Review: The Amazing Spiderman

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The latest movie tie-in for our much loved Marvel hero, Spider-Man, opens up a bustling Manhattan once again for our crime fighting enjoyment. Sand-box play style returns, reminiscent of Spider-Man 2 for PlayStation 2, allowing for some variation in pace and encourages us to explore the open city, being a general nuisance to the bad guys along the way.

Our action filled story begins as a virus outbreak threatens the well-being of the good people of NYC, and who else but Spidey himself offers his considerable skills, wit and butt-kicking abilities to help save the day, and the girl, one more time.

Gameplay

To fulfil our honourable pledge, Spidey is equipped with his trusty web-shooter and initially a few basic combat manoeuvres, both of which have expansion capabilities as we level up and obtain "Tech" points by defeating certain enemies and finding collectables across the city.

Collectables are abundant and found as three main types: the afore-mentioned "Tech" for equipment upgrades, mission specific such as audio logs and documents, with the most common being comic book pages. Comic pages are scattered throughout the map and are collected to unlock actual comics, viewable from the main menu, which provide a very pleasant distraction from the high energy main game.

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Your travel across the game world will be predominantly by web-swinging, which though effective and entertaining, is achieved by simply holding down one shoulder button and pushing the required direction on the analogue stick. Simplicity of use is undoubtably the intention here, yet by making the whole web-swing thing too easy, something is lost in the feel of getting from A to B. There are no decisions on acrobatics as in previous Spider-Man titles, and unfortunately the mechanic feels over-simplified and diluted.

Frustrations in the character movement however become too frequent with the use of "Web Rush Timer", a bullet-time type first person view that projects potential landing spots, by a ghosted outline of our hero, to select and thereafter rush towards. A sound idea in principal, but the centre lock-on often misses the intended target, which sends Spidey off on a high speed tangent before any player adjustments can be made. When the WRT works, it works well, yet it tends to let you down at the most inconvenient moment.

Spidey can run across walls, scale buildings with no safety harness, and leap like a leaping spider (a what?) in traversing the day/night cycle enabled city. No small wonder he is popular with the towns-folk.

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The dishing of beatings is achieved mainly by timed response inputs, along the lines of the Batman Arkham series, with the occasional "mash this series of buttons to deal some punishment to your foes" cut sequences. Combat is generally fluid, and is aided by near field intractable objects, which give Spidey the chance to hammer multiple baddies at once. Good show. Additional moves are unlock-able and existing ones upgradable, giving a sense of character progression, though as with much of the game generally, there is little innovation here.

Side quests come as stop the fleeing car, interrupt a crime in progress, save the citizen and other such bite size tasks, often taking no more than a few minutes each to complete.

The main story though is where the action lives, which is full of high paced excitement and provides a decent, well rounded story. Your life as Spider-Man will thrust you through many enemy infested arenas, ending with the inevitable boss battle, some of which are again on the easy side, even at Super-Hero difficulty. Finding the tactic to beat your nemesis is often quite simple: struggle however, and Spidey will vocalise a few hints and tips to help you get that trophy. Players are free to approach the missions in either summer block-buster all action movie chaos, fighting your way through with full frontal, massive combo attacks, else take the stealth approach of striking from the shadows and pick your hapless enemies off one by one.

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With no multi-player and limited replay-ability, The Amazing Spider-Man does offer some additional off plot challenges from the main menu to keep you entertained. Rhino (no relation) city carnage challenge is currently a DLC item and offers a score chase by way of online leader-boards.

The Environment

Manhattan is populated with pedestrians, numerous vehicle types and of course many a high rise building. Repetition does occur, yet is not overly obstructive. Buildings are well detailed and the city offers a sense of activity, though not to the same level as say a Grand Theft Auto. City characters tend to repeat themselves in conversation quite often, and frequently repeat themselves.

Lighting is excellent and textures generally well detailed. It's easy to become lost in the sprawling city, admiring the views from up high before embarking on the next step of the main story. The game provides a functional mini-map and waypoint selector, to ensure you don't become literally lost.

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Conclusion

The Amazing Spider-Man offers a solid 15 hours of gameplay, and is certainly recommended for fans, despite the control niggles. Casual onlookers may be dissuade by the lack of innovation, as the unfolding action can feel all too familiar at times. The obvious comparison is with Batman Arkham, which for me offers a tighter control system and more engaging combat experience. Don't be off put by this however: Arkham is a standout title and The Amazing Spider-Man delivers the exploration and fighting well enough.

The game kept me hooked until the end, switching up the pace with side missions and presenting some fairly awesome boss battles in the main campaign. Though not an "essential" title due to lack of innovation, it is certainly one to pick up as a well rounded and generally rewarding battle between good (Spidey, yey) and evil (his enemies, boo).

*Played the PS3 version