The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition
Wii U | Activision / Beenox | 1 Player | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii U GamePad; Wii U Pro Controller
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19th March 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
how problematic it was, imagine the essential components of the HD counterparts being preserved, but with the mechanics and systems seeing to erosion or becoming hopeless gimmicks. And that's before even taking into account the many technical "treasures" the game made no secret of. So in light of this, the announcement of the self-proclaimed "Ultimate Edition" looked to be an apology for that earlier letdown. Understanding that this rendition doesn't replicate the template of that forsaken iteration is a reason to be hopeful, but as to whether or not this enhanced version deserves place in your library or even that the core game is worth your time, I'm not entirely convinced that either of those questions have unequivocally positive answers.
Before getting into any details surrounding this edition of the game, first let's establish some background. The Amazing Spider-Man is the videogame accompaniment to the theatrical release of the same name, told as an epilogue through Peter's encounters with the villains Rhino, Scorpion, and The Lizard during an epidemic outbreak. Navigating your way through the experience is done by means of an open-world hub system, allowing you to traverse the adventure field of Manhattan openly by web-swinging your way to destinations that trigger secondary missions or lead you into a contained level that will advance the storyline. The game entertains a 13-chapter progression (more like 12, really), involving anywhere from 10 to 12 hours of playtime at minimum. An entirely different matter is how much of your personal enjoyment will be invested in that total.
Being the action-dedicated game that it is, there's no question that combat must be properly nailed down, for the absence of satisfying mechanics would quickly make for robotic gameplay. It is for this very reason that I made a clear point of re-examining the game's performance in this area, with a view of it having a clean slate. The Wii version made such forced use of motion control that it drastically took away from attack delivery, and so it was my hope that my feelings on the system being stiff and whatnot were more of an isolated case of lousy treatment. I'm pleased to report that with waggle out of the picture, combat can now be seen in a better light.
Standard web shooter attacks are mapped to the A Button, with repeated presses used to launch projectiles, while holding it will trigger a Web-Grab. The Y Button is mainly for melee attacks, and these are the biggest contributors to your combo meter. By growing this, you can execute Signature Moves with the A Button. These are sweet, multi-step finishers that become possible upon reaching a set value in the combo multiplier. Initially this is the x10 mark, but through upgrades, you can get it down to x6 for less drawn-out uses of melee attacks. Also a wise feature for when you're being bombarded is the ability to jump to dazed foes quickly with a double press of the A Button, sticking them to the ground or walls with a web net.
More demanding moves are made available as you progress (such as the Jump-Over Attack for overcoming shielded foes) and exchange maxed-out experience points for Ability Upgrades. In like manner, tech pieces earned from destroying sentries and retrieving certain collectibles can go towards Tech Upgrades. But from the get-go, the most advanced move you have at your disposal is tied to the Web Rush mechanic. Through this, you can slow down time to target enemies or platforms and then launch yourself forward at a swift pace. If this is your first time being exposed to it, you'll fall in love with the fluidity and control it adds to the combat.
This isn't just limited to battle, either. While sneakily crawling on ceilings, a purple web outline will be projected below you to indicate if a Stealth Takedown is possible. When using it for navigation purposes, certain silhouettes become visible at key landing points to allow for faster reaction time. Either way, the R-Stick is used to aim at a respective target. Admittedly, the requirements surrounding the targeting are a bit of a downside in themselves, but this irritation is neutralized when using a Quick Web Rush, which I can say is more reliable than it is something that gets you into trouble. When going at it with a group of foes, the core mechanics do come together, but they're not deep in the sense of having a visceral hook. They're also not without their off-points, such as the inconsistencies when trying to interact with a heavy object to throw while also being encircled by foes. Still, the overall feeling is that of greater satisfaction than was ever achieved in the Wii version.
Much of the game's environmental scope is limited to factories, industrial plants and research facilities, but there are occasions where you'll venture into the sewer for some slightly suspenseful cat-and-mouse chases. In all cases, you'll become very close with the family of ventilation shafts present in the game's levels -- they are your friend, so when in doubt, look for these. You'll also get friendly with the many laser traps found in secured areas, but at least, by contrast to the Wii version, you won't have to complete short, ill-advised puzzles to bypass computer firewalls. When not squeezing yourself through narrow passages, there are plenty of corridors to web-swing through without much enemy interference. If you read further into what that means, the game's ratio of exploration versus tense fisticuffs is balanced to a degree. But I should also point out that there are places when you may sense strong tension pushing you to attack in a more organized fashion, in which case adopting a stealthy approach really is in your best interests, using the L Button for a quick Web-Retreat when you are discovered by a sniper or sentry.
The improved graphics have made an impact on your ability to navigate environments at a logical pace, because while you'll be faced with some occasional head-scratchers, dramatic lighting effects behave almost like signage, directing you in a manner that also contrasts the Wii version in making confusion an irregularity.
Speaking of direction, one aspect where The Amazing Spider-Man falters is in its use of quick-time events, which sometimes veer on being bad when used as a substitute for player responses or to demand unnecessary involvement when a cutscene would do just as well. With respect to bosses, you'll likely find they start out well (if still relatively lacking in challenge) but degrade in quality as you move forward. One observation I'd like to make (and I could be wrong about this) is that a portion of the story appears to have not made the transition to Ultimate Edition. In the Wii version, there was an entire chapter revolving around a bank heist that culminated in a boss battle, and I don't know if the HD versions instead had this segment not be part of the normal progression, but it appears to be absent here.
