Wot I Think: The Amazing Spider-Man

By John Walker on October 1st, 2012 at 5:00 pm.

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can, apart from have sex with another spider. I’ve been playing The Amazing Spider-Man for a few days now. I think I’m about two-thirds of the way through. That is plenty of time wearing the mask, and I am now ready to tell you Wot I Think.

I think I should declare my interests here: I want to be Spider-Man. I’ve wanted to be Spider-Man since I was about four years old, watching Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends on Saturday mornings in 1982. I invented the game “Spider-Man”, played on my primary school playground, where I would run ‘up’ the gravel-strewn tarmac on all fours, with two friends enlisted to be Firestar and Iceman. I climbed door jambs, swung from anything swingable, and began a soul-deep cry of desperation at not being able to walk up walls and sit on ceilings that continues to this day.

I’m not sure if The Amazing Spider-Man is helping with this or not. It’s a game that at once manages to get being Spider-Man exactly right, while never quite managing to do enough with it. It is, without question, a really good game, but it’s hard not to wonder if it could have been something spectacular.

I must admit to not having played the previous two Beenox Spider-Man games, but this is a slightly different approach to depicting the webbed one. For starters, this time it’s created to be a continuation after the events of the recent film, rather than based on the comics. Also, it’s in an open city, and it’s enormous.

If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know that Dr Curt Connors becomes the Lizard, and sorry – spoilers – Spider-Man beats him. (None of the original cast is on board here, but the stand-ins are all excellent voice actors, and other than an odd Rhys Ifans impression you’ll not mind the difference.) In the wake of the events, with Connors in an institution, nefarious others are apparently continuing his work at research facility Oscorp. And that serum that allowed Connors to change into a lizard beast – it’s now become a virus. A virus that’s spreading after a bunch of beasties break free from the lab, now terrorising Manhattan. At the start Spider-Man’s ladyfriend, Gwen Stacy, is trapped in Oscorp and bitten, and you’ve got to get an antidote made, control the outbreak, and generally be a do-gooding superhero about town.

And what a town it is. While I’ve not carefully checked how faithfully Manhattan’s been recreated, it’s gorgeous and elaborate, explored at fantastic speed as you web-sling your way around. The PC port neatly and instantly switches back and forth between 360 and mouse/keyboard controls and instructions, so you pick your favourite (360 for me) and let loose. Swinging is a real joy, letting you go incredibly fast, and incredibly high, and of course with no risk of harm. Drop and Spidey will chuck out a web to break his fall. Hit a building and you’ll of course just climb it. Because you’re Spider-Man! It’s all extremely elegantly put together, meaning the button for swinging is the same as that for wall running, letting you swoosh across the city in spectacular style, while still feeling in control. Every other movement is necessarily smart too, meaning if you walk toward a wall, after a beat you’ll be climbing up it with your hands a feet, and then reaching a roof allows a fancy move as you land back on your feet. Basically, the game understands how you want to move around, doesn’t make you fuss around with a dozen buttons to do it, and lets you feel just so damned smooth as you do it.

Indoors you take all that with you, other than your jump being slightly less spectacular, and web swinging being somewhat more pointless. Most missions take place in labs and sewers, deliberately confined, although thankfully often with high ceilings. And here it becomes far less about grandiose circusing, and more about stealth.

The other major movement tool in your arsenal is a focus mode, that brings time to a very slow crawl and lets you pick out targets. Two main uses for this – picking a spot you want to leap to, highlighted via golden ghosts, and targeting a particular enemy. Depending on where you are and what situation you’re in, that targeting can also be used as a stealth attack, letting Parker drop out of the shadows, grab a baddie, and have him webbed to the ceiling in a couple of seconds. This is the best thing. Used judiciously this can let you clear out an entire chamber of bads without ever getting spotted, and if improved with various earned upgrades, can let you silently take out two or more enemies at a time.

