“Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can” and more! In this iteration of the Spider-Man franchise you get to play not one, not two, but four different “Spider-Men” from multiple universes developed by Marvel Comics. The story begins with Amazing Spider-Man battling Mysterio and in the process he shatters the “Tablet of Order and Chaos” into multiple fragments that spread across the four Spider-Men universes. Each Spider-Man is tasked by Madame Web to gather the fragments in their respective realities and battle the villains that have acquired those fragments.
On spinning up the game, I was immediately impressed by the intro video’s quality and entertainment value. Madame Web walks you through the tutorial and takes you on a trial run with all the different Spider-Men you will be playing as in each dimension. What stood out was the cel-shaded graphics that gave the Amazing and Ultimate universes a comic-like feel which made the game look really stunning. The Noir universe was also visually appealing with great use of shadows and lighting when moving around in the dark. The downer was the 2099 universe that felt very cheesy and cheap as the environment was overloaded with bright lights and colors that served more of a distraction than enhancement to the actual game. In fact, it was sometimes hard to make out enemies and perch spots in this universe. But overall the artists have created environments that are well made and detailed. The in-game characters are drawn beautifully as well. The video interludes and cut scenes also serve the game well and do not slow down the pace of the game for you as you are allowed to skip past previously watched cut scenes. My biggest gripe was the awful camera angles when web crawling walls and irritating movement controls associated with it. On some occasions Spider-Man would move in the direction I intended and on most, he would not.
Each of the Spider-Men are voiced by actors that have had experience voicing previous Spider-Man series or games. Amazing Spider-Man is voiced by Neal Patrick Harris and Christopher Barnes, who is known for his work in Spider-Man: The Animated Series, voices Spider-Man Noir. Dan Gilvezan portrays Spider-Man 2099 and Josh Keaton, the voice of The Spectacular Spider-Man, voices Ultimate Spider-Man. Overall audio and sound effects complement the game well and the story narration by Stan Lee gets you excited to play the next boss level. The witty wisecracks by the different Spider-Men do distract from the game play a little too much. Although t here were times I wanted to face palm myself at some of the jokes.
Each boss level gives you the option of playing them in easy, normal and hard mode. Beating each mode gives you their respective extras such as character bios, concept art and 3D figurines. While going through each level you have the option of collecting in-game silver and gold Spider Emblems that not only provide you the in-game currency, called Spider Essence but also help replenish your health pool. Spider Essence is essential in purchasing and upgrading the combat and character upgrades for your Spider-Men. Another key component in the upgrade process is the unique challenges that every boss level presents. You have to clear a certain number of overall challenges to unlock the next set of combat or character upgrades. They could almost be considered as an in-game achievement system and most of the challenges are easy to accomplish just by going through the level like you normally would. To assist in tracking the challenges in each level the developers have provided you a Web of Destiny that acts a codex for all available challenges and displays the unlocked challenges when you beat the ones closest to them on an interlinked spiderweb. You can also track up to three challenges at a time that show up in the top-right corner of the screen.
The meaty part of the whole game is the game play and combat! Being Spider-Man is all about web swinging and web zipping from perch to perch. In the event you find yourself falling you are provided the option to hit the right trigger to launch you back up safely in the air. As I progressed through the game and upgraded my character I found using the left trigger button to dodge and evade is the key to being successful in multiple enemies and boss encounters. Your Spidey senses tingle (shows up over your head) when certain enemies are about to attack you that require a quick dodge and roll away from them. Besides evading attacks, chaining your combat moves plays a really important role in taking out enemies quickly. I initially felt cheap using the Web Strike + Web Strike Bounce combo but it was such a fun and effective move combo that I could not stop myself. However, that does not mean that combat moves you perform don’t have a chance to fail. In fact, while performing certain moves your Spidey senses will tingle. Thus, warning you of pending failure so you can avoid getting knocked back down, or you will have to hit the X button quickly.
Another useful tip is to activate your Spidey sense mode because finding hidden spiders (for challenges & Spider Essence) and Spider Emblems become much easier. I would also highly encourage you to explore the current area before you move on to the next in each level as the world is not totally open. So if you miss a hidden spider or Spider Emblem you will not have an opportunity to go back and get it. Of all the Spider-Men characters you play, Amazing Spider-Man is the only one lacking a unique combat mode even though he does have a varied arsenal of combat moves. Spider-Man Noir gives you stealth take downs, Spider-Man 2099 has the accel mode that slows down your enemies and surroundings and Ultimate Spider-Man has rage mode. Each one of these play a vital role in combat and not having one in the Amazing Spider-Man universe almost makes combat somewhat bland when using him.
Boss fights are not reserved for the end of the level. In fact, some levels start with boss fights to give you a taste of what to expect later. Each level also gets progressively easier and faster as you get familiar with combat and acquire new and more powerful combat/character upgrades. At the end of each level is a rating system that evaluates that level’s best combat rating, best collection (Spider Emblems), best clear time, and an overall Spider rank. The various in-game speed challenges and level rating system give this game a definite replay value as well.
So the game on a whole is very enjoyable to play and the developers have done an excellent job of putting together a package that does not feel repetitive and boring. If anything, you actually feel very much like Spider-Man swinging around dodging attacks and bullets while incapacitating your enemies with your web shots. The only black mark was the awful camera angles and movement controls while web crawling that made me avoid moving or interacting with the game environment. Unless forced however fortunately, the game more than makes up for it with the visuals, game play and combat. I purchased the game from Amazon and received an art book which includes the code to unlock the Iron Spider-Man costume early on in the game (pictures in gallery). So if you have not procured this game… what are you waiting for?!
*Images taken from Marvel Comics