Quick, name the best super-hero video game of all time?
I am willing to bet that 90% of you who actually though of an answer said either Arkham Asylum or Arkham City, and I wouldn’t disagree. A good runner up in the category though would have to go to Beenox’s Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. The game is often heralded as the best Spider-Man game to date and did an incredible job at delivering the Spider-Man experience regardless of which version of the web-slinger you preferred. The blending of the various multiple Marvel / Spidey-universes made sure no one (fan-wise) was left out. Things didn’t go quite so well for the follow up, Edge of Time, but Beenox intends on righting that wrong with this year’s release of The Amazing Spider-Man.
The new game, which hits stores later this month, will tie in with the soon-to-be-released movie of the same name. The game will be available for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on June 26, 2012 while the movie will hit theaters on July 3. Don’t worry though, this isn’t your typical movie game, so don’t overlook it just because of that relationship. I got a chance to sit down with a brief demo of the game recently on the Xbox 360 and have to admit, there is a chance that Beenox could be making a play for that “best super-hero game of all time” trophy.
When a tie-in isn’t a tie-in
Although the game shares the name of the film, and the same universe, this isn’t a video game presentation of the film. Instead, Beenox has opted to go the epilogue route and craft a story that takes place after the events of the film. For the most part, this is a smart move; it gives Beenox a bit of freedom that is usually lost when crafting a project tied to a film. On the other hand, it is an interesting move to release a game set after the film prior to the theatrical release considering that it assumes you know what happened in the movie. Perhaps the release dates of the two projects should be switched.
Although there is a “storyline” the game actually plays out like and open-world, sandbox adventure set in the Spider-Man universe. You will actually be living out the life of Spidey in a chaotic Manhattan. Trouble is brewing at every turn and chaos is overtaking the city. In many cases, the police are outnumbered and out-gunned as enemies such as the Rhino, Black Cat, and Iguana, along with various henchman, attempt to take over the city.
Manhattan is your playground
As the game proclaims, the city of Manhattan is your personal playground. You can go anywhere you please at pretty much any given time. There are certain areas marked on the map that will trigger specific storyline driven events and missions, but most of them are there for you to engage in at your will. Want to simply enjoy the landscape of the concrete jungle and swing through the rooftops? Go ahead. This is your world.
With the promise of all of the freedom in the game and the constant comparisons to the Arkham series, I was a little leary of the game going in. The reason Rocksteady’s Batman games were so good was because they delivered on the true, Batman experience. They were slow and methodical, the way Batman is; this is also everything that Spider-Man is not. A slow and methodical Spider-Man game isn’t going to make players feel like the webhead extraordinaire; Spider-Man needs fast paced, frantic, chaotic action with a certain amount of finesse thrown in. As it turns out, that is exactly what this game brings to the table.
Delivering on the Spider-Man experience
The verticality of the game-world is something that helps to deliver on this feeling, along with a free-flowing combat system and an incredible in-game camera. From the standpoint of the city’s design, it feels almost as tall as it is horizontally expansive. There is action to be found as high up as the highest skyscraper and it pays for you to spend as much time up in the clouds as it does on the cold, hard ground. Criminal acts are everywhere and your ability to traverse these varying heights at incredible speeds brings the Spider-Man experience to life.
The combat system, above all else, is definitely comparable to the Arkham games. Beenox has employed a free-flowing engine that allows you to string together various attacks across a large number of foes. Since it is set in the 3D universe, the bad guys will be coming at you from every direction and it is very easy to take them all on at once. With a simple press of the attack buttons, you can transition from one enemy to another and utilize the environment. It is very easy to engage a couple of thugs in front of you and then fire off a web to grab a dumpster across the was and pull it into the fray to knock out enemies approaching from behind. It is all done with smooth transitions and at a break-neck speed, just as you would expect Spider-Man’s actions to be.
The perspective delivers by the game’s camera is the final piece of the puzzle that is the Spider-Man experience. Despite the third-person perspective, the camera moves in a manner that makes you feel as if you are actually behind the mask like Peter Parker himself. Flips and spins aren’t just depicted in the animation of the character, but in the views around you; your eyes and field of vision always match that of Spidey’s, regardless of the direction he is facing. While it sounds like a simple premise, and it is, it works wonders in immersing the player into the world. You often find yourself facing a change in physical perspective which helps you think and act like the hero.
A rush courtesy of your web
As I am sure you have heard by now, Beenox is putting a lot of focus on the game’s web-rush mechanic, and rightfully so. The gameplay behind this concept works in conjunction with the other aspects I spoke of above to deliver the overall experience that Spidey fans have been waiting for since video games began.
Thanks to the web-rush system, the game helps you interprete the world around you as if you were Mr. Parker himself. In the midst of your travel, things slow down a bit and points of interest in the world around you are highlighted. It sort of directs you to the things that would catch Spider-Man’s eyes; things such as strategic paths across rooftops or alternate routes of travel are outlined and given to you as options but you are never forced to use them. It is almost as if it is training you to think like you were behind the mask and not just controlling someone else. Perhaps it is best to think of it as an extension of the famed “spidey-sense”because in a way, that is exactly what it is; you are subtlety shown things you should be seeing as the hero, and that he would be focusing in on naturally.
After playing the game for a while, I am convinced that Beenox is delivering the best Spidey experience we have seen in the world of video games yet. Don’t let the history of Spider-Man games turn you away from this one, it is definitely worth a look. The development team appears to have completely given themselves over to the world of Spider-Man without reservation; they have embraced everything that makes Spider-Man, well, Spider-Man. The Amazing Spider-Man will deliver what is easily the best game based on the hero yet. Just like the Arkham series, this game doesn’t just let you play as the hero, but you get a chance to actually “feel” like the hero. And that, as any fan will tell you, is all that we have ever asked for.
Activision paid for travel and lodging expenses for this press event held in Los Angeles, which included a presentation of the game(s).