Despite the worn out cliché that must be attached to every faintly high profile release that comes between the months of June and September – don’t worry, I’m not above it – that nothing good ever comes out in summer, the past few years have proven that rule moot. In 2009, we got Arkham Asylum. In 2010, we got the criminally over-looked Singularity and in 2011 we got the not-at-all overlooked Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
That’s just one of the reasons why it’s difficult to go into The Amazing Spiderman without raised expectations. It promised a return to the open-world environment that made Spiderman 2 so addictive, developer Beenox have history with the character – they created previous Spiderman games Edge of Time and Shattered Dimensions – and the stigma of being a tie-in as well as a summer game doesn’t seem to exist any more.
Unfortunately, it takes roughly two hours before those expectations plummet back to the levels you would expect for a summer movie tie-in.
Taking control of everyone’s favourite web-head, the game picks up after the dust has settled from the film’s climax. Without going too far into the united states of spoilers, an outbreak across Manhattan sees Peter desperately trying to develop an antidote to the same virus that turned Dr. Curt Connors into the Lizard. It’s a rough re-tread of the film, with a few new touches to claim it’s a continuation of the story. A few new villains drop into preceding without leaving any legacy by the end of the game. What’s more face-palming about the game’s narrative is that nothing is mentioned about Uncle Ben’s killer – one of the biggest plot threads left dangling by this summer’s film.
Key characters return for this epilogue chapter to the film, yet none of the actors turn up, leaving capable voice actors to struggle with poorly written characters. Andrew Garfield’s witty and softly cocky teen is transformed into a black hole, devoid of charm. Gwen Stacey is given little to do and new villain Alistair Smythe may be voiced by the golden voice box of Nolan North – have you ever looked at a videogame? Chances are Mr. North voiced someone in it – but he feels like a mid-tier panto villain, designed to simply exist for the sake of plot. It’s ironic that the best thing about the movie – the burgeoning romance between Peter and Gwen – is arguably non-existent in the game.
The game inherits this plot problem from becoming a part of the movie’s universe. It has to be able to make canoical sense with the movie without having any too much happen which would need to be referenced in the film’s inevitable sequel. So, when it decides to let you enjoy being Spiderman and ditch the story, the adrenaline rush of being the world’s most famous wall crawler slowly starts to kick in.
Swinging through Manhattan is an obscene amount of fun, with the animations designed to make Spiderman as graceful as possible. Holding the right bumper will send him swinging across the city, dipping as low as possible and pirouetting out of one movement and diving upward into the next, while holding down the right trigger will activate the new web rush mode, which slows down time for a few seconds, allowing you to decide where you want to zip too.
It’s a great addition to the gameplay, because as fun as swinging from building to building and recreating those moments where Spidey’s feet graze cars can be; the zen like flow brought by picking out vantage points or planning a lightning fast hope between blocks feels closer to the character. It’s the closest the game comes to capturing how Spiderman should move and it’s no coincidence that the game is at its strongest when you’re flying through the air, experimenting with what you can do and exploring the island.
The combat is ripped straight out of the Arkham series, with X being used to strike, Y for countering and B used to fire projectiles, in this case Spiderman’s webbing. Hell, the enemy types are the same, with soldiers holding up shields for you to jump over and strike from behind and areas where you dangle from the ceiling and stealthily capture enemies and incapacitate them by hanging them by their ankles. If it was any more like Batman, the web-slinger would be wearing a cowl and talking like Christian Bale. The system works, but is held back by an erratic camera, that unfortunately focuses too closely on Spiderman, so enemies will usually appear too quickly from outside the screen to react.
Andrew Garfield’s witty and softly cocky teen is transformed into a black hole, devoid of charm.
The game continues to borrow liberally from Arkham City – collectibles that unlock production assets, levelling up system that includes beefing up your chats physical abilities and gadgets, you know, the usual – but never has the same verve that Rocksteady’s benchmark game does. While the Bat’s story pulled in nearly all of his villains into a satisfying and cohesive narrative that genuinely shocked in it’s finale, Amazing Spiderman ropes in a few bad guys and never pushes them into a direction audiences won’t be familiar with. It’s a shame that the gameplay can only mask this defect so much.
The Amazing Spiderman has brief flashes of excellence, usually when you’re less focused on the limp storyline and being left to be the titular character. But those glimpses are far too rare for the game to be anything more than a safe summer movie tie-in.