The Beenox conundrum

For those not in the know, Beenox is the developer who is currently at the helm of the Spider-man franchise. A license owned by Activision and currently in the process of being milked and ruined in the Activision crap crank machine.

Not that I mind them cranking out Spider-man games. At least in theory. I love Spider-man and playing games with him as the main character are like Kryptonite to me. I just can't seem to resist them, even though I know they're ultimately going to fall short of expectations.

But really, what do we expect? These aren't really "gamers games" now are they? These are games designed to appeal for the under 10s. Games meant to get the kiddos to remember moments from the movies or afternoons playing with whatever action figure features Spidey's likeness these days. They aren't meant to be for the hardcore. This ain't Arkham City folks.

After an afternoon and an evening playing the new Amazing Spider-man game, I can't help but feel a bit let down. It's not really even Beenox's fault at this point. I honestly believe that they are trying to make a Spider-man game that will appeal to all of us. But Beenox doesn't get what gamers want. Gamers, at least gamers I know and associate with, would rather fail on their own than play a game that does all the work for them. Gamers would rather have a set of mechanics that allows for them to pull off amazing things, not have a magic "hold my hand" button that makes you look amazing while barely doing any of the work. I'm talking about "Web Rush" in case you don't know. Look up the videos if you aren't following me on this. It's essentially a "be badass" button that has the ol' webhead flip, jump, wall-run, and dive to any point you dictate after pressing the right bumper. And for what it is, it works OK. Not great. Not all that exciting. But the barrier to entry is low and I guess that's what we've allowed to happen. We've let developers hold our hand so long that they don't know how to make anything else.

Many of us fondly remember Spider-man 2: The Movie: The Game. And for good reason. The web-swinging mechanics in that game were unmatched before or since. They gave you an engine to perform amazing feats if your thumbs were nimble and your hands were skilled enough. It was exhilarating in every way to pull off a solid line with Spider-man's web swinging. Everything else in that game was busted though. In anticipation of the new Amazing Spider-man game, I dug out my PS2 and played SM2 for the better part of a day. Fighting bad guys was as formula as it can be. The random crimes were repetetive and the voice over was phoned in and flat. For all intents and purposes, the game doesn't work. Except for the one thing that works so very very well. The swinging. I spent hours just swinging around SM2's virtual world and I know many others did as well. And because it was all based on skill rather than "hard cloud theory" and "web rush". Not everyone was tough enough of course, and the game catered to them as well. There was an "easy swing" mode for those not interested in learning the game. Those who just wanted a tangential movie experience without a lot of effort could have exactly that and more power to them. It's the fact that the games developers gave us the choice, that is why we still remember it to this day.

Beenox, for their part, have made a decent super-hero game this year. It's not the worst of the Spider-man games that I've played (Friend of Foe, I'm looking at you here). I just wish that someone would come along and realize that Spider-man is primed to get his Arkham City. A game that balances great combat, which is almost there in ASM, and great web mechanics like SM2 with interesting visuals, maybe something like Ultimate Spider-man from the PS2 era. A game that uses stealth options like the Noir segments from Shattered Dimensions and gives us the option to really master the mechanics like we did oh so long ago. I guess until then, we'll just have to keep settling. Or, Heaven forbid, skip a few games so they get the message? Nah, that'll never happen. :P