The Amazing Spider-Man Review
The movie hits theaters today and I’ve had time to swing around an engaging, entertaining city in the game. However, while the sandbox approach utilized in The Amazing Spider-Man is refreshing when compared to the mostly linear recent Spidey installments, I’m not quite sure Beenox is checked out on the format. It reminded me a little of LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, in that both developers opted for a different – and potentially more immersive – style, but weren’t necessarily masters at implementing that new style.
Still, it looks pretty good and it remains mostly fun throughout. When you’re happily traversing the urban landscape, you probably won’t notice a few of the technical shortcomings, such as clipping and general blurriness. Beenox infuses this environment with enough color and panache to keep our eyes from easily locating the flaws, and that’s fine by me. On the flip side, the interior design does draw our attention to various aliasing issues and as a result, isn't as effective. There are also some surprisingly stiff animations and less-than-impressive special effects.
If you’re hoping to hear the actors from the movie, you’ll be disappointed. That being said, the developers did manage to hunt down some decent voices for the game; the lines aren’t great, but the actors say ‘em relatively well. The sound effects fall into much the same category as the visual effects (which is to say, okay or decent), and the soundtrack is unfortunately a little underwhelming. I keep thinking games like this need for more in the way of audio punch; a kick-ass score and sharp, crisp effects can enhance our enjoyment tremendously.
Manhattan lies sprawling and active, awaiting your exploration. Perhaps the very best part of The Amazing Spider-Man is the simple act of web-slinging your way from skyscraper to skyscraper, dropping from crazy heights, flirting with disaster, only to gracefully float back into the air. It’s not as abrupt as inFamous; there really is an almost artistic sweep and rhythm to such a mechanic. It has been refined over the years and in all honesty, this is just about the best it has been. The control is simple and reliable, so anyone can enjoy themselves.
And as I hinted at above, the city really is nicely designed, as it features a lot of color and external vibrancy. It only gets a tad disappointing when you shift to the indoor environments, although I did appreciate the change-up in pace. When inside, you have to be much more reserved; you have to carefully map out your progress, be wary of various traps, and essentially, have patience. I like this because it acts as a nice contrast to the high-flying antics outside. The only problem is that too many of the story-based missions take you away from that excellent city, and that gets annoying.
The other issue centers on the difficulty, although I imagine most of the target audience won’t mind. The game is obviously created with a casual audience in mind and as such, the difficulty isn’t exactly high. In many cases, it’s almost nonexistent, and too many of the mini-games just feel tacked on; they’re just not dynamic enough, and it’s easy to get bored and even a little frustrated. Then there are the load times, which seem too long, and the Twitter integration, which doesn’t work well at all. We have no need for “social media” integration, anyway, damnit. Oh well.
Now, although I’ve harped on the drawbacks and it sounds like a mediocre game, I want to emphasize one important fact: It’s unlikely that you won’t have fun. It really is. You may not have the kind of super elite, AAA, memorable, “holy crap this is unbelievable” fun that you might expect from a new Uncharted or something, but you’re not expecting that here, right? I mean, if all you want to do is swing around, beating on baddies, exploring to your heart’s content, and really feeling like a powerful super hero, this game has you covered.
It never takes itself too seriously, and they always maintain that patented Spidey humor, which isn’t too corny. There are a few really cool boss fights (among a couple mildly boring ones), and the control is rock solid. You have the option of tackling various missions by way of stealth, which I always enjoy, and the fast-paced battling rarely skips a beat. Toss in the really appealing city and you’ve got a game that is destined to satisfy fans who aren’t anticipating greatness. Plus, Web Rush – slow down time, baby! – is a wicked sweet addition.
Now, for those of you with PlayStation Move, you can give that a try as well. You put either the navigation controller or the standard Dual Shock in your left hand, and the Move wand goes in your right. With Move, you get a more accurate method of executing Web rush or firing your web shot. This is one of those instances where Move works out just fine, but it doesn’t necessarily add anything too spectacular to the core experience. Still, it’s probably worth trying, if only because you haven’t used Move since Sorcery. And you haven’t, have you?
The Amazing Spider-Man lacks some of the polish and refinement that would make it a really solid, even addicting title. We spend too much time indoors (or maybe it only seems that way because inside missions pale in comparison to most outside ones), the story is a little lame, and the difficulty is scaled back a little too much. But it’s easy to pick up and play, exploring the city never gets boring, and fans of the web-slinging hero can spend a lot of time battling, upgrading, and just soaring along. Hardly perfect but still worthwhile for some.
The Good: Vibrant, nicely designed city. Decent voiceover work. Accessible and easy to enjoy. Some genuinely funny humor. Combat is tight, simple, and rewarding. Gameplay pacing changes are appreciated.
The Bad: Not super refined from a graphical standpoint. Ho-hum soundtrack. Being inside is nowhere near as much fun as being outside. Just a little too easy and repetitive.
The Ugly: “Okay, I think I’ve done this a few times before.”
7/2/2012 Ben Dutka