So, upgrades. It’s fairly rudimentary – XP is gained, and then new levels let you pick a new, or upgrade a current, skill. This might be a new attack, stronger webs, etc. Then there are also tech upgrades that allow more specific improvements to abilities, gained by nabbing collectibles and destroying tech-based material. However, it certainly stops short of being an RPG in any meaningful sense, since you’re really only choosing the order in which you unlock this stuff, such is the generosity of XP.

Time is split slightly unevenly between slinging your way around the city and thinking what fun you could be having were there more to do, and being in the caverns of a mission, enjoying the stealth but wishing you were swinging around the city. It’s an odd mix. The city does have a bunch of extras dotted about, there’s fending off petty crime (beating up some baddies and rescuing a citizen), taking photographs of incidents for a reporter friend, and rescuing infected locals and taking them to medical tents. You can also get involved in car chases, or help police in a stand off with a larger group of baddies, or just get involved with Oscorp sharpshooters and finding collectibles. The issue is, none is at all inspired, making extremely rudimentary distractions that don’t offer anything unique that you don’t end up doing in the missions anyway. Better are proper side-quest missions, mini-levels that usually end in beating up one of the escaped beasts, but again they don’t really elaborate on anything the core game offers.

Missions range in fun, quite dramatically. One extended chase through sewers to catch a rat beast starts to feel like it’s taking the piss out of you after a while, going on and on and on and on, feeling like it’s finally over, and then seemingly starting itself over again. In a game that’s already absolutely huge, there’s some really needless padding. Others give you tons to do, lots of sneaky fun to have, and a bunch of exploration puzzles to solve. While it’s definitely very bad at pointing the way forward, these are the second best moments behind those joyous glides through the cityscape.

It’s that nagging sense that it’s falling short of its ambition that seems to taint the peaks of the experience. At points, as you’re taking out robots and heavily armed guards using your silent attacks, you could almost be playing Deus Ex: HR. But then as you use the single trick you have for the fourteenth time that mission, it’s too apparent that you’re not. Combat encourages combos, but really you’re not doing much more than pounding X for far too long in the early stages of the game. By the time you can swing people around your head on a spidey-string to knock over their chums, and then blast a web across the whole room, it gets a lot more entertaining, but you still went through those dull previous hours. And most of all, oh so most of all, when you’re sweeping past skyscrapers like the bloody superhero you are, you just wish – wish so damned hard – that this was the core of the game, this was where the real action took place. When you do get to fight outdoors, employing all the tricks you’ve picked up for perfect movement, it comes so much more to life… until you realise you’re fighting the same flying boss for the fourth time, and you’re having to do the exact same manoeuvre four times in a row yet again. That’s the story here – a really well-made game, that doesn’t quite know how to get the best out of itself.

A couple of other things that I should mention. Firstly, I frequently had the game drop to desktop. Now clearly I don’t know if that’s an issue with my machine, or the game, but thankfully it auto-saves an awful lot, and little progress is lost by this. The larger frustration comes with and without crashes, which are the rather long load times.

Also, there’s one particular moment I have to draw attention toward. At a certain point you meet a guy who rants about the evils of corporations, about how they abuse staff and exploit people. And he’s wearing a baseball cap sporting the Activision logo. It’s worth noting this game, like Beenox’s previous productions, is published by one Activision.

I’ve certainly enjoyed playing it. The blister on my thumb attests to that – something even Spelunky on my Xbox hasn’t achieved. And that aching desire in me, that never-to-be-fulfilled hungering want to be imbued with the abilities of a Spider-Man, gets tugged on. I shall never know that moment of reaching the wall and just carrying on. My fingers shall never perfectly attach to the side of a lamppost. Never will I sit cross-legged on the ceiling, grinning, as I drop Dolly Mixture into my wife’s tea. That isn’t fair. But it is a tribute to The Amazing Spider-Man that my soul-craving is at least dulled by the experience.

