Spidey, Web-Head, Wall Crawler, Web-Slinger. Whatever you may call him, it’s without a doubt that Spider-Man is one of the most iconic comic book heroes of all time, often making the top five in various top heroes lists. He has started in several comics, books, toys, movies, a Broadway play, and of course, some video games.
From the side scrolling mess of the Arcade’s Revenge, to the beat em’ up of Maximum Carnage, video games have been somewhat good to the old Web-Head. Some even consider the game based on the Spider-Man 2 movie to be the best Spider-Man game ever due to having the freedom to swing anywhere around Manhattan and parts of Peter Parker’s neighborhood of Queens. Since then, the Spider-Man franchise has changed development teams, finally landing at Beenox. After developing linear Spider-Man games Edge of Time and Shattered Dimensions, Beenox was tasked to develop a game based on the latest Spider-Man movie: The Amazing Spider-Man. With previous Marvel movie video games being mostly terrible, can Beenox break that streak with their most popular hero?
DOES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN
Self-Contained Story - The problem with most movies that get turned into video game is that the developers are pressured by the movie studios to try to get as close to the release of the movie as possible. This often results in developers rushing the game and end up making it a complete mess, both in terms of story and gameplay. With The Amazing Spider-Man the game actually came out a week before the movie. This allowed Beenox to craft a story that not just touches on the events of the movie, yet allows the game to have its own self-contained story. The story takes place a few months after the events of the movie and Peter is being snuck deeper into the restrictive areas of OSCORP by Gwen Stacy. She suspects that Dr. Conner’s work is being continued by new OSCORP director Alistair Smythe. The two are caught by Smythe, and explains that they are continuing Conner’s experiments but found out that the experiments yielded a dangerous virus and are being sent to disposal. When those experiments see Peter, they start to go wild and all hell breaks loose infecting the staff in the building and escaping the labs into the city. After just barely escaping, it’s up to Spider-Man to save the lab staff and the city from the virus. If you haven’t seen the movie though, it’s best to see it first and then play the game because there will be many reference to the movie.
Web Swinging in Style - When the Spider-Man 2 game came out, everyone was excited because for the first time you could actually swing around Manhattan just like Spider-Man. That game made you feel like you were Spider-Man. Web of Shadows tried to do the same thing, but was muddled with poor camera controls, unpolished graphics and several technical issues. In The Amazing Spider-Man, web swinging is improved. No more web swinging on “ghost buildings”. The height of the building matter now when you’re swinging around. The swinging animations were improved as well. Since Spider-Man likes to show off, animations such as diving, mid-air flips and twits were added to his web swinging animations. His web zip was also improved. Now players can actually aim where Spidey can web zip instead of just randomly zipping to a general direction. Combine all of this and a long city block passing Times Square, and you have one of the best web swinging experiences ever in a Spider-Man game.
Moves That Bone Saw Would Be Proud of - Out of all the Marvel superheroes, Spider-Man has a unique fighting style like no other. While the rest of the heroes had some sort of training, Spider-Man has had to come up with a style that would complement his enhanced spider abilities. So taking a few cues from Arkham City, Beenox gave Spider-Man a similar set up to that seen in the Arkham games but adapted for his abilities. Such as his Spider-Sense which warns him of danger.
New Spin for Villains Encountered - When it comes to creating a back story for characters in a different media that they originated from, some liberties are taken. When changes were made to the movie, at first I kind of was upset, but then I grew to like the changes as the movie went on. The same can be said for the game. When I encountered the first batch of enemies *SPOILER* and learned some of them were animals that were created from human DNA (ie Rhino, Vermin, Scorpion) I got a bit mad. But when you read the in game background info about each enemy, its revealed that this info was a cover up and that they were really the result of human experimentation *END SPOILER*. One of the more interesting spins was Scorpion and how not only how he was created but who created him. The references made in the game are so great that they could spawn off more games.
Enough Backstory to Spin Off More Games - As I mentioned before, the story behind Scorpion’s origin is really interesting. There are two reasons why: first, he was created by mixing human/scorpion DNA with a mysterious black substance found on a recovered OSCORP satellite that crashed, and two, an OSCORP scientist by the name of Otto Octavious was in charge of creating Scorpion. If that reference wasn’t enough to get your comic nerd on how about this one: a colleague of Dr. Conners by the name of Dr. Michael Morbius was working on the same idea that Conners had. But instead of lizards, he was experimenting on vampire bats. For those who do not recognize what I am talking about, use Google or check out some of early Spider-Man comics. For those who do know what I mean, these are just a few of the references scattered throughout the game. In fact, if Beenox wanted to, they could either build brand new games or new DLC by building on these references.
