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With ol’ Spidey’s latest claim to fame releasing last week, I’m going to take a look at just how the series has developed in the past. When we think of Batman, we tend to think of two essential games – Arkham Asylum and City – the winged fellow with the yellow badge has certainly had a smoother ride than the one who shoots webs. Especially in this current generation of games, it hasn’t been easy on Spidey, and many of his huge fan base are demanding that he goes back to his roots. So, back to his roots we go…
Spider Man really kicked off on consoles back in 2000 with, sure enough, Spider-Man on the PlayStation. The game consisted of climbing buildings, taking hostages and swinging through the air whilst taking out the ‘baddies.’ Sounds familiar right? The latest Spider Man instalments have used many of the same concepts it used back in 2000, but perhaps hasn’t excelled in them whether that be due to controls or another matter. IGN gave Spider-Man a 9.0 score and claimed it was arguably the best Spider-Man game at the time. A few more Spidey games followed suite shortly after, but shared the same basic ideas. It was 2002 when Spider-Man finally made his way to the PlayStation 2 and XBOX with, what do you know, Spider-Man. Again, it shared the same basic concept as 2000’s Spider-Man however opinions were mixed. Reviews were generally positive but many believed that the voice acting and camera (still problems in todays Spider Man games), held it back from being perfect. It was also too short – you could complete the story in just 3 hours. Regardless, it sold over 2 million copies on PS2 and over 400,000 on XBOX and Gamecube in North America. On the whole, Spider-Man games were certainly being well recieved and 2002’s Spider-Man was followed up by Spider-Man 2 in 2004 with similar status.
So where did it all go wrong? Well, as soon as we entered our current generation of gaming really. Spider-Man 3 released in 2007 with average/mediocre review scores, many ranging from the 50’s – 60’s area. Once more, the game retained many elements of it’s open-world predecessors such as terrible voice acting. However, the game was praised slightly more as it was said to work well with the new Nintendo Wii Nunchuk. Things really started to go down hill in 2010 when Beenox took over – a developer that had been helping out before, but not making the game solely on it’s own. Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions went linear – no longer was Spider-Man all about the open-world, rather, a poorly controlled and voice-acted mess. The game was certainly innovative enough and had a nice art style as well as some cool ideas; you would play as 4 different characters each with their own abilities but their stories all intertwine. The stealth Spider-Man was particularly interesting but none of the cool ideas were never really pulled off thanks to shoddy camera controls. When it comes down to it, a game can have great ideas, but it needs to put those into practice, and the gameplay in Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions soon becomes dull. However, it was respected a bit more than Spider-Man 3 with most reviews in the 70 area.
It was last year when you had to start worrying about Beenox’s future as a developer. Countless developers have been closing down lately, most recent of them being Radical Entertainment (known for the Prototype series, sharing a similar concept to Spider-Man in some ways.) Spider-Man Edge of Time – again, developed by Beenox – was very similar to it’s predecessor, but where Shattered Dimensions failed in not putting it’s innovation into the game, Edge of Time just didn’t have any. Reviews were negative, and many agreed that there was far too much repetition and that the series was becoming stale with many review scores ranging around 50. However, there is still a fan base for Spider-Man out there and I know some people who buy all of the games – they might not have been as good as they can be, but the films could have been their saving grace.
The latest instalment in the series – The Amazing Spider-Man released this week (developed by Beenox) and shows more promise than previous releases. So far, reviews have been fair, and perhaps Spider-Man can pick up the pace once more and return to his roots. Hee has partially done that as his latest outing returns to open-world Manhatten, so no more linearity and fiddly camera controls. After all, this game should be better as Beenox claim they have been working on it primarily since Shattered Dimensions as Edge of Time as a secondary project. So, does the future look bright for Spider-Man and is he amazing after all? It’s not clear just yet, but he’s on the right track.