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

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The Amazing Spider-Man is a Passable (if All Too Familiar) Game

Spider-Man, as his 60s cartoon theme song is often wont to tell us, is able to do whatever a spider can. However, this particular Spider-Man is also able to do whatever a Batman, a green-haired danger-seeking photojournalist, an electricity-infused hero (not Electro) and various others can as well. The lack of confidence in trying anything too new with the Amazing Spider-Man, Beenox and Activision's latest movie license game based on the current Mark Webb/Andrew Garfield reboot that's either a triumphant return to the franchise or a poorly-timed immediate reboot with little redeeming value depending on who you ask, is a rather pervasive one and a clear indication, in my view, that the movie license has at least stepped up its game (as it were) from "generic barely-playable trash" to "let's see what developers who care about these superhero games did, laugh at their earnestness, and then liberally borrow everything from them that made them tick."

If that opening paragraph didn't give it away, I didn't find the Amazing Spider-Man all that impressive. It had the presence of mind to only ape what actually works, so you're entirely likely to still find some enjoyment in the familiar beats of clearing a room of frightened goons by sticking to the ceiling until they pass underneath your hidden form to their unbeknownst ruin. There are other factors of the Batman games - such as the tell-tale signal of danger that indicates when you should counter or dodge an incoming attack - that actually feel more germane given the Web Slinger's Spider-Sense ability, yet the rather purposeful purloining is still a tad jarring. Honestly, if I was being a little less reductive for a moment, it's entirely possible that Rocksteady's duo of nonpareil superhero-ing license games have set a new precedent that all new superhero games are tacitly expected to follow, having been the first studio in a long time to really mine the boundless potential of a superhero license. Still, it's not like Spider-Man hasn't found success and acclaim (though generally not with Acclaim, not so ironically enough) with earlier games, even with another movie licence: Spider-Man 2. It shouldn't need to borrow from other franchises at this point, unlike the similarly-afflicted-with-kleptomania Captain America game of last year which had no game forebear of note and therefore very little recourse but to borrow from the Bat.

That said, the interior areas of this particular Spider-Man game - an aspect that has always been unable to feel as satisfying as Spidey's predilection for swinging through the concrete jungle that is Manhattan - have been greatly improved with the new emphasis on stealth. Even with all the Batman bells and whistles with creating combos and hitting the dodge button when necessary, direct conflicts with enemies can be brutal and short (though often only on the harder difficulties, which I'd heartily recommend you play on), so it's worth taking one's time to use Spider-Man's natural abilities to hang from ceilings and quickly web around to new vantage points when spotted and taking out foes that way. In this case, Beenox probably did the right thing by appropriating this particular aspect.

As as an example of a contemporary that I'm actually glad this game had the presence of mind to borrow from is that of Beyond Good & Evil's photojournalism aspect of sneaking through high-security classified areas while snapping incriminating evidence. That sense you're helping to shape the public's perception of what is clearly an antagonistic organization that is nonetheless powerful enough to propaganda itself out of any misdemeanor or mischief, an idea has endless inferences to be made to real world conglomerates, is in a sense a form of heroics and escapism that's a little more on the approachable side. We probably can't easily relate to a superhuman spider mutant who shoots liquid cement out of his hands, but an earnest (if a little acerbic) truth-seeker is a little easier to get on board with for a general audience. The game was wise to play this side of the Spider-Man character up a little, being introduced to photojournalism as he is mid-game by a daredevil journo, even though the new movie's Spider-Man retained little of his future shutterbug aspirations.

Suffice it to say, the list of minor thefts continue: The epidemic plot seems to be borrowed from the far grimmer Prototype games, the cross-breed animal mutants from inFamous 2 specifically (though this was a major plot point in the movie also) plus the ever ubiquitous series of minor collectibles to find across a simulation of New York's Manhattan Island, which has to have been the dozenth time I've virtually visited that metropolis without ever setting actual foot to NYC sidewalk. Not that Spider-Man has much use for such pedestrian means of conveyance.

