When Beenox Studios took over development of the Spider-Man franchise for publisher Activision, less than two years ago, they made quite a splash. Their first title, Shattered Dimensions, attempted new things with the iconic character and despite being a somewhat flawed experience was mostly considered a success. However, when the studio release Edge of Time a year later, the promise seemed to be gone. Edge of Time was quite literally, half the game Shattered Dimensions was. So when The Amazing Spider-Man was announced to be coming from the studio a mere eight months after Edge of Time and that it would be an open world game, I had my doubts that it could be pulled off. Fortunately, I was wrong and Beenox has delivered not only the best Spider-Man game of this generation but also one of the best superhero games as well.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a tie-in to the new theatrical Spider-Man title of the same name. Instead of developing a game that mirrors the film as many tie-in games do, this game works as an epilogue to the film. Developing the game as such allows the game to carry its own identity separate from the film; however, releasing it a week prior to the launch of the film was something of a head scratcher as there are some major plot points that are spoiled from the film. If you have yet to see The Amazing Spider-Man film and do not want to have anything spoiled for you, I would recommend that you stop reading here and come back after you have seen it.
The game picks up a few months after the events of the film. Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard is still incarcerated but even after his monstrous transformation, Oscorp has continued his cross species genetic testing in secret. Gwen Stacy, having some concerns that this may be happening, sneaks in Peter Parker to do some after hours snooping and the two stumble across Alistair Smythe preparing to “safely” exterminate the creatures. Things do not go as planned though and Peter’s presence causes some of the cross breeds to escape and wreak havoc on Oscorp tower. During the pandemonium, Gwen is infected with the virus which causes Peter to go looking for a cure, which causes him to bust Curt Connors out of his psychiatric prison.
While the story is fairly intricate and generally well produced, offering multiple twists and turns, it is mostly just a catalyst to have Spider-Man do Spider-Manish things. However, one of the problems with the past two Beenox Spider-Man titles was that the linear, narrative driven level design forced those games to basically become brawlers. Beenox’s decision to make The Amazing Spider-Man into an open-world title was possibly the best thing for this game as the game now offers up plenty of opportunity for Spider-Man to do such things, while also allowing Beenox to tell its tightly woven story using its familiar linear level structure.
The game itself is broken up into 13 chapters, most of which split time between a linear story based level and some time to free-roam the island of Manhattan. Due to the nature of the story, there is often a sense of urgency to keep the story flowing but Beenox also has worked in spots where Spidey has some down time, allowing for players to freely roam the open-world to complete some side quests. And The Amazing Spider-Man has packed in a ton of side quests for players to complete.
While it would have been very easy to make all the side activities into standard fetch quests, the game actually features a solid variety of different things to do, keeping things fresh. There are photo hunts, car chases, assaults to stop, police standoffs to break, escaped mental patients to return to the police, secret labs to explore, comic books to collect, infected citizens to transport to the hospital, checkpoint races and even a set of weird film framing challenges. Doing these activities is purely optional but none of them take very long and partaking in them grants Spider-Man valuable experience points which help in upgrading the wall-crawler to be a more formidable hero.
Upgrading Spider-Man rewards players by making the combat system more complex and interesting, which is great because a majority of the game will be spent taking on Spidey’s foes. One of the problems with Beenox’s past two Spider-Man titles was that Spider-Man, as a hero, is not a brawler and the combat just never felt right. The base combat system in The Amazing Spider-Man focuses on hand-to-hand combat against groups of enemies with a reliance on counters and is very reminiscent of the one used in Batman: Arkham Asylum, which on paper does not sound very Spider-Manish.
However, Beenox recognized that where Batman is basically a one man wrecking crew, Spider-Man is much more vulnerable and must rely on his acrobatics to take on gangs of thugs. As such The Amazing Spider-Man features a phenomenal combat animation system that makes fighting feel appropriate to the character. Combined with Spider-Man’s Web-Rush ability, basically a zip attack, fighting with Spider-Man is a fluid and fun experience. And adding in the upgrades makes things even more fun and interesting to play and watch. The system does break down a bit though when facing off against boss characters, like Rhino or Scorpion, fortunately though each of the bosses has a general weakness that the game attempts to point players towards.
Spider-Man may spend a lot of the game fighting enemies, another major aspect of his character is traversal and the game mostly gets it right. Web-slinging through the city is as easy as pressing the right trigger button and holding it, making it quite accessible. The choice to be accessible makes perfect sense and it is hard to argue with it, after all people want to look like Spider-Man while moving through the city, but it does reduce a primary gameplay mechanic to a simple button press ultimately making it somewhat boring by the completion of the game. Fortunately, there is enough to do in the open-world parts of the game that can easily distract from this slight downfall.
One of these distractions is the intense city-wide aerial combat scenarios that the game will place Spider-Man in periodically. While web swinging through the city may be simple and a touch boring after a while, these huge air battles against giant robots had me thanking Beenox that the web swinging was so simplistic because the pace of these battles is so fast, I hardly had time to think about my next move, let alone worry about a complex swinging system.
Much of what Beenox did with The Amazing Spider-Man strikes me as smart decision making. They obviously paid a lot of attention to what was working in the genre and what was not. The inspiration for many of the systems or gameplay choices are extremely evident, titles like the Crackdown, inFamous, Prototype and the previously mentioned Arkham Asylum all have their mark in this game but Beenox successfully makes it feel like its own title. Ultimately though, Beenox’s greatest accomplishment with The Amazing Spider-Man is that they made a truly fun game and that is one outcome everyone can get behind.
- Smartly styled combat system that makes Spider-Man look and feel as he should.
- Excellent mix of story driven levels and open-world freedom.
- Side quests offer plenty of variety.
- Visually stunning, especially in aerial combat sequences.
- Some plot points might not make sense without having seen the movie.
- Once all the side quests are completed the open-world effectively becomes a dead world.
- Occasional graphical clipping
- Costume deformation happens very quickly and looks awkward.
4 / 5
Note: This review was done using the Xbox 360 version of the game. It is also available on the Playstation 3.