Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

‘The Amazing Spider-Man introduces a wonderful free-roaming mechanic, but chooses not to show it off, instead opting to put the wall crawler in confined spaces and dark sewers – immediately alienating the best thing about this game.”

Considering our favourite wall-crawler was one of the first super heroes to make the giant leap from comics to video games, expectations have always been high for Spider-Man and his digital adventures. That being said, Spider-Man games have also been amidst a select few that for the most part, have actually been pretty good, despite a few hiccups along the way. The Amazing Spider-Man takes heavy influence from one of this generations best series, Batman: Arkham and intertwines it with beautiful free-roaming mechanics that really put you in the shoes of Spider-Man. As a result this new adventure is expansive and a lot of fun, despite a few shortcomings in level design and AI. Nevertheless, The Amazing Spider-Man is definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of Peter Parker or indeed enjoy a good open-world adventure.

The Amazing Spider-Man introduces you to its greatest asset right from the go, the open-world of New York. Gliding through the concrete jungle has certainly been missed in Spider-Man’s recent adventures but here you are at full swing. While you unfortunately don’t see what Spider-Man’s webbing is attaching too, the physics is excellent and really gives you a feel for how the wall-crawler must maneuver through the air. Part of the games’ appeal is the massive assortment of collectables to be found scattered across New York and there’s literally never been a better way to traverse a city on the hunt for these goodies. Take my word for it, you will find yourself lost for hours roaming this beautiful city as you leap from tall buildings and perform spectacular acrobatics.

This well designed world hub acts perfectly as your guide to the story missions and side quests – and it is here unfortunately where The Amazing Spider-Man can be hit and miss. The story itself is set supposedly after the events of the upcoming movie with a virus outbreak in Manhattan. Parker proceeds to breakout an inmate from an asylum to help him find a cure and as a result, all hell breaks loose in the city. The dialogue and narrative are very engaging throughout, but the pacing, level design and difficulty curve falter. When The Amazing Spider-Man sets you loose in the open world you will undoubtedly have a lot of fun, but enclosed spaces (of which there are many) certainly don’t play to the games’ strengths. While Spidey can move around any object and perform cool sneak attacks, the sense of constriction really impedes the fun and as a result, you simply can’t wait to get back out into the open. Thankfully, there are mini games and side quests present that give you every excuse to get out there and explore New York. Although they’re not particularly challenging or engaging, I cannot describe how terrific the free-roaming mechanics are, which make any menial task in The Amazing Spider-Man, fun to do.

The Amazing Spider-Man should definitely be played on the harder difficulty setting. There’s absolutely no challenge present on normal and you’ll find yourself breezing through the game with minimal effort. Combat mechanics and a basic upgrade system are all heavily influenced by the Batman: Arkham series so if you’re a fan of pressing one button to perform combos and another to dodge when the command prompt appears, then you’ll have no issues getting to grips with the controls here. Being a flashy kinda guy, Spider-Man makes all these moves and combos look really cool and it’s a real joy to perform alongside his web-combos and special moves.

The comparisons to Batman Arkham continue in the sections that force you to utilize stealth. Spider-Man can hover above enemies or line himself on top of groups and perform stealth finishers using his web. Unlike Batman: Arkham however, the AI lacks any real conviction especially when they come looking for you, but cool additions like the AI using flashlights make this experience somewhat above average.

This is not to say that all of The Amazing Spider-Man’s campaign is poor. Boss battles, especially on the harder difficulty setting are a lot of fun. A giant mechanical beast threatening to destroy Manhattan poses a serious issue for Spider-Man and the impressive use of scale and speed makes these battles a whole load of fun.

Unfortunately these enjoyable moments are few and far between to make any form of consistency throughout The Amazing Spider-Man’s story missions. Swinging through Manhattan is absolutely wonderful and exploring the city will take you hours in itself. It’s a shame however that this wonderful mechanic could not be supplemented with any depth with side missions becoming stale very quickly and the majority of the campaign limiting the only real highlight of this game, the freedom to move like Spider-Man. If swinging around exploring New York sounds like your thing, then don’t hesitate and pick up The Amazing Spider-Man, but people looking for a true superhero experience need to head straight to Gotham because Batman still stands head and shoulders above the competition.

7.5 | Gameplay |
My opinion about gameplay has to be split in two here. As far as roaming Manhattan is concerned, the gameplay is absolutely wonderful. Soaring through the sky as Spider-Man has never quite felt so fantastic and there’s not a single person out there who won’t enjoy rummaging through the city and finding all the collectables scattered across this open world. Aside from this, the combat is reminiscent of Batman Arkham, but not quite as tight, the mini-games become cumbersome to do over and over and the story frustratingly puts you out of reach of this games’ best asset, the free roaming – instead opting to let you crawl around confined and restricted areas over and over.

8.0 | Presentation |
Manhattan is beautiful through and through. Character models are hit and miss with Spider-Man looking fantastic but some enemies and bosses just look ridiculous and not up to the same high standards that were set in Batman Arkham. The storyline itself is amusing, funny and well thought out. It’s just a massive shame the action doesn’t resonate this same level of success.

5.5 | Replay Value |
There’s no doubt that swinging across Manhattan is an experience you’d want to do over and over until you’ve found all the secret goodies scattered across the city. As for the story however, there’s pretty much no reason to go through it once you’ve braved it the first time.

7.0 | Final Thoughts |
Frustration is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of The Amazing Spider-Man. There was so much potential here for this to truly be a spectacular experience, especially considering the mould for superhero games is wide out in the open thanks to Batman. It all starts so well for The Amazing Spider-Man with a truly wonderful web-swinging mechanic that will have you leaping with delight along with Spidey as he bounds across Manhattan. Unfortunately when you dive into the heart of the action and story, you will find a shallow experience, one that is very easy to forget. The Amazing Spider-Man tried to mimic Batman and it is just that, a mimic, nothing more. The true superhero experience is still at home with Rocksteady and I have a feeling it will take some time for anything to come out better than Batman.

Igor Kharin.

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