a crescendo as you’re falling and about to hit the ground when suddenly Parker decides to throw out another line is perfect. Adding a layer of tension that otherwise wouldn’t be there.
For many, including myself, The Amazing Spider-Man will just barely scratch that web-swinging itch, never really becoming the fantastic games Ultimate Spider-Man and Web of Shadows were. Really, it all comes down to the web swinging. We all want it to be this amazing experience where you think you’re the one pulling the high-flying, fast-moving acrobatics off. Face it, everyone wants to feel like they are Spider-Man, not just some chump pushing the sticks. Sadly, Amazing Spider-Man leaves us with the ladder.