There are quite a lot of open world games on the market nowadays. Whether you’re donning Batman’s outfit and throwing yourself around Gotham, or consuming people and being a general badass in Prototype 2 there have been some fantastic examples of just how these games should work, and the challenge to developers is always focused on one thing: keep the player entertained without becoming too repetitive. The Amazing Spider-Man has some tough acts to follow, and with Arkham City being such an incredible game it’s got a tough superhero game to sit alongside, so as a fan of the recent Spidey films I sat down to see what was being released alongside the new film.
Playing this is a piece of cake – the controls are straight forward, and even if you forget you’ll get reminded at regular intervals right the way up to the very end of the game. Swinging through Manhattan is as simple as holding R2 and pointing yourself in the direction you want to swing – you’ll magically attach webs to thin air and glide gracefully wherever you go, although there’s a weird Back to the Future 2 moment when swinging over water that prevents you from making it across without falling in. Aside from that you’re able to climb up walls, crawl across ceilings and use your special spider-skills to slow down time and leap to a specific spot nearby. Generally it works well, although running or crawling up walls is fiddly and can end up with you flying over the top of a building you just wanted to reach the top of.
But this is just out and about, and while you’ll spend a fair bit of time out here doing a handful of main tasks and various side-missions (more on that later) you’ll be doing a lot of your work indoors. Inside buildings the action quickly becomes a cross between frantic and fast-paced fighting mixed with exploration, sneaking around and searching for stuff. Combat works one of two ways, with you either piling in and just mashing the attack button or staying in the shadows and picking enemies off in a more stealthy manner. Upgrades earned through a standard XP system give you some more funky skills and attacking options which you’ll get plenty of chance to practise before the final few battles that need you to use pretty much every trick you’ve spent the past few hours learning, and having to earn some elements to unlock is a nice touch to keep your eyes on the side missions.
But the side missions aren’t really the best example of how to keep a player interested. There’s a few different things to do, but there’s very little challenge to much of it. Picking up infected civilians or escaped mental patients and returning them to their relevant rescue areas is just an exercise in reading your sat-nav style map in the bottom corner, and the photo tasks simply involve rocking up to an area and finding three given things to take a photo of. Car chases are a little more involving, but once you’ve upped a few of your powers they’re very straightforward as well. There’s a load of comics around the city to collect which unlock classic editions of the Spiderman comics for you to read, and some decent mini-missions where you sneak into Oscorp to steal some technology – the latter of which gives you a perfect chance to try out your stealthy skills – but overall it feels like this is a main campaign with a few small extras bolted on.
Luckily the main campaign is very enjoyable, with a pretty typical Spiderman storyline running through it that gives a good feeling that you’re taking part in a ‘real’ Spidey story, and keeps you pretty hooked up to the game’s climax. Manhattan looks pretty decent in the day, much better at night and awesome later on when the storyline reaches its climax as the city tears itself apart. There’s not much that’ll give you a wow moment, but it looks good enough in the grand scale of thing. There’s a good range of smart-ass one-liners from Spiderman as you fly round the city, snag enemies in webs and generally do whatever a spider can, but these start to get a bit repetitive as well and the initial smiles that they bring on don’t last as long as the main campaign.
The campaign storyline is worth the effort though, which makes you wonder if this really needed to be an open world game. The action takes place in several locations so the huge city area is worthwhile, and there are pretty cool boss battles with huge robots, but the open world element doesn’t live up to others of its ilk. The problem here is the story itself wouldn’t be enough for many gamers nowadays – with expectations quite high in terms of a certain number of hours worth of entertainment, or a certain amount of online play (of which this has none) this needed something other than a plain campaign, hence the extras.
The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t a poor game, not at all. The main story is great and being Spiderman is always going to be ace, but we really could use some more variety out and about on the streets of Manhattan. Very much worth a pop for Spidey fans, others might be better served dashing around Arkham or looking out for Prototype 2 on the cheap.
Reviewed on PS3