This week, Zero Punctuation reviews everyone's favorite web slinger.
You know, sometimes I wish I was a film critic. A video game that's twice as long as a film still gets laughed out of the locker room by its orifice-cripplingly long peers, whereas if I was a film critic, I could watch six films in a day and spend the rest of the week pulling birds with my John F. Kennedy impression and everything else I imagine Bob Chipman does with his spare time.
But I guess the other man's arse is always cleaner -- video game criticism has its advantages besides the fact that "video games rule and movies drool." For example, statistics show that only 20% of the people who start playing a game will finish it, so I can pretty much say whatever I like about the end of a video game and 80% of you buggers have no choice but to believe me! The Amazing Spider-Man was a recent movie which was [totally fantastic / above average / watchable / poor / about as much fun as sifting through a vat of funnel-web spiders for your pet black widow (Delete where appropriate)] and I ended up playing the video game tie-in, and I will say straight away that I thought it was very odd for the game to end with Gwen Stacy fisting Peter Parker with a handful of baby grasshoppers.
The game is set after the film which I haven't seen but it hardly matters -- I'm going to assume there was some adversity but it was basically sorted out by the end and an awful lot of people in their mid- to late-twenties tried to pass for teen agers. For the video game to take it upon itself to do the sequel is certainly ballsy, but you can predict ahead of time that every single character is going to wind up right back where they were at the start of the plot in case the studios decide they can squeeze an official sequel out of this continuity, assuming they don't decide it's time for another reboot because more than 17 minutes have passed.
With Dr. Curt Lizardy-bum behind bars, a new threat emerges when Oscorp uses his research to create a new race of hideous animal people because, hey, they don't want to have to rely on Mexican day-labourers forever. Unfortunately, this leads to a hideous, mutating plauge being unleashed upon the people of New York City which gradually escalates until-- Wait, didn't this happen in Spider-Man: Web of Shadows? And by some strange coincidence it's set in the same city. You'd think they would've tightened up the quarantine regulations by now.
Understand that I wouldn't have touched this game with a ten-foot internet pole if console releases weren't always pretty fucking miserable around this time of year. But then again, the Spider-Man 2 tie-in game was surprisingly great, and The Amazing Spider-Man also takes the free-roaming approach.
So when it was just a little spider step from being really really good, but no big spider jump down into the rotating knives and they fucked it up. And they fucked it up the way they always fuck it up having it so you web-sling around the city by pointing at where you want to go and holding down a button, unlike Spider-Man 2 where you have to manually time and angle your web-slings carefully to maximize your speed. Would it be reasonable to say that we might play a Spider-Man game because we want to know what it's like to be Spider-Man? To think as Spider-Man? And, indeed, to frequently fuck up as Spider-Man? Not because we want to be a little gnome that lives on Spider-Man's shoulder? Amazing Spider-Man goes one further; there is literally a button that allows you to pause the game and point to where you want to go, whereupon Spider-Man will just go there. And then you click your little gnome heels together and show him the way to the leprechaun's gold.
So this is one of those games that's too cool for its players, and only content to let them ride shotgun in its cool car if they agree to duck down at the first sign of hot mommas. Every single boss fight is beaten with the ancient secret martial art of Press-The-Indicated-Button-When-We-Say-So to make Spider-Man execute some lengthy pre-animated finishing move, taking control from you before you can do something completely embarassing.
And when it's not being the cool guy reluctantly bussing yo honky ass from place to place, it's being a nervous mother at the playground ready to whisk you away at the first sign of boo-boo and seal you in laminated plastic. The opposite button to the one that lets you point to the place and go to the place is the "Go-To-Any-Place-Besides-This-One-Where-Things-Are-Fast-Shitting-The-Bed" button, which you slam like a pornography enthusiast mashing Alt+Tab as the boss walks in to make Spider-Man immediately lose his pursuers and hide upon a random wall. "It's okay," reassures the game, "we leave no crap-out behind in these parts. You just swing down and have another go once Spider-Man has finished regenerating his health while making really unnatural gasping noises like an anime character trying to make a decision."
Interestingly, the actual missions are largely stealth-focused, which makes sense because when I look at a guy dressed like a patriotic circus acrobat who constantly reads from his stand-up set that his aunt assured him was hilarious, I think, "Here's a guy who wants to go unnoticed!" Or perhaps more appropriately, "Here's a game that wants to be Arkham City!" Except it's laughably easy to stealth take-down everyone because you can do it from anywhere on the ceiling, not just selected gargoyles. It's touch-and-go at that point whether or not Spider-Man does one of his really long pre-animated stealth take-downs that maximize the chances of being spotted by someone else, but if that happens you can just hit the "I-Just-Pissed-My-Pants" button once or twice and the enemy will instantly forget where you went, what they were doing, and how guns work.
One could argue that the whole webbing-dudes-to-ceilings thing doesn't make Spider-Man completely unsuited to stealth gameplay, but I feel something has gone wrong with a superhero game when I can web-swing into an encounter with three ordinary dudes with assault rifles, and they subsequently pound me into mulch before I've got the first wisecrack out.
You know, some people disliked the new redesign of Spider-Man's costume and it seems many of them were on the dev-team of this game, because by the end of pretty much every mission, Spider-Man looked like he was trying to wear a brightly coloured shark-fishing net three days after the warranty ran out. But Arkham City and Asylum both had gradual costume deterioration and Amazing Spider-Man wasn't about to be shown up, dammit!
Ultimately, the game is let-down by its lack of teeth. It's unchallenging and, for all its obvious aspirations, never more than an insipid fish-paste sandwich to Batman's fearsome whale penis baguette. And it fails to learn the most important thing Batman could've taught it, and that's to have a hero who keeps his trap shut before the player starts fantasizing about grinding a corkscrew into his fucking jaw. Spiderman cracking wise is supposed to be what makes him popular, but when I'm trapped with him for the average length of a console video game, I always end up wishing he'd take copying Batman to its logical conclusion and get himself beaten up by Tom Hardy wearing a mask he made from Darth Vader's Y-fronts.
Playing video games in his late twenties: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
I don't actually know if anyone disliked the new Spider-Man costume, but I have been on the internet long enough to make an educated guess
Yeah Dark Knight Rises was alright I suppose
So the Escapist Expo is still in September and you should still totally come, but also in October I've got a second novel coming out! It's called Jam, and you can preorder it from Amazon and tfaw.com.
It's about an apocalypse.
With jam in it.