Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Do Whatever A Spider Can" - The Amazing Spider-Man (Video Game) Review

When it comes to movies and video games, there are two super hero franchises that stand above the rest. One is Batman, who has seen a remarkable comeback thanks to Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy and has changed how superhero games are made with the Rocksteady games Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. The other is Spider-Man who pretty much launched the long standing domination superhero films have over the box office thanks to Sam Raimi's films and is by far one of the most fun characters to play in a video game. Spider-Man 2, the movie tie in for Raimi's sequel, defined superhero games with an open world for players to swing in as the titular webhead. Every review you see for a Spider-Man game is almost guaranteed to mention the impact Spider-Man 2 had on Spider-Man games and other superhero games in general.

Since then, Activision, who has produced every Spider-Man game since the classic Playstation games in the late 90's, has continued to expand on that and make the next Spider-Man game even more innovative. This has had mixed results as most games just continued to use the Spider-Man 2 formula and just added their own plot to change things up (which isn't a bad thing, I have yet to run into a terrible Spider-Man game). However, every Spider-Man game has, at least, been entertaining to play.

If anything, it was Spider-Man: Web Of Shadows, that really perfected the structure of what a Spider-Man game should be like. It had everything, the sandbox city to swing in, numerous crimes to stop, and added a new combat system which utilized Spidey's powers and abilities to create a unique experience. You didn't just fight on the ground, you fought in the air and on walls and it was great and each style was unique in their own way. The best part about Web of Shadows was the introduction of the web-strike attack where Spidey could zip from enemy to enemy with his webs. It felt like how Spidey would really fight and it was satisfying to attack a string of unknowing bad guys in succession. If anything, Web of Shadows is by far the best Spider-Man game.

Then Beenox took over as the studio who developed Spider-Man Games. The result was Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time. While I, sadly, haven't played these games myself the reactions to these games were rather lukewarm. Unlike their predecessors these games didn't have you swinging through the city at your leisure, which was enough to put off many fans right then and there. So when the new Spider-Man movie was put into production Beenox was tasked with making the movie tie-in game and with it everyone was wondering if swinging would make a return. Thankfully it did.

 If anyone recalls my review of the film this game is based on some may expect this review to be a repeat of the same comments I made in that review. However, this isn't the case. In fact, The Amazing Spider-Man game is probably one of the few instances where the game is better than the movie it's based on. Story wise it is far more coherent and structured, though does suffer from some random occurrences but it doesn't detract from the story all that much, and manages to actually build a more interesting world than the movie did.

 Set after the events of the movie (which managed to spoil anyone who played it since it came out before the movie) we have Spider-Man faced with the aftermath of The Lizard's rampage through New York. There's a new CEO at Oscorp, Alistair Smythe, who is a leading researcher in robotics and nanotechnology. Smythe intends on removing all of Dr. Connor's research into cross-species genetics though it looks like Oscorp did some experimenting of their own with Connors' notes as there are more cross-species creatures including versions of Rhino and The Scorpion. Naturally, like with any evil corporation which takes pride in playing with genetics like a 10 year-old with photoshop, the beasties escape and Spider-Man has to deal with the resulting viral outbreak.

The game is pretty much a straightforward Spidey game from there on out. However, Beenox has managed to make the old gameplay mechanics seem new and fun. Taking some inspiration from Batman: Arkham City, this Spider-Man game features a similar camera set-up (with the camera tight behind Spidey's shoulder) and a similar combat mechanic. While some would say this game is merely knocking off what made Arkham City successful, I'd say this combat mechanic fits perfectly within the world of Spider-Man. In fact, combat is fairly entertaining as Spidey punches, kicks, and jumps around numerous enemies while dodging incoming attacks thanks to his spider-sense. If, anything, I'd say Arkham City's combat system seems to have been meant for a Spider-Man game in the first place.

Swinging through the city is back once again and the new camera set-up provides an exhilarating rush as you swing through the city. Though the mechanic has been tweaked somewhat, as in you're not truly bound to any of the buildings you swing on, this is meant to allow you to swing in a more visually satisfying manner and it pays off. Web-swinging has never been more fun.

Sadly, some elements from previous games haven't made their way into this one like wall crawling combat (though you never really have anyone to fight on the walls), but have now been replaced by another Arkham City inspired stealth system. Again, I personally feel that these gameplay aspects really fit perfectly into a Spider-Man game and don't see any problem in this (that's why I say "inspired" instead of "ripped-off"). In fact, it's actually more entertaining to see Spidey take out a mook with stealth tactics because he does so with that traditional Spider-Man wit. He will web down from the ceiling and playfully tap bad guys on the head with his foot before encasing them in a web cocoon and hauling up into the ceiling, and I laugh every time he does it.

However, Beenox has introduced a new mechanic that actually makes the game even more fun. It's called "web-rush." Web-rush takes you into a first person perspective, time slows to a crawl and you are free to scan the area for possible places for Spidey to zip to, collectibles such as comic books, and even enemies. It provides you with a new form of travel through New York that is even more visually pleasing than simple web-swinging. Web-rush also integrates Web of Shadows' web-strike attack system which is a relief because I loved that about WoS. 

While some will point out the similarities between this game and Arkham City, that shouldn't be a negative thing. After all, Arkham City was a brilliant game (one of the best superhero games I've ever played in fact) so having a Spider-Man game that is similar to it is actually a plus, in my opinion. Needless to say, it didn't disappoint me as much as it's film counterpart did.

I give The Amazing Spider-Man (The Video Game) 4 flying comic book pages out of 5. 

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