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The Amazing Spider-Man (Xbox 360) artwork

The Amazing Spider-Man (Xbox 360) review


"The Amazing Spider-Man's problems stem from having a shaky foundation, trying to be something it isn't, and filling in the rest with... well, filler. "




Speaking as a player of Spider-Man games since the 16-bit days, I can say that The Amazing Spider-Man is not the game I wanted. The open world is not the way I want it. The swinging is not the way I want it, nor are the atmosphere or the aesthetics or the story, and the mechanics take far too many cues from a series of games I don't enjoy playing.

The Amazing Spider-Man is not the game I wanted at all. It is, however, somewhat decent in spite of this. If I were a child who lacked experience with prior Spider-Man games, I'm pretty sure I'd be much more receptive to it. Being who I am, however, I've got some big problems.

First things first: the premise is utterly lame in terms of concept, execution, and even its place on the rebooted Spider-Man movie timeline. The first problem is that it's set directly after the movie it ties into. Not only is said movie still in theaters (making this a blatant cash grab), but by its very nature the game provides spoilers if you haven't seen the film yet: who lives, who dies, and who may or may not have otherwise made an appearance. Either let us experience the events from the movie with added depth and interaction, or let us play through an original plot that isn't hamstrung by said movie. What we have here is leftovers (more on this later), more a giant advertisement than an actual game.

The plot is only just barely serviceable. A virus that turns people into cross-breeds between human and animal is slowly spreading through the city thanks to Oscorp. To stop this, Spider-Man must combat Alistair Smythe and his army of killer robots--some of which are giant and terrorize the city (thus fulfilling all of my anime fantasies ever in a single game). Every once in a while you might have to fight an actual enemy from the Spider-Man mythos. It'll usually be a B- or C-lister you may have barely heard about, for reasons one can only conclude are related to licensing (does any mainstream moviegoer or Spider-Man fan care about the likes of Vermin?). This was a problem in exactly zero of the Spidey games before this one. Even Edge of Time had some villainous star power. The plot is also resolved in the most unfulfilling, deus ex machina right-under-your-nose manner imaginable, but you’ll probably have stopped caring before you ever even reach that point.

Presentation-wise, Amazing looks slick and detailed. New York City isn't just a pile of blocks anymore (ah, those were the days), everything moves at a smooth framerate, and character animations leave a person with the impression that great care put into them. The character models themselves are a bit lacking, but that's as bad as it gets. The game also gets extra points in my book for recognizing the entire color spectrum instead of defaulting to gray and/or brown all around.

I wish I could show the same respect to the aural side of things. While the voice acting is actually quite good, there's a pretty glaring soundtrack problem. Specifically, there isn't one. Once again we have a game that considers itself "too epic" to include music. You can count the number of tracks in this game--all snooze-inducing orchestral scores engineered to sound "movie-esque"--on the fingers of a single hand, and they're all ten-second-long refrains. I actually found myself getting angry about this the longer I played. Music can go a long way towards making a mediocre game seem like a good one; just ask Sonic Team. Between this and the story, right out the gate, Amazing is already a cocktail of utter blandness that contaminates even the decently-executed gameplay and mechanics, dragging things down at every turn.

I mentioned the city a ways up; indeed, Amazing heralds the return of Spider-Man web-swinging across an open New York city that we've been missing from the last few games. Personally I enjoy stage-based games and think absolutely nothing is wrong with them, but web-swinging was my personal favorite part of Spider-Man 2, and for the most part, Amazing brings that back in a great way.

I say "most part" because, while I admit to having been away from my hometown for a couple of years, there is very little about this New York that I can recognize if I go anywhere below sky level, which is disheartening. It looks like a generic city, and worse, you can't leave Manhattan Island. Fortunately, you'll be at sky level a lot, because Spider-Man can web-swing from clouds in the sky, allowing him to leap through open air like some kind of Superman hybrid. However, the overall mechanics for swinging, coupled with the new Web Rush mechanic (which allows Spidey to plan his next destination in bullet-time) makes web-swinging a joy despite its inconsistencies.

The city serves as Spidey's main hub for a multitude of missions, wherein you’ll perform tasks that range from toppling random crooks on the streets to completing stunt minigames, fetch quests (you're fetching people), and combat missions either below the city or inside of Oscorp installations. There are a decent amount of these diversions all told, but around the game’s midpoint they begin to repeat and grate. Woe to the person trying to get full completion for this title; there's padding like you wouldn't believe. Ferrying infected people from one end of the city to the other in search of a hospital is an unneeded time sink I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a designer got demoted over.

Most of the above missions are self-explanatory, but combat and infiltration missions are where most of the meat of the game is. It’s also where Amazing reveals its supreme envy for Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham series of games. The success of the Batman games have prompted other studios to emulate their formula--see Captain America--and results are always, always mixed. In this particular Spider-Man game, you're encouraged to stick to the shadows and use stealth takedowns to an enormous degree. You're also encouraged to use a dodge-heavy combat system where your overall effectiveness really only kicks in after you've managed a certain amount of combination hits. Suddenly, you may find yourself with a different, more powerful canned move list than the one you had five seconds previous. These mechanics mean that boss encounters are just barely satisfying. One boss variety doesn't let you rack up combos very much, and the other--the giant robots--force you to endure Web Rush and QTE fests. In other words, even the interactive parts of the game are devoid of much depth unless you get into a big brawl with several enemies later on in the game, most of which can be taken out en masse in one shot via debris found around every room you happen across.

This is what happens when you try to imitate a foreign formula. Spider-Man, while stealthy, has also always been a more active, nimble superhero. In video games, his combat options are usually varied and fun to experiment with. In Amazing, you spend a lot of time waiting for the prompt that will eventually appear and allow you to instantly disable enemies with a single button. In combat, you dodge with a single button, deliver hits with a single button, and deliver finishing moves with a single button. Every battle plays out almost exactly the same until extremely late-game upgrades provide some overdue variety. By contrast, Spider-Man: Edge of Time was a stylish action game with a deep and freeform combat system that was possible to design arcade-style challenges around. That title was a video game. This one is an "experience."

The Amazing Spider-Man has slick presentation, and technically succeeds in what it sets out to do. Its problems stem from having a shaky foundation, trying to be something it isn't, and filling in the rest with... well, filler. It's a surprise that the end result came out as well as it did, but once you step back from the game and ask yourself just what you've been doing the whole time, don't be surprised if the answer leaves you underwhelmed.

Rating: 6/10

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Freelance review by Jason Grant (July 27, 2012)

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pickhut posted July 28, 2012:

I've actually been on the fence about picking up this game, especially since there's so many Spider-Man titles already at cheaper prices, so your review helped! With your huge experience with Spider-Man games, I believe the review flowed much better since you were able to easily pin point all the issues and positives here, mentioning prior titles as examples. Solid review!

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