I'm on record stating my childlike fondness of web-slinging through the New York City skyline, courtesy of Spider-Man games like Spider-Man 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man. Living up to expectations, The Amazing Spider-Man video game is at its best amongst the clouds. Spider-Man's descent from the clouds, however, is quite the metaphor for much of the rest of the experience.
The Amazing Spider-Man expands upon the story seen in the recently released movie of the same title. Spidey forms a tenuous alliance with Dr. Curt Connors (aka The Lizard) to save damsel Gwen from a rampant infection spreading through the city like the Black Death. Spider-Man's panic and desperation feels real thanks to voice actor Sam Riegel's pitch-perfect interpretation of Peter Parker. However, as soon as cutscenes end, Spider-Man seemingly forgets the city's woes, yelping joyously as he dive-bombs through the city. These bipolar tendencies along with other contrasting design elements create a gap between the story and ancillary activities to the point where the game feels and plays like two separate games mashed together.
If The Amazing Spider-Man is two separate games intertwined, traversing the city is by far the more ingenious and entertaining experience. Thanks to a gorgeous (albeit scaled-down) representation of Manhattan, accessible mechanics, and midair tumbling that puts Cirque del Soleil to shame, web-swinging just feels right. Few are the moments when Spidey gets stuck, accidentally wall-runs, suffers from a bad camera angle or breaks rhythm between thwips. When swinging gets old (if ever), the web rush mechanic offers an amazing way to hop and zip through city streets. Chaining web rushes takes practice, but it offers the chance to watch Spider-Man show off parkour skills like no other. He'll automatically bounce off buses, street lamps, and buildings in a flurry smile-enducing acrobatics. Unfortunately, freestyle web swinging largely outdoes race and acrobatic challenges in The Amazing Spider-Man, but at least these side missions offer an appreciated Bruce Campbell cameo.
When its time to stop fooling around and snagging up collectible comic book pages hidden throughout the city, The Amazing Spider-Man reverts back to some blunders for which Beenox has grown a reputation. Namely, poor A.I., the overly simplistic boss battles with iconic Spider-Man villains, restricting indoor environments, and other head-scratchers that make you think you took a time machine à la Shattered Dimensions to game design circa 1992.
Stealth takedowns feel good initially, but an over-reliance on cocooning goons in webbing becomes repetitive halfway through the campaign. The counter-based combat does well to honor Spidey's nimble style, but its blows feel limp and movesets are minimal. Indoor boss battles will be forgotten just as soon as they end, and we would have liked to have seen Beenox incorporate more environmental elements in boss battles like Rhino's rampage in a congested parking lot. Also, many of the cutscenes leading to face offs in The Amazing Spider-Man would be much better as actual gameplay. Why these moments are spectator-only is a mystery and a wasted opportunity.
Where the indoor missions fail, outdoor robot battles will raise the hair on your arms. Giant robots shake the foundations of the city in The Amazing Spider-Man, and watching what these robots do to the city will drop your jaw. The actual fighting is basic: web shoot and attack glowing orbs until the robot deactives. However, the scale and carnage make up for simplicity. Even smaller robots offer challenges that humanoid baddies don't, but they're still poor excuses for modern-day henchmen.
There might not be infinite time to implement every idea in a game, but one thing Beenox missed makes a big difference in the feel of The Amazing Spider-Man. While the outdoor gameplay makes this game, the civilians are sorely underrepresented. While they'll cheer Spidey on and they have the occasional quip, they don't reflect the danger the city is truly in. The only city-goers showing any sign of trepidation are the infected peoples Spider-Man rescues. The hundreds of others act blasé and empty, not like the world's greatest city might fall into complete chaos. It's a small but important detail that pulls you out of the experience. Sure, there's a faux Twitter feed where New Yorkers post comments about their confusion and fear, and if Spider-Man didn't spend a huge part of the game in the streets, this might have sufficed.
As an A-list superhero, Spider-Man deserves the utmost respect in any medium, let only a video game. As a movie tie-in, The Amazing Spider-Man ranks as one of the best spinoffs to date. As a standalone video game, Activision left something to be desired. Half of the mechanics, namely web-swinging and web rush, do Spidey justice and will please the most demanding fanboys. Combat and enemies, in a word, are dated. Luckily, just as you're getting bored of dodge-punch-repeat, a truly monumental catastrophe or fantastic parkour sequence slaps you in the face, making it all worth while.
GameDynamo's Score for The Amazing Spider-Man (X360)
John loves gaming and loves writing about games. He wants to become a known voice in the gaming community and a game designer one day.
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