The Playstation Vita is a fantastic handheld console, more powerful than anything that’s come before it, and in the right hands it’s capable of producing amazing graphics, sounds and gameplay experiences. However, for whatever reason, up to this point it’s failed to sell in any great quantity. In turn it has seen its versions of multiplatform games given decidedly short shrift, often being based on the less technically demanding 3DS version rather than taking any advantage of the Vita’s power.
The Amazing Spider-Man however is an exception, taking its basis from the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game, including their open-world rendition of New York. The question is whether if, in doing so, Beenox have actually bitten off more than they can chew.
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room – this is a port of a movie tie-in that released in June 2012 so it’s safe to say that it’s well past simply being tardy. The film’s sequel is actually due in the next few months, but back in 2012 The Amazing Spider-Man was a fun, if slightly repetitive superhero game that dealt well with Peter Parker’s world so, with that as its foundation, the Vita version could be the perfect way to bridge the gap while you’re waiting for the new film to come out.
The game is set a few months after the events of the first movie and centres on Oscorp’s continuation of Dr. Connor’s cross-species research, which before long goes awry, causing a viral outbreak. With Gwen Stacy amongst the infected it’s up to Spider-Man to find a solution, and sees him breaking Dr. Connors out of an asylum to assist him. This leads to some classic Spider-Man duality, with half of New York blaming him, while the other half root for him as he helps to contain the contagion.
It doesn’t take long once you’ve started playing to see that some concessions have been made in squeezing the game onto the Vita. There’s no escaping that it’s ultimately an ugly game, and my initial impression was that it looked more like a PSP game rather than a Vita one, with environmental pop-in, cardboard-esque buildings and poor character models. The exception there is Spider-Man himself, who’s both well animated and textured, holding up to scrutiny in close ups and cut scenes.
The technical issues don’t end there though, as swinging about the open-world New York causes the framerate to crack under the pressure, regularly dropping into the 10-20fps region. Matters do improve when performing missions indoors, but the city itself should be the most enjoyable part of the game and it simply isn’t, being hamstrung by technical problems. To a certain extent the movement around the city reminded me of Gravity Rush, but with none of its refinement, and using that as a touchstone of what the Vita is capable of The Amazing Spider-Man falls distinctly short. You’d almost wonder if it had been rushed out if not for the long delay it suffered.
The sound design is a relative highpoint, with Sam Riegel’s Peter Parker quipping his way enjoyably through every encounter while the rest of the voice cast, including the ubiquitous Nolan North, put in strong performances. Alongside the sounds of the city your mobile device can be upgraded to intercept communications from both the police and Oscorp and lets you know when new targets have appeared, all of which helps bring you further into the world.
The themes used are generally understated, peaking at important moments, and there are some nice little touches such as the audible cue when you’re near one of the collectable comic books found around New York. A slight negative I found whilst playing through headphones was that all of the speech is noticeably compressed which proved distracting at times. It wasn’t a problem through the speakers though.
The gameplay marries the web swinging action we’ve come to expect from Beenox’s Spider-Man titles with a combat system that owes a lot to Rocksteady’s Batman games. It’s a rewarding set-up and it allows you to string together huge combos, with your spider-sense cue consistently allowing you to dodge and counter-attack the games various enemies. There are also stealth takedowns which prove invaluable during a number of missions and I found these sections particularly enjoyable albeit derivative.
There are occasionally some control hiccups, particularly when wall crawling indoors, but while they’re annoying they’re not game-breakingly bad. It’s a shame that when moving from outdoors to indoors where most of the missions are set there are some excruciating loading times, but Beenox have tried to alleviate the wait with both game hints and forum posts from civilians in-game. The posts are often amusing, and give you a sense that you’re helping real people by dealing with the outbreak.
Along with the main storyline there’s plenty to keep you occupied in the open world sections, with collectible comic books, escaped mental patients and infected civilians to ferry, muggings to stop, police action to participate in and hunter robots to take down. Whilst they’re not necessarily the most taxing portions of the game they do a good job of further expanding the universe and breaking up the main storyline.
The Amazing Spider-Man on Vita is at heart a good game, with all of the content of the home console versions available to you on the move. However the technical flaws and shortcomings that occur could potentially diminish your enjoyment depending on your outlook on such things. Personally I was mostly able to look past them and enjoy swinging around New York whilst aiding the citizens that live there. Equally though, you could find it impossible to ignore such major bugs in a re-release of a game you potentially played nearly two years ago.