Exploring Manhattan may not be a big part of what makes The Amazing Spider-Man fun to play, but the process of traversing the city to arrive at destinations is enjoyable in itself, for it is here that the web-slinging mechanics take on full form. The city is humongous, so that calls for a trusted guidance system -- the very thing the OsPhone provides. When accessed, the device enables you to manage phone calls, access the upgrade system, and consult a map of the city. All of this is done via touch, so this is where the GamePad is put to use. Unfortunately, the controls don't have much immediacy in their response and icons take a few taps before the screens actually swap out. When not viewing the OsPhone directly, the GamePad is used to display a mediocre, blown-up version of the map. Things actually look better when playing in Off-TV mode, for this is displayed as a mini-map in the corner of the screen that can be pulled up for further reference by pressing the Minus Button.
Aside from the unending sea of skyscrapers, some of the city's more scenic estates include public parks with healthy greenery; outdoor stations for medical treatment; as well as baseball stadiums, tennis courts, and other sporting areas. You can get a feel for the paranoia as you hit the streets in later chapters, where the infection has spread and has started to overtake the immune systems of citizens dispersed all over the city. The unfortunate thing is that while stable roadway and sidewalk traffic is accounted for, specific landmarks that don't serve a direct purpose for the furtherance of the story are either scarcely populated or completely unoccupied. That said, it's a thrill to aimlessly ride along using Web Swing (ZR) and to scale buildings with ease. Interestingly enough, there's some great fun to be had in chasing after comic book pages strewn all over Manhattan -- atop water towers, along metal ledges of billboards, even floating around in mid-air at high altitudes. It actually serves as a distraction because of how addicting it can get, but it's another side of subtle fun the game has. Using Web Rush's lock-on system is fantastic for this purpose, as the long-distance aiming is surprisingly accurate and responsive.
Outside of the main levels, there are segments where you'll have to engage in forced aerial battles against Hunter drones. I'm not sure that there's any legitimate purpose for these, and if the intent was to establish Spidey's ongoing fugitive status, this is a pretty silly means of doing so. Aside from that, criminal activity is also known to take place all over the city, including snipers that seek control by taking to the rooftops, as well as police chases and stand-offs in the streets. Truthfully, the side-missions are more of a bother than anything else, but you probably won't see it that way after completing the final chapter and no longer having anything worthwhile to do.
To keep you coming back, The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition features five challenges that were previously downloadable packs for the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game. One of these is a timed destruction challenge that has you taking control of Rhino as he zips through the streets at an automatic, steadily-increasing pace, pulverizing vehicles in your path to add to your score and extend the time limit. Another transfers Spider-Man's abilities to Stan Lee, tasking you with recovering missing script pages. Online leaderboards have been implemented to keep the high-score affairs going, but there is a drawback of only being able to see two other positions in relation to your current spot on the table. Besides these, there are also the digital comics referenced earlier, as well as the ability to unlock costumes. While exploring Manhattan on end post-victory isn't the most motivating prospect, these optional tasks and diversions provide adequate reason to keep playing.
If the gameplay sits well with you, chances are the presentation won't have the same effect. I want to preface this by saying that The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition looks striking at its best moments. There's a commanding sense of depth to be observed while out and about in the city, and when exploring levels, realistic visual effects along with a rounded soundtrack are used to instill a degree of suspense. Best of all, there's no strain involved in either circumstance. However, there is a fair share of technical issues present that cannot go unnoticed.
The first isn't so much an "issue" as it is a recurring trait to have to deal with. Loading screens average at around 40 seconds in wait time, depending on the location being loaded. The second is the presence of screen tearing (i.e., disjointed lines forming on the screen as manual camera inputs are applied), and this is evident during the very first cutscene. Thankfully, as awful as it can get at times, it's not a common problem. Same goes for the framerate: While it may chug along at points, it never becomes severe. The camera, though, requires a lot of re-adjustment on your part as you try to get around, and there are places where it's hard to get a good view, such as the overlooking camera points when crawling on ceilings. After camera issues, glitches collectively serve as the biggest brunt the game has to deal with, some affecting city-dwellers while others get entire buildings involved in a disappearing act. Again, while the visuals consistently remain bold, presentation is still an area where the game could have performed better.
I certainly didn't mince words in the past about the Wii version being impulsively flawed, and I'm not about to do the opposite with the Wii U iteration. Factually, The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition is absolutely the better package, but at its core, there are still delicate issues with the design and mechanics that should've been re-worked to interfere less with the overall delivery. As far as action-adventure games go, The Amazing Spider-Man isn't among the best in the genre, albeit the troubles that hold it back aren't all that surprising in the light of modern design techniques. And yet, there are still elements that are worth exploring only if you're into games with an emphasis on combat. Understanding, too, that the game retails for only $40 should help you make a case for giving it a shot, even with these lasting faults.
21/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Mixed combat elements, some properly-tuned mechanics, generally good navigation and level design, forced missions and QTEs
Presentation 6/10 - Impressive depth out in the city, technical and interaction concerns, GamePad use a tad lousy, dramatic lighting and audio work
Enjoyment 4/5 - Web Rush and Web Sling mechanics reflect positively on the experience, design issues hamper combat delivery and progression
Extra Content 4/5 - Moderate length, comic book pages are fun to track down, challenges with online leaderboards, side-missions aren't very enticing
Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System