(I also wanted to be Mighty Mouse.)

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60 Comments »

  1. Ian says:

    “Swinging is a real joy, letting you go incredibly fast, and incredibly high, and of course with no risk of harm.”

    That’s a minor shame, one of the best things about Spider-Man 2 was spending a minute climbing the tallest building and jumping off to see how late you could leave your web-shooting to avert death.

  2. tobecooper says:

    You know, that ‘apart from have sex with another spider’ sounds like a challenge.
    This is comics we’re talking about, Spider-man is 50 years old. I’d be quite surprised if in that time, he didn’t do any spiders. He surely has many dark secrets like that.

    • Johnny Lizard says:

      If Spider-Man had sex with a spider, it’s quite possible that it would eat him afterwards.
      Edit: beaten by Chaz.

      • tobecooper says:

        I’m pretty sure that happened too. You get eaten, you then rip out through the creature’s belly, and rain of blood falls, and the hero does a badass pose. This happens much too often. I’d stop eating people if I were a big monster, and I wouldn’t have sex with them either. Darned disease-filled bags of flesh.

    • mckertis says:

      It actually happened, and not that long ago either. Cant remember when exactly, but there was this insect queen character…

      • MadTinkerer says:

        There have been a bunch of super-human and supernatural love interests for Spiderman, and in fact there have been several plots by spider-”ladies” who see Spiderman as a potential mate, but they’re always stopped short. On more than one occasion, it’s mostly because Spiderman’s married* that saves him. Sorry evil spider spirit ladies, he’s taken. And also he doesn’t want his head bitten off.

        *(FUCK JOE QUESADA)

  3. DrGonzo says:

    How does the web slinging work, do the webs actually attach to buildings?

    • DickSocrates says:

      From what I’ve seen in videos, no. He swings in thin air with no attempt made at making it seem like it’s attached to anything. That by itself means I have no interest in ever playing it.

      • Bhazor says:

        You can also just basically autowarp anywhere you want.

        I don’t think the designers get it.

      • Suits says:

        Agreed, slinging from nothingness took away any interest of the game I had.

    • Killercheese says:

      I played the hell out of Spider-Man 2 on my old PS2, and one of the best features about it was swinging across the entire city just for fun, or swinging across without hitting the ground once, or trying to swing through the park in the trees…and all of that is now just obsolete because you can basically fly :/

    • John Walker says:

      Sort of. If there are buildings higher than you nearby, you can swing, basically. It means, yes, you’re swinging on skyhooks, but if there aren’t any tall buildings near, you’ll fall until there are.

      • MrLebanon says:

        i don’t get what everyone’s issue is then… mechanically it work as a real life spider flinging man would expect to work, even if it is not visually representend

        • Bhazor says:

          You never played Spiderman 2 then.

          • Wulf says:

            Spider-Man 2, today, is a horribly clunky experience which requires sniping almost to shoot webs, which completely gets in the way of fun. It’s only remembered with nostalgia-laden rose coloured glasses. I know, because I pretty much have all of them installed, and I poke them every now and then. Web of Shadows is better, Ultimate Spider-Man is better, the original PSone game is better, and the Amazing Spider-Man is also better.

            I’m sure that it’s a nerdly novelty, but that nerdly novelty wears off after about 15 seconds, where having to snipe every single swing stops being fun. It’s just micromanaging your webs, which is ridiculous. I just can’t agree that Spider-Man 2 was that great at all.

            I’m sorry if I’m bursting bubbles, here, but as a massive Spider-Man fan who’s played all of the Spider-Man games, someone… someone has to come out and say that compared to most of them, Spider-Man 2 was pretty crap. I’m sorry.

          • Bhazor says:

            I played it for the first time a year ago.

            It gets web slinging perfectly. It takes skill.

            This on the other hand is streamlined to the point of assassins creed parkour. Point in a straight line, press the web swing button. It’s like a top down game where you just drag him across the screen.

