The Amazing Spider-Man
Wii | Activision / Beenox | 1 Player | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk; Classic Controller
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7th August 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
Pouring its contents into the mold of an action-adventure title, The Amazing Spider-Man commissions players on a quest that will focus on stealth, investigation, and justice-bound fisticuffs as you explore the conspiracy surrounding Oscorp Industries. Both following the trend of other modern games belonging to this genre as well as the footsteps of Edge of Time, learning about these dangerous operations will involve putting yourself in the face of interactive story elements, ones that frankly often feel shoehorned in the grand scheme of things. Moving the camera with the D-Pad during cutscenes you have a bit of control over, or pressing the C Button to look at peculiarities to trigger on-rails sequences; these are but some of the event triggers you will get involved in over the course of the game's flow.
Starting out, controls seem fairly sensible, and you'll find these feelings remain as you apply yourself. The A Button has the dual purpose of functioning as your jump and web-swing button. While in the middle of the swinging motion, you can hold B down at the same time that the A Button is being held so you can ascend to higher ground. The C Button is used for firing quick web shots or creating a web rope that you can use to grab and fling enemies with. Defensive moves are mapped to shakes of both controllers, with the Wii Remote doing a simple dodge roll and the Nunchuk getting you to retreat to a safe area on a wall behind you. And finally, the Minus Button serves as your interact button for communicating with NPC's and playing around with electronic devices.
What better way to acquaint you with Spidey's signature flexibility than have introduced to you the major control feature worth isolating: that is the Web Rush system. This functions as the principal means through which you can explore environments at breakneck speed, catch your opponents by surprise while lurking in the shadows, and also have an advantage in close-range fights. Pressing and holding down the Z Button will trigger this temporary effect and heighten Peter's senses. From there, you can move the camera around with the Nunchuk while pointing at the screen with the Wii Remote to hone in on targets. These take the form of clearly-marked, orange-coloured silhouettes that provide clues on where to go next in an open space or identify platforms and environmental props you can zip towards to advance to a new portion of a level. Tied to this is the presence of a colour-coded system that manifests itself at all phases of gameplay. As one example, a purple hue is seen on surfaces while exploring and crawling on walls to indicate that a Stealth Takedown can be executed, where Spider-Man will swoop down and subdue an enemy on the ground or ceiling without any need for confrontation. Another example: When you're boxed in by enemies, white bursts will appear above your head as a heads-up to dodge an upcoming attack, while red bursts will clue you in on attacks that must be avoided, such as deadly laser beams emitted from security cameras. The system as a whole works for what it is: it's fairly user-friendly and makes for a logical approach given Spider-Man's recognized behaviours.
Closely related to the capabilities surrounding Web Rush is the combat system. This is where the core action element is seen in full force, with spin kicks, signature moves, and the like being performed with the use of the B and C Buttons respectively. Nearby, you'll often spot vending machines, metal containers, and other objects that can be lifted using Web Rush and thrown at a group of enemies, which, by the way, will include criminals, employed gunmen, sentry drones, and acid-spewing monsters. Compared to the mechanics seen in Edge of Time, I must admit the combat system is less impressive. You might argue that 2099 was the driving factor behind the combat in the last Spider-Man game feeling more refined, but I'd have to disagree with the suggestion that that is the sole factor behind the inferiority behind what's seen here. The Amazing Spider-Man is quite stiff in its combat, which isn't to say there isn't a measure of fluidity in the way attacks can be strung together, but it is from the standpoint of depth that these mechanics are revealed to be lacking in their delivery. As a reflection of this toning down, nay the stripping apart of said depth, there's a much simpler upgrade system put in place. Defeating enemies will rack up experience points, but instead of having this supplemented nicely by the motivating Web of Challenges system seen in prior titles, the process goes no further than opening up a menu with a simple structure and choosing from a list of upgrades. It is with a less positive outcome that these different walls have been torn down, and the somewhat flimsy setup does have a negative impact on your ultimate perception of how these come together.
One key reason behind these feelings emerging as you go along has to do with the overall persistence with the entire system to pester you into a state of security and confinement. This isn't something that's situational, either. Whether in battle situations or surveying the environment you're in, a constant control issue -- from the perspective of having your hand held -- springs forth throughout the entirety of the game's thirteen-chapter campaign. As I said before, there are times where you'll need to use the Minus Button to focus on an element as a requirement for an event to trigger, but you'll often find yourself spending more time than you should just trying to get into the perfect position so that whatever the game wants to send your way will actually get sent down the chute. And therein lies a bigger problem of how the game's flow at large is carried about. Players are constantly being told what to do at every corner, with text appearing on-screen as in the above case or when a dodge is necessary in the middle of a crowded fight. Worse yet, there are many quick-time events plugged into the experience -- even more so than the last game if memory serves correctly -- and unfortunately, instead of this adding comfort to the experience, what all this does is reveal a structure that's very automated in a large respect.
Some of the features it tries to pass off as legitimate design elements only add a measure of insult to what has already been identified as an issue. At an early point in the game, you're roped into taking photos of Oscorp materials -- briefcases, containers, almost anything with the company's logo on it that's not environmental -- to help build a case against the conspiracy. Yes, it is optional, and yes, it does make a bit of sense given Peter Parker's occupation. But it's also extraneous and not at all contributing in a positive fashion to the atmosphere of the experience. What I really raised an eyebrow to was the specified usage of some of the security units. In order to hack these databases, you have to sometimes match ends of wires in order to put coloured chips into the right slots. What is this, Brain Age?
