Looking Back at The Amazing Spider-Man [Xbox 360]

Hello, true believers! I’ll be presenting this Past Blast in a slightly different format than usual, so without further ado:

Was The Amazing Spider-Man a good movie game?

The short answer? Heck yes. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this was the best movie licensed video game that gamers will have seen in a long time, packing a very compelling narrative, solid game-play and plenty of incentives to explore its deep and rich world. This kind of effort from developer Beenox puts previous identikit effortless movie instalments including Monsters Vs Aliens and Green Lantern to utter shame.

Does it match up to Spider-Man 2, Beenox’s other efforts and/or Arkham City?

Right from the off, many of you will no doubt have wondered whether this movie tie-in could possibly live up to what are perceived as the best Spider-Man games, recent Spidey efforts from Beenox and indeed the legendary Batman: Arkham City. What I’ll do first is provide a brief list of the scores I would have given to the past aforementioned games:

  • Spider-Man 2 (2004): 4/5
  • Ultimate Spider-Man (2005): 4/5
  • Spider-Man: Web Of Shadows (2008): 3/5
  • Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (2010): 3/5
  • Spider-Man: Edge Of Time (2011): 2/5
  • Batman: Arkham City (2011): 5/5

This is right up there with the best entries in the Spider-Man games roster so far. This almost does for Stan Lee’s Webbed Wonder what Arkham Asylum kicked off for the Dark Knight, yet there is a little too much crawling in repetitive sewers, Oscorp facilities, factories and sewers (oops, did I already mention that?) for this to be dubbed truly as ‘amazing’ a development as the Arkham series.

It’s probably fair to say that this may be the best Spider-Man game of all time, but all the same that doesn’t mean that it’s up on the same level as Batman’s best just yet.

How strong is the game’s storyline? Does it feel like a pointless epilogue?

There was a confidence here, thanks to Marvel’s allowance of creative vision on the part of the writing team, that can’t help but wow the player – even today.

After the events of the film, Peter Parker’s alter-ego is forced to live with the consequences of his actions as his attempts to stop the Lizard have put someone in power at Oscorp who poses perhaps an even greater threat. Surprisingly enough, this man is not Norman Osborn, yet the hints we get at his overarching role in this rebooted universe and the shocking plot twists that occur throughout the game are incredibly effective, doing to the film franchise what the Arkham games did to their self-contained version of the DC Comics universe.

While this game isn’t intended to connect The Amazing Spider-Man to its 2014 sequel, the narrative is a sublime adventure for players to blitz through, really upping the stakes in a way that other movie games could only aspire to.

Will the visuals impress me as much as Arkham City’s did?

Sadly, no. One of the only major faults I can pick out in Amazing are the graphics of the game. Much as Beenox have clearly put a lot of effort into creating a living and breathing replica of a modern-day Manhattan in their engine, the majority of the buildings, characters and environments on offer here are bland to say the very least.

It was never likely going to be possible for a movie game whose budget was sparse, to say the least, to match up to Rocksteady’s sublime, beautiful epic. Nevertheless, it is a shame that we’ve got graphics here that are more reminiscent of 2008’s Web Of Shadows than they are of Arkham.

Does the free-roaming Manhattan work well as an open-world?

Thankfully, this one is most definitely a positive. Although it perhaps doesn’t sport as wide a variety of (divisive) mini-games as the Spider-Man 2 tie-in’s incarnation of the Big Apple, this version of Manhattan is the most believable and realistic rendition of the city yet. Indeed, it truly fits in with the vision of the Marc Webb film reboot.

The new Web Rush mechanic allows for great, fluid navigation of the skyscrapers and roads in a way that no other game based around everyone’s favourite Webbed Wonder has before. Just swinging through Manhattan will feel pretty exhilarating to the vast majority of fans, and the action-packed battles you’ll partake in on the city’s various layers simply enhances the sheer immersion that this open-world exudes every time you boot it up.

Is the combat and stealth gameplay engine just a rehash of the Batman games?

There’s no doubting that Beenox has taken inspiration from the popularity of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City’s gameplay style in their road of development for Amazing. Anyone who’s played either of the aforementioned Dark Knight greats will smell their scent here from a mile off, and as such, there’s no way this licensed title could ever hope to fully top its superhero predecessor in terms of basic innovation.

Again, the Web Rush feature factors strongly into the way that Spider-Man faces his enemies, and for the most part this works marvel-lously (see what I did there?). However, the actual combat-counter system a la Arkham feels somewhat more static than its inspiration – there will be times where you’ll take hits that seemed unfair and the ‘Spider Sense’ alert mechanic doesn’t appear to give you nearly enough leeway. It’s nothing game-breaking by any means, but it does certainly highlight the learning gap between this and the near-perfect mechanics employed over in Gotham City in the past.

What kind of replay value (if any) is there in the title?