          • Tssha says:

            I’ve gotta disagree completely Wulf, but I understand your opinion and where you’re coming from. It’s just, from my perspective, swinging off an actual building was half the fun of web-slinging. To me, swinging off sky hooks seems…cheap. It’s too easy, there’s nothing fun about it. It just is.

            I loved swinging the corner of a building to the left of me, rounding that corner and jumping off, only to grab a building ahead of me on the right and swing forward and carry that momentum with me into the turn. You could get so much speed in that game it was…addictive.

            Spiderman 2′s web-slinging was a game in itself. I wish one could choose between the two methods in all Spiderman games, but that would require coding two different systems and that’s a non-starter in this industry.

          • unangbangkay says:

            @Tssha

            The problem with the web-swinging being a game in itself is that compared to the rest of it, it’s maybe the ONLY worthwhile part of the game. That, and their rendition of Black Cat. Mmmm, Black Cat.

            I love Spider-Man 2. On days when my PS2 is plugged in I haul it out to do that two-line charge-up launcher, but I’d rather play a superior game with skyhooks (like Web of Shadows or this) than a “just web-swinging” game.

          • Kyrall says:

            Spiderman 2 was absolutely awesome, it was the ultimate web-swinging simulator (it was a shame that some fool added some “missions” or something to it).

            Sadly some of us thought that Spiderman 2 was Spiderman 2, and bought the PC game called Spiderman 2. It was absolute trash.

          • Falcon says:

            Wulf, are you sure you aren’t talking about Spiderman 2 the PC game? It was hideous. “Sniping” matches the PC game perfectly, whereas I wouldn’t call it sniping for the console version.

    • drinniol says:

      Invisible blimps – it’s in the canon!

  4. Premium User Badge Chaz says:

    Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can, apart from have sex with another spider.

    Just as well, if there was a Spider Woman, she’d probably eat him post coitus.

  5. Shinryoma says:

    I really wish someone else other than Activision would be able to make Spidey games.

    Also, Danger Mouse is much more awesome than Mighty Mouse.

  6. Bhazor says:

    … did we play the same game?

    This was much closer to my experience.
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/6104-The-Amazing-Spider-Man

    Amazing how they still can’t remember how to do web slinging. Seriously, just remake Spiderman 2 already.

    • Jake says:

      Spider-Man 2 was fantastic, I would love to hear how this game compares. Just the fact that the webs don’t attach to anything looks like enough to ruin it completely.

    • dontnormally says:

      That review was fantastic and spot-on.

    • MD says:

      Sounds a bit like Assassin’s Creed, in that what should be the most enjoyable part (movement) is basically done for you.

      edit: I don’t have a problem with John’s review, though. I think I would disagree with him pretty hard on the quality of this game, but that was fairly apparent from his review. No point complaining about reviewers with different tastes, as long as they are honest about the game and give you enough information to work out how their preferences differ from yours.

  7. mckertis says:

    “you pick your favourite (360 for me)”

    What, really ? No way ! I’d never would have guessed ! This is a PC (not so glorified anymore) blog, dammit !

    • derbefrier says:

      pffft xbox controller > M&KB*

      *except in FPS, strategy, MMO, well except anything but 3rd person action games :P

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Customizing your controls is arguably one of the best things about gaming on pcs and that includes being able to use a wide variety of controllers. Being able to use your favourite control scheme is pretty awesome, all things considered.

      Of course some crappy ports lose that functionality, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the issue here.

      • Ragnar says:

        Agreed. One of the perpetual strengths of PC gaming is that you get to chose your peripheral. So you can use the mouse + keyboard for FPS/RPG/RTS/Strategy/MMO, a gamepad for Action/Platformer/Racing, and even a joystick for flight games or a racing wheel for driving. With PC, you can always have the best peripheral for the job.

