Doing Fan Service Right: The Amazing Spider-Man

Loving both your children equally: how Activision is giving licensed games the original IP treatment.


Let's face it, video game adaptations from films don't have the best reputation with players--and it's usually for good reasons. Many are vapid, shallow experiences created on the cheap to profit from unsuspecting suckers with an interest in the original source material. So you can imagine our surprise when, during a demo for the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man, we saw a film-tied game that wasn't about turning a quick buck, but rather about celebrating the history of one of Marvel's most recognisable faces. Here are five things we think this upcoming superhero game is doing to stand out from the crowd of mediocre cash-ins.

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Strong ties to the source
Framed as an epilogue to the events of the upcoming cinematic reboot, the game takes place after the credits of the movie have rolled, but will continue the game's biological augmentation story. Where the character Rhino first appeared as a guy in a suit, here he's the real thing as a genetic hybrid of man and animal. This adherence to the Sony universe canon rather than Marvel's comic rules gives developer Beenox a chance to work closely with Sony Pictures to dovetail the two products together and in some cases even feed new ideas back into the film's world.

Fan service
The Amazing Spider-Man game builds on and nods to the game's rich comic legacy. Due to licensing issues, or other extenuating factors, some superhero games have been forced to scrape the bottom of the barrel with unlockable in-game collectibles. The results in the past have been 3D character models, concept art, or soundtracks. Marvel's newfound interest in digital comics has sparked the generosity torch, and because of this, The Amazing Spider-Man will offer fans 10 full, free digital comic books to collect page by page over the course of the adventure. Some can be found discarded on the streets of the city, while others float through the sky, requiring you to use all the abilities in your arsenal to locate and acquire them. The result is nearly a dozen full issues that can be read cover to cover through the game, and possibly online.

Lets players be Spider-Man
Developer Beenox felt that the distance between the world and the character model made for a disconnected, puppet-like experience. Its solution to make this a more intimate experience is to considerably increase the amount of the real estate Spidey takes up. Player information onscreen has been kept to an absolute minimum, with only a simple reticule used to mark your targets. Players who are after maximum immersion can remove this completely for a totally HUD-less look. There are no Web resources to manage, and that means Spidey can keep doing his thing wrapping up bad guys and swinging without ever having to consider reloading ammo or stopping for a rest.

Does whatever a spider can
The game's new Web Rush ability works two ways: it mimics Spider-Sense to draw attention to points of interest around the city that are perfect for those classic comic and film poses. Once engaged, players go into first-person mode and have the environment overlayed with orange locations marked. Selecting one performs a flashy set of leaps and swings to automatically take you to where you want to be. Web Rush can also be used to slow down time and give you a chance to react in the heat of combat.

Spider-Man is a swinger
Lastly, is swinging. While it might seem an obvious point, it's such an intrinsic piece of Spider-Man's look and feel that it's surprising it has taken this long to get such a solid implementation. There are no anchor points to search out and latch on to, and watching Spidey swing like a pendulum from the top of skyscrapers all the way to street level was slick and smooth, helping to convey a genuine sense of locomotion. Add this to Manhattan's open-world gameplay, and quests to discover, and the city felt more like a playground than a setting waiting to be conquered.

We're impressed with what we've seen of The Amazing Spider-Man so far. More importantly, it gives us hope for major publishers to put the same resourcing and care into its licensed properties as it does its own IP. The game will be webbing shelves in late June or early July to coincide with the film's release.

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