This generation has been a rather rough one for Spidey, especially considering that the prior one brought two fantastic ones in Spider-Man 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man. This gen did have Shattered Dimensions, but outside of that, it's been full of disappointment, including last year's restrictive Edge of Time. Many were hoping that Beenox's first attempt at a more free-roaming Spidey game would succeed where other games failed. Sadly, that doesn't quite happen here. This isn't a bad game, but it also isn't the second coming of Spider-Man 2 that many hoped it would be.
The storyline takes place after the movie and involves Spidey and Dr. Connors trying to prevent the virus he created from spreading after already infecting Peter's beloved Gwen Stacy and a team of Oscorp scientists including her and Allistaire Smythe. Due to this happening after the movie, I'm not going to go too in-depth about it since it would not only be spoiling something in one medium but two, so I'll just say that while it's fairly predictable at points, that isn't always a bad thing and there are a couple of incredibly touching moments – including one between Gwen and Peter later in the game that will definitely make you genuinely misty-eyed. The movie's cast doesn't return to reprise their roles, but that doesn't hurt the acting quality at all – it's usually quite good except for the usual bystander banter that's just sorta there and you forget it fairly quickly.
The core game features a myriad of things to do – some of them are good, many are flawed. You'll fight baddies, crawl through one of five billion air vents throughout the city (something that is referenced by the game itself, which doesn't make it any less monotonous), deactivate switches, crawl up a wall while praying the camera doesn't spaz out on you, fight more baddies, and then eventually move things forward with a storyline point or some other big event. Indoor levels pretty much always boil down to either that formula or optional combat-only ones.
Those are interesting because they take the game's basic Arkham Asylum/City combat formula and tailor it more to Spidey. It's worth noting that the game starting in an asylum only shines a brighter light on the combat's shortcomings. One button punches, another dodges, one shoots web blasts, while one shoulder allows you to web swing and another to do a web rush to another locale or fling a fist towards an enemy. You've also got stealth takedowns and some pretty sweet strike combos that finish off with wacky lucha libre moves. The striking is done well, but anything requiring stealth is hurt by the camera going wherever it wants, and forcing you to figure out where you are at all times in close quarters. This is also an issue when using the trigger button-activated fleeing technique since it just flies you frantically towards one direction making it even harder to get your bearings. If you're in an open area, combat is fine, but if you're not, it can become troublesome.
The formulaic feel to the battles gets kind of old quickly, even with some side missions like photography, Xtreme sports photography with Bruce Campbell (which is awesome largely due to Bruce being a goofball), swinging around to save infected people, stopping robberies, car chases, and sometimes placing tracking devices on antennas. You've got a few things to do to keep you busy outside of the main game, but they all work to either sharpen your skills, or help you farm XP for upgrades. You'll need those during some of the game's tougher moments.
Speaking of which, boss battles have a samey feel to them to, only with some slight tweaks that make sense for each character. The best part of a 3D Spidey game should be the exterior stuff where you're swinging around town and here it's okay, but problematic. The biggest issue I have is that it's nearly impossible to accurately aim Spidey during it. The game's biggest time sink involves finding old comics in stages and around town, and while you can easily grab them inside a building, grabbing them outside requires you to retry a single leap to land on something like a billboard since the jump just sends you soaring and the camera flies all around making it impossible to tell where you are in relation to the comic. That causes problems during hectic outdoor fights against things like robots, and in particular, giant worm-shaped ones that tunnel through the ground. The actual swinging around doing nothing portions are fun, but the city sure does seem rather barren outside of the infected civilians you can save.
Other annoyances include a relatively long startup time and incredibly long pre-stage loading times that can last around a minute. Not even the scrollable lists and faux-Twitter feed (which is really nice touch that makes the danger seem a tad more real) give you enough to do to pass the time. On the upside, there's no massive mandatory HDD install on the PS3, which, combined with the Move controls, definitely make it the best version of the game to own. However, the Move doesn't add so much that I'd say 360-only owners are getting ripped off – it's just a nice little bonus and one that is executed surprisingly well. The motion control is responsive and works pretty well – however, I'd only recommend using it for the free-roaming sections where you can just do whatever you want at your own pace and don't have to worry about encountering a really tough battle since they just don't feel as natural or organic as the regular controller setup.
Visually, Spider-Man's character model looks incredible, with a gorgeous textured look to his suit and satisfying tearing effects on it and blood and scratches on Peter's body underneath it as the game and its battle take their toll. He's also animated really well, with his moves looking incredibly fluid – the only exception here is when you try to jump onto a wall and the animation gets kind of lean and sometimes glitchy as well. Otherwise, a lot of the game gives off an outdated, sometimes last-gen look. The city itself looks great and offers up some beautiful scenery but is hurt by there not being many people in it. Secondary characters, including Gwen, really have a last-gen look to them. Their flesh lacks any real detail and they have that generic, soulless look to them that hurts. This is even more pronounced for side characters like civilians, and while you don't really expect characters like that to look as good as the main character, they look so bad that they drag the entire presentation down a notch.
Audio-wise, ASM is pretty good overall. I really love the acting, and it's rare that I find a game where that's the case. Musically, there's a lot of stuff here, but none of it stands out except for the incredible end credits piano song. The sound effects are pretty good, with satisfying ones used for punches, and the web effects sound exactly as they should. The audio is greater as a whole than the sum of its parts.
Overall, the Amazing Spider-Man succeeds at offering a great story, but fails at accomplishing its goal of making you feel like Spidey. It's great to have free-roaming gameplay back, but its shoddy execution here only makes you want to play another, better game right after. The camera issues give the game its greatest problems, and the wonky jumping physics further hurt the precision needed to get around with ease. ASM is rougher around the edges than most Spidey games, and it makes me hope a patch is coming to remedy some of the issues, because you can tell when playing it that there's a really good game here – it's just buried beneath a lot of flaws that seemingly could've been ironed out with more time allotted to the development. In its present state, the game is not worth a full-price purchase, but is a great rental since you can get through the story in about ten hours, and less if you decide to skip the extracurricular activities.
This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of The Amazing Spider-Man provided by Activision.