Every Spider-man game on the current generation of consoles has had to live in the shadows of Spider-man 2, a game often seen as the pinnacle of the web slinger’s gaming career. While The Amazing Spider-man doesn’t quite match it in some areas, it more than makes up for it in sheer fun.
There are similarities, of course. Both games are based on movies, although Spider-man 2 is set during the plot and Amazing Spider-man is set just after the movie finishes. As such, there are a few spoilers which those of you who haven’t yet seen the film may want to avoid. Aside from that, the new game does a good job of capturing the look and feel of the film, even though the voice actors are stand-ins for the cast rather than the stars.
Both games are also free roaming, making this new Spider-man a refreshing change from the last few linear titles. Web swinging around Manhattan is therefore the order of the day and the city has never looked prettier. But while the first game had several methods of web swinging control, the more complicated favoured by many gamers, Amazing Spider-man sticks to a basic formula where one button press is all you need to successfully swing across the city. In addition, there’s also a Rush mode which gives you indicators to jump to rather than using a web-line. This allows you to jump straight towards objects like flag poles or the sides of buildings, or to land on enemies. It also slows down time, which gives you time to plan an attack.
This simplified control system has its own pros and cons; the ease of use makes it very simple to get into and allows players to pull off some of the more acrobatic moves we’re all used to Spider-man using in the movies, jumping or running across buildings before leaping off to the next rooftop and swinging away. But it’s clear that there’s less finesse to the new system and it often feels a little too easy at times. That said, some of the impressive boss battles couldn’t have been conceived without the simplified method of web-swinging and the Rush mode and they work far better when cornered or in a fight. Oh and, yes, you can swing from thin air. But then you could in Spider-man 2, it’s just that not many people remember this with their rose tinted specs on, not that it was quite as obvious as in this game.
Not that it’s a huge issue for me. While there is naturally some clipping and the draw distance isn’t perfect, this vision of skyscrapers and building with swimming pools on the roof is still very pretty and Spider-man himself looks cooler than ever as he perches on flagpoles and stick to the side of buildings, so being able to swing around without the hassle of worrying about letting go of a button at the top of an arc allows you to enjoy the rest of the game. Still, it would have been nice to have the choice.
As with any Spider-man game where you get to stick to walls and ceilings, the camera can be a bit hit and miss at times. There’s a sense that it doesn’t always follow you and can get lost in the action. Worse than this, though, is the indoor sections, of which there are many, which for some unfathomable reason insist on having Spidey go into first person when in a certain position and even reverses the controls at times so movement ends up becoming a mess.
The rest of the game suffers from the same simplification as the swinging. Beenox have obviously been playing the Batman Arkham games because there’s a huge similarity between the way fights are controlled here and in the Dark Knight’s games. Combos can be pulled off with a few deft button presses and look impressive, but while Batman’s games always felt as if there was a large element of skill involved, Spidey’s game has less impact and settles in to a monotony of one fight after another at times. Boss battles are also filled with quicktime events, though these are actually well thought out and fit well with the action.
Yet with all its faults, Beenox’s game isn’t bad. It occasionally shows sparks of ingenuity in missions, even though it does tend to repeat them over and over again, the city feels alive and there are tons of side-quests to complete and comics to find. The upgrades are well worth collecting too, though they’re not all needed unless you set the difficulty to its highest setting. Some of the boss battles are impressive, particularly a giant snake-like creature which pops up about half way through the game.
Ultimately, though, Amazing Spider-man borrows heavily from the series past success and tries to emulate elements from the Batman titles, but comes off as a poorer game in its own right because of this. It’s still a fun title that Spidey fans will enjoy playing, but it doesn’t quite hit the Amazing mark.