While Marvel Comics and Sony Pictures have helped fans engage with Spider-Man for years, it's Canadian developer Beenox that has done more to shape how people play with and interact with the famous wall-crawler than few other studios before. The developer behind most of Spider-Man's recent videogame adventures, including "Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions" and "Spider-Man: Edge of Time," Beenox was a no-brainer when it came time to create a game to coincide with this summer's new "Amazing Spider-Man" film.
During last weeks Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Beenox studio head Dee Brown invited Comic Book Resources to get a first-look at many of the gameplay and story innovations in the new game. Brown described it as not only the next in a long line of games but as "the next evolution of Spider-Man."
"The Amazing Spider-Man" takes a different tack than Beenox's previous games featuring original storylines, instead taking its cue from Marc Webb's reboot of the film franchise. However, this isn't a traditional adaptation as the game picks up immediately after the ending of the film and continues from there, ensuring the plotline of the game will surprise players at every turn.
Beenox focused on "four pillars" when building the game. The first is storyline, which will have a unique plot influenced by characters and story points from the film.
"We wanted the game to be awesome on it's own," said Brown. Rhino, a game villain who does not appear in the film, is an example of how that plot will expand on the new "Spider-Man" film universe. Major film characters Gwen Stacy and Curt Connors will be featured in the game as well, implying both make it through the film alive. The game will not be heavy on cinematics or cut scenes, instead letting the players experience the story through their choices. "I think we raised the bar on [storytelling,]" said Brown.
The second pillar is the idea of "being Spider-Man." Brown said Beenox wants the player to experience "living as Spider-Man" and to be able to immerse yourself in the character "like never before." The studio head gave the example of a closer camera that doesn't pull back when you web swing to give a bigger view, giving the player a true sense of vertigo the real Spider-Man might experience.
The new technique to achieve hyper-stylized movement called "web rush" is the third pillar of the new game. "Web rush" is a mechanic allowing the player to look around the environment in first-person, causing yellow Spider-Man silhouettes appear on every possible surface, no matter how near or far away. When the player selects one of these silhouettes, Spider-Man shoots off towards that location, using any nearby object to web or kick off in ways that would be extremely difficult or impossible for the player to pull off with traditional controls. "Web rush" is best described a bit like having an autopilot for Spider-Man, allowing players to "pull off some amazingly acrobatic moves."
The final pillar is the city of Manhattan itself, which Brown teases as "the ultimate Spider-Man playground." After a few years absence, a free-roaming Manhattan has returned to the Spider-Man videogame universe. "As much as people enjoyed 'Shattered Dimensions,' we still had people going 'well when can we get a new free-roaming [Manhattan?],'" said the studio head. "It is by far the biggest undertaking at Beenox."
While the game we saw was still an early build, the environment was breathtakingly large. Beenox has truly recreated New York City building by building and it is all viewable at once just by swinging up to any tall building. While Spider-Man swings through the city in the game, police reports and people shouting for help are all heard in the background, inviting Spider-Man to new adventures. The play test had Spider-Man swinging in to a perfectly recreated Time Square, although this Times Square also features copious amounts of OsCorp and Daily Bugle billboards setting it apart from its real-world counterpart.
The new "web rush" mechanic, which must be seen to be truly understood, will be essential to swinging around the city. While using a "web rush" players go to first-person view, time slows down, allowing you to pick your next destination without being rushed. Once you choose a destination, Spider-Man automatically shoots off to that location.
"You can pretty much go anywhere you want with a 'web rush,'" said Brown, "but what's really cool is that you just have to care about where you want to go, not how you are going to get there." The game will use "environmental objects that are there, maybes that’s a street sign, maybes that's a lamp post, maybe it’s a bus that’s driving by, and it will generate a sequence to pull off some spectacular moves [on your way to your destination.]"
While performing a "web rush," players will also have the option to stop at any time and perform a different action. Brown called playing this way "newbie mode," though, since it essentially negates the need to perform your own moves. For more experienced players, there's also a "web rush" shortcut mode, which allows you to start a "web rush" move without going in to first person view or slowing down time, giving players the opportunity "to link multiple 'web rush' moves which will help you navigate Manhattan in a really fast way." Speaking of webbing, Brown confirmed the game features unlimited webbing with the ability to upgrade Spidey's web shooter tech throughout the game.
Spider-Man will acquire missions both in the main narrative and side-quests found around Manhattan. In the example shown, Spider-Man responds to a police report about a car chase downtown. The hero begins the challenge by swinging over to a start location, in this case a police car. He then stops a crook's car as it swerves in and out of traffic. Using a "web rush," Spider-Man launches himself onto the hood of the get-away car and webs up the windows, crashing the vehicle and completing the mission.
Moving the action indoors, Spider-Man used his "web rush" to infiltrate "secret OsCorp facilities." The facility was guarded by heavily armed baddies who proved no match for Spider-Man. Using a "web rush," Spider-Man can now easily swing to a location behind an enemy and then "web rush" the enemy themselves, automatically webbing them in to a cocoon and stringing them up to the ceiling. Spider-Man can also "web rush" objects and throw or drop them on to enemies from a distance. This stealthy way of taking out enemies was directly influenced by the "Spider-Man Noir" sections of "Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions."
While "web rush" is a huge part of combat in "The Amazing Spider-Man," Spidey can still beat up bad guys the old fashioned way with kicks, punches and lots of webbing. Combat in "The Amazing Spider-Man" is based off the Mexican lucha libre style of wrestling with lots of over the top stylistic moves and flying takedowns.
Other small details Beenox put in the game include a degradable Spidey suit that never repairs itself, "so you can really feel the human behind the mask" -- unless you swing over to Peter Parker's Manhattan apartment for some DIY repairs or fresh threads. A live Twitter feed will also show what people are tweeting in New York City at all times.
Although there's a projected June 26 release date for the game, Brown noted it might take a while to finish development due to the massive size and scope of "The Amazing Spider-Man." "I don't know, that's a super-hard question for a free-roaming game," he said. "I personally have not been able to play through the entire game. There'll be a lot to do in the game."
"The Amazing Spider-Man" hits June 26 on XBox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS and PC.