Yeah, I’m freeeee, free-roamin’. Rejoice all you rabid web swingers, Spider-Man is back in the virtual open world of New York City. Also rejoice that I don’t have any other Tom Petty influenced Spider-Man lyrics for you… on second thought, I have one more. Did you enjoy your last dance with Mary Jane in the previous game because this time around MJ is supplanted by the movie’s heroine, Gwen Stacy. Nailed it, high-fives all around! Anyway, how does Beenox handle their first stab at an open world game, and how does this game stand as a continuation of Spidey’s latest foray in the theaters? Find out below!
The Amazing Spider-Man (video game)
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, 3DS, DS and PC
Style: Open World, Action-Adventure, Platformer
Story and Writing: It is good that this is not a direct tie-in to the Amazing Spider-Man movie. Not that I have a problem with the film, it’s just that I really don’t care for movie tie-in video games. Beenox, now on their third Spider-Man video game, opted instead to drop you into the world of Amazing Spider-Man sometime after the movie ends. Dr. Curt Conners is incarcerated for his past transgressions as the villainous Lizard, Alistair Smythe has taken over duties as the head scientist for Oscorp, and Peter and Gwen are still dealing with the ramifications of the events in the movie, such as the death of Gwen’s father. I like the idea of continuing the movie’s story in the video game, rather than just rehashing what we saw in the theaters.
This video game perpetuates the more rebellious Peter Parker that Andrew Garfield portrayed on the big screen. Right away the game starts with Peter and Gwen sneaking into areas of Oscorp that they have no business exploring. Needless to say, things go wrong and shortly after, Peter decides that he needs Dr. Connors’ help in reversing the cross-species virus created by Oscorp’s further research in Connors’ experiments. So Peter does the only logical thing and breaks the Lizard out of Beloit Psychiatric Hospital.
Spider-Man, with the help of Connors, proceeds through the game battling cross-species villains as well as Smythe’s S-Bots, which were designed to track down and exterminate any cross-species in the city. This includes Spider-Man himself. I wouldn’t be a fan of a game which focused on fighting robots, as the initial trailer made this game appear to be, but it makes sense with the direction the story took. And you still get a good amount of non-robotic bad guys to spar with as well. The overall story was a good continuation of the themes set up in the movie. The cross-species angle lent itself well to introducing a few characters which may normally not make the cut for any proper film sequels.
Writing duties for this game fell to Seamus Kevin Fahey, of Battlestar Galactica fame, and John Zurhellen. Beenox spoiled comic fans by hiring actual Spider-Man writers Peter David and Dan Slott for their previous two games, but Fahey and Zurhellen do a decent enough job tying the game into the movie universe. There were references to events in the movie, such as Peter’s promise to Captain George Stacy that he’d leave Gwen out of his life as Spider-Man; and they even flesh out some characters, such as revealing that Dr. Connors does in fact have a family he cares for.
I don’t feel that humor was as prevalent as it was in the past entries by Beenox, but there were a few notable exceptions. References to Star Wars -“not the droids you are looking for”- and popular internet memes -“you tased me, bro” – made me smile. The best line in the game however, would have to have been when Spider-Man is sneaking into Smythe’s robot factory: “What am I doing with my life? I should be staring at cheerleaders or playing WoW.” One of the less than stellar lines belonged to Whitney Chang, a character created specifically for the game. Her low brow joke about Spider-Man liking “it on top” didn’t seem particularly necessary.
One of the problems with writing dialogue for an open-world game is that you’re not going to be able to write hundreds of different lines for every instance of saving a citizen, knocking out a bad guy, or collecting a comic page. Because of that, you hear the same dialogue over and over again, starting about thirty minutes into the game. Spider-Man’s request to “stay frosty” when he rescued a civilian got a bit repetitive early on, especially since it was a line that seemed more appropriate for his amazing friend, Iceman. Spider-Man’s “woooooo” every time he swung from a web got a bit annoying as well. Rating: Good.
Characters and Voice Acting: Beenox must have had their hands tied when it came to the budget for this game. It seems unusual that they would have a movie tie-in game, but not use any of the actors’ voices or likenesses. This isn’t detrimental to the game however, as most of the time actors don’t deliver the best voice work for movie tie-in games. That being said, there wasn’t much that stood out as far as the voice cast.
Anybody familiar with voice actors may recognize some of the talent used. Steven Blum, Nolan North and Fred Tatasciore have all provided voices for various Marvel characters in one form or another over the years. I was not familiar with Sam Riegel though. He provided the voice for Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Riegel’s Spider-Man wasn’t anything special, and I was a little disappointed Beenox didn’t bring back one of the talented voice actors used in their previous games, possibly Josh Keaton.
