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The Amazing Spider-Man
Score: 82%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Beenox
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Free-Roaming

Graphics & Sound:
If neither of the Batman: Arkham games were made, I would consider The Amazing Spider-Man to be the best superhero game I'd ever played. That being said, I'm more than comfortable calling it the best Spider-Man game I've ever played. It can be severely derivative in parts, but Beenox absolutely nails it when it comes to what everyone should want out of a Spider-Man game.

The Amazing Spider-Man looks great occasionally, but far too often, it underwhelms in the visual department. Manhattan is uncharacteristically unpopulated in terms of foot traffic; I've been to New York City before, and I don't recall being able to see nearly this much sidewalk at once. Of course, you're Spider-Man in this game. You're supposed to spend as little time on the ground as possible. I'm pleased to report that The Amazing Spider-Man gets web-swinging completely right. No Spider-Man game since Spider-Man 2 has even come close to replicating the raw thrill Peter Parker must experience while hurtling at breakneck speeds around Manhattan. That being said, level design isn't very attractive and doesn't play to the game's core strengths. More on that later.

Despite the lack of involvement from cast members Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and Rhys Ifans, The Amazing Spider-Man has a satisfactory voice cast -- with the exception of (I cannot believe I am saying this) Bruce Campbell as an extreme sports reporter whose douchebaggery knows absolutely no bounds. I love Mr. Campbell and nearly everything he does, but he irritated the hell out of me in this game. Luckily, you are not required to come into contact with his character unless you're going for 100% completion. The soundtrack is the best I've heard in a Spider-Man game, but since the film is not out as of this writing, I can't tell if it makes use of any of the official soundtrack's cues.

If you plan on seeing The Amazing Spider-Man in theaters, do not play this game first. It takes place after the events of the film and contains major spoilers. That being said, it's always nice to see a developer that is willing to expand on the fiction rather than reproduce it in a different medium. I will avoid the specifics that the game is unfortunately forced to address. If you want to see the movie with absolutely no idea how it ends, stop reading this review now and come back after you've seen it.

Spoiler warning! The Lizard is, in fact, stopped at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man. Who knew? However, under the leadership of Dr. Alistaire Smythe (Nolan North), Oscorp is continuing the research that transformed both Peter Parker and Dr. Curt Connors into cross-species organisms. This proves to be a mistake, as this leads to a viral outbreak that escapes the Oscorp building into the streets of Manhattan. Worse yet, Peter's main squeeze Gwen Stacy, Dr. Smythe, and several Oscorp employees are infected. So our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man does what he must: he breaks the newly reformed and abjectly repentant Dr. Connors out of the Beloit Mental Institution. Unfortunately, the breakout is bungled, leading to a mass outbreak. So naturally, Spidey has his work cut out for him.

The Amazing Spider-Man is, at its core, an open-world game in the same vein as Spider-Man 2. You traverse Manhattan, helping infected civilians and fighting petty crime. There's a handful of activities to partake in, but there isn't too much variety.

Most of the story missions take place in enclosed environments. This is a real shame, as it fails to capitalize on what makes playing as Spider-Man so much fun. Instead of chasing down bad guys with your trusty web shooters between giant skyscrapers, you'll spend most of the story creeping through relatively claustrophobic areas, solving environmental puzzles, engaging in fisticuffs, and completing stealth sequences that almost blatantly rip off those in the Batman: Arkham games. However, the story is interesting enough to keep you invested through all thirteen of the game's chapters.

If you pre-ordered The Amazing Spider-Man through Amazon, you'll receive a voucher for the Stan Lee Adventure Pack. This downloadable content allows you to play as the self-proclaimed King of Cameos -- complete with Spider-Man powers. If you complete a simple page-collecting challenge, you're rewarded with a silly little cutscene/dance sequence in which Spidey's 50th birthday is celebrated. Lee himself did a bit of voicework for this addition, but he also has an extremely small (but funny) role in the actual game. Overall, the Stan Lee Adventure Pack is a neat exclusive, but nothing more than that. If they end up offering it over the PlayStation Network, I'd advise giving it a pass unless it's free.

For the most part, The Amazing Spider-Man is an easy game. Unarmed enemies are stupid for even considering going toe to toe with Spidey, as his Spider-Sense detects any incoming blow. Most bad guys are content to simply let you thrash them silly.

Navigation is made incredibly easy thanks to the Web Rush. If you need to get somewhere within a time limit, the Web Rush is always going to be your plan of action. It never fails to get you exactly where you want to be sooner than you'd expect to get there.

Stealth sections are a bit more tricky, but only a bit. This is mainly because the enemy A.I. isn't very sharp. If they're armed, you'll eventually adopt the same strategy I employed for most of the game: Stealth Takedown one or two at once, then execute a Web Retreat or two to escape their woefully limited line of sight. Rinse and repeat.

Game Mechanics:
Part of what makes The Amazing Spider-Man such a success is its representation of web-swinging in Manhattan. Most of the Spider-Man games that followed Spider-Man 2 completely failed to replicate the sense of speed and sheer joy that comes with such an undeniably liberating mode of transportation. Spider-Man 3 was simply a bad joke, and Ultimate Spider-Man gimped the sense of speed. Furthermore, Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time had different priorities. The Amazing Spider-Man gets web swinging down to a science, and the result is possibly the most sublimely enjoyable way to traverse an open-world environment.

Web zipping used to be a staple of Spider-Man games, but Beenox has streamlined the mechanic to the Web Rush. This ability slows time and allows you to determine exactly where you want Spider-Man to zip to. As mentioned, this mechanic makes the game rather easy in the long run.

Like the stealth, the combat is almost directly lifted from the Batman: Arkham games. It's a simplified brawling system with standard attacks, stunning attacks (web shots), jumping attacks, and finishing moves. It follows the same template, and you'll be beating up goons using pre-determined strategy for each enemy type. You'll do some timed button-tapping for the weaklings, make some leaps over the shielded enemies, and execute finishers that become more readily available as your combo meter increases. It's good fun, but ultimately derivative and inferior to its inspiration. That goes double for the stealth.

Once you've finished the game, there's still a lot to do in Manhattan, provided you didn't spend too much time completing side missions beforehand. As mentioned, you can save infected civvies and return escaped mental patients to Beloit. You can end police deadlocks and car chases. You can hunt down comic book pages to unlock concept art, or you can engage in some showboating for the aforementioned irritating sports reporter.

There are other, more Spider-Man tasks to complete, though. Most of those involve investigative reporter Whitney Chang. You can take pictures for her stories in predetermined locations using the clues given to you. She also uncovers scoops that contain possible benefits for Spidey; this usually involves taking out more bad guys and possibly a boss.

And of course, nearly everything you do and collect earns you experience and tech points, which you can use to build Spidey's combat/stealth repertoire.

If you're a Spider-Man fan, you should play The Amazing Spider-Man. It gets its fundamental mechanics so completely right that it's worth tolerating the parts the developers didn't get right. One more thing: you can see absolutely everything there is to see in this game within a rental period, so keep that in mind before making that leap. However, the web-swinging is like a drug, and you may find yourself jonesing for that fix before you know it.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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