With great power comes great responsibility. Those words, or at least a variation of them, have been at the basis of Marvel‘s Spider-Man lore since 1962, when the web-slinger came to fictional life thanks to a pen, some ink and Stan Lee. The meaning of what has become an iconic line is quite straight-forward, and perfectly describes Peter Parker’s second life as a costumed superhero, following a bite from a radioactive spider. Despite being gifted with incredible reflexes, amazing powers and a rather helpful sixth sense, the young student’s strange encounter with a laboratory-bred arachnid also forced him to grow up.
Though generalized superheroes are seen as protectors who clean up others’ messes, such as those caused by misguided and sometimes evil villains, Spider-Man has always had a knack for getting himself into trouble. Unfortunately for his red and blue hide, that’s what happens in The Amazing Spider-Man video game, which acts as a sequel to the celluloid phenomenon of the same name. After locking up Dr. Connors (aka. The Lizard), Peter is forced to undo his handiwork by helping the lab rat escape from his psychiatric cell. Why is that? In short, it’s the devious minds at Oscorp who are to blame.
Those who are familiar with the film’s events, as well as the character’s general lore, will know of Dr. Connors’ revolutionary cross-species experiments. By mixing different types of DNA with others, the brilliant yet disturbed mind was able to create shocking new entities, many of which were housed at Oscorp’s headquarters. Following his arrest, those dangerous results were supposed to be destroyed, though that isn’t what happened. Instead, the experiments continued behind closed doors, watched over by a Dr. Smythe whose orders were to scrap them altogether.
The game begins in first person as Peter is led through the metallic hallways of the aforementioned multi-million dollar mega structure by his love, Gwen Stacy. As an Oscorp employee, she’s managed to get her beau in for a tour, though it’s one that wasn’t well thought out. You see, Spider-Man is a cross-species himself, and happens to be a perfect example of the union. Though it’s certainly an asset when it comes to crime fighting, that genetic factoid ends up causing an outbreak at the sterile facility, as the creatures react violently towards their newly-introduced peer.
As if the introduction of violent mutants into Manhattan Island wasn’t bad enough, it’s discovered that Dr. Connors’ experiments carry a virus that humans can easily catch, making the search for their whereabouts much more dire. Almost as soon as “the event” takes place inside of its walled confines, the iconic New York borough begins to show signs of the foreign infection. With formerly healthy civillians complaining of flu-like symptoms rendering them unable to walk or take care of themselves, and a sewer system that has become a fungal paradise, things quickly take a turn for the worse. As expected, panic follows, and Manhattan is completely cut-off from the rest of North America, leaving its inhabitants to fend for themselves. Though, as luck would have it, they possess a potential saviour in a young web-slinger who aims to make amends for causing not one, but two outbreaks. You see, that aforementioned asylum rescue also went partially awry, flooding the streets with the mentally inept.
Those who choose to act as controlling champions for the unlucky superhero can look forward to a quality campaign that offers upwards of ten hours of gameplay within its twelve chapter structure. Forcing Spidey fanatics to rely on the character’s extraordinary senses, swift reflexes and a combat system that owes a lot to Batman: Arkham Asylum, it presents gameplay that is part beat ’em up and part stealth venture. It seems that Beenox decided to borrow from the best, which is the reason why Peter Parker can now stealthily incapacitate baddies from above, ala Bruce Wayne. Though, as obvious as the correlation is, the development team’s decision to incorporate the stealthy maneuver into this film tie-in was a good one. Then again, it comes at the cost of originality, which is added to by the game’s spider sense based counter system that also originated in Gotham’s digitally rendered prison.
Although The Amazing Spider-Man‘s combat system isn’t wholly original, employing its agility based moves against foes of all shapes and sizes will offer web-heads moderate entertainment, in addition to a surprising amount of challenge. The stealth takedowns are rewarding, bringing with them a sense of accomplishment, while adding strategy into a game that presents a hero who can’t take a ton of damage. This is in no way a game where you’ll feel like an overpowered badass. In fact, most of the weapon or appendage-based attacks that enemies can throw at you will land serious damage, especially on harder difficulties. For that reason, one must try to keep to the shadows, where chances to pick off highlighted foes using stealth attacks help to improve the hero’s chances of survival. However, that option is not presented whenever open world combat segments pop up with cross-species hunting robots acting as Spidey’s main enemies, making them stand out as the hardest portions of the game.