        This was the case 15 years ago with the Microsoft Sidewinder gamepad, and it’s even more so the case now with the Microsoft Xbox 360 gamepad. I love PC gaming, and the Xbox 360 wireless controller was one of the best gaming “upgrades” I made to my rig.

  8. roryok says:

    I invented the game “Spider-Man”, played on my primary school playground, where I would run ‘up’ the gravel-strewn tarmac on all fours, with two friends enlisted to be Firestar and Iceman.

    God, that takes me back. My friend was always Spiderman, and I had to be Iceman. I just wasn’t cool enough. His sister was cool enough to play with us and be Firestar, rather than shunning our boy games as you might expect.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      “…I had to be Iceman. I just wasn’t cool enough.”
      Haha! “Cool enough”… ice… joke… puns and… murrg, too early.

      Oh, and you clearly fancied your friend’s sister, you dog.

  9. InternetBatman says:

    This sounds like Ultimate Spiderman, but not quite as good. That game was a gem.

    • Premium User Badge wyrmsine says:

      That’s what I got from it too. Loved Ultimate Spidey, but it too felt a little sparse after a while.

  10. SkittleDiddler says:

    I’ve already got this game, and it’s called Prototype. It doesn’t have Spider-Man in it, however, but I can’t say that’s a bad thing considering how mediocre the new movie was.

  11. Dominic White says:

    My favourite Spidey game in recent memory is Web Of Shadows. It was clearly rushed out, occasionally glitchy, had framerate and design issues and generally needed another few million dollars and six more months in the tank, but when it worked, it REALLY worked. It was full-on classic comics Spidey, fighting everything from street crime to giant robots and alien hordes in a city that changed quite dramatically as you got closer and closer to Peak Crisis.

  12. Urthman says:

    John, if you like outdoor Spidey combat, free-roaming combat, Web of Shadows it the best Spidey game for that. There’s a lot of variety switching between the Black Costume moves and the Red & Blue costume moves. It has distinct combat moves for ground combat, aerial combat, and combat when clinging to the side of a building.

    Like all these games, it eventually gets repetitive, but some of the moves — like later in the game when you can swing feet-first into a crowd of zombies and send them flying like bowling pins — take a very long time to get old (I’m not sure I ever got tired of that last one).

  13. Felixader says:

    Well Spiderman 2 is more or less the reason why i do not enjoy any Spideygames that came after it.

  14. BrendanJB says:

    “That’s the story here – a really well-made game, that doesn’t quite know how to get the best out of itself.”

    This was exactly how I felt after getting about half way through the game. It can be so much fun, but it just doesn’t seem to know HOW.

    Also, as someone who loved Spiderman 2 and it’s brilliant web swinging, I have to say that this game comes pretty close; it FEELS great to swing around. It’s not AS good in the city traversal department, but the addition of fun combat, decent voice acting, far better missions, and spidey talking how spidey should (and not like a little dweeb), I think it’s safe to say I like this game, as a whole, far more than Spiderman 2.

  15. Soon says:

    My nephew refused to answer the register unless referred to as Spiderman. So, briefly, my nephew was actually Spiderman.

  16. hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

    So it’s Prototype except without the “I accidentally killed 5000 people today” aspect?

  17. sonofsanta says:

    Sounds kinda like Spiderman: Arkham Asylum then, with the drop-down-get-bad-man attack and stealthy sections. Which would be no bad thing.

  18. jiminitaur says:

    As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one thing you need to know about any Spiderman game. Does it have a plethora of web-slinging time trials and collectables hidden in a massive free-roaming environment? If not, I’d rather play Ultimate Spiderman on my Gamecube and/or PS2. Spiderman 2 is also acceptable.

  19. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    Sounds like this game is really worth playing. I have to see the Activision hat scene! Can I web swing during it?

  20. Wulf says:

    I always did like you, John. And I never understood the hate for this game.

