Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (PS3)

Title: The Amazing Spider-Man
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (6856 MB)
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Beenox
Original MSRP: $59.99 (Blu-ray Disc)/ $49.99 (PSN)
ESRB Rating: T
Extras: PlayStation Move Compatible
The Amazing Spider-Man is also available on Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, PC, iOS and Android.
The PlayStation 3 Blu-ray version was used for this review.

Unlike many other movie tie-ins, The Amazing Spider-Man actually generated a substantial amount of expectation prior to release. Rather than being a shoddy re-run of the film, the game is a continuation of the story, making it an ideal companion for fans of the movie.

Gameplay:
The game begins with a snazzy Oscorp promo video, before a typical first-person opening. Personally I thought it lasted a little bit too long, and I was itching to actually control Spidey rather than sit through what was basically a 10 minute cut-scene. Right from the off there were plenty of references to the movie, and it was extremely clear this is an extension to what you’ve seen in the cinema. Indeed, there is even one part of the game that doesn’t explicitly tell you what to do, so you’ll only know if you saw Andrew Garfield do it in the film.

Although the story starts off pretty slowly, it soon picks up and Spider-Man fans will become attached to the narrative. Overall it is an enjoyable (albeit occasionally predictable) storyline that’ll hook you at certain points and make you slug through tiresome levels in order to reach the next big event. And yes, there are plenty of tedious sections to suffer in this game.

It really does transition from the sublime to the ridiculous at multiple points. There was one particular moment (around a third of the way in) that genuinely ranks as one of the most spectacular and unforgettable gaming sequences I’ve experienced in the past couple of years. But it was sandwiched in-between two hours of unbelievably dull, repetitive gameplay.

The levels are often far too long, and it ends up heavily diluting the ‘epicness’ of these awe-inspiring moments. It just feels as if the development team ran out of ideas, and tried too hard to stretch out the game. So they throw more enemies at you, more chase sequences. Levels are usually broken up into three or four completely identical portions, which is enormously frustrating.

There are plenty of redeeming qualities to The Amazing Spider-Man though, including the raw sense of scale offered by both your foes and of course, the city. I’m somebody that’s in love with Manhattan, and even away from the huge battles, it’s incredibly cool just to swing around the skyscrapers. Beenox have done a great job constructing the borough, making it a really pleasurable experience to see NYC from Spider-Man’s unique perspective.

Of course the swing system is a big part of what makes that experience so successful. The web-slinging is largely automated, as you simply have to hold down R2 as long as required. Any sort of learning curve is non-existent as it’s so easy to pick up, so you’ll be enjoying the oh so satisfying sensation of swinging just above the Times Square traffic in no time.

Directly linked in with web-slinging system, is the new web-rush mechanic. By holding down R1, time is slowed to a halt so that you can pick out your next movement. A yellow silhouette is displayed on top of nearby flagpoles, ramps, buildings, or just wherever you are currently staring at on a wall. It then zips you along to wherever you selected in order to save time. You can also highlight enemies or objects to speedily interact with them.

Movement is obviously only part of the action for Spider-Man; combat being the other important element. The fighting system is lifted straight from Batman, albeit with far less polish. It boils down to button mashing, compared to the strategy and technique required in Rocksteady’s stellar titles. The Amazing Spider-Man is nowhere near as fluid, nor does it offer any moments of awe or complexity. One cool thing here though is the ease of the environmental attacks, which also look good as well as doing damage.

The takedowns simply aren’t as gratifying as in Arkham, and the battles are just a tedious case of ‘rinse and repeat’. Many facets of the combat are ‘borrowed’ from Batman, right down to the button layout, the counter method, and the way you jump over the shield of a heavy. Even in the general gameplay, you crawl through air vents an abnormal amount of time, just as the Caped Crusader did. On the whole, it ends up being extremely difficult not to compare the two games due to the number of gameplay elements they have in common. Spider-Man lacks the magnificent atmosphere present at all times in Arkham – possibly because it seems Beenox don’t quite have the love for the license that Rocksteady do.

Enough of the Bat though, let’s get back to judging Spidey on its own merits (and deficiencies). Away from the main campaign, there are small side-quests, as well as collectibles. A total of 700 comic books are scattered throughout the city, ensuring a mammoth undertaking lies ahead in order to complete the set. It’s a welcome distraction that’s a dream for completionists.

