Review: Is the thrill of flinging yourself across the NYC skyline enough to keep even the most avid of Spidey fans going or does THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN leave you dreaming of other superhero stars?
“With long running comic book franchises, comes great responsibility,” my late uncle once told me before being shot by some good-for-nothing punk. But like any semi-comic-book-literate fan, I’m always hesitant when I launch myself into another tie-in game for a comic book film. I remember past games of the genre all too well.
Picking up from the end of the film, The Amazing Spider-Man shows that Peter has apparently not learned his lesson when it comes to trips to great, big skyscrapers filled with laboratories that flirt with state legislation and international law like a tick on a dog’s belly. The first eight minutes and forty seconds of the game are occupied by mimicking the cinema experience as you sit back and take a tour of Oscorp. You know that dear ol’ Gwen is leading Peter into a situation that will be bad for his health.
This game is essentially Prototype lite with added Stan Lee and a dash of the Batman Arkham series. Should you have played Activision’s other recent New York City based offering (Prototype 2), an over familiarity will begin to eat away at you. But it’s saved from wallowing in these similarities by a story that makes more sense, characters that are more likable and a smarter-mouthed protagonist. A further deviation is the fact that moving Spidey around NYC, delving into secret labs or sewers and facing off against bad guys, is a an elegantly simple affair.
And yet you might say that it is too simple. Web slinging past man made mountains of steel, concrete and glass with the wind rushing past your ears is satisfying enough until you go to the downtown areas, the park or by the waterfront and begin thinking: “Just what is my web sticking to? Because it seems to be sticking to nothing but air.” In those jarring moments, your thoughts will most likely be broken by a glinting comic book squatting in a gutter or flying through the sky – comic books being one of the game’s main collectibles, with over 400 of them to find.
Swing and a miss
But if you try to ignore the defiance of physics, then everything is fine, until you get into a bit of the ol’ fisticuffs. Perhaps I’m just looking a gift horse in the mouth, again, but the combat has been made so easy that you can’t stop wondering if it’s too simple, as you web sling away out of danger like Batman with his grapple if things get too hot and swing about to confuse your enemies.
Whether a punch or a bullet is about to hit you, your Spider sense produces little warning lines above your head, cueing you to dodge – just like that certain caped crusader from an opposing franchise. Cartwheeling across the screen, shooting some web and then kicking mutated thugs in the head is not a difficult thing to do and is reminiscent of the satisfying fights one could find in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
At least it all feels satisfying until you become beset by robots. While the film may have kept back from this cheesier element of Spidey’s heritage, the game has no qualms with sending legions of the things after you. With their insectoid designs, force fields and lasers, some models can be a real chore to whittle down when they surround you. Still, it is possible to just web one up and then use it like a conker against its fellows before it explodes into tiny pieces of scrap.
After a while heaving mobs of thugs, security personnel, mutated freaks and robots chasing after you can feel repetitive. Escaping the monotony of being your everyday Spider-Man is achieved by with some reasonably varied boss fights – several of the battles achieve a degree of epicness that seems almost Godzilla-like in their vision and size.
Borrowed from the Bat
This is all a stark contrast to the game’s opportunities for stealth when moving through interiors or sneaking up on bad guys from behind while out on the streets. In comparison to the Arkham games, there is hardly a surface that Spider-Man cannot climb on or stick to and wait for baddies to just fall into his web. The ease with which you can clear an entire room of enemies without them having an idea of what hit them conveys a Spider-Man who – at least in the chronology of the film – would still not be that experienced, but is somehow already very powerful.
To an extent the game gives you ample opportunity to vary how you progress with numerous side missions and mini-games to distract from the main story: from picking up infected and taking them to treatment centres to web-slinging in front of a camera. But if you spend too much time on these or hunting down comic books then a feeling of sameness will creep up on you.
Despite being a Spider-Man game at its heart – no one else can traverse the New York skyline quite like him – the fluff that surrounds it shows a game that rarely tries to be original. If it had borrowed a bit less in terms of storyline and indeed accelerated further away from the events of the film, then I could have forgiven what it borrowed from the Arkham franchise, Prototype games and Wolverine too. But if you can feel like you are being challenged just enough and actively vary what you do, then there is a very good chance that you could find yourself having fun.
The Amazing Spider-Man, from Beenox, Other Ocean Interactive and Activision, is out now for PC, Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, Wii, Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo DS.