It’s that time of year again; the latest “The Movie: The Game.” is out. My first impression was to discard this title. Spider-Man 3 was such a disappointment that it left a sour taste in my mouth for Web of Shadows and Shattered Dimensions. While I’m sure Diehard fans ate this up day one, is it worth a shot for us non-believers?
Everything about the setting and the premise is as to be expected. It takes place in the familiar layout of New York, with the addition of the new Oscorp building (and sadly, the omission of Ellis Island). The story is loosely based on the plot of the movie, and branches off to include additional bosses and dangers. Thankfully, the game picks up well after Spider-Man received his powers. Battle mutated versions of Rhino and Scorpion. Track down Felicia Hardy. Beat down The Lizard when he steps out of line. The biggest threat Spidey faces is the immanent cross-species contamination spreading across NYC. It’s up to Spidey to swing into action and save the city!
As it turns out, web swinging has been drastically simplified, and for the better. The changes make it far less likely that Spidey hits the ground while swinging low, allowing Spidey to easily reach nearby rooftops and treetops. Unfortunately, a few things didn’t make the cut. Most notably, there’s no fast crawl (which was annoying), and there’s no weight-shifting to increase momentum at the end of your swing. These were always things that made web swinging speedy and eventful.
Instead, Amazing reintroduces a concept called Web Rush Mode. This allows Spidey a chance to enter a first-person view of Spider Sense. During this view, everything slows to a near stop. It’s really the first time the player gets to experience what it’s like to make those split second decisions Spidey makes on the daily! A reticle can be aimed at enemies for attacks, across the room for getaways, and even at hidden items for faster collection. Unfortunately, it isn’t perfect. Sometimes Spidey is sent into directions you least want him to go. The more familiar you become with the controls, the less likely these mistakes occur. After an hour or so of play time, I realized I wasn’t missing too much about the old swing system. The oversimplification of web swinging brought more joys to the game than it took away, and that’s always a good thing.
There are moderately lengthy load times between levels. This was an issue the developers were well aware of. In an attempt to make loads seem faster, they threw in NYC Thoughts. These Twitter like streams of “random” posts from the citizens provide a bit of backdrop to the story. People discuss the creatures, the infections, and the environmental hazards caused by the battles between Spidey and his foes. Sometimes the posts are actually funny, but I would have gladly traded it in for faster access to gameplay.
The difficulty levels are entitled Human (Easy), Hero (Normal), and Superhero (Hard). Mastering the art of discretion will get you through a good portion of the game on any difficulty. The other survival tip is to properly upgrade Spidey to the best of his abilities. Leveling up is now categorized into two main areas: Character Upgrades and Tech Upgrades. Character Upgrades unlock improved stats, faster use of Signature Moves, and helpful skills like webbing up two baddies at once during stealth. Tech upgrades include suit resiliency (ballistics, impacts, and acid). It also includes upgrades to the web blasting powers. Some upgrades are unlocked through story progression, but a good portion is unlocked through free play.
Free Play is probably the most exciting improvement in Amazing. Often times, free play in Spider-Man movie games have been menial tasks that get boring after the third or fourth attempts. In Amazing, there are the basic car chase mini-games and save the citizen sequences, but there’s much more. There are also Extreme challenges that require Spidey to perform under the pressure of a zeppelin film crew. Spidey quickly makes friends with bossy reporter Whitney Chang, who later asks Spidey to snap pics of strange events in the city. These areas require some sleuthing and proper camera angles to collect the perfect photo. All of this is done without falling back on the tired premise of hightailing it to the Daily Bugle. The game digs deep to bring a variety of extra skins. There are hidden Spider-Man symbols scattered throughout the city. Take a picture of these to unlock some impressive in-game suits: ranging from the movie’s Vigilante costume to the Negative Zone suit.
There’s also a total of 41 upgrades, 600 comic pages, 100 flying comic pages, and over 100 in-door pickups (extras found throughout each level). Comic book page collectibles really add up to full length Amazing Spider-Man comics. They can be read, cover to cover, in the Extras menu. This is one of the coolest collectible concepts I’ve seen in a while. There’s no worry of ending up with 599/600 comic book pages. The game has a menu available in Peter’s apartment that allows you to revisit past levels to gather missing collectibles. The Extras menu also includes rotatable 3-d figurines and respectably lengthy character bios (heavily influenced by RockSteady’s Batman games, but cool nonetheless). Also available is the Art Gallery, where you can find the game’s concept art and all your saved pictures taken from story mode.
My Human playthrough ended up a little over 7 hours, and I left about 2/3 of the extra activities untouched. There’s an impressive amount of extras and a complete overhaul on the free play. The web swinging is better, and the combat system is much more effective (not to mention some awesome Signature Moves). With some fun changes, cool extras, and a moderate replay value, The Amazing Spider-Man is surprisingly one of the better Spider-Man games.
Version Reviewed: 360