Monday, October 8, 2012

He doesn't swing that way

There is only one answer to the following question: of all the Spider-Man games of the current and past generations, which is the best?

Spider-Man 2, of course, but why? It was an open world super hero game, something that we have gotten quite a but of recently if you are willing to lump Prototype and Infamous in along with Hulk Ultimate Destruction, so it is certainly not unique. Graphically it was reasonable at the time. The combat was, frankly, boring and the random missions all boiled down to catching balloons released by incompetent children or saving the suicidal from themselves. The one thing that it got right was the one thing that it absolutely had to get right for it to be accepted as something Spider-Man: the swinging. Specifically, the feel of the swinging though the city. The player was responsible for maintaining momentum, for changing direction and not careening into buildings, for landing in the right place at the right time. There was a learning curve to it, but once it was overcome simply exploring the city without touching the ground was as much if not more fun than anything else the game had to offer.

Flash forward quite a few years, past two good Spider-Man movies, one bad one and one superfluous reboot, and a new company has taken a shot at free roaming web slinging. Beenox's previous takes on Spider-Man have all been pretty good for a company whose early efforts included Guitar Hero Smash Hits and the Bee Movie game. I am actually rather found of Shattered Dimensions and it steam punk Spidey. None of them had the swinging right, though, focusing instead of stealth or combat. Good action games, but not good Spider-Man games. The Amazing Spider-Man is finally a direct follow up to Spider-Man 2. It goes without saying that it looks better. The side missions are slightly more interesting. The combat steals most of the good parts of Arkham Asylum. None of that matter, of course, unless the swinging is fun.

So is it? In a word, no. The entire process is far to automatic. Hold in the right trigger to swing. If you want to gain altitude hold in the left trigger as well. To aim at and reach a specific place start web rush mode which stops time for a while and point where you want to go. It works but it isn't any fun because the player is never in control. Beenox either couldn't replicate when Activision did in 2004 or they thought expecting the player to maintain their own momentum while not running into things was just too much to ask. Either way, we lose. All the ancillary parts have been improved but what really matter was left behind.

Imagine Arkham Asylum or Arkham City without Batman's hook shot or the batarang. It just wouldn't be the same. I don't care about the Amazing Spider-Man movie reboot because I have little invested in the character or his boring rogues gallery. What I would like is for someone to make a game about him as good as one I played eight years ago. I wonder if Beenox has even played it.


Dishonored shipped from GameFly on Saturday. The game doesn't even come out until Tuesday. I am confused. And excited.

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