As I mentioned earlier, Beenox’s dedication to providing us with a Spider-Man title worthy of the universe’s fanbase has resulted in some brilliant extras being included on top of the campaign. In addition to the obligatory heaping of side missions and character upgrades, there are literally hundreds of comic-book pages scattered throughout the city for Spidey to grab on his travels.

Where other licensed titles might stop there and simply offer a few Achievements or Trophies at certain percentages of collection, the developers take things one step further. Once you’ve collected the required numbers of pages, you’ll actually have the chance to read the stories you’ve pieced together. Yep, from the classic issue of Amazing Fantasy that introduced us to the arachnid wonder to his own title’s first renditions of in-game baddies such as Rhino, Scorpion and Alistair Smythe, there really are some fantastic adventures to learn about or relive here, and it stands testament to Beenox’s attention to detail and nostalgia that they would include such a worthy source of replay value into a movie licensed game.

Conclusion

I think it’s fair to say that no-one would ever have expected The Amazing Spider-Man to be up there with the best games ever. What was a hugely pleasant surprise, though, is that were it not for the stolen gimmicks and lacklustre visuals, I think this entry really came closer than any other Spidey game to being considered for that accolade.

Now, we await next year’s Spider-Man on PS4. How will that turn out? Time will tell. Until then, Excelsior!

Viewpoint: Why I’m Optimistic About the New Spider-Man Game

One of the most impressive games of E3 2017 was undoubtedly that of Insomniac’s Spider-Man. The presentation was a visual feast, showcasing a mission where our favourite web-slinger subdues goons at a construction site, and then chases down a helicopter containing lesser-known Spidey villain, Mister Negative. Many would argue that this was the icing on the cake for Sony’s already impressive E3 presentation, and secured them the crown for the whole event. Combining all the key elements that make Spider-Man great – his agility, flexibility, web-slinging and wisecracking humour – could Insomniac give us the best Spider-Man video game in a while?

The question isn’t easy to answer. After all, a game can look as pretty as it wishes, but its the gameplay and feel of the game that truly counts. As far as the combat and swing mechanics of the game are concerned, it would seem that Insomniac’s effort takes cues from Beenox’s much-derided effort, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the Batman: Arkham games. No better is this exemplified than in the stealth section we were given at E3. Spidey can perch from high-up areas (in this case, the girders) and take out his enemies from above using stealth attacks. The difference between Batman and the wallcrawler though is noted, as you have a unique repertoire of attacks at your disposal.

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Like Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker is also a dab hand at creating useful gadgets. The clip showed him plant a device on the wall that yanked an unsuspecting thug off his feet and pasted him onto the wall with web fluid. Another example showed him leap from a girder and quietly faceplant a thug into submission, aided by his incredible spider-like agility. So, while Insomniac is taking cues from Rocksteady’s take on Batman, they are at least doing so in the right way, implementing the unique characteristics of Spider-Man in combat situations.

Where web-slinging is concerned, the demo showcases a superbly weighty swinging mechanic. As I have already stated, the swinging appears to take its inspiration from Beenox’s Amazing Spider-Man 2, but this is no bad thing since the swing mechanics of said game were its best feature. Here, the wisecracking web-slinger is just as agile and flexible as he has been in previous instalments. What’s more, the web-swinging is based purely on the skill of the player. Insomniac confirmed on Twitter that skilled players will be able to swing much faster than what was demonstrated. They merely wanted to keep the helicopter in view for purposes of the presentation. If Insomniac truly pull off a skill-based web-slinging mechanic, this could make getting around New York a real joy.

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One of many areas that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 failed to get right was its lacklustre story. The game, which already felt rushed, conjured multiple story threads that all had nothing to do with the other – it ended abruptly and was treated carelessly. Cletus Kassady, a deranged immoral serial killer in the comics, was reduced to a uncharismatic machete-wielding vigilante who eventually becomes an Oscorp experiment run amok – Carnage. There was Kraven too, who acted as your mentor for much of the game before finally turning on you in the end (spoilers!). But while the game tried some original things, it was poorly executed and created a plot as convoluted and messy as the film on which it was based.

Insomniac’s Spider-Man has a chance to create something truly better. For one thing, they’ve cast Peter as a relatively experienced 23-year-old crime-fighter, much unlike the inexperienced teenager depicted in recent games. Secondly, the appearance of lesser-known villain, Mister Negative, signifies that Insomniac aren’t just going to rely on the tired old A-Listers of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, like Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus to carry the story. That, combined with the new Spider-Man suit, shows us that the game is being taken in a new and refreshing direction.

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All in all, Insomniac’s Spider-Man shows much promise and could prove to be the reinvigoration that the Spidey games need. The demo showed all the hallmarks of a fun and engaging action game with visual flair and style to boot. If the folks at Insomniac can manage to craft a unique and equally engaging narrative and carefully implement the combat and swinging mechanics, we could be onto something here. Excelsior!