The Amazing Spider-Man Review
It has been a little while since a movie tie-in game has shown up on my doorstep for review, more a trend of fewer and fewer films getting dedicated games than any editorial decision on this site's part. Previous tie-ins like G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen were assuredly not good games, but each contained some guilty pleasure fun behind their ugly, broken exteriors. This summer, veteran Spider-Man developer Beenox has been tasked with creating a tie-in with completely unnecessary cinematic offering, The Amazing Spider-Man (no one should have been permitted to fiddle with the franchise built by the incomparable Sam "Evil Dead" Raimi). The film aside, The Amazing Spider-Man video game manages to pull of the impossible: Beenox has somehow delivered a movie-based game that not only shakes the guilty pleasure label slapped on most tie-ins, but also comes in as the best Spider-Man game in years and years.
Author's Note: The Amazing Spider-Man is set months after the plot of the film and will blow the story for gamers who play before heading to the theater. Spoilers, however, will be kept to a minimum in this review. You're welcome.
Before we get into what's right and wrong (or you lose interest), one major point must be brought to light: The Amazing Spider-Man in unbelievably fun to play. Swinging over the free roam island of Manhattan as the spidery guy himself is exhilarating and probably the game's best feature, with the unreal amount of things to collect coming in a close second. Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man: Web of Shadows also featured a free roam sandbox to play in, but the Amazing Spider-Man trumps both in terms of sheer joy, a feeling I can't imagine any gamer being immune to. If you've ever dreamed of being Spider-Man, quit reading this and go get the game now. Much like the Batman Arkham titles, this game is conveys perfectly the sensation of not just controlling the super hero but actually stepping into their spandex shoes.
Speaking of Batman, my first thought after diving into this game was, "Hmm. Seems to me that Spider-Man: Arkham City would be a more apt title." The Amazing Spider-Man borrows pretty liberally from the Caped Crusader's adventures in a few key ways. A similar stealth mechanic permeates nearly every indoor mission and the combat (punch, counter, punch, etc.) is almost identical, but Spider-Man's "spidey sense" provides a more organic feel when blocking and dodging incoming attacks. The problem is that the Batman games feel more polished and thought-out. The animations here aren't as flowing and natural while in combat, and enemies can lose track of a hiding Spider-Man even in well-lit, open areas. Nothing here is too damning, but players will probably feel as though this adventure is a step back from the games it emulates.
Polish is an issue that pops up nearly everywhere. Aside from the Spider-Man character model and the city of Manhattan, almost everything looks dated, even last gen. No enemy or friend is all that nice to look at, and graphical glitches are around every corner. Beyond the graphical problems, gameplay also lacks a truly "finished" feel. I fell through a few interior floors into negative space and the hit detection/enemy selection can falter from time to time. Screen tearing is an issue as well. But the most vexing thing is Spider-Man's combo options. You can punch, web enemies to the wall or ceiling and pull off a limited number of combos, but it won't be too long before you've seen everything combat has to offer. More combos or attacks, or even more varied approaches to battle would have fleshed out the fighting that at first seems fun, but quickly becomes more of an annoyance than something to get excited about. The Amazing Spider-Man's release was obviously targeted to coincide with the film, but with six more months of development this could have been less a movie tie-in and more one of the best super hero experiences out there. Oh well.
We will finish up with what kept me playing, enjoying and working toward 100 percent completion: the collectibles. The Amazing Spider-Man has a metric ton of things to do and pick up. Each of the story missions has magazines and manuals to find, audio to discover and pictures to take. If that wasn't time-consuming enough, the free roam Manhattan packs on even more. There are enemies to deal with, more pictures to take, Xtreme Challenges (basically races and follow the leader stuff), civilians to save, crimes to stop, mental patients to track down... I could keep going, but you get the picture. There's a lot to do. The crown jewel, though, is collecting comic pages. There are SEVEN HUNDRED of these to find while exploring the island. Swinging around while hunting these down was my favorite part of the entire title. The game even offers you a helping hand in finding them all; when you pick up 500 of them a mini map will disclose the location of the final 200. I was worried about being able to get to 500, but it was fairly effortless. My only beef with the side stuff and collectibles is that once you've found them all, you're done. Spider-Man 2 provided a steady stream of things to do post game, but the Amazing Spider-Man grinds to a halt at 100 percent. Not a big deal, really; but think about this: Even after finding all the stuff in the game (it took about 27 hours, though I think most could knock everything out in 20-25), I still wanted to keep playing. When you play as many games as I do, you realize that the "I want more" sensation is the mark of something special.
The Amazing Spider-Man isn't without its problems. Some ugly graphics and less than polished gameplay hurt the score, but the fun you'll have just swinging around keeps this one in the solid "B" range. Seeing a Spider-Man game that works as well as this one does gives me hope for future Beenox titles. I'll finish with this: I started playing the game before I saw the film it was tied up with. After seeing the blockbuster, The Amazing Spider-Man video game gets another special commendation. This is the first time I've liked a movie tie-in game better than the film it was based on, words I never thought would escape my mouth. Now THAT is amazing.
Final Rating: 84%. A movie tie-in game better than the film it's based on.