One of the things Beenox did well this time was pulling characters from Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery. Instead of seeing some of the more commonly featured villains such as Electro, Sandman, or Venom, we get a different set of bad guys. Alistair Smythe was a good choice for the main antagonist who takes over as the lead scientist at Oscorp. Smythe doesn’t do a lot of fighting himself though, relying instead on his cross-species-slaying robots.
Another character I was excited to see in this game was Vermin. He doesn’t seem to get a lot of respect in video games so it was nice to see him thrown in there. He works perfectly in this world of cross-species genetics. Vermin’s inclusion also set Spider-Man up for a nice Ninja Turtle reference when he asked the humanoid rat about training half-shelled turtles.
Beenox steered clear of creating amalgamations of characters as they did in Edge of Time, but they did introduce their own character – Nettie, the piranha cross-species. They even added some twists to more prominent Spider-villains such as the Rhino and Black Cat. Oscorp claimed that Rhino was a rhino mixed with human DNA, a rumor later debunked in the game. Black Cat went by her civilian name, Felicia Hardy, and employed henchmen during her bank heists. These changes weren’t too drastic, though, since the story takes place in an alternate universe. One of the “characters” from the movie I wasn’t excited to see was the mutated Lizard-rats. Those are just gross.
For good measure, Beenox threw in several Easter Eggs alluding to other famous Spider-Man villains. References to characters such as Morbius, Hydro-Man and Mr. Negative were placed throughout the game in side stories. I enjoyed their inclusion. Rating: Meh
Gameplay: One of the most common complaints I hear about Beenox’s series of Spider-Man games is their similarity to the extremely popular Batman: Arkham Asylum games by Rocksteady Studios. There’s no denying that Beenox lifted some gameplay ideas from that series, but I don’t consider that a bad thing. When I’m playing the Batman games, 90% of the time I’m thinking I would enjoy the game so much more if it was Spider-Man and not Batman, so I see nothing wrong with Spider-Man getting similar treatment. Beenox still has a lot to work on to get to that same level of quality Rocksteady has established, but aspiring to produce games of that caliber is nothing to be ashamed of.
One of the ways Beenox made their first open-world Spider-Man game unique to the character is by focusing on Spidey’s preferred form of travel: web swinging. The web rush mechanic they added replaces the web zip used in previous Spider-Man games. It’s still possible to web zip around in a hurry, but if you want to accurately pinpoint your end location, you can slow time down by using the web rush. By doing this, the game switches to a first-person point of view and shows you all the different locations you can travel to by displaying a glowing outline of Spider-Man in front of you. It’s a bit tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it you can sit back and watch as Spider-Man dances between skyscrapers, leaps off flag poles, or flips in the air as he travels along your chosen path. It’s really fun when you get used to this new way of traversing the New York skyline. I found that I barely used the regular web-swinging to get around by the end of the game.
By turning the game into an open-world adventure, Beenox brought back several types of side missions. Common objectives found in previous Spider-Man games return, such as transporting wounded civilians to hospitals or breaking up petty crimes. The worst side missions, however, are the car chases. Using the web rush mechanic, it’s not incredibly hard to chase down the bad guys, and once you land on the car, you’re subjected to the same cut scene and button mashing over and over. It gets a bit repetitive and I’d like to see them mix that side mission up a little bit more in the future.
Peter’s penchant for photography is also a factor in the side missions. Beenox used aspects of the riddles Batman solved using his detective vision, and they included the benefits of taking pictures of the bad guys you come across, as in the Bioshock game series. I would have preferred Spider-Man’s photo missions to relate to his job with the Daily Bugle, but since the paper was omitted from the movie it makes sense that they left it out of the game. I would also have liked to have seen more benefits to taking pictures of the bad guys, such as enhanced damage or defense against any photographed baddies.
Another common side mission that is seen again is the time race. Bruce Campbell continues his association with the Spider-Man franchise by providing the humorous voice of the XTreme challenges announcer. In addition to the normal time challenge, there is also a video challenge, where you need to follow Spider-Man around as he web swings to a specific destination. The point of the video challenge is to keep Spider-Man centered in the middle of the camera, but it seems more of an excuse to just show off Spider-Man’s flawless, aerial acrobatics. Like the rest of the game, this isn’t a super difficult challenge but it was cool to see how fluidly Spider-Man moves through the skyline in what basically amounted to web swinging porn.
Apart from the side missions, the game features three main types of game play. Beenox proved that they could handle these different styles in their previous Spider-Man titles, which focused heavily on different Spider-Men, each with their own distinctive game play. The stealth-based Spider-Man Noir levels in Shattered Dimensions return, this time packaged as secret Oscorp laboratories that Spider-Man had to infiltrate. The free falling, quick and crazy pace of Spider-Man 2099 is replaced by the open world aspect of this game and the new web rush mechanic.
