You know, I find it funny that five years ago, a decently sized portion of gamers did not trust licensed titles whatsoever. I mean, sure – Spider-Man 2 was excellent for it’s time and the sequel wasn’t half bad, but that stigma didn’t really disappear until Arkham Asylum showed the market how it should be done. Yeah, we still don’t trust a lot of these IPs, but super hero based romps have gotten much better over time – as everyone wants to be the next franchise to take the leap. Who better than Spidey?
Last year, The Amazing Spider-Man was released to decent praise, bringing back the hero after a few mediocre releases that have popped up on shelves during the past few years. It didn’t shatter records or blow our minds, but it was still a huge jump into the right direction. The Wii U has seen almost all ports since it’s launch, and even though that does become a tiresome sight, getting those blue cases on shelves is a good thing. The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition brings together the full package of the original game we seen last year, adds a few tricks with the Gamepad, and throws in every bit of DLC as a nice bonus. It sounds like a great port, but does Peter Parker swing and miss in his big debut on the Wii U? Let’s find out.
Unlike most movie tie-ins, The Amazing Spider-Man starts it story right after the movie finishes. Yes, this does mean there will be a few spoilers if you haven’t seen the film – but by now I imagine that most can either give it a rental or have already seen the somewhat “ok” reboot of the franchise. Back to the game, shortly after the events of the film, Peter and Gwen find themselves in a total outbreak, with Gwen and a growing number of citizens becoming infected by a cross-species virus. Along with the help of Dr. Connors and Ms. Stacey, this narrative becomes a battle against time and a lot of fodder goons as Peter hunts for an antidote that may or may not save the day.
Yes, it is quite the predictable plot, but it isn’t terrible by any means. Much like all of the other open world entries we have seen, there is a lot of smooth pacing into large events and plenty of cutscenes and collectable recordings to literally put the player in the role of our favorite web-swinger, and Marvel fanatics are sure to enjoy the fan service Beenox pumped into the final product. This story isn’t really rushed or boring by any means, but it does seem a bit lacking considering all of the material this game could have ran on. Sure, saving Gwen and the city is always going to be the primary objective, but when you start to find the side plots (such as the one with Whitney Chang) more captivating than the main story, it can be a bit of a letdown to be forced to go back into a tale that lacks the proper punch.
If you don’t have that swing…well, you know the rest. Thankfully, The Amazing Spider-Man does indeed have it, and then some. I know that is an odd way to start speaking about the main gameplay of the video game adaption here, but it’s very important to tell how exceptional Spider-man’s acrobatics in air truly are. With a tap of the shoulder button, players can find themselves diving through the city at high rates of speed, with the wind crisply slamming into Peter’s suit. It’s one of the most accessible and enjoyable features in the game due to the scope of the city feeling so large, but it’s also the main reason the rest of the game never comes to par with those exhilarating moments.
When The Amazing Spider-Man is at its best, we are doing battle out in the city, flinging from building to building and dealing with both powerful and aerial based foes that are primed with heavy weaponry. You see, the web-slinging ability in combination with the polished in air combat makes these battles feel as epic as you would expect, but they are too few and far between compared to the much more lackluster fodder battles. By “fodder”, I am talking about those moments where you are required to take on wave after wave of standard human and mechanical enemies alike, crawling through dark and dreary sewers just to solve a simple puzzle. Sure, there is plenty of enjoyment to be found on land, but even with the hefty amount of upgrades and tricks up Spidey’s sleeve, they just never match the excitement found in the great outdoors.