    What this game does right:

    - It pegs the feeling of being Spidey perfectly. Swinging feels right. It’s good.
    - It has a better plot than the film it’s based on. Hell, itt’s better than the film it’s based on.
    - It’s one of those few games where they get Parker’s humour right, and it isn’t grating.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I like superhero games, so sue me. I liked Prototype and Prototype II despite the absurd and sometimes obnoxious protagonists. And I liked this more than either Prototype because you’re not a murder machine, but it captures all the thrills of those games.

    It’s nice that, just for once in a rare while, you can have such thrills without having countless dead bodies laden with bulletholes and/or gore laying around. And because of that, it feels good.

    Whether it’s the missions, the car chases, or even the photographing, it is Spidey.

    I really, really, really want Beenox to do an Iron Man game. Or a Thor game, that’d be okay, too. I’d be okay with a Thor game. I’d prefer an Iron Man game, though. It’s just that these guys understand what a superhero game really needs. The most fun I’ve had compared to this is Champions Online or Lego Batman.

    I’d even go so far as to say, and I say this with no irony and no intent to hurt anyone’s feelings, that this is a better game than Hulk was. Hulk was a good mindless savage simulator, because he was never meant to be a hero. Spidey’s a hero in the truest sense of the word, and playing such a character just feels inherently cathartic. I don’t know, I don’t get off on murder and destruction as much as most people do. I don’t know why. I never did.

    I’ve been holding off on posting here because reasons, I know my opinions aren’t that appreciated anyway. But this one title I had to speak up for. It’s caught a lot of flack, and that’s completely unfair. Sometimes I just wonder… why? Are people reminded too much of how dull reality is by superhero games, and does that make them uncomfortable when presented with something fun that goes beyond what the average human can do? If you take a gun out of someone’s hands and put a webshooter there, does that inherently become wrong?

    I don’t understand it. This is a good bloody game.

    I really hope that it sells, and that we’ll see more from Beenox. I don’t know, maybe it’s for a niche audience. Maybe it doesn’t have enough murder, maybe it isn’t ‘human’ enough, or boring enough. But I want more games like this. Not less.

    Maybe it is a bit silly, kind of like Lego Batman was. But does everything have to have po-faced seriousness? Does it all have to be grimdark and emo? Why are games that go against that so incredibly unpopular? Why do we want so much grimdark and emo in our entertainment, anyway?

    Eh.

    Well, I liked it. I liked it a lot. And I’m still liking it. It feels great. It’s goofy, it’s cheesy, it’s a little B-Movie with its zombies vs. robots theme, it’s got snappy-patter, and it’s exactly like the best Spidey comics were. It’s pretty much the opposite of the Clone Saga, then.

    Oh, also, there’s this…

    Spidey, when chasing down a certain rat guy that most comics fans will be familiar with: “Hey, where are you going?! Off to eat pizza with your adopted turtle sons?” [Pause, before completely dropping the mocking tone.] “Can I come too?

    • TariqOne says:

      Hey, you’re back. Are you still playing GW2?

    • KenTWOu says:

      I’ve been holding off on posting here because reasons, I know my opinions aren’t that appreciated anyway…

      That’s simply not true. You’ve always made RPS comments more interesting to read.

  21. Balhazer says:

    How Do I play with a xbox controler in my PC?.

    I only have wireless version, so… it is posible? If not what or where I must b u y the controller?, thanks.

  22. Nick says:

    The screenshots of the Stan Lee DLC make me laugh so much.

  23. malkav11 says:

    I absolutely bloody hated the stealth in…um, whatever their first game was, with the four Spidermans. So if that’s a major mechanic in this one, count me out.

  24. Iskariot says:

    They always forget about a very big part of the story: Being Peter Parker, having to hide you identity, changing into spidey and back. It would be cool if they could integrate that part into a game too.
    Being spiderman all the time, from beginning to end is too one sided and lacks the tension a double identity should have.