The aforementioned emphasis on stealth ties into the game’s overwhelming amount of interior missions. In fact, almost every story-based mission takes place indoors where hallways and closed off arenas play host to most of the action. Although Beenox hit one out of the park with 2010’s Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, which featured a creative mix of open areas and interior locations, its follow-up (Spider-Man: Edge of Time) lacked the same type of intrigue because its entire campaign took place in one dull office building. While this most recent adaptation of the web-slinger’s adventures provides a beautiful open world for fans to swing through, its main missions show that not much was learned from its predecessor’s feedback. Simply put, there are far too many indoor sections in this game, and it suffers as a result. Though, that’s not to say that every canon section of the game is dull. Some of them present enjoyable opportunities to pick off baddies, letting players feel like the titular saviour. However, my ideal interpretation of a Spider-Man video game would have fewer closed-in sections and much less arena combat than this one does.
Once Spider-Man is out of doors and has the freedom to roam Manhattan, this game becomes a lot of fun. Simply swinging through the living city and its grid-like streets can become addicting, especially when you give a completionist the controls and tell him that there are seven hundred unique comic book pages to find. Hours of replay value can be found within that venture, but those pages and the memorable comic books they create are not the only collectibles to be found inside of this interactive romp. In actuality, there are several different items hidden throughout the game, but only the comic books can be found outside of missions. If you’re daring enough to go for them all, you’ll find yourself scouring every inch of the presented world, but the staggering amount of included collectibles felt absurd to me.
When players aren’t battling against cross-species or hunting for collectibles, they’ll be swinging through the city looking for activities to complete. As with every other open world superhero game, The Amazing Spider-Man includes a myriad of different things for players to do during their free time. Preventing muggings, car chases and hold-ups from occurring are just a few of the featured types. In addition to those, you’ll find fifty infected civillians to save and quite a few photo challenges to complete, plus X-Treme Reporter film and race sessions featuring Bruce Campbell‘s recognizable vocal tones. And, if that’s not enough, then you can tackle the game’s few side missions, which are very much like their canon peers.
If one were to attempt to find and complete everything in this game then it would undoubtedly take them twenty hours, if not a bit more. There’s a ton of stuff to do, giving it a high amount of replay value. That is, for all of the achievement fans and collectors out there. Others will find that their interest in revisiting this game will hinge on how much they enjoy its brand new web-slinging mechanics, which really make you feel like you’re in Peter Parker’s red shoes. Though it takes a moment to get used to the finer points of the design, webbing through the city becomes natural after a while. However, there are times where more precision is required, which is where the new and user-friendly web rush ability comes in. It allows players to zip to a selected platform, wall or perch, and all they have to do is hold down the right shoulder button.
When it comes to presentation, The Amazing Spider-Man video game excels. Its open world Manhattan location looks very good, and offers several different daylight settings, which can be picked from upon completion of the main game. Although it’s not an exact model by any means, the digitally crafted island exudes the New York charm that it should, and feels alive thanks to independent vehicles and unique pedestrians. Spidey looks great as he zips in and out of traffic, or over building tops, though some immersion is lost whenever his webs become anchored to the sky. Then again, it’s relatively easy to overlook that issue considering that this is a game about a fictional superhero whose human body has been enhanced by arachnid traits.
Unfortunately, the film’s major players are absent from this interactive sequel’s voice cast, allowing some lesser-known actors to lend their pipes to the experience. Although it’s certainly disappointing to not hear Andrew Garfield or Emma Stone reprise their big screen roles, Peter Riegel and Kari Wahlgren put in admirable performances as both Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. Furthermore, well-known standouts can be found in supporting roles, with Bruce Campbell, Stan Lee and Nolan North all featured within. Each of the above-mentioned actors had fun with their roles, but didn’t overstep the magic boundary that separates solid blockbuster performances from over-acted cheese. That is, apart from Stan Lee, but he’s always had a flair for embellishment. Even then, his brief appearances goes well with the game’s boisterous orchestral tunes and biff, bang, pow sound effects.
Although licensed games have received a bad reputation over the years, there have been quite a few standouts, and that exclusive list happens to feature a hefty amount of Spider-Man games. Since the dawn of this industry, the human arachnid’s digital ventures have resided close to the top of the superhero heap, although they’ve never trumped Rocksteady‘s current generation Batman series, which continues to hold the crown now that The Amazing Spider-Man has shown its agility. Granted, while it’s not a masterpiece, this web-slinging iteration happens to be a solid and well above-average adventure for the red and blue cross-species. Although its ascent to greatness is blocked by some questionable design choices, it’s certainly worth fans’ time, money and interest, but could have been better if it had taken more cues from Shattered Dimensions and less from Edge of Time.
This article is based on a copy of the game that was provided to us for review purposes.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a polished and entertaining licensed title, which acts as a sequel to its celluloid parent. However, certain design choices hold it back from being as good as it could have been.