Video game franchises simply don't come with a more chequered, patchy history than Spider-Man. Over the years, Activision's virtual evocations of the arachnid superhero have delighted and disappointed in equal measure, so there was a certain sense of trepidation in the air when Doug Heder, the company's producer of the latest instalment, The Amazing Spider-Man, recently demoed it extensively
For once, though, relief ensued, as at least conceptually, The Amazing Spider-Man is everything that a Spidey game ought to be.
When developer Beenox first thought about The Amazing Spider-Man, it faced more traps than the Prince of Persia. Chief among which is the one into which its last two Spider-man games, Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time, hurled themselves into. Namely, that the one thing above all else which Spider-Man fans want to be able to do in a game is to swing around an open world (invariably Manhattan) just like their hero. You'll be relieved to hear that you can do that in The Amazing Spider-Man. Heder obliquely alludes to this: "The game has some old stuff that we've not done in Spider-Man for a while."
Then there's the fact that it's a game-of-a-film - which often spells disaster. Except wisely, in this case, it takes its cues from the film of the same name, rather than trying to recreate it, as Heder explains: "We're not retelling the story of the movie: it starts immediately after the movie ends, so it covers what happens next." Story-wise, it should be pretty fresh and original, since the movie is a franchise-reboot that features a raft of new characters.
WEB RUSH THE SHOW
Heder introduced us to a new mechanic which features heavily in The amazing Spider-Man: "It's called Web Rush. You've heard of Spidey-Sense; well, Web Rush is like a big extension of that. It lets you slow down time, giving you the breathing space to tactically choose moves and attacks. You can turn it on or off at will."
Moving onto the demo, we saw it operating when Spider-Man was indulging in a bit of open-world traversing of Manhattan: activate Web Rush and he will stop, while yellow Spider-Man ghost images appear on pretty much any building you can see. You can, of course, just pick one, and Spidey will make his way there. Heder said that moving in such a manner will trigger different animations than the ones you get using the standard swinging engine, so there's an extra bit of incentive to use it. And once you become proficient with it, Heder maintained, you can flow around the city with great accuracy.
Heder explained that there's plenty of open-world-type stuff to do: Spider-Man can foil crimes he comes across, in time-honoured fashion - we saw him get involved in a high-speed pursuit, by jumping onto a getaway car and eventually stringing it up in a huge web between two lamp-posts - and there are puzzles, challenges and races waiting around for you.