Developer Beenox’s fortunes turned around pretty quickly with their work on the Spider-Man video game franchise. After an excellent debut in 2010 in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, they lost a lot of good will they gathered with a rushed follow-up in 2011, Spider-Man: Edge of Time. Luckily for them, there was a Spider-Man movie coming out in 2012 and with any Spider-Man film coming out, you can be sure that publisher Activision would want a game lined up to meet that deadline. In their first two Spider-Man games, Beenox went back to the format Neversoft and Vicarious Visions did back on the PSOne by removing the open-world portion that was popularized by Spider-Man 2, 3, and Web of Shadows, but with their first movie tie-in, they gave the public what they craved by changeing their way of thinking and made The Amazing Spider-Man their debut with the character in the open-world. The Amazing Spider-Man is a solid effort from Beenox that is more Shattered Dimensions than Edge of Time, however by returning to the well-worn concept of the open-world, it doesn’t really fix the problems that steered them away from that school of design in the first place.
The Amazing Spider-Man takes place after the 2012 film of the same name with Peter Parker taking a tour of the in turn around Oscorp with Gwen Stacy. After running into Alistair Smythe in the process of destroying the last of Dr. Curt Connors cross-species experiments, Peter unwittingly causes the creatures to lose control and sets in motion a plague that is so dangerous, it requires his alter ego to seek out the help of the man he help put in custody: Curt Connors AKA The Lizard. Setting the game after the movie was a pretty smart decision as with the other Spider-Man movie games, they always chained themselves to the events of the film, causing the game to either be too short, in the case of the first Spider-Man movie game, and dragged out in the cases of 2 and 3. If you haven’t seen the movie, or just don’t want to, the game does contain some mild-spoilers as you find out about the fate of the a few characters from the film.
While it’s great to return to a game where Spider-Man is free to swing around a digitally recreated New York City, the way in which Beenox chose to implement the character’s locomotion was a tad controversial. What made people fall in love with games like Spider-Man 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man was the “realism”: In order to start web-slinging, Spider-Man needed to have something to anchor his web-line to. Beenox removed this stipulation and chose to allow the player to swing unencumbered without having to worry about things like physics. This was something that never really bothered me personally, as getting around the world as Spider-Man is just as fun as it’s always been, and things like “realism” are thrown out the window when you’re playing a game about a character who can stick to walls and has a basic form of pre-cognition. The web-slinging traversal is supplemented by a new mechanic dubbed “web-rush” where by depressing a trigger you can slow down time for a moment and zip to perches within close proximity. This tool allows you to view some pretty great acrobatics and get around the large map even quicker. In indoor areas it’s also helpful to escape from enemies while trying to sneak around, basically taking the place of zipping to a gargoyle in the Arkham titles, only Spider-Man can use every surface as an escape.
When not web-slinging around New York, there are missions that need to be completed by activating event triggers around the world map. These take you to stages that feel more like the work Beenox did before in their other Spidey titles where you have to navigate an indoor environment, completing basic puzzles by hitting switches and using your web rush to get through time sensitive doors before they close. The levels are decently designed, but at the same time they take place in some pretty boring environments like subways, generic science labs and way over used sewer stages. On the plus side when tackling these levels you can choose to go about them in any way you wish. You can sneak along the walls and ceilings, picking off enemies one by one just like in the Noir universe in Shattered Dimensions, or you can go in fists a blazing. Combat is less action focused than the two previous entries from Beenox, and plays more like an Arkham clone where you have to wait for your spider-sense to warn you to counter. It works very well, though the fighting mechanic is easier to master than the Arkham titles, and you’ll rack up combos up to fifty plus hits with no sweat. Intrepid explorers also can get a lot more out of the game by exploring as scattered throughout the indoor levels are collectibles that can be uncovered for combat experience for making your attacks more powerful, and tech devices for powering up your web-shooters and defense.
A big problem with all the open-world Spider-Man games is that when you take away the missions and the thrill of web-slinging, you’re left with a few repetitive side-missions and I’m sad to report this game doesn’t fix that issue. There’s a handful of sub-objectives: beat a mugger, stop a robber, or compete in races and challenges given to you by Bruce Campbell floating around in a blimp among a few others. All of these are really easy to do with no scaling challenge as you progress through the game so once you beat up the first mugger or web-rushed to the flares in the races for the first time, you’ve seen everything the game has to offer. You can ignore both types of missions and hunt down comic pages, 700 in all, which is a bit excessive and that’s coming from a guy like me who loves nothing more than to hunt down these types of things. They’re all pretty easy to spot on the map though and when in range your web-rush indicator will warn you that something is in range so you shouldn’t worry about venturing off the beaten path too much.
In keeping with the cross-species motif started in the film and further elaborated in the game, Beenox changed a majority of the games villains into human/animal hybrids. It’s an interesting take that fits with the theme of the game, but as the villains are more or less just monsters, there’s no banter between our hero and the foe he’s going up against, making going up against the likes of The Scorpion, The Rhino and Vermin just pretty uneventful. The only real villains who aren’t animals are Smythe, who shows up a few times in giant robot spider-slayers that are pretty fun to go up against, and a pre-Black Cat Felicia Hardy who is just like any other thug you run across.
Previously Activision was able to wrangle the cast from the original trilogy into voicing all the characters they played in the film, but for this game and the franchises reboot they chose to go with voice actors and mild likenesses. The villains, Curt Connors and Smythe, voiced by Steve Blum and Nolan North respectively, are pretty good fits, but coming off of Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time where the best of the best voiced Spider-Man, Sam Riegel as the main character doesn’t really do it for me. He doesn’t assault your ears with tons of repeated voice clips mostly, which is great, but he also doesn’t have any dialogue that’s memorable or funny. I loved the stories and character dynamic in the two previous Beenox games but in the case of this game, what was most memorable was how good Steve Blum is able to imitate Rhys Ifans.
WHAT’S NEW FOR Wii U
This version of The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t sub-titled The Ultimate Edition for nothing. The Wii U port of the game is the only version that includes all of the post launch DLC costumes as well as the extra mini-games that became available. Back in 2012 one of my first reviews for this site was for the then newly released DLC for this game and other than the Stan Lee bonus mission, none of the games are really worth your time, but it’s nice to have everything collected into one package for those like me who just need to have everything pressed onto a disc. For the extra Wii U exclusive features the game’s map and menus are found on the tablet controller and it makes it really easy to navigate the open world when looking for main and sub-missions. Overall if you have the hardware and want to know what copy of this game to get, this is the one with the extra controller functionality and the extra frills. Buyer beware though: this game isn’t that common and it can run upwards of $40, which is a bit much for an approaching three-year old movie game.
I’m a defender of Spider-Man: Edge of Time but I can recognize that Beenox had to change things up for their third Spider-Man game and for the most part this is just as good as the majority of other open-world Spider-Man games. The swinging, though defying the laws of physics, is still fun and the mixture of combat and stealth lets the player chose how they want to go about playing through the games levels. For a movie title the game is a decent length, especially if you compulsively need to complete every side-mission and gather every collectible, but this can become repetitive as you’re doing the same few tasks over and over again. The Amazing Spider-Man returns the Spider-Man movie franchise back to the greatness it had in its first and second entries, but it doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel from what other games of this type starring the same character have been doing for the past fifteen years.