The Spider-Man franchise has seen its share of highs and lows, due in no small part to Activision's effort to make sure there's always another title on the horizon. And with a reboot of the film series coming this summer, there's yet another opportunity for the games to reinvent themselves.
So it is that Beenox is plugging away at The Amazing Spider-Man. We were shown a short demo at GDC to check their progress, and it's shaping up in a few interesting ways.
One of the most apparent changes to the web-slinging formula is a greater focus on Spider-Man on screen. The camera has been pulled much closer than it has been in past games and Spidey pretty well dominates the screen (particularly when perched somewhere). He looks fantastic, with a ton of detail applied to his costume. While invincibility had been enabled for the purposes of our hands-off demonstration, we were told that Spider-Man's costume will take battle damage and look even better as the game is played.
The close-up also has an interesting effect on web-slinging. While flying about, Spidey can occupy up to as much as the center third of the screen and as the camera is focused on him, everything surrounding him moves by in a vertigo-inducing blur. It's a cool effect, but one which I would expect to be a bit of a challenge to try and navigate or control until you've managed to get the hang of processing all the visual information.
Spider-Man's "Web Rush" move will help with this, though. It's a refinement of the "Web Zip" we've seen in nearly every game in the franchise for the last ten years, in which Spider-Man fires webbing and pulls himself swiftly toward his target. Using Web Rush, the player will be able to quickly navigate an environment by targeting where you want go and pressing a button to execute an animation which gets you there. When using the ability, the game suggests places to move, but any surface can be targeted and Spider-Man will perform a series of jumps, flips and flings which make use of surrounding terrain to reach this destination.
It's pretty cool to see in action, full of all the high-flying contortions one has come to expect from the character. The implementation looks promising as well. While you will be able simply target and go, players will be able to ease themselves in to using this ability by pausing the action and surveying their environment before committing to an action. The HUD even pops up with helpful indicators of suggested places to move or environmental objects which can be interacted with.
The open exploration of Manhattan is back in full effect, including "crime in progress" events in which Spider-Man can intercede. You'll get to chase after people escaping in cars, disabling their vehicles in a QTE sequence, same as it ever was. Peter Parker's camera will be returning to the series as well and you'll be able to snap pictures of Spidey, reviewing them later on a laptop in the game.
Interior action is feeling like a much more significant change. At one point in our demo, we were shown a mission where Spider-Man infiltrates an Oscorp building to recover some stolen research and, all of a sudden, I realized that I was now watching a demonstration of Batman: Arkham City where everyone was wearing the wrong costumes. Spider-Man may be climbing on walls, but that just confers an additional stealth advantage as he can move literally anywhere to perform a silent takedown.
Combat mechanics, too, seem almost directly lifted from that other comic book game, using a very similar freeflow system. As Spider-Man fought a crowd of foes, flipping and jumping, the inspiration remained apparent -- even driven home as we were shown how to use Web Rush to escape combat and enemy attention to resume stealthily eliminating foes.
None of that should be construed as a criticism of Beenox. If you're going to make a comic book game at this point, Arkham City is the lead to follow and our demo of The Amazing Spider-Man suggested it could be every bit as much fun to play. Some elements of the build we were shown were still pretty rough around the edges in terms of animations, and there are a lot of elements still being worked on. This concerns me a little bit, given that the game is scheduled to be released just a few months from now on June 26, a week prior to the arrival of the new film in theaters. Potential exists, however, that this will be remembered as more than just the Spider-Man game which released in 2012.