Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: The Amazing Spiderman

Your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman is certainly no stranger to licensed games and as of 2000, it's no stranger to a sandbox style of play either - in fact, he's not above expanding on it. I mean, he's experimented with platforming and then with the beat em up style of the 16-bit era, then his adventures become 3 dimensional and a bit more open ended, and with the release of the adaptation of Spiderman 2 (directed by Sam Raimi), his style of play was truly defined. Web slinging through the city of New York, doing whatever the fuck he pleases (and pleases where he goes) - it's all fun and games, granted that the game you're playing is not Ultimate Spiderman on the PS2 (eh, I don't really care for it, it's mediocre at best). But that was then and this is now. The Amazing Spiderman does everything in its power to kick ass by putting stealth missions and flowing, robust combat into a sandbox game... but instead, it just feels like a Spiderman mod for Arkham City. A decent enough mod mind you, but a mod nonetheless.

Taking place after the movie, Lizard (aka Curt Connors) is taken to a mental hospital, and Peter Parker and romantic interest Gwen Stacey walk through the Oscorp science labs to try and stop the cross species experiments. However, the experiments attack Peter and eventually, all hell breaks loose as most of New York wind up getting infected by the virus, so it's up to Peter to don the Spiderman suit and save everyone. Unlike Prototype (which is what the concept reminds me an awful lot of), Spiderman isn't some angsty anti-hero who I'd be more than willing to punch right across the face; he's a snarky motherfucker with a bunch of smartass comments, and the story isn't as confusing or poorly developed as all get up; it's actually about as simple as New York being infected and needing Spiderman to save them. It's by no means a fantastic story, but it's serviceable enough to work.

As I said, it's a sandbox game, meaning that you'll be web slinging around the city to find stuff to do. Ranging from saving citizens and stopping getaway cars to basically following Spiderman around with a camera... at least there won't be much of a shortage of things to do. There are even 700 collectibles (in this case, comic books) to gather up all around New York, so even if you find yourself completing every mission, you'll still need to get some of them collectibles because odds are, you'd have missed a fair fewhundred. As expected for side missions, they're not all that complicated, basically amounting to small activities to do out of boredom and to get some neat little goodies like experience points to upgrade his fighting prowess and health. If nothing else, it has a decent amount of replay value, especially after you beat the story mode. To make it easier to get some of those comic book pages is the webrush. It slows down time while you aim to a point where you wish to swing and then Spiderman does some cool little flips and shit towards that place. Overall, I'd say that this sets up a rather good foundation for a great open world sandbox game.

It's a crying shame, however, that a good amount of the story missions take place in boring ass sewers and slightly less boring buildings that don't have an iota of inspiration in their designs. You'll often find yourself needing to go to one room to flick switches, destroy things, rescue the odd captive and/or take down a group of enemies and repeating the process until you get to the end and either fight a boss, a bigger gang of enemies, or something that must be acquired. If I have any real issue with this, it's the fact that the big city isn't as well utilized as it should've been. I mean, we got this big open city that's only really used for side missions while story missions mostly force you into these boring fucking linear hallways. Given that good sandbox games like Sleeping Dogs and Prototype integrate their cities into their story missions...

...yeah, this is a game that really wants to be Arkham City, except that game had better designs going for it. Whoops. Better yet, Arkham City was a much more polished experience than The Amazing Spiderman will ever be. Simply put, Spiderman, known as an agile webslinger, fights and moves like a quarterback. While the animations can make it look flexible, the actual fighting is stiff. The idea is to land combos using a single attack button while waiting for the opportunity to counterattack. While it is fun, you would expect Spiderman to fight with more grace than some big motherfucker with more muscles than friends. Mind you, there is some grace involved when he can use his webslinging to throw objects at enemies or to execute a silent takedown, but at the end of the day, it's just a bit stiff... not to mention it's too easy. There isn't a whole heap of strategy necessary to beat up enemies and even bosses with all those button prompts and webrushing (see: not actually doing much), besides maybe staying out of their lines of sight if you're in a stealthy situation, but beyond that, even on the hardest difficulty mode, it's too fucking easy and ultimately, I find myself getting bored after a while. Then again, games that practically play themselves for me when that's not even remotely their intention tend to do that.

Taking more pages out of the Arkham City book, Spiderman is able to take to the shadows and take down enemies without them being none the wiser. At least the execution here makes a lot of sense, taking advantage of his webslinging capabilities and his agility. What it amounts to is that you cling onto a wall, hopefully not in an enemy's line of sight, and when the time comes, you press a button and Spiderman will sling towards the enemy and take it down. Course, given that these sections have a group of enemies, you have to make sure not to get spotted by them... thankfully, there's a web retreat button where you can escape and cling onto another surface. Sometimes, it'll cling you onto an enemy who will kill you quickly – Spiderman can't take much punishment from guns – or onto surfaces that enemies will spot immediately and will shoot at you there and then. Beyond that cheap bullshit, the stealth is at least reasonably well executed and I wouldn't mind seeing this in future Spiderman games, though I'd probably say that past Spiderman games had a better handle on combat.

While the gameplay leaves some things to be desired, the graphics are... in the same camp, actually. Spiderman himself looks great with some very impressive texturework on his suit and his fluid animations that are just a treat to look at. Everything else ranges from good to passable if not bland. The good stuff includes Manhattan at a bird's eye view – it's definitely big and it looks fine even from a distance before everything pops in, which is a fairly sizeable distance away. The bland stuff includes Manhattan on the ground, which has some really bland and oftentimes glossy, glass eyed NPC models and color schemes... as do the sewers... and buildings... Also, it feels like the camera is too far zoomed in near you, like you can't see heaps around you, particularly on your left.

The sound design is fairly bland. The music is nothing more than the typical orchestral fare with a tinge of heroism because, you know, it's a superhero game. Too bad it doesn't really do much to enhance the experience as you don't really feel much more heroic or sneaky than if there was no music. The voice acting, while not done by the actors from the movie, is actually good... and you know what, I'm glad it's not done by the movie's actors because these people, particularly Sam Riegel's more lighthearted take on Spiderman, draw you more into the experience. Same with the sound effects, which hits the mark, especially when Spiderman hits something. Bit of a shame the music is as generic as it is... would've really made things so much better.

So really, what you get out of this game is one part well done open word, one part good if simple stealth, and one part “yeah we're big fans of Arkham City so let's just copy it”. It's not necessarily a bad game – in fact, I think it's a cut or two above average, but there were too many things working against it to make it a good game. My biggest complaint, really, is how underutilized Manhattan really is, as it's only really used for side missions while you explore bland levels during the story missions. Add in combat that's basically Arkham City without any of the challenge, satisfaction or anything resembling what Spiderman would do, and you have yourself a game that could've used more time to cook... if only it didn't base itself off of a mediocre (not to mention useless) movie.

6.5/10 (Above Average)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for reviewing The Amazing Spiderman, Gryzor. As a long time Spidey fan and gamer, I am very familiar with the ups and downs of Spider-Man’s sandbox adventures. Web Of Shadows was a personal favorite; Friend or Foe was avoided like the plague. I wasn’t sure about Amazing Spider-Man, and I didn’t want to waste the money on another bad game, so I rented it from Blockbuster @Home instead. One of my coworkers from DISH and I took turns getting through the story; in the end I was pretty disappointed. The game play was pretty stiff and the story was kind of lame. I think Spider-Man should be treated like Arkham City; by which I mean he needs a developer to take a long hard look at the character and then a game should be built around him. I would skip this one, and that’s coming from a fan.