The lights are on
I was excited for Beenox's new Spider-Man game. I did not like Shattered Dimensions, so I didn't bother playing Edge of Time. Nevertheless, I felt drawn to The Amazing Spider-Man simply because I wanted to swing. After reading several reviews, I decided to buy the game despite its lukewarm reception. Now that I have completed the game and spent substantial time with it, I find that the game can be a lot of fun, but I do not think I'll return to it. I agree with most reviews that if you come in with low expectations, you'll be pleasantly surprised. Overall, though, Spider-Man fans and gamers alike should ask for more control and nuance, as well as a certain level of trust in the relationship between player and product.
The Amazing Spider-Man has its great moments. Beenox really nails the Spider-Man aesthetic--not so much in the comic book sense, but it seems like a world where Spider-Man fits. The story and characters come together and create a genuine atmosphere, and in no where is this more present than Spider-Man's swinging movements. The camera's close focus on Spider-Man's movements brings the web-slinger to life as he thwips around Manhattan. The web rush mechanic, although simple, sets in motion some stunning traversal animations. Just looking at this gameplay video reveals the elegance of Spider-Man's swing animation:
Bringing the game back to Manhattan proves successful. As I said in my earlier post, Spider-Man needs his concrete jungle to be Spider-Man just as Batman needs Gotham to be the Dark Knight. It's an absolute thrill to swing around the city, and the numerous comic book pages scattered throughout give the player impetus to explore every corner of the island. The buildings shine, and the changes in time of day breathe life into the city. Due to poor to middling draw distance, though, sometimes the streets look deserted, but this changes as Spider-Man falls toward them, catching himself at the last moment, whether you want to or not. And therein lies my biggest gripe with the game. Beenox does not trust the player to control Spider-Man.
Yes, you eventually fight it. Or, rather, game kind of does it for you, but it still counts, right?
Now, gamers are not strangers to quick time events, but we usually weaken the boss first with a (hopefully) intricate and intuitive combat system. Most of the boss fights here, at least the larger ones, employ a "strike here" type of gameplay where you web rush to a certain point on the enemy, watch the attack action, and retreat. Lather, rinse, repeat. Spider-Man performs wildly acrobatic and impressive moves without requiring complex inputs, thus negating satisfying feedback to the player. As a result, I never felt like I could control Spider-Man. I felt like a mediator between the onscreen Spider-Man character model and the internal systems of the game that make him move. It feels like Spider-Man lite, not a Spider-Man experience.