zzombie13's The Amazing Spider-Man (Xbox 360) review

I guess "The Mediocre Spider-man" isn't a catchy enough title

Amazing Spider-man is not exactly the game many of you may be hoping for. This is a return to an open world like many have been clammoring for over the years since Beenox took the reigns on Spider-man titles. But the open world is not much of a sandbox in this case.

Web-swinging is Spider-man's calling card. And you really need that to be interesting if you want a Spider-man game to stand out. And unfortunately, ASM just doesn't get it. For that matter, it would be difficult to say if Beenox "gets" gamers at all.

In this game, if you want to swing across town, you hold a trigger and your avatar will swing in whatever direction you point him. While there are things in place to hide the fact, these webs are not sticking to anything. They try to hide it by keeping the camera pushed way in and if you find yourself over fake Central Park you will dip closer to the ground somewhat. But the fact remains, you can swing anywhere, anytime, simply by holding a trigger button. That's literally all there is to it. And even if you fall from the highest heights the game offers you, you will take no damage. Either Spider-man will tuck and roll into the fall or he'll shoot a web line straight up (again, sticking to nothing) to slow his momentum before flipping to the ground, or he'll outright land with a thump in the most dynamic pose possible. This effectively kills all the thrill the swinging could have offered because without risk, there is no reward. Without danger, there is no thrill. And without the ability to fall on your face, swinging is a meaningless mode of conveyance rather than a unique and interesting movement system like it should be.

To further the auto-pilot web swinging and to make sure the game hogs all the fun, Beenox has added what they call "The Web Rush". Web rush is basically a "Do cool stuff" button that lets you pause time mid swing, mid jump, mid whatever, and take a few seconds to pick a destination you want to go to. Then you release, and Spider-man will jump, flip, dive swing or crawl there all on his own. Again, the same problem as the core swing mechanics. There is no risk. Getting to interesting places isn't a challenge to be met, it's a simple button press that takes any need for precision timing or accurate knowledge of the mechanics and throws it out the window to land effortlessly on the pavement, as unscathed as the titular hero. This mechanic does have it's place. When trying to pinpoint and enemy or a stolen car, it's helpful to have a mode like this. But in an unlimited fashion, it does more to harm than to help.

The combat in ASM is a step in the right direction. And it's the one saving grace for this game. And of course, it's all but completely ripped straight from the heart of Arkham Asylum/City. Not that this is a bad thing mind you. Batman's latest games have shown the world how comic book character combat in video game form is done. And if a game wants to pay homage to that it's fine so long as it's properly executed. This is where ASM falters a bit. While the mechanics are in place, the execution still leaves a little to be desired. That isn't to say it's awful and again, it's a step in the right direction. It is fun in many situations. Not all situations, but enough that most players will likely have a good time beating and webbing up baddies if they give it a chance. It could use a shot of difficulty because it becomes extremely easy once you get all the moves down. Again, this is not a game you'll want to go for if you are the type who wants a challenge.

The biggest problem is how much of the time you are stuck indoors or underground in the sewer levels. The mechanics are built with an open world in mind, so when you get into cramped areas like the Vermin chase sequence, the challenge will come from wrestling with camera and trying to figure out which part of the samey-looking dungeon-like area you need to crawl towards to get to the next area. It can get tedious, especially in some of the longer indoor or underground sequences. Again, not difficult; just frustrating.

The game features a few stealth segments as well. And for the most part, these can be fun. Unfortunately this is another place where the mechanics can fail you. A simple "Web-retreat" button can get you out of a jam if you're spotted. But often you "retreat" right into another characters line of sight. And you have little control over where this retreat option will take you when you hit it. Spider-man is tough, but gattling guns make fools of us all. And flying backwards from one into another can lead to some deaths that may feel a bit cheap. But hey, at least this bit isn't insultingly easy, right?

Some players will probably like this game. Spider-man is cool enough and popular enough to get by with a few missteps and come out smelling like a rose. Even the most lauded Spider-man game (2004's Spider-man 2) was a busted mess of a game with one great bit. The great bit in that game though, spoke to many many gamers and left a lasting impression of how it should be. An impression that, sadly, ASM is unable to even aspire to. Let alone reach.

There are side missions in ASM, but they are finite. You can stop muggings, and help victims of the story's outbreak and take on challenges from Bruce Campbell's blimp-flying, TV ratings-obsessed cameo character. But again, these missions are finite and you can complete all of them and leave yourself with a big city full of nothing to do. The game has many unlockable costumes (a few genuinely cool ones too, like the new Scarlet Spider outfit) and a whole megaton of collectible comic book pages. Collecting enough of these pages will actually open up many full comic books you can read within the game as well. These are nice additions. Of course to get some of the costumes you'll have to complete or 100% the game which effectively kills their point to exist in the first place since doing everything will leave you nothing to do while you wear these costumes except use a boring swing mechanic to travel around a city that has nothing left to offer you. (personal side note: I do not know if you get to keep these costumes after completion when starting a new game. This could add value to those planning second or third playthroughs.)

If you're OK with a game on training wheels, a game that hogs all the fun for itself while you sit and watch as Spidey does cool flips; elegant wall-running; and loop the loops on flagpoles, well then ASM might be the game for you. If you are a gamer who craves a challenge when they place a disc in their tray though; If you want swing mechanics that allow you to feel amazing rather than a game that merely tries to look amazing while you sit and watch, this probably isn't one for you. And if you're the type who'd rather fail on your own than win in a game that is holding your hand all the way, then run for the hills!

It's more appropriate for the under 10s who just saw the ASM movie. If you do give it a try, please adjust your expectations because this is no Spider-man 2. This isn't even Shattered Dimensions to be honest. At least Shatty Dims had a little personality. But it's better than Edge of Time. So maybe we're on an upswing (pun so very intended).

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