King of the swingers
Ever since GTA3 first gave us an entire city to play with, developers have been coming up with new ways to turn urban navigation into a thrill ride. Clambering up buildings and then lobbing yourself off the top soon became the distraction of choice in games such as Crackdown and Prototype. They're all pretenders to the throne, however. Only one character understands that the plummet to the ground is nothing without a triumphant upswing to safety at the end. He's Spider-Man, and he's back, baby!
The latest game from Beenox - the studio which previously revived Spidey's gaming fortunes with the rather good Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time - follows on from the new blockbuster movie reboot. We join Peter Parker with his life as a superhero already underway, and Gwen Stacy by his side. The rampage of the monstrous Lizard forms the finale of the movie, and the game picks up straight afterwards, with Oscorp continuing the research of Dr Connors and creating an army of hybrid cross-species creatures in the process. Long-time Spidey fans may well recognise some of them, and a rhino and a scorpion are just two of the species spliced into human form.
Before you can say "sloppy safeguarding", there's been a breakout and monsters are roaming Manhattan. Worse, they're spreading a virus that causes people to mutate and die. When Gwen becomes infected, it's a race against time for Spidey to work out a cure and save the day. And to do that, he may need some help from an old enemy...
It's only been four years since Spidey last graced an open-world game - 2008's Web of Shadows, to be exact - but the first time you swing into action in The Amazing Spider-Man you'll wonder how you ever lived without this freedom.
Brought to life with superb graphics, just moving through this game is a cinematic experience. As Spidey swings and yelps, the camera stays close to make every daredevil plunge feel even more terrifying. Seriously, if you have vertigo, this game will make you dizzy.
It's great to control as well, with the introduction of Web Rush making it easy to navigate with absolute precision. Hold down the right bumper and time slows to a crawl. Now just look around, point yourself at where you want to go, and let go of the button. Spidey ricochets off and lands perfectly. This also works with objects and enemies, so even in the middle of a fight you can pause, locate something to throw and be springing into action while the bad guys swing their fists at empty air.
Even without those flourishes, combat is always a blast thanks to a simple yet effective fighting system. One button to attack, one to dodge and one to trigger special moves - with your Spider Sense warning you of danger, it's possible to take on five or more foes at once, as the animation seamlessly links your moves into a dizzying, bone-crunching ballet. And if things should get too heated, a tap on the Web Retreat button pulls you to a safe spot while you recharge your health and rethink your strategy.
This is the meat of the game's story missions, which also feature ceiling-sticking stealth, some decent puzzles and blockbuster boss fights, but while those can be polished off in around six hours, it's Manhattan itself that will keep you coming back.
Between each story mission, more optional objectives will spawn in the city. You'll chase down getaway cars, help the police by taking down gangs of armed thugs in deadlocked siege situations and beat up muggers. You'll infiltrate secret labs to earn new gadgets and upgrades for your suit, and help a local reporter by snapping shots with your camera. Spider-Man game veteran Bruce Campbell returns as a sleazy TV producer who challenges you with checkpoint races. There are even some additional story levels, with extra characters like Black Cat.
For the truly dedicated, there are 700 comic book pages scattered around the city, and collecting them unlocks full digital copies of classic Spidey stories that can be enjoyed using the game's superb comic reader. Much like Crackdown's agility orbs, grabbing these becomes incredibly addictive, and the game is clever enough not to make the job too much of a grind.
If there's a criticism to be made of The Amazing Spider-Man, it's that despite so many things going on, there's not much to it. The story is fairly short, Spidey's powers make it pretty easy, and the tasks in the city soon repeat themselves. You'll have completed the game to 100% before long, but thankfully the thrill of swinging through New York never grows dull. Even when you've done everything there is to do, this is the sort of game you'll keep in your collection purely for the pleasure of throwing yourself into space with only a strand of silk to save your neck. Amazing? Not quite, but still enormous fun.
- Visuals are absolutely phenomenal
- Web Rush removes the frustration from web-swinging
- Lots of fun references and extras for fans
- Not the hardest game you'll ever play
- Optional objectives are too repetitive
- The movie cast don't supply the voices