Spider-Man’s video game history is a pretty rough mix of triumph and adversity. During the PS2 era he was the height of superhero game design, but in recent years Spider-Man games have failed to really set themselves apart. While they’ve never really gotten bad, they haven’t stood out from the pack, and Batman has moved in to become the new standard. The Amazing Spider-Man strikes back. Sure, it’s a movie tie-in, but let’s not forget so was the much-loved Spider-Man 2. Furthermore, The Amazing Spider-Man is actually set after the movie, giving developers the freedom to create a more coherent video game plot. The developers were finally ready to show the game off at GDC, and this is definitely the game to watch for fans.
When the developers at Beenox (The Edge of Time and Shattered Dimensions booted up the game, I was immediately struck by the visual contrast to previous Spider-Man games. The detail on the titular hero is absolutely stunning. You can almost see the individual stitches on the suit. This is further emphasized by the new, much closer, camera. This might seem like a small change, but it gives a much more personal view of the web-slinger than previously seen in any Spider-Man games.
The effect of this new angle was immediately apparent when the developers began swinging around the fully explorable Manhattan. The close-and-personal camera gave not only a much more powerful feeling of speed, but also a strong connection to the character himself. It’s never been easier to feel like you are Spider-Man instead of just watching him. This very personal effect is further emphasized by the new Web Rush system.
Web Rushes allow Spider-Man to freeze time and enter a first person view in which areas of the environment he can interact with are highlighted. Releasing the button will then initiate the interaction. This system has many functions. In the city it can be used to travel to a point, with Spider-Man acrobatically maneuvering to whatever area you looked at in Web Rush. If you just look at where you want to go and tap the button it can be used more like the web-zip skill of previous games, quickly launching Spider-Man in that direction. The player never loses control during this, and can easily pull out of a Web Rush with swings or jumps.
Outside of exploration you of course have numerous activities to complete around Manhattan. Peter Parker is given his camera for a few photo-taking challenges, and plenty of villains and thugs will be around to beat on. We were shown Spider-Man dropping down into police chases, helping the cops capture fleeing villains, and tying the cars up in a massive web at the end of the chase event. Web Rush was used again during this to dive between cars.
Our demonstration wrapped up in a more linear style indoor level. Inside, Spider-Man’s movement is very different. He can still crawl on walls and ceilings, but swinging away in the small environment isn’t feasible. Instead he can Web Rush around the room, using it to gain advantageous positions over his enemies or enact context-sensitive environmental devastation on them. Returning from Shattered Dimensions is stealth gameplay. Many rooms of enemies are unaware of Spider-Man when he enters, and by using good positioning on the ceiling and walls he can often take down enemies with stealth. This of course isn’t you’re only option. In-combat the controls seem similar to the excellent combat system established with Arkham Asylum, letting Spider-Man complete simple combos with good timing, while countering attacking enemies. When enough combo hits are built up he can perform outstanding finishers on his opponents.
Finally we were shown a boss fight, in early development stages, with Rhino. Rhino of course charged across the room, requiring Spider-Man to quickly dodge and use context sensitive Web Rush moves to lure him into a shock trap. After stunning Rhino, Spider-Man proceeded to wail on him in an outstandingly acrobatic fashion, but the demo ended before we could see the conclusion of the fight.
I left feeling very confident about Spider-Man’s latest outing, and more excited for a Spider-Man game than I had been since Ultimate Spider-Man last generation. The game, while still in early stages, has great visuals and an acrobatic flare that I’ve yet to see in a Spider-Man game. The combat system and variety looks enjoyable, and the very personal design makes it easy to see how players can really connect with the hero like never before. You can look forward to the release of The Amazing Spider-Man on June 28th on PS3, 360, and Wii, just before the release of the new film.