Another year, another super-hero film, with Activision hot on the trail to publish an official tie-in. But it’s been quite a while since we’ve had a really outstanding Spider-Man game, and with Beenox taking over, it’s always been short a crucial element or two of achieving something that could truly be (pun intended), amazing. Can their third foray with the iconic web-head finally result in something spectacular?
Taking place after, instead of the usual during or before, of the film, The Amazing Spider-Man finds the web-slinger facing down with a menagerie of new villains, all twisted remnants of the cross-species research that Dr Curt Connors initiated, before he went full mental, transformed into the Lizard and put New York at risk, resulting Spidey (Spoiler) saving the day at the end of the film and locking him away.
After a snafu at the Oscorp headquarters results in the mass escape of the now half-human Rhino, Vermin and Scorpion, Spidey is faced with a city that is now ripe pickings for their infectious touch, as they begin to transform ordinary civilians into lighter versions of themselves. Also, giant robots everywhere, because the best solution to accidental bio-terrorism is allowing an unethical company to unleash Japanese levels of mechanical terrors onto an unsuspecting city.
It’s up to Spidey to stop both sides of the brewing conflict then, with the help of Curt Connors, busting him out of an Asylum to help him come up with a cure, and save Gwen Stacy from being mutated into Rat-girl.
Story-wise, while The Amazing Spider-Man may not be an entirely thrilling story, it’s more than adequate enough at least, providing a reason for spandex-wrapped punches, and despite the fact that the game contains no lines whatsoever from the original Hollywood actors of the big screen film, the voice actors at work here do a pretty decent job overall.
So how does it play, you ask? There’s been more than one instance of the game being compared to a certain Dark Knight and his escapades in the Arkham Asylums and Cities of recent years, but does TASM take an inspired approach to that style of gameplay, or does it web-rip it off completely? Pretty much the latter, as the only thing that Spidey is missing from his adventure, is a cape and cowl.
Sure, web-slinging may be extraordinary and breath-taking, but once you hit the five-minute mark, you’ll quickly realise that there’s no challenge to it whatsoever, as you’re on auto-pilot, holding in one button while you grab a shoulder-seated view to the acrobatics taking place.
See, this is one part of the Spider-Man experience that was nailed way back in 2004 for the tie-in game to the second Sam Raimi Spider-Man film, as you were given the chance to feel what it would be like to be the amazing arachnid. Web-slinging had to be timed and executed properly, it wasn’t just a disconnecting experience where players could magic their way across a city.
Added to that, you have Web Rush mode, a novel idea at first, but actually just a badly disguised spin on the grappling hook prompts from the Arkham games. I’ll give it points for the slow-motion first-person view that it mixes in, but it’s a carbon copy of a feature from another game, shamelessly copied and incorporated here. Using it, players can web-zip their way to better positions and vantage points, while indoor missions allow you to surprise foes and zip out of danger.
As for the combat, the rampant scavenging doesn’t stop here. It’s been done before, but better, as players can mash the X or square button to land blows, then dodge attacks with a visual cue, this time in the form of a tingling Spidey-sense.
And yet, while Arkham managed to combine fluid combat with an impressive array of techniques, the combat here is shallow and just too easy. Even if you take a few knocks in the process, a quick health-regen is just a tap of the shoulder button away, as you zip yourself to a nearby wall while the enemies below you carry on derping around, forgetting the fact that a smart-mouthed teenager in a Spider costume was just hitting them in the face.
It’s amazing just how derivative TASM is of the Arkham games, but evidently, Beenox gave up and stopped caring about it after a while. And yet, it somehow works, despite being so plagiaristic. Spidey is a flexible character, and that fact is shown off here, as he uses stealth takedowns from a ceiling position to save his hide, while sneaking up on other enemies to deliver a one-liner and some knockdown action.
One aspect where the game really shines though, is in the boss fights, massive open arenas of destruction and Quick-Time Events, that while shallow, are still pretty damn impressive in their own right. And to be honest, I was pretty much gob-smacked when I fought a Spider-Slayer that could have given Godzilla a run for his money in city-wide destruction, as I swung past it, avoiding lasers, tentacles and stamping pincers of destruction.
The conflict may be cheap, but hot damn, it does live up to the amazing moniker attached to it. But when you’re not fighting off a smelly Russian Rhino or avoiding the lasers of some determined robots, there is still a city to explore, albeit not a very lively one. Crime is happening all around you, people need to be taken to quarantine zones and there are numerous comic book covers to collect, which unlock bonus 3D models and digital comic books to peruse through, once you’ve finished the main campaign, a feat that should take you around 8 hours to do.
Much like a guitar, TASM is easy to pick up, but unlike that instrument, it’s also easy to master, something that takes the fun of a challenging experience, and pisses it away. There’s a certain joy to be had with learning the ropes in a game, and earning the skill needed to pick up some impressive moves, but you won’t find that here. It’s an otherwise too easy game, where actions have very little consequences to them, based on ideas from other games.
Design and Presentation: 7.5/10
I’ll say this about TASM, it looks pretty damn good overall. Character models may be somewhat eery at times, but the cinematic action, visuals and sound design are top notch, resulting in one of the best looking Spidey games to come out of the Activision movie tie-in stable so far.
Even though the campaign is of a decent length, and there are numerous side-missions and challenges available, it gets too repetitive after a while, resulting in a game that can feel more like a chore than a really authentic Spider-Man experience.
A person wants to like TASM, but for the jaded and more cynical gamer out there, it’s hard to not draw comparisons to the current Batman games, which Beenox has aped and implemented here. It’s also got the burden of being a movie tie-in game, something that Activision told them to most likely make certain that the title was easy to pick up and play through, hurting the longevity factors of this title.
And once again, it’s the right step forward, but it’s a step performed with the grace of a Ministry of Silly Walks employee. The Amazing Spider-Man is at its core, a game that is all style, and no substance, something that works well in smaller doses, but doesn’t hold up well over longer sessions of play, a game that plays it safe, instead of leaping forward and taking a chance for once.[Reviewed on X-Box 360, played on normal difficulty]
Last Updated: August 21, 2012