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The Amazing Spider-Man Review

By Jeff Buckland, 7/9/2012

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Hollywood sure seems out of ideas when we start talking about movie reboots. Setting aside remakes of foreign films like The Ring and Insomnia, the award for shortest time from original to reboot will probably go to The Amazing Spider-Man, which hit theaters last week and retells the origin story of Peter Parker, this time with a new villain, The Lizard. It's only been about a decade since the original first movie of the trilogy that director Sam Raimi started, so there are quite a few people with pretty recent memories of those films - and none of them seemed terribly excited about starting Peter Parker all over again. But Activision and developer Beenox were contracted out to do a movie tie-in anyway, and what surprises me the most is that the game adaptation of The Amazing Spider-Man is not only damn good, but it's arguably the best Spidey-themed game in years.

As we've seen with the more successful licensed movie-games, Beenox's latest Spidey game does not try to retell the film's story scene-for-scene. When in this situation, most developers will put together a prequel to the movie, set to come out before the game and build up that backstory hype, but in this game's case, it's actually a sequel to the film, where the events on the big screen continue to ripple out across Manhattan in the game and cause chaos that Spidey has to solve. The game does a good job of channeling a little bit of what made both past Spider-Man games as well as the Batman series so great, so we get the excellent web swinging in an open-world Manhattan, but we also get a bit of stealth gameplay similar to the Noir sections of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and the combat fluidity of Rocksteady's Batman games.

It goes beyond that, though, with a solid streaming game engine showing a fairly detailed version of the city with some pleasing visuals, like realistic lighting and depth of field effects. Sure, the city still isn't quite as packed or teeming with humanity as one might expect New York to be, but that's just another one of those limitations of the current console generation we're stuck with for now. But this is by far the best-looking Spider-Man game yet, and while I do miss the pacing and wild stylistic changes in Shattered Dimensions, this game comes with the benefits of having a more cohesive story without all those jarring dimension transitions.

You're also building a single Spidey up in levels and technology, making for a more sensible and less schizophrenic progression, too. Here, you'll level up to gain abilities and then get tech points to improve other things, all while taking on main-story quests as well as side missions. Moving around the city is a breeze, as you can basically fly around by holding down the right trigger, and you'll even scale buildings vertically with the same button. (It's almost like a parkour button from Brink or Assassin's Creed, but with the added benefit of superpowers.) Hold the right bumper, and you go into super-slow-mo and a first person view, allowing you to make precision moves without having to stop Spidey and plant him on solid ground to pick a specific target. From this view, you can pick an enemy to dive onto with Web Strike, quickly zoom to an up-high vantage point, and quickly move to interact with items, all without missing a beat. The game integrates this into everything, from exploration to stealth and onto big action moments with groups of enemies and bosses. The end result is a fluid, fast experience that makes you feel like you're controlling a Spider-Man that's as agile as we see him in movies, Capcom's Marvel-themed fighting games, and yes, even the comics. Sometimes I find that the camera can be just a bit too close to our hero, limiting peripheral vision and making players rely maybe a bit too much on the Spidey Sense that appears above his head - rather than just clearly seeing a thug's punch coming in - but it's still not a huge issue for me.

And speaking of Spidey Sense, that's the core of this game's combat with multiple enemies. Borrowing a page from the Arkham games, melee combat is done with one attack button and one dodge button, and as long as you're not already locked into some attack, you can see Spidey Sense pop up and tap the dodge button at any time to get out of the way of an incoming swing. Just like with Rocksteady's games, combat becomes a fun, zen-like rhythm of attack and defense, and if there's one thing I can complain about, it's that it steals pretty shamelessly from Batman - although, admittedly, Spidey is faster and even more acrobatic than Bats ever was. And hey, if you're going to steal, I guess you should steal from the best.

The only times I really found myself truly disappointed with The Amazing Spider-Man is during long indoor sequences, where the space limitations of laboratories and other indoor locations made me feel claustrophobic, especially for such a fast-moving hero. The length of these sections really started to wear on me, although I wouldn't go far enough to call them boring. It's more the fault of the writers and their plot which dictated these particular settings, rather than a failure of artists or level designers, but either way, I'd have liked shorter versions of these parts so we can get more of the game out into the light of day.

Not everyone will consider The Amazing Spider-Man to be the best Spidey game this console generation, as I feel many will find the variety of Shattered Dimensions to make it the better game, but the good news is that at the very least, it's damn close. As far as a recommendation goes, I can still only give a hearty one to serious Spider-Man fans (as I have with pretty much every game with his name on it that I've ever seen). Non-comic fans or those casually interested might be just a tad wary, as this game still isn't up to the very high standard of the Batman games, but Beenox did differentiate themselves from other superhero games well enough. The combination of free-roaming Manhattan to smoothly swing through, a serviceable (but not wonderful) sequel-to-the-movie plot, and some solid stealth and action to fill out the experience is what makes The Amazing Spider-Man a winner. Jump on in if you are interested in a superhero game that's pretty damn good, but if you're only interested in the instant classics, then you might want to hold out for better.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail Xbox 360 copy provided by the publisher..

Overall: 8 out of 10



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