I prefer the third-person action-adventure game play found in the Amazing and Ultimate universe in Shattered Dimensions, so I was a little wary when I heard this was an open world game. Thankfully, Beenox handled this perfectly by putting Spider-Man inside buildings for the main story missions, bringing the action and fighting into more close quarters. The fighting, again influenced by the near flawless fighting mechanics in the Batman games, is pretty enjoyable. The only drawback was that they got rid of the focus on combos and the awesome over-the-top web attacks. Spider-Man’s signature attacks are a pretty great use of his webbing, though, and it’s really fun to look around at the end of a battle to see where all the bad guys have been webbed up. There are baddies hanging from the ceilings, stuck to the wall or plastered to the floor. Rating: Good
Graphics and visuals: Beenox has a nice graphics engine for the Spider-Man games, and like their previous two entries, the Amazing Spider-Man game is easy on the eyes. There are some drawbacks, such as mouths not synching up but mouths are usually the hardest part of the characters to get right in computer graphics. There were a few other instances of lack of details such as papers and other items in the background that looked a bit flat, but some cutting of corners was bound to happen with a massive open world game and the limited amount of time Beenox had to work on the game. Overall the graphics were still as impressive and enjoyable as the last two Spider-Man games.
I was glad to see that this game got rid of the health bars on the heads up display so it didn’t clutter the screen. Beenox handled the absence of a health bar by having red bleed in from the edges of the screen when Spider-Man took too much damage. You just need to make sure you pay attention to that creeping red indicator so you can web retreat out of the danger. This lack of a health bar kind of works against the gamer in boss battles though. I was never sure how much life the boss had left and so the action just ends abruptly when you defeat the bad guy.
Another good indication of how much damage you’re taking is by the wear and tear on your suit. Spider-Man’s suit gets torn up as he fights through the game and it was nice to see how the different costumes looked after being put through the ringer. The costumes were a bit varied as well and Beenox gives you a couple of suits not commonly seen, such as the new Scarlet Spider outfit and the inverted FF costume. The costumes look like they’re made from real fabric and look impressive when you’re swinging around as Spider-Man. Rating: Good
Extras: The costumes are usually the best part about Spider-Man games, and while Beenox gives us a good selection of outfits this time around, they made unlocking them incredibly frustrating. In order to unlock a costume you need to find its respective spider symbol around the city and take a picture of it. This is easier said than done as Beenox attached each symbol to a specific date, so they won’t show up until October or later. Forcing gamers to wait for content that is already provided on the disc is beyond frustrating, but a good way around it is changing the date on your console system to December 2012 and tricking the game. It was not a fun way to go about it.
While Beenox took a step backwards with the unlockable costumes, they more than made up for it with their collectibles. Normally collecting items littered around the game world doesn’t offer you much in return, but this time the comic pages you collect actually pay off. Whenever you collect a certain number of pages, you unlock an actual digital comic that you can read in the main menu. This is the first good reason I’ve seen to collect hundreds of little objects hidden across a virtual city. Beenox even made collecting 700 comic pages easier by revealing the location of the remaining 200 pages once you’ve gathered the first 500. It’s not as tedious as you would think if you take some time to look around the city when perched atop a water tower or billboard. The comics that you’re provided are usually the first appearances of the game’s villains or other noteable stories such as the first issue of the Lizard-centric story, Shed.
I like the use of audio records in video games to help fill in story background, so finding those throughout the levels is also a bonus. The only drawback I had with the audio files in this game was that you could only listen to the files while in the menu. I prefer audio files that continue to play when you exit the menu so you can go back to playing the game or swinging around the city while listening to the audio.
Another feature Beenox added to try to add a bit more depth to the story was the Twitter-like feed in the loading screens called The NY City Thoughts. The feed was a good way to kill time as the level loaded and a good way to catch back up on the story if you have taken a break from playing. The thoughts had some humorous moments since they were written in typical internet fashion with grammatical mistakes, leetspeak, and guys hitting on any girl that shows up in the chat room.
The achievements are easy to acquire. I was able to obtain 38 of 46 offered in my first play through for a total of 770 achievement points. The remaining eight achievements will be easy enough to complete with a walk through when I replay the game on the hardest difficulty. The replayability may not be as robust as some would hope from an open world game, but after a second time through the game I’ll have accumulated well over 20 hours, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Rating: Meh
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Beenox continues their consistent output of quality Spider-Man games. They’ve improved upon what they created in Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time by successfully incorporating the open-world aspect for all the Spider-Man fans who were clamoring for a free roaming Spidey game. The action is fun, but scaled back a little to accommodate the other features added to the game. This was also a very enjoyable continuation of the story laid out in the Amazing Spider-Man movie, proving that a movie tie-in game doesn’t have to be limited to what occurred on the big screen.