Traversal may have been overhauled but the core game draws on the same models of missions, (halt the getaway car with a street-sized web, save the girl from leather-jacketed tough guys) collectibles which reward with comic books and character models, and upgrade trees. That's not to say it's not improved - at least there's no delivering pizza.
Social media brings a new angle to story and character progression. During loading screens, convincing forum posts advance the plot ("Yo! I saw the Lizard last night 4 real!"), while your phone can be whipped out mid-swing to set waypoints and show emails. It makes the universe more believable.
Get to ground-level, however, and the immersion's ruined by a lifeless series of samey streets with driver-less cars and pedestrians with ridiculously overwrought reactions. Like a hive mind, crowds will often flee in apparent terror for no reason then at once immediately regain composure and resume AI routines. It's only a problem outside the story, which takes you indoors for a little stealth/combat.
Traversal of mental asylums, research labs and secret facilities is clumsier given the confines, but levels open out into wide and high hubs facilitating obvious attempts to ape Arkham City-style room-clearing. Those sections were perfect for Batman, making players at once vulnerable and badass, but for Spidey they're not such a good fit. There's plenty of spectacle but zero tension; there's nothing preventing you from slingshotting an explosive canister at a crowd then Web Rushing away.
In Arkham, guns were the ultimate deterrent, making careful planning a necessity. Here they're just annoying, even in combat sections which see you use a mix of luchador suplexes and breakdancing to take out Oscorp guards armed with stun batons and riot shields. It tries to champion timing, featuring a momentum meter rewarding with powerful attacks if the last one lands, but there's little of Batman's finesse or timing - despite it looking the absolute business.
The stealth and combat are lagging a bit behind Batman, then, but you can't say it's not a smart decision to follow Rocksteady's footsteps. You can, however, call up Beenox on the story itself. Set immediately after the film, the fates of Oscorp, The Lizard and Gwen Stacy are all explicitly detailed in the first five minutes. If it were a forum post, it would come with a big "SPOILER!" warning.
Yes, it's well-told epilogue introducing a few familiar baddies the movie couldn't accommodate (classic foes like Rhino, Vermin and Scorpion have been reimagined as cross-bred experiments), but it basically ruins the film. Save it until after you've seen it.
The missions are tight and cinematic, while Web Rushing's smart workaround makes you feel full-on super-powered. Get to street level, though, and the illusion is shattered. Definitely fun, definitely playable - but Arkham City can rest easy.
- Traversing New York's a cinematic rush
- Web Rushing enables superhuman swinging
- Entertaining missions, neat social media angle
- Expands the universe with new locations and enemies
- See the film first - the massive spoilers here will make you rage like the Hulk
- Stealth and combat is way behind Arkham City's
- They forgot to design New York at ground level