Videogames based on the Spider-Man franchise have not had a particularly good run on the current-generation of consoles, despite their regularity. Following the huge success of Spider-Man 2 was never going to be an easy task, and while Spider-Man 3 achieved a technically superior standard, it lost much of the intelligent design that made the previous outing such a joy to play. The subsequent near-annual outings provided some interesting adaptations of various areas of the wall crawler’s illustrious career given that they had no motion-picture presentation to draw from, but now we return to the franchise with a reboot, as The Amazing Spider-Man comes to both cinemas and videogame consoles.
Dismissing The Amazing Spider-Man off-the-bat as yet another malnourished movie tie-in would be inappropriate in the extreme, as it would for any videogame and yet is often the case. The Amazing Spider-Man is an adaptation of the movie adaptation of the comic book franchise, but it’s still clearly a labour of love for the team at Beenox, with a number of nods towards the unspoken history of our hero obviously learned through their experiences developing many of the other Spider-Man titles on current-generation systems. In terms of cannon The Amazing Spider-Man is about as close to delivering what the core audience want as Enter the Matrix was; it’s just a shame that the Wachowski brothers couldn’t make more out of their added exposition. Of course, the Spider-Man franchise doesn’t have that problem, for as much as Beenox can offer to this retelling of the tale; it is a retelling and not an attempt to bring new characters with seemingly little connection into an already established world.
The Amazing Spider-Man videogame begins months after the events of the motion-picture of the same name, and as such you’d be advised not to attempt to play without having watched the associated movie first, lest you ruin your cinema/home theatre experience. The plot of the videogame is centred on the continuation of Dr. Connor’s cross-species experimentation, with both Spider-Man and Peter Parker caught in the centre of a devastating plight for very different reasons.
The core experience is the familiar mix of free-roaming action, story based missions and side missions involving collecting items and beating-up thugs. The mission structure is more inviting than many similar titles and has the player travelling back-and-forth across New York in an effort to instil some knowledge of the virtual city’s layout; however recognition of specific areas realistically comes only when veering off the beaten track, as is often the case. The combat plays very similarly to that of previous Spider-Man titles, though is given a much sharper edge through more accurate control which some might suggest has taken influence from Rocksteady’s efforts with Batman: Arkham Asylum and it’s sequel.
One area in which The Amazing Spider-Man shows its own initiative is in the all new Web Rush mechanic. During the performance of specific manoeuvres the player is able to perform the Web Rush, slowing down time briefly to enable them to choose the next course of action: mid-swing can change to assault; landing on a car can allowing you to reposition for the next leap; jumping to avoid an enemy blow can take a second moment to realign for a counter-attack. In practice the Web Rush mechanic works similarly to that of the power blows in the forthcoming Dead or Alive 5, and is as welcome an addition to Spider-Man’s repertoire as it is a revolution for the beat-‘em-up franchise.
From a technical standpoint The Amazing Spider-Man is little better than average. The draw distance is very well presented, but the character models and animation looks dated compared to many titles developed with half the budget of such a high profile title. That’s not to say the experience is weakened by the visual quality, but it’s hardly a selling point for the videogame. The sound quality however is clearly the product of many years invested in developing videogames based on the franchise, as is the incorporation of the PlayStation Move motion-control device in the PlayStation 3 version of the videogame, offering an evolution of the web slinging gameplay first introduced with Spider-Man 3 on Nintendo’s Wii.
As the latest addition to a series of releases that have received a very mixed response, The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t the videogame to change the preconception that current-generation titles live in the shadow of Spider-Man 2. That being said, looking at The Amazing Spider-Man as an experience in its own right – a unique outing designed to mark the rebirth of a franchise – it’s far from being an unpleasant experience. The Amazing Spider-Man is equal parts innovation and inconsistent design, combining to create a flawed but enjoyable action videogame.