The combat itself, and by that I mean your standard punches, kicks, and grounded web abilities – all come together nicely to give our hero a well rounded arsenal to take down any foe that crosses his path. Flipping into a foe from a wall and smashing up baddies “the old fashioned way” comes off as fluid and effortless, reminding us of that same kind of quick and chained combat we seen in the previously mentioned Batman: Arkham Asylum. As more experience is built up, new abilities can be unlocked to further the usage of Spider-Man’s techniques, coming into play during a few missions involving stealth, escape, and general progression. The Web Rush, which is also introduced here, allows for newly added quick-time events to not feel forced, while letting Spider-Man zip from one area to the next safely. This means that if you notice an area with a ton of deadly obstacles around it, you can easily perform the technique to skate across unharmed. While in boss battles, this ability is also used to let Spider-Man slow down time and lock in on a particular target. Yes, there are a few quick time events in these bouts, but the Web Rush helps shatter that image, letting the player feel more in control.
Web Rush, like a few other areas in the game comes with a little bit of frustration. I understand that this is a new mechanic, but others might not be as forgiving when they rush to the wrong area time and time again. Other techniques have a habit of missing as well, meaning that patience comes to be a bit of a requirement while dealing with narrow spaces that require the ability everywhere. The setting itself however is where the heart of the game truly lies. Sure, there will be a lot of forced indoors filler for the plot, but once outside, that feeling of freedom takes over. As I mentioned, swinging through this locale is a blast – but it comes without much focus. From time to time, an objective will appear giving you reason to fly the cityscape, but this comes with little award other than experience and makes the game begin to feel limited as a result. To make up for this, Beenox packed in a ton of collectibles to pick up and photos that must be taken, so those that have a love for completion will at least feel satisfied until every last item is found.
As far as the Gamepad goes, there isn’t a lot to say. I first want to praise Beenox for not going the Arkham City route and tacking in a cheesey feature like the “batarang”, but it’s obvious the full potential of the controller wasn’t explored upon for this port. We do however get to wipe those corner maps off the screen, as your map lies solely on the device – along with the cell phone, making the Gamepad your one-stop menu that can be controlled with a few taps and swipes. The Ultimate Edition proves it’s true worth however by including every bit of DLC that was seen on consoles, with even the Stan Lee quests that are filled with references and fan serviced dialogue.
Visuals and Audio
I’ll start off by saying that as you can see in the screenshots within this review, The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition is just as stunning as it appears on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. With that said, the Wii U’s offering falls short in this area due to performance, rather than look. During the first few minutes of the game, you are placed in a cutscene with Gwen, and can only control the first-person perspective of Peter’s head to look around. Right off the bat, screen tearing rears its ugly head, and continues to be a distraction as the game becomes cinematic. Sure, it doesn’t break the experience, but it does make the game feel a bit rushed. I have seen and played nearly every Wii U game to date, and sadly – The Amazing Spider-Man is one of the worst offenders when it comes to chugging, frame-rate drops, and tearing. Those issues are not always prominent, but they do show that more polish could have been applied before this port was shoved out the door.
The audio does indeed fare better. I think I would have liked to have seen the on-screen performers voice the game, but that in all honesty never turns out too well for these types of adaptations. Instead we get a solid cast that still perform their dialogue well, making this narrative feel as big-budget as the flick. Music wise, there isn’t as much to note, but the intense tunes bode well in big battles, while more subtle sound effects capture wind and background noises give the game a more realistic feel. As for Peter Parker, well, his zingers start to grind after a couple of hours, but it’s a video game, so the player will have decide their own preference before hitting the mute button.
The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition is yet another hit and miss port. On the good side, all of the same features, visuals, and scope of the original has made it to the Wii U untouched. On the other side, we have screen tearing, bland Gamepad integration, and a script that is a bit lackluster. That being said, this is indeed a great game to see on the Wii U, and with it’s many bonus DLC packs and discounted price, there really is nothing to stop fans of the flick from feeling guilty for double dipping. I know everyone wants to make that next great film to video game adaptation, but this title – Ultimate or not, is just not quite there. There is a lot of promise on this disc packed in along with the solid experience we already knew existed, making this one Wii U title to consider for the backlog down the road. Beenox however have proven they know how to handle the franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man, and as long as their name continues to be attached to our favorite web-slinger, we can rest easy knowing the city will be in good hands.
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