This isn't to say Spider-Man is an entirely soulless Frankenstein-esque assortment of anatomical elements from other games. It does still keep to Spider-Man's strengths, especially in the entirely optional open-world elements of the game. While not following the core series of story missions that all - with a few exceptions in the form of open-air boss fights - take place inside some Oscorp facility or another, the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is able to be friendly with his neighborhood by solving some petty crimes (invariably involving a beatdown of a few hoodlums), stopping car chases (invariably by webbing the fugitives' cars' windshield until they're forced to stop) and rescuing infected citizens by invariably web-swinging them to the nearest quarantine area tout suite. As you might infer from the generous over-usage of "invariably", these side-quests are pretty much the same each time you undertake them, so it's good to spread them out. Or simply avoid doing them after their appeal has worn off, for that matter. While the side-missions themselves aren't much to write a Daily Bugle special report about, the actual traversal of the open city is nothing short of perfect: Holding the right trigger moves you as fast as spiderhumanly possible in whatever direction you're pointing, automatically launching into a new web-swing at the nadir of the previous and sprinting up sides of buildings if they happen to be in the way. The new "Web-Rush" mode, which gives you a few seconds of extremely slowed-down time to ponder your next move - whether that's hooking to a new spot to perch on (with possibilities helpfully illustrated by the game with a yellow silhouette) or finding an enemy to target - creates an excellent gameplay approximation of Spider-Man's supremely quick reflexes. The goofy plot about the arrogant new Oscorp head scientist proving that killer robots are better than sub-human mutants is about as comic book as it gets, with said scientist (and minor villain from the comics) Alistair Smythe performed with the right amount of vaguely British smug superiority from the well-versed "swami of smarmy" that is Nolan North. The non-movie voice actors do their jobs well, as does Bruce Campbell in an extraordinary turn as the mercurial captain of the Xtreme Party Blimp; a source of some of Spider-Man's showier and less consequential side-missions.

As far as everything else goes, it's perfectly satisfactory and not worth any great amount of detail on: The graphics are suitably sharp, with Spider-Man's well-detailed and gradually beat-up suit being the highlight; The music's the usual orchestral soundtrack, generally there to heighten the wonder and excitement of web-swinging through New York at 60 mph and fading into the background the rest of the time. There's a touch of framerate slowdown here and there, but not so much to ruin the experience. It controls well, though not always intuitively (if you're stuck on the ceiling and the camera switches to first-person to compensate, it's never quite clear which way Spider-Man is facing which makes directing him a little more ambiguous than it ought to be). It's not difficult by any stretch even on its hardest mode - provided of course that you don't directly tangle with the gatling gun sporting Oscorp grunts and follow the game's advice of snatching them up undetected. The Rogue's Gallery is rather sparse, bringing out every sub-human from the comics to fit with the overall cross-breed animal theme - so you're likely to meet such big names as Vermin, Nattie and the Iguana as often as the Lizard or Rhino. There's also an extended cameo appearance of sorts from Marvel's answer to Catwoman the Black Cat (still using her original name Felicia Hardy) as well as a few sneakier obscure ones that are only indirectly referenced by some of the photo-op side-missions.

Overall, this new Spider-Man game isn't going to offend anyone unless borrowing aspects from games that work really gets your goat - as rough as it can be to see great gameplay innovations spread around until their novel effect wears off and as much as I've made a case against the game for it, it really is par for the course in this industry and should probably be accepted as same. The Amazing Spider-Man is certainly not perfect, becomes very repetitive in the game's optional missions and has little new to offer (have I brought that up enough times yet?), but fans of ol' Webhead and his latest movie outing in particular should find plenty to enjoy here.

Other reviews for The Amazing Spider-Man (Xbox 360)

    A Good, but overall fruitless attempt. 0

    When referring to the massive list of constant comic book tie-in films, the results are less than satisfying. These games usually suffer from following the script of the film too much and lacking the ability to deviate from the source material. Although, once in a blue moon, you do get the odd addition of an enjoyable, if sometimes good title. The Amazing Spider-Man attempts to be one of the recent inclusions into the tie-in genre and truly tries to break away from the dreaded curse. Does it suc...

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    The Pretty-Okay Spider-Man 0

    Another year, another Spider-Man game.Though this is the first since 2007's Spider-Man 3 to be tied a movie.And the first since 2008's Web of Shadows to be open-world.And whilst I enjoyed Shattered Dimensions (Gave Web of Time a pass) I'm glad to return to this format.Spider-Man games shine when they provide large, open environments in which to swing about in.And swinging about Manhattan is probably the most fun thing to do in this game.Which makes it a little weird that the open-world serves as...

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