The latest Spider-Man game returns to an open world format and promotes stealth play along with button mashing.
I've enjoyed the last couple of Spider-Man games Beenox and Activision have partnered on. Both Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time had stories independent of any movie tie-in and were traditional third person action games. With The Amazing Spider-Man (TAS), Beenox's story begins at the end of the movie. Several story missions make up the primary content, but in between these you are welcome to swing and run through Manhattan, engaging in a numerous optional side missions and locating hundreds (literally some 600+) collectibles along the way. Some gameplay elements are inspired by the Arkhams and even a touch of inFamous, altogether combining to make TAS the best movie-game (if you can call it that) since Raven's X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
The beginning sees Peter and friend Gwen exploring Oscorp's lower levels and meeting Dr. Smythe. There is some evidence that Smythe is secretly continuing Dr. Connor's cross-species experiments. Dr. Connors, currently in non-Lizard form, is being holed up at a local mental ward. Anyway, during the tour, a cross-species manages to break free from containment and suddenly the whole lab area is in chaos with multiple cross-species running about. Gwen manages to get infected, along with Smythe, while Peter tries to save other Oscorp employees and escape from the cross-species detecting robot security.
With the cross-species now unleashed in Manhattan, spreading their infection, Spider-Man seeks the help of Dr. Connors. They decide to work together, staying in a high-rise apartment. This is your home base for replaying missions, talking with Connors, changing outfits (if you've
unlocked any) and entering the sandbox that is Manhattan. By now, most of the controls have been revealed to you -- B for web shoot, A to jump, X to punch and kick with Y for dodging (and interacting with objects), creating a similar but not quite as exciting fight system as Arkham Asylum. LB is used to Web Retreat, which is very useful and necessary to survive encounters with multiple enemies, especially of the gun-toting variety. When you Web Retreat, Spider-Man launches him self into the air and onto a nearby wall or perch of some kind, allowing you to get out of immediate sight, heal, and plan your attack.
RB has several uses, all related to zipping over to a different location. There is a small crosshair in the HUD that you can use to target certain objects, enemies, or locations. If you press RB when holding it over a air vent (and there a lot of these), Spider-Man will automatically web over to it and open it. Better still is how you use RB to get around the world -- you can press and hold RB to enter a sort of first person view, or, you can just look around to see these golden shadows of Spider-Man without holding RB. These golden shadows of Spider-Man show where you will land and what orientation you will be in if you release RB while pointing at said shadow. It's a great way to quickly get exactly where you want, rather than using RT to web swing which isn't as efficient nor as accurate.
Combat is pretty basic, yet flashy, and overall good. There are lots of melee encounters where you simply mash X and watch Spider-Man perform a variety of flashy attacks. You are almost always out-numbered, requiring you to tap Y at the right time (when the squiggly-lines of Spider-sense appear) to acrobatically dodge incoming attacks. Signature moves (pressing B when prompted) are available after stringing together a decent combo and these are cool to see and are very effective. There are also objects around that Spider-Man can snatch with RB and use, such as gas tanks and vending machines. When you target these and press RB, Spider-Man automatically grabs it and tosses it at the nearest enemy. If things are going well, you need to use the Web Retreat to cool down the health mechanic. I thought the amount of red used to convey damage on screen was a bit excessive and combined with Spider-Man's "I'm hurt" dialogue, it can be somewhat grating.
In addition to the typical 'all out' combat, there is a lot of stealth gameplay that requires you be more tactical than your typical Spider-Man game. I think this was a wise move by Beenox, as typically combat in Spider-Man games gets very repetitive. Having to play it a little safer, with a little more strategy, is actually pretty refreshing. Not unlike the Batman challenge rooms or stealth combat used in the Arkham games, Spider-Man is similarly able to stay in the ceilings (or on the walls) and pick apart a room, one foe at a time. A faint purple web beneath Spider-Man indicates your range of stealth takedowns, such that whenever an enemy on patrol steps into that range, he is highlighted in purple and a stealth takedown is as simple as pressing a button. In many ways, this type of gameplay reminded me of playing the Noir Spidey in Shattered Dimensions.
There are a variety of upgrades to unlock and purchase that alter both styles of combat. Upgraded tensile strength for your web subdues enemies longer, stronger attacks, upgraded surprise attacks, increased defense, more stealthy takedowns (like being able to hide the subdued enemy) and other things other some nice change of pace. Upgrades are unlocked as you Level up, which is done by earning Tech Points and completing story and side missions. One annoying part about this process is that when you have an upgrade available, the game will flash that message in the upper left corner constantly. There were several times where I had upgrades available, but did not want to purchase any right away, yet that message continued to flash. That's a minor gripe, but I thought they could have done a better job of reminding players more subtly.
Story missions include a mixture of basic exploration with plenty of 'find the button' interactions along with a mixture of both types of combat. When not engaged in those missions, the very large Manhattan sandbox is yours to enjoy. Pick up police scanner chatter of petty crimes and getaways in progress, which show up on your mini-map. These pop up randomly, giving you always something to do. There are also some six hundred pages of comic books to find. You can spot these from a long distance and use RB to snatch them. Some pages even fly around, requiring you to use RB and then doing a one-button quick time event to snatch them. Thankfully, the comic pages have a aural cue so you can sense them without having to see them. I was surprised at how addictive snatching these collectibles were. Beenox did a nice job of first 'challenging' you to get five, then fifteen, then thirty pages, and so on. In missions, there are Oscorp Manuals, audio clips, and a couple of other collectible types to find, too. From the apartment, you can replay missions and view your x/y ratio to see if you have 100%'d the level or not. Additionally, local journalist Whitney Chang asks that you take pictures of enemies and happy citizens and anything Oscorp related so she can help get the word out about Oscorp's evil intentions and help spread the word about the good you are doing in the city, too.
Visually, TAS looks very good and runs silky smooth. This is key given how acrobatic and flashy Spider-Man's attacks are. The animations are really nice, maybe somewhat repetetive at times, but overall they're fun to watch if not perform. Beenox did a heck of a job with the cityscape too. The variety of buildings is excellent, in terms of their height, number of roof tiers, and window design on the side. It feels like a true city, with lots of variety and character, at least in terms of the buildings. The radio towers on some buildings also looked really cool. The city's wide open, bright environments counter the darkness and somewhat generic sci-fi drabness of Oscorp offices and sewers and the like that Spider-Man drops into for story and side missions. As far as audio, I thought the soundtrack was great and fitting. Voiceovers were nice, although
Peter can be a little too talkative at times. The enemies, especially when they are taunting you after you have done a Web Retreat, can be pretty funny, in a good way.