As the film “Amazing Spider-Man” nears ever closer to the big screen, it makes sense that the video game of the same name is inching closer to gaming shelves everywhere. Spider-Man, unlike some superheroes (I’m looking at you Superman) has always had relative, if not excessive success, at creating exciting, innovative and, above all, fun games. The first being the fan favorite “Maximum Carnage” that allowed you play as Spider-Man and Venom while you hunted down the villainous monstrosity Carnage. After that, most comic book games died down, basically becoming a mish-mash of uninspired and uninteresting games. But then the PS2 area and they began to pick up again and most of them came from the Marvel camp. From the fantastic X-Men Legends to the even better X-Men Legends 2, it looked like the new formula for comic book games had been found.
Until Spider-Man 2 came out and blew it all out of the water.
The problem with many games that had main characters that could fly, or in his case swing, was the fact you could never really do either of those things. And when a developer did try, it ended up being a worse game than if they never tried at all. Spider-Man 1 tested the waters with allowing rooftops swinging sessions but it never fully immersed you into what being Spider-Man really was. But then Spider-Man 2 arrived and showed us that it was possibly and, in the right hands, could be the experience we had always hoped for. For the first time, players were allowed to swing building to building, dive off of the Empire State Building before swinging to safety, climb up each wall without so much as a thought. Add on the random encounters you found throughout the city, you could spend hours just doing that, completely ignoring the main story at all. And it’s because of all this that Spider-Man 2 is the highest selling Spider-Man game thus far. But it’s because of that fame that it also found itself in a rut. The following game, though fun in its own right, had far from the same impact that the first did as it was basically more of the same.
So, to break the mold, they gave the rights over to Beenix who have published the most recent games Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time. These games broke away from the open-world presented in Spider-Man 2 and 3 and went back to a more traditional, linear mono-rail type game with collectables and CQC (close-quarter-combat). And despite being fun, we all know that those type of games don’t have a whole lot of replay value. So for their new game that is based off of the newly rebooted movie franchise, Beenix had to incorporate both the new and the old together to try and make something truly special and to recapture the audience that has slowly dwindled away. And it looks like they may succeed.
The Amazing Spider-Man takes place after an unfortunate accident turns Dr. Curt Connors into the monstrous Lizard. While exploring OsCorp with Gwen Stacy, half-bred creatures bred from animal and human DNA, break out and cause the usual chaos. Up to and including spreading a virus that begins to infect the city (though luckily not as bad or as much as the T-Virus). The story itself revolves around this problem but has two fundamental ways of exploring this.
According to the developers, most of the story related materials and fights take place within closed environments such as the aforementioned OsCorp. The reasoning behind this is that stories and character development tend to go better when held within the confines of a room or building. But more than that, the developers had decided to add stealth missions as well, probably incorporating the Noir stealth missions from Shattered Dimensions. And though this all is well and good, the second part is the part I’m most excited about.
They’ve brought back the open world that made Spider-Man 2 so popular only now it’s been heavily updated. With the new-gen upon us, they’ve managed to create a city worthy of swinging around. Adding on collectables such as comics, they’ve made side-missions such as stopping bank robberies, taking pictures of various locations and even letting people take pictures of you swinging and flipping through the city. But more than that, the people themselves are interactive. Upon saving them, they’ll give their thanks along with some compliments. And as the story progress, some will even call you names and blame you for things that have happened. But there’s more than just swinging. There’s the new feature “web-rush”. Basically, while holding down the button, everything begins to slow down and when it does, highlighted sections that you can web to quickly appear. By highlighting these sections, Spider-Man will quickly traverse these sections in the showiest way possible. Besides aesthetic appeal, this will allow you escape battle quickly if things become a little too sticky. But, on the less practical side, it’ll be a fun way to get around if only just to show off.
And, to add icing to the cake, they’ve completely revamped the fighting style. One of the biggest complaints I’ve had with previous Spider-Man titles was the fighting. It was hard to focus on one enemy at a time and even harder to see enemies behind you. By the looks of it, they’ve gone the “Batman” way of fighting. They have one button for attack and one button for counter-attacking, highlighted by your “spider sense”. You’ll have to jump over armored foes and figure out ways to get past some enemies defensive. If all this sounds familiar it’s because it is. A lot of elements seem to have been “borrowed” from Batman: Arkham Asylum/City.
And that’s where the worry comes in.
Seeing the success of Batman, it will be very easy for developers to copy the formula that made it so popular. It’s easy to point out the similarities: like Asylum, it seems all important story matters take place in doors. Combat is a near carbon copy. And the story is eerily similar: a deadly virus that is going to take over a city. Hopefully we’ll see something new that will set it apart and I have faith that it will. Copying those things are not necessarily bad as they seem to be slight necessities to make these games worthwhile. But you also have to put your own stamp on it as well and hopefully Beenix will do this. And, even if it does become a carbon copy, at least I can swing around the city. That alone will be worth it.