Warning: This review contains some major spoilers for the game and the movie.
Spider-Man’s not had the best of times in the video games industry in the last decade. Aside from the innovative and original sandbox fun of Treyarch’s Spider-Man 2: The Video Game back in 2004, and 2010′s time and dimension-hopping Shattered Dimensions, most of the games based on Spider-Man released in the last decade (and there’s been a lot) have been sub-par adventures that have failed to capture what makes a good Spider-Man game.
Enter The Amazing Spider-Man. Beenox Studios’ first attempt at a tie-in video game (their previous attempts being 2010′s well-received Shattered Dimensions and last year’s not-so-well-received Edge of Time). Expectations for the tie-in to the reboot of the same name weren’t particularly high – despite a bunch of excellent trailers – with the game hampered by its licensed tie-in game tag and its combat written off as a rip-off of Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum/Arkham City.
The Arkham games are certainly an influence on The Amazing Spider-Man‘s combat. You press X (at least on Xbox 360, the platform reviewed) to kick arse, and have a variety of extra moves at your disposal. That’s where the comparisons stop, at least until stealth kicks in later on in the game. In the Arkham games, Batman uses gadgets to stun his enemies, but in TASM, Spider-Man uses his trusty old webs. You can perform Web Strikes from a distance on enemies, and finish off stunned enemies with a Signature Move – yup, if you recognise those, it’s because you saw them before in one of the Arkham games. The combat’s derivative, but it’s fun, and it uses the same winning formula that you most likely know, and love.
And now time for a short rant (Skip past this paragraph for the rest of the review). As you might be aware, The Amazing Spider-Man game takes place after the movie, and it contains some major spoilers detailed in the first few minutes. Now the film’s out, I can freely talk about what’s spoiled in the game – the imprisonment of Curt Connors, the death of Captain Stacy, the fate of Oscorp and the survival of Gwen Stacy are all revealed in the first two missions in the game. It’s not so much a fault of the game – it’s more of the fault of the frankly moronic release date of a week before the movie’s release. Whoever made that decision, that was not clever. Not at all…
Rant over, and back to the game. The story, freed from the usual tie-in game constraints of being anchored to the movie’s plot, is actually surprisingly good, with genuinely witty dialogue (at times) and a script that allows nicely for the shoe-horning in of Spider-Man cross-species for the boss battles (and a heck of a lot of villains show up: Rhino, Vermin, Scorpion, Iguana, Black Cat and the Lizard all make appearances). The voice cast, despite a distinct absence of any voice talent from the movie, is also pretty good, with Sam Riegel doing a decent turn as Spider-Man. Bruce Campbell, as the challenge-giving Xtreme Reporter, steals the show with a handful of sample lines, however, so do head in the Reporter’s direction for challenges and Bruce Campbell when you can.
Of course, though, the main selling point of The Amazing Spider-Man is the return of free roaming. There hasn’t been a chance to free roam in any Spider-Man game since 2004′s Spider-Man 2, where its free roaming around New York City earned the game a place in the video games hall of fame. The free roaming in TASM isn’t anything like what Treyarch produced eight years ago, but it’s certainly just as good, if not better. It’s simple to control – holding the right trigger lets you web-swing freely around a beautiful virtual Manhattan – no need to press a button for a new web – the game will do it all for you. You can’t see your webs attach onto buildings, but TASM still has one eye on the laws of physics – if there’s nothing for your web to attach onto, you’ll freefall until you’ve found a new surface to swing onto. It’s a system that works perfectly in tandem with your other web-swinging option – Web Rush.
If just web-swinging doesn’t cut it for you, there’s the equally simple and pretty useful option of the new feature Web Rush. Web Rush, by holding RB, slows down time (it doesn’t stop time completely, so if you activate Web Rush during a fall, you’ll still fall, just far more slowly than you would have done), and lets you pick from a selection of yellow Spider-Man phantoms. Once you pick, Spider-Man will sprint across walls, zip, web-swing and fly towards your chosen destination. It’s not essential, and you could get by just web-swinging, but it’s useful nonetheless, especially when you’ve run up the top of a skyscraper and still want to get somewhere.
The Amazing Spider-Man’s campaign is a solid but not particularly long nine hours, but when you add the mountains of things to do in Manhattan (deep breath: Xtreme Reporter challenges, taking photos for a reporter, tracking down hidden Spider-Man logos to unlock extra suits (I’m getting by with my pre-order bonus of the Sam Raimi suit), beat the crap out of thugs to save civilians, take down getaway cars in car chases, collect the 700 (yup, you read that correctly) comic pages lying around in Manhattan to unlock comic books, or just web-swing. Adding all that in, it’s a pretty robust twelve hours.
I have a few gripes. Missions are mainly situated in confining indoor spaces, which ruins what makes the game so great. The boss battles with cross-species are, to be perfectly honest, rubbish (the outdoor battles with Oscorp robots are excellent, though), with dull, repetitive gameplay. The nadir of the game is an early fight with Rhino, where you… surprise, surprise, jump over his charges so he runs into a van. The voice samples for things like saving civilians and Spider-Man’s ever so slightly annoying hollers of joy as he swings around Manhattan, do grate after a while, but I guess I’m just nitpicking now.
VERDICT: There’s an abundance of confining indoor levels, it’s a bit too easy and the boss fights suck, but The Amazing Spider-Man still delivers a first-class open world, and a great script. The best Spidey game since Spider-Man 2.