Imagine if you will a bleaker time. A time where virtually every movie got a tie-in videogame. A time called The Nineties. It was a time where two men working above a betting shop in Loughborough could make the tie-in to the most eagerly-anticipated summer blockbusters, and when even films like Cool World got their very own videogame. But it couldn’t last. As videogame production costs soared, and punters started demanding that the games should actually be good, the bottom fell out of the tie-in market, until few were left by the mid-2000s. For the most part this was a very good thing, but this writer was introduced to home gaming by the joys of the 1989 Amiga 500 Batman the Movie bundle.
The whole computer was in a box emblazoned with the yellow Batman crest, and many’s a morning that Jack Nicholson’s crudely-digitized voice came rumbling through the lone speaker of the TV hooked up to the computer. In the following years, when it became apparent my parents were not going to let me watch all the violent movies that so enthralled my young mind, I took to playing the games as a means to replicate the film experience. Sometimes, as with Robocop, the game was genuinely good. Sometimes though, I would spend hours at a time playing Darkman, a genuinely shoddy tie-in by Ocean (a company who eventually made little but shoddy tie-ins).
With such rose-tinted memories, I’ve always been a little more inclined to look kindly on movie adaptations than perhaps I should have been. Thankfully, The Amazing Spider-Man is good enough that I won’t embarass myself too much. Taking cues from the 2004 Spider-Man 2 game, as well as shamelessly nabbing the odd mechanic from the Rocksteady Batman games, it’s not a revelatory experience like Arkham Asylum was, but it’s still leagues ahead of most tie-in dross.
Once again developed by Beenox, (we reviewed one of their earlier Spider-Man titles here) the game is broadly split into two sections: a large open-world hub that is a faintly realistic model of Manhattan, and self-contained indoor sections. These indoor sections usually see Spidey battling his way through hordes of henchmen towards a bigger bad guy – stick to the ceilings and you can stealthily web groups of enemies without having to confront them, but it’s wholly optional – drop to the ground and Spidey’s no slouch in a fight either. The combat is pure Arkham City here – one attack button, one to dodge, and another for webs and special attacks. Additionally, Web Retreat and Web Rush moves allow you to jump in and out of combat, target specific enemies, and use bits of the environment to your advantage. This tack pays off – rather than memorising combos, the focus is on speed and reflexes and makes for fast and satisfying, if not hugely complex, combat sequences.
The open-world sections are the highlight of the game; swing around has real weight to it, and when you get to the aerial combat sections later in the game the autotargetting makes everything fast and precise. There’s a genuine joy to swooping around, dodging projectiles and webbing up enemies without ever touching the ground. At its best, The Amazing Spider-Man is ludicrously kinetic, putting most action games to shame. The downside to this is that the precise physics seen in Spider-Man 2 have been swapped out for something a bit looser. You need to have something above you to swing, but webs don’t attach to specific points. It’s a small thing when the action is in full flow, but it’s very noticable in quiet moments.
You can use the Web Rush mode in the open world sections too, slowing down time and picking out sections of the environment to zip straight towards points on the scenery, collectables, or just to set off one of many neat animations of Spider-Man bouncing off flagpoles, running along walls, and generally doing all that ‘whatever a spider can’ business.
While the core mechanics are good fun and reasonably polished, there isn’t a lot to do in New York aside from the main missions. There are fistfights to break up, and ill civilians to take to hospital, but these grow samey fast. Photography assignments, where you need to locate certain details in the environment, add variety later on but are all too easy. The world is full of collectables, but the precision afforded by Web Rush means there’s little challenge in collecting these beyond finding them. Similarly, the environments can seem pretty empty – the game looks great when you’re swinging into the sunset, but get towards street level and there’s a distinct lack of anything really happening. Coupled this with the fact that the movie cast don’t lend their voices or likenesses to the game and some heavily-reused character models and the game can feel slightly cheap feel on occasion.
A word on spoilers. This game is set after the events of the film. If you intend to…
- Play this game
- See The Amazing Spider-Man
- Knowing precisely cock-all about Spider-Man
… then there are some plot points that will be spoilers. Maybe wait until after you’ve seen the movie to play it? If, on the other hand, you’ve ever read a comic, know who any of these characters are, or are just not the sort of person that expects the protagonist to lose in a multi-million dollar movie franchise, feel free to go right ahead. Your enjoyment of the movie is unlikely to be diminished.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a fun, if shortlived, game that shows a lot of promise. If it hadn’t been tied to the movie’s release date, then who knows just how good it could have been? As it stands it’s a fun but slightly empty sandbox. Maybe Beenox still have it in them to produce a Spider-Man game to rival Rocksteady’s Batman titles. On this evidence, they’re closer than ever before.
Xbox 360 version reviewed.