With The Amazing Spider-Man having successfully smashed the summer box office last year, Marvel turned to Activision to deliver a tie-in to their anticipated reboot.
At such point, the Wii U was still months away from launch, and so the arrival of Beenox’s take on the web-slinging hero on Nintendo’s high-definition machine can be seen as being somewhat late to the party. Yet that doesn’t mean that it isn’t welcome, arriving at a time when games for the hardware have already become few and far between.
Rather than running in tandem with the movie itself, The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition positions itself as a continuation of the big-screen adaptation’s narrative. It’s been months since rogue scientist Curt Connors ravaged New York City as the Lizard, now held captive within a Psychiatric Facility.
We pick up with Peter Parker and high school love interest Gwen Stacy paying a visit to Oscorp, who have been absolved of any wrongdoing since the movie’s events. Gwen largely suspects that the company is still continuing their cross-species research – a fact acknowledged by the company’s latest brainchild, Alistair Smythe, although he reveals they’re all due to be disposed of.
That is until they ferociously react when they sense Peter’s blood, breaking free of their containment and infecting the scientists – including Gwen – with the deadly virus that they carry. The cross-species escape to the streets and Spidey has a sizeable clean-up operation on his hands as he hunts for an antidote.
Whilst fairly eccentric on first impression, the narrative itself proves to be well-calculated throughout and throws up plenty of surprises to keep you on your toes. The script feels laboured in places, yet Spidey’s wise-cracking lines are a highlight and add a level of comedy to the experience.
Navigation across the city is joyous to behold with Spider-Man slinging his way down streets and across rooftops, story missions maintaining a forward momentum through the game from tackling enormous robots hell-bent on neutralising the escaped creatures, to Spidey tracking cross-species in the sewers for a cure.
It’s not just these that vie for your attention either, with Manhattan’s sprawling expanse becoming sprinkled with a range of activities. You’ll gather evidence for reporter Whitney Chang, return infected civilians to medical shelters, aid police car chases, prevent petty crime, assist police deadlock situations and plunder secret labs.
More are unlocked as you continue to progress, diversifying the experience away from an otherwise straightforward mission-to-mission structure, with further collectable comic book pages also up for grabs.
Combat becomes the game’s regular pinnacle, despite seemingly taking a few minor cues from Rocksteady Studios’ Batman: Arkham series. Yet Spider-Man’s acrobatic-style is implemented well, players able to fling themselves at targets using moves such as Web Strike, fire volleys of gooey web string to temporarily tangle enemies, or sneakily crawl along the ceiling to perform a Stealth Takedown.
Objects from the environment can also be slung at enemies to stun them, whereas defensive moves allow you to counter incoming attacks, Web Retreat allowing you to flee to the shadows to recuperate once your health is low.
With increasing quantities of baddies it can become tough on occasion, yet at such points, stealth is your friend. You’re also rewarded with experience and/or tech points through besting foes, which can be expended on numerous upgrades that strengthen and extend Spider-Man’s combat prowess.
Wii U GamePad implementation isn’t overly ground-breaking, providing access to a map at a glance with further menus enabling you to track messages and manage ability upgrades. Similarly, the game’s visuals aren’t particularly crisp, although rest assured this isn’t any indication of the Wii U hardware’s prowess as other console versions suffered the same.
It’s the on-disc inclusion of the game’s downloadable content packs that warrant its Ultimate Edition status, each accessed through a separate Challenges section on the main menu. Encompassing Gwen’s Hunter, Rhino Challenge, Lizard Rampage, and the Destroy the City Mission, with Spider-Man creator Stan Lee voicing his own cameo appearance within the self-titled Stan Lee Adventure Pack.
These are short-form challenge experiences that see you controlling Hunter robots, Rhino, S-02 Snake Bot, and the Lizard himself, opening the game up from purely being a Spidey-based affair. Superfluous, yet granting a few extra hours of playtime as you compete to improve your placing among online leaderboards.
The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition is an enjoyable, if not perfect, turn for Marvel’s arachnid-infused hero, and delivers a welcome addition to the Wii U’s expanding software library.