Then there's the dedicated boss fights. Never mind not being fun or challenging, some of these just aren't designed very well when you look at the spaces you're fighting in and the limitations put upon you in where and how far you can move around. And, surprise surprise, quick-time events pop up yet again, only adding to feelings of unpleasantness surrounding this aspect to the game. At the very least, the mid-level boss encounters do a better job of providing challenge and even adding a bit of tension in some cases. They do, however, have a tendency to have less admirable portions that tie back to, again, the interactive story elements, which as you can imagine has worn thin already on a structural level without even factoring in how they are paired with boss fights.
You can already get a good idea that there's quite a bit that interferes with your ability to have an enjoyable time with this game, but the extent of this takes on a much more uncomfortable tone as you realize that even more preventative measures are taken in the way of impactful technical and additional design issues. Let's take one at a time in reverse order. So first, some of the automatic systems surrounding environment navigation, such as the impulse thrust Spider-Man performs from a rail or as you move towards a platform right in front, can at times activate at inconvenient moments, putting you back where you started. Relating to the matter of control, there are occasions where you will trigger the Web Rush move and send yourself forward to pull off an attack on an enemy, but Spider-Man will stand in the air beside the immediate edge of a platform, thus having you drop down after you manage to score a hit or two. Then, too, you have attacks not landing correctly, infected monsters somehow still hitting you with projectiles even as you've moved completely out of their line of sight, and web shots unreliably not hitting the right targets even as you position both yourself and the camera forward. Even though all of these instances may not occur with great regularity, both the transitioning and functionality behind these systems present problems that do much to annoy.
Speaking of camera, that's another thing that adds to your woes as you progress. The perspective behind the camera's operations as seen when atop an object or while sticking to walls are such that they don't reflect a good grasp on physics. The camera is known to situate itself in such a way that it looks like you're moving towards the wall instead of leaning off of it, while other times it was on a complete diagonal or had jittery movements. All things considered -- and I do mean all issues -- the situation isn't helped by the obscuring of the player's vision as executed rather inconsiderately through the game's somewhat overbearing damage indicator. In place of a physical icon or a meter, they've made it so that a visualization effect will appear on the sides of the screen and progressively decrease in transparency until it practically covers 80% of the screen with a hard-to-see-through, saturated red. With this closing in on you, it makes it difficult to keep track of everything in darker environments, especially as you try to execute any Web Rush moves. And with other issues already proving to be particularly trying, any clarity issue imposed on the part of the health system is not a welcome sight.
Other aspects of the game's presentation aren't much to look at either. In fact, some are actually quite bothersome. The character models of NPC's have very few positive characteristics to them due to their somewhat dated look. As well, while there aren't any major faults with the level design appearance-wise, there's nothing out of the ordinary either. Visual effects seen during cutscenes aren't all that pleasing, with low-res smoke and grainy skies being just some examples. In terms of sound, the clips you hear during battles are very repetitive, while in other cases, you have voice clips colliding with each other or being too soft to properly make out every word that characters are saying. The music is usually standard fare and not at all bad, but that's not much consolation.
With all these elements working against each other and the player's enjoyment levels rapidly decreasing as the experience wears thin, the situation plaguing The Amazing Spider-Man is one that flares up regularly and presents enough distaste to turn you away. I can't say the game performs poorly in all areas, but the systematic workings are such that players are forcibly disengaged from gameplay and are brought on the verge of being unable to overlook some clear flaws. It's a very frustrating ordeal, made this way because of the incoherent design as well as the compounding technical issues. There's hardly anything even remotely cohesive about the way this game is presented and the fact that the main principles governing much of the game's systems aren't sound from a technical or gameplay standpoint makes for a disappointing outcome. At minimum, the game will last six hours, with more time to spend in the way of collecting bonus content pieces and completing optional missions. But in all honesty, it was before even reaching a third of the game that I grew tired of trying to ignore what is really too cumbersome to default to as being sound or admirable.
Knotted with design decisions that, when weighted, are shown to be either poorly-considered or unrefined in execution, The Amazing Spider-Man customarily disappoints and won't please very many unless expectations are kept at a sharp low. While not committing enough wrongs to be labelled as truly terrible, the game does inch towards that direction in more ways than one. For all its problems, I feel Edge of Time could still run at least one lap ahead of this game for the reason that it at least was on some track with its gameplay mechanics, even if it wasn't a strong one. This, however, is a step backwards in more respects than it is a progression, and is truthfully filled with more shortcomings than positive attributes. So with that said, unless you're really bent on seeing just how much this turn-out fits in amongst other disappointments under the licensed games bracket, you'd best be moving along.
15/30 - Below Average
Gameplay 5/10 - Weak interactivity, a few good systems, stiff combat, automated flow, constantly being told what to do, incoherent design, mixed bosses
Presentation 5/10 - Camera issues, health indicator tied to the HUD is disruptive, technical concerns, ordinary levels, annoyances in the sound department
Enjoyment 2/5 - More frustrating than fun, disappointing to see the lack of cohesion, shortcomings dominate and pull you out of the experience
Extra Content 3/5 - Multiple chapters as part of the campaign, lasts at least six hours on your first playthrough, optional missions and content, upgrades
Equivalent to a score of 50% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System