While most comic book and movie tie-in games can’t seem to catch a break from flopping, it looks like Activision and longtime franchise developer Beenox may have broken the mold – or maybe that should be web of disappointment – with The Amazing Spider-Man, the official videogame tie-in to the recent blockbuster film reboot that shares its name. Not only is it one of the best superhero titles since Batman: Arkham Asylum, but it’s easily one of the best (if not the best) movie tie-in games that I’ve ever played.
Before I even get into my review of the game, I’ll address the elephant in the room about its single, biggest flaw: releasing a game that serves as a sequel to the movie a week before the movie is released. I’m not sure who thought that was a good idea, but the timing is bound to upset many a fan who unwittingly plays through the game, only to have many of the major plot points ruined in advance. Now, anyone familiar with these adaptations is probably used to familiar plotlines or entirely new ones altogether – rarely has a movie-based game accurately followed its source material – but the plot here is clearly intended to b e a sequel to the events in the movie, and a few spoiler warnings would have been nice.
Set a few months after the events in the movie, New York City is slowly repairing itself back to normal while Peter gets a personal tour from his girlfriend Gwen Stacy of Oscorp’s nanotech research department one day. Alistair Smythe is the new guy charged with heading this technology to clean up the cross-species mess caused by Dr. Curt Connors, aka The Lizard, during his obsession of trying to scientifically regrow his missing limb. Without spoiling anything, something goes wrong on the tour that causes several new cross-species specimens, such as The Rhino and Scorpion, to escape and cause even more chaos in both the lab and the city. It’s up to you to help Peter as his famous alter ego Spider-Man to help capture the mutated bad guys and stop the population of New York City from becoming infected with the cross-species virus.
I appreciate how Beenox went all-out to make the best Spider-Man game they could, as you can tell when you first control Spider-Man that they really wanted to make you feel like you’re everybody’s favorite webhead. From the way he leaps and darts around with lightning speed, to the amazing web-slinging animations as you soar above New York City, everything just comes together perfectly which is made even better with simple controls. There’s the typical attack, jump, and web-shooter buttons that allows you to take out baddies and also web them up as you go. But the fun really kicks off with the dodge button, which is very similar to the one featured in Batman Arkham games that enables you to pull off some pretty agile dodges and counterattacks when the famous “spider-sense” lines appear above Spidey’s head as you fight. And when things get a little too sticky, there’s always the “Web Escape” button that can be used to get out of the middle of a gang fight to a really high and safe location, giving you a chance to recoup and dive back in when ready.
One of the biggest features you’ll find yourself using a lot as you play, will be the “Web Rush” button. When used, times slows down while entering your view into a first-person mode where you can aim Spider-Man to leap to a certain spot to avoid danger, fling himself through an opening before it closes, or to a glowing item such as a vending machine that can be used as a weapon and will automatically smash into a group of baddies. You can also use it to hurl him into enemies both near and far, making those annoying long distance attackers a thing of the past as you leap up to take them out. This is probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a game, as using it along with your other attacks really does make you feel like Spider-Man. You can also upgrade your attacks and web abilities with points you earn through fighting. Attack power, Web Rush time, and web shooting speed are just some of the things you can improve with the right amount of experience points, and will certainly come in handy as you progress to more challenging levels.
TThen there’s the web-swinging through the city, which you’ll be doing plenty of as you work your way through the story. Here is where things feel a bit like Grand Theft Auto, where you’re free to roam around the sandbox that is NYC between missions that appear on your mini-map. You can choose to swing around for kicks, collect hidden comic book pages to unlock goodies in the extras section, help out people under attack by criminals, or do some bonus missions. There’s plenty of things to do on the bonus runs, such as investigating secret labs, to saving people from danger in XTreme reporter events with the always awesome Bruce Campbell cheering you on as you go. The regular story missions are also pretty entertaining, as there’s plenty of action and intrigue to make you want to see things through to the end. I thought the way some of Spidey’s old enemies such as the Rhino and Scorpion being genetically engineered instead of being petty crooks with superpowers was a nice touch and makes for some great boss battles when you encounter them.
As if the great gameplay wasn’t enough, I also have to say that this is easily one of the best looking Spider-Man games yet – the detailed graphics really stand out here. Everything from the bumped up textures on Spidey’s costume to the leathery hide of the Rhino can be seen in perfect detail. The sounds also fit all of the action like it should, as you’ll hear every “thwip” of the web shooters, bass-filled explosions, and Spider-Man flinging out quips with enemies as you fight.
Just when you feel like video games are getting stale – especially cookie-cutter adaptations of hit movies, one seems to come along and restore your faith in them. For me one such game is The Amazing Spider-Man, as developer Beenox finally scores big with an adventure that’s not only worthy of Marvel’s web-slinger, but one that constantly entertains throughout its main campaign and bonus missions. Many will likely compare it (favorably) with the great Batman Arkham games, especially with the extended combo system, but the thrill of dashing through a giant city while donning the red spandex is exhilarating in its own right. Its a shame the story spoils some of its blockbuster movie counterpart’s storyline, but comic book – and videogame – fans looking for a really fun action/adventure game that will you keep you busy this summer, web swing on down to a store and pick this one up.
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