Stan Lee….Nuff’ Said - It wouldn’t be a Marvel game if Stan Lee didn’t have some type of cameo. But unlike other games, he has a bigger part in The Amazing Spider-Man. There’s a DLC pack called Stan Lee’s Challenge Map. This unlocks a web zip challenge starting Stan “The Man” Lee trying to recover his script. If collecting papers doesn’t sound that exciting, how about swinging around Manhattan beating up bad guys as The Man himself? The DLC also allows players to play through the game as Stan Lee, complete with his own set of one liners and commentary. This is a great nod to a man that brought us such a great comic hero and a good way to celebrate Spider-Man’s 50th anniversary.
Good Voice Acting - Another problem with making a video game based of the movie is trying to cast the game. While it would make sense to have the actors that played the character in the movie to play the same character in the game, issues arise. That issue is the cost of having Hollywood actors in the game. So sound-alikes are sometimes used in games. Sometimes it works out and the VA cast sound better than the movie cast, and other times its terrible. In The Amazing Spider-Man’s case, the VA’s did a really good job voicing the characters. Specifically, Sam Riegel who plays Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Sam captures the snarky carefree attitude of Spider-Man really well with his trademark one-liners and jokes.
SQUASHED LIKE A BUG
Not so Big Apple - The Amazing Spider-Man takes place in the roughly 22 square miles of a digital version of Manhattan. While that is a very large area to swing through and explore, it all felt kind of small somehow. Let me put this in perspective: in Spider-Man 2, you had the chance to venture into parts Peter’s old neighborhood of Forest Hill, Queens. Also in games like Spider-Man 2 and Web of Shadows, you could recognize prominent comic book landmarks, such as the Baxter Building, Stark/Avengers' Tower, Hell’s Kitchen, The Daily Bugle and other notable locations that are in the comics. Granted that the game is furthering the story of the movie, but they could have at least made them visible while exploring Manhattan or at least have Spider-Man mention them somehow.
Quickly Runs Out of Web-Fluid - Playing through The Amazing Spider-Man didn’t really take that long. I was able to beat the whole game in about 10 hours. With most open-world games, completing the main story usually would on average take about 15 hours to beat. Factor in side-missions and collectables and now you’re looking at a 20-hour long game, depending, of course, on the length of the missions and the number of collectables. However in this game’s case, completing the side-missions and getting all of the collectables only added about 2 hours. For a super hero game, this is on the short side in my opinion. Sure Beenox is using the movie version of Spider-Man, but they do also have the use of the comic versions of characters, as evident in Web of Shadows and Shattered Dimensions. But what happens once you’ve done everything that the game has to offer that’s on the disk?
What Now? - Now that I’ve saved New York from a deadly outbreak, saved sick citizens, returned the asylum patients, and beat extra bosses, one question remains: Now what? This question, in my opinion, should never be asked in an open-world game, let alone a super hero game. There should always be something to do in these games, even if it’s repetitive. When talking about an open world super hero game, there’s should always be some citizen that needs help or goons out causing trouble or something happening to keep players engaged. And this isn’t just some super hero game, its Spider-Man. He has some of the most diverse arch-enemies in the Marvel Universe, and even if you don’t count the villains that crossover from other heroes he still has the most villains for one hero. He has fought against gods, demons, kingpins, aliens, inter-dimensional beings, mutants and many others. Surely Beenox could have thought of something additional for players to do. Maybe have him earn money by taking pictures and selling them to the Daily Bugle, or chasing down the Black Cat from rooftop to rooftop, or even meeting up with other NYC heroes like Luke Cage, Daredevil, etc. Heck, in Spider-Man 2 there was a side mission where he delivered pizzas. Sure it sounds silly but its also fun.
Yes, it sounds like I’m another complaining fanboy, but I grew up with Spider-Man. The past few years haven’t been kind to him and I just want Spidey to get back into the spotlight again. The Amazing Spider-Man (both movie and game), may be just the break Spidey needs. This game does a good job in creating its own original self-contained story, while making connections to the movie’s plot. The web swinging is the best I’ve seen in a Spider-Man game and it really makes you feel if you’re flying through the streets of the city. Combat is done really well, showing off what makes Spider-Man such a unique fighter. Sam Regel captures the spirit of the wall crawler very well, and having the legendary Stan Lee as a playable character is just icing on the cake.
However the game isn’t without its faults. The city feels much smaller than in previous games, the main story is short and once everything is done, there isn’t anything left to do other than swing around the city. But by no means is this a bad game. In fact it’s a pretty good Spider-Man game and in my opinion tops Spider-Man 2. One word of caution, though, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, go watch it and then pick up the game. Or if you don’t care about spoilers or just a really big fan of Spider-Man, give it a try.
*This review was based on the PS3 version of the game with a review copy provided by the publisher.*