Hands-On - Taking Activision's "The Amazing Spider-Man" Out For A Swing

With its last two games, "Edge of Time" and "Shattered Dimensions," Beenox has established itself as a development studio that real has a handle on the Spider-Man license. Over the course of those efforts, they managed to introduce familiar, favorite iterations of the wall-crawler (Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099) as well as lesser-know versions (Noir Spider-Man) and complex situations (time travel, mostly) that would make any comic book fan proud. But many were wondering when Activision would allow them to return to the open-world terrain that made their previously licensed efforts such bit hits, including "Ultimate Spider-Man" and "Spider-Man 2."

This summer, that wish is granted when the company will releases "The Amazing Spider-Man," an all-new game loosely based on the Marc Webb-directed film of the same name. In the game, players run around New York City as they complete numerous side-missions while delving deeper into a story involving the goings-on at Oscorp Corporation -- more specifically, the activities and experiments of Curt Connors, aka The Lizard. The events in the game take place after the film, but apparently the movie villain's experiments are still ongoing, with creeps like Iguana and Rhino threatening to wreak havoc on the city. As the crime fighting web-slinger, it's your job to make sure that doesn't happen.

Before its debut in stores later this month (a week before the release of Sony's big-screen romp), Activision invited CBR and the gaming press to an event leading into this week's Electronic Entertainment Expo, allowing us to go hands-on with Beenox's latest effort, to see how it shapes up compared to his other adventures.

Let's be right up-front about the thing most fans have in the forefront of their minds -- the developer has nailed the web-swinging aesthetic. You'll have no problem getting around NYC, hanging from skyscrapers and swinging smoothly through city streets. You have to move around on foot in the wide-open areas, but Spidey's quick enough that he gets through these spots rather quickly. For good measure, he can also run up the sides of skyscrapers, so he can get to the top and get a better look into the city.

In addition to the anticipated web-slinging, Beenox has introduced a new Web Rush mode which allows players to activate a first-person view, giving you a good look at your immediate area. Objects that you can web zip to are highlighted in yellow, leaving you to point at where you need to go, hit a button and immediately fling over to it. This is good if you're trying to evade enemies or quickly trying to grab stuff flying through the city, like hidden comic book pages.

We were able to complete a few missions in the city by looking at a virtual map and pinpointing objectives, which are highlighted with icons. This objective then lights up with a pointer in the real world, so you can swing right over to it.

The first objective involved taking out thugs involved with police officers in a shootout. It's here that your zipline-kick is put to good use, latching onto an enemy and then zooming in with a high-speed attack. It's also quite useful against armed thugs, as you can take them out before they fire on you. We used the kick a few times and managed to clean up the area pretty good.

From there, we engaged in a high-speed pursuit of a couple of bank robbers, using the web zip to land on the hood of their car. We gummed up the windshield with our webbing, while avoiding incoming fire from the driver's buddy in the passenger seat. This is a game where you have to rapidly tap buttons, and doing so successfully results in the bad guys' capture.

The final objective involves a street fight with thugs, and it's here we were able to see just how improved the in-game combat is. Spidey moves around with a great deal of agility, and he can chain together multiple hit combos with ease while using webbing to temporarily restrain enemies or "blindside" them before they strike. For good measure, Spidey is also able to turn objects in the environment into weapons, such as picking up a dumpster and hurling it at a thug.

Once we completed these objectives, we opened up a pair of boss battles. The first was with Rhino, who is pretty invulnerable to straight-up fighting. In order to engage him, we had to time his charging attacks perfectly, moving out of the way with a swift dodge, which in turn forced him to crash into a nearby news van. With him being temporarily vulnerable, we were able to land a good counter-attack, sending him crashing to the ground. Three rounds of this and he was down for the count.

The second part of the boss battle introduced a series of gliders, similar to Green Goblin's. These pesky creatures shot off energy bolts that turned into huge balls of plasma, which can cause harm if Spidey's within their range. They're easy to take down, though, thanks to Spidey's zip-line attack allowing him to home in on an enemy and make their glider explode. After taking down the other gliders, we focused on the larger one of the group. After a quick mini-game where we, again, had to tap buttons, we sent him crashing down right in the middle of Broadway to close the demo.

While "The Amazing Spider-Man" has excellent gameplay that really makes you feel like you're soaring through the city, it's the design that you'll really want to take notice of. Beenox has done a tremendously good job recreating New York City in digital form, so you can literally run around anywhere without worrying about load time or loss of detail. It's also pretty cool to see the world from Spidey's perspective in Web Rush mode -- though you can't really play the entire game in first-person view. Luckily, the camera gives you plenty of space, so you're able to see where you are, and, more importantly, when enemies are going to strike.

We're impressed with "The Amazing Spider-Man" thus far. It's a return to form in terms of letting players complete missions however they choose -- when they aren't running around the city screaming at the top of their lungs. C'mon, who doesn't want to try that at least once?

"The Amazing Spider-Man" will be released on June 26 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii.

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