A few minor gripes are present within the game, such as the atrocious load times between levels (though in their defence, there is a lot to load). The few QTE sequences are weak, repetitive, and somewhat confusing, so they were a bad idea to include. Another problem is that you don’t have the ability to set your own pace as it were; often you’re forced to wait for a few lines of speech to finish before being allowed to move.

PlayStation Move controls have been enabled, but my advice would be not to bother. They are unintuitive, with the button layout being identical to the DualShock, apart from the right stick being replaced with the Move pointer. It strikes as a clumsy implementation simply there to ‘tick another box’.

Given these various problems with the game, it could be viewed on as a negative outing; but on the contrary, it’s probably because the good stuff is harder to put a finger on. The Amazing Spider-Man is delightfully fun, with the vast majority of its core features being passable at worst. The frustration lies within the potential it had though. A few more months in development, perhaps a bigger budget, and this could have been a must-own title, rather than an above average one. This is not the ‘Kingpin’ of all Spidey games, neither is it a complete ‘Shocker’. The Amazing Spider-Man finds itself in an awkward middle point that could see it fade into obscurity.

Visuals:
The aesthetic side of The Amazing Spider-Man really does live up to the titular superlative. Let’s start with the lighting, which is simply superb. Swinging around Manhattan at sunset to see a wonderful vista is a very special feeling thanks to the illuminative prowess of this game. At all times, it’s just incredibly authentic lighting. This fact is also highlighted by the shadows in the game, which are super realistic. In one battle, I found myself actually playing through the whole thing just by looking at a nearby wall, as the shadowing effect was so good and the camera angle allowed for it.

New York’s resident webhead himself looks stunning too. You can instantly recognise that the team put a lot of effort into him, with the wear and tear of the suit looking brilliant. In fact, it’s another feature that was seen in the Arkham series, but Beenox have taken it to the extreme. Anytime the masked hero is beat up, you can see various shreds through his suit (depending on the gravity of his injuries) as well as hunched shoulders and heavy breathing, to amplify the severity of his condition.

A few of the cross-species you face look almost as good as the aforementioned character, but the majority of your allies do not. The character models (especially for Gwen) are too stiff, with poor facial expressions and mouth movements for speech. I also encountered texture pop-in a few times toward the beginning of the game, but all in all, it wasn’t a significant problem.

One surprise for me in The Amazing Spider-Man, is the lack of 3D support. I would have thought this (like other 3D movie tie-ins) would be a perfect opportunity to implement the feature. However, if like with many stereoscopic TV’s, yours has a 2D-3D conversion mode, this is a game that holds up excellently. The text looks a little strange, but overall it works like a treat.

Audio:
Sadly none of the movie cast reprise their roles for this video-game adaptation – however, there is a decent set of voice actors (with a plethora of gaming and cartoon experience) present. One of these is obviously Nolan North, because what would any game be without a character played by him?

The script is good by and large, but there are a few niggling issues. One of these is the occasional line that just doesn’t fit in with what went before it, almost as if one character is completely ignoring the other. There’s also the annoyingly repetitive nature of Spidey’s ‘battle cries’ – through each fight, he simply keeps saying the likes of “stop smiling at me” and “first come first served”. On the plus side, the writing is comedic at times, with some funny references to the likes of Star Wars and, surprise surprise, Batman.

The echoes in the game are also another solid feature of the audio, with the noise being very realistic depending on the geography of the building you are in. Music-wise, it’s all quite heroic and victorious, which fits in well with the mood of the Spider-Man franchise. Lastly, the sound effects are somewhat grating, making for one of the low-points of the audio.

Conclusion:
For reasons made clear in the review, I ended up enjoying/despising a sporadic and maddening love-hate relationship with The Amazing Spider-Man. Unfortunately, you rarely sense any sort of progression whilst playing, due to the never-ending feel of the level design, where you’re forced into repeating the same chain of events multiple times.

There is no doubt the game is extremely fun though, with some truly ‘Amazing’ moments. It may be a ‘Batman-lite’ (you begin to appreciate just how ultra-polished the Arkham games are), and it may have some major problems in certain aspects of the gameplay. But The Amazing Spider-Man is an exciting, exuberant and entertaining experience, which will bring you back to web-sling through the Manhattan skyline long after the main story has finished.

Score:
7.5

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Written by Raj Mahil

Game collector. Journalism graduate. Batman addict. Movie goer. WWE nut. Sports obsessive. Arsenal fan. Squawka.com Sub-Editor.

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