My Spidey-sense is tingling – could this be a good movie tie-in game?
The new Amazing Spider-Man movie didn’t seem to generate the hype that surrounded the movies starring Tobey Macguire, but then I am not really surprised. It has only been ten years since Sam Raimi’s trilogy began, far too soon for a reboot (much like singers who have been around for five minutes releasing greatest hits albums). But the reality is that The Amazing Spider-Man is actually a really good movie.
But whether a movie is good or not, or is released too soon, there is still a certain amount of dread when confronted with the inevitable tie-in videogame. Traditionally, movie tie-in games are not good. There are always exceptions to the rule, but often it is easier to just make the assumption that a movie tie-in game is bad.
Hang on a minute. My spidey-sense is telling me that Activision’s The Amazing Spider-Man is actually something special…
Set almost immediately after the movie, which is a pleasant change to start with, the story follows that Oscorp appears to have continued with Dr. Connors cross-species genetic research, with some rather unsavory results. Not wanting to close any doors for the movie sequels that are sure to follow, the game has avoided using any big name villains from the Spider-Man stories, but mutated creatures, giant robots and the continued presence of Dr Connors himself makes the story interesting. Besides, there is plenty of fan-service to keep the comic book fans happy as well as the movie goers.
From a central base in the open-world environment of Manhattan (the central base happens to be the apartment of Stan Lee himself – fan-service!), players get to follow the main story, take on some entertaining side-quests and hunt for masses of collectibles (including comic scans) that are hidden throughout the city. The fact that the game is open world leaves the player free to explore, use their OsPhone to find objectives or side objectives, or simply enjoy the best aspect of the game – swinging through the streets.
The swinging mechanic feels more simplistic than I remember from the last time I played a Spider-Man game (a fair few years ago), but perhaps because of this, the experience is both exciting and cinematic. The camera follows closely behind, giving a great sense of speed and, whilst at times the web may appear to be attached to thin air, the action is smooth and seamless. As with many open world games, there is a temptation to spend hours just swinging around the city, doing nothing constructive. This is not necessarily a bad thing and will make the game feel longer than it is.
Again in keeping with the more simplistic feel, players will have access to an ability called Web Rush. By using this, players can slow down time to almost a stand still and instantly see points in their surroundings with which they can interact, either by attaching themselves to or using in some way. Whilst navigating the streets of Manhattan, or the buildings I should say, using Web Rush will instantly give you points to grapple almost instantly, enhancing the real feel of speed in the game and allowing the player to plan their route with much more precision than the somewhat clumsy, but still highly enjoyable, free swinging.
But Web Rush also comes in handy for the various encounters. Highlight the vending machine and Spidey will leap down, grab it and smash amongst any nearby enemies, instantly stunning them. Objective items are also highlighted, such as computer terminals or containers that need to break through walls allowing progression.
The combat itself has obviously taken some inspiration from the Arkham games and utilises a simple attack dodge mechanic while favouring the stealth approach in many situations. Again, the Web Rush ability comes in useful, allowing Spider-Man to perform some pretty impressive stealth take-downs, or swing across a room and take out a specific enemy. The actual melee is not as smooth as that of the Dark Knight, but still allows players to pull off some impressive moves without too much effort, instantly raising the feel good factor. Of the opponents themselves, Spider-Man has always been about speed rather than raw power and players who run in expecting to go head to head will find themselves quickly out-gunned, emphasising extensive use of the dodge button, the “spidey sense” and stealthy attacks.
As players progress through the game, either by following the story missions or lending the NYPD a hand on the streets of Manhattan, they will earn points which can be used to improve abilities, unlock new moves or tweak Spidey’s gadgets. Experience comes relatively easily and before long players will find themselves controlling a Spidey power-house.
Visually, the game looks very impressive. The character animations are all very well done and the city feels as though it is living and breathing, albeit perhaps not quite as busy as the real-world Manhattan would be. The interior environments are perhaps a little bland, but perfectly suited to the game. The voice-work is excellently done, with plenty of inane chatter from Spider-Man, if you like that sort of thing. If you don’t like the cheesy one-liners, maybe this isn’t the game for you.
Not everything is perfect in Spider-Man world though. The efforts made to make the game more approachable will not be welcomed by everyone, even though many of them are optional. There are also a few camera issues when the player leaves the open world environment for some in-door action. The camera often hovers a little too close, making it difficult to know whats going on around our hero. And when Spider-Man hangs upside down, that’s a whole new level of confusing. These problems are not game breakers, but they do tarnish what is otherwise an excellent game.
The Amazing Spider-Man videogame may well be a movie tie-in, but don’t let that dissuade you from purchasing the game. Activision have bucked the “dire movie tie-in game” trend this time around as the developers Beenox have created what is an entirely enjoyable title. It may not be perfect, but Spider-Man fans will find plenty here to keep them entertained, whilst those who have never tried web-swinging through Manhattan will find it an exhilarating experience.