While Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions wasn’t a bad game (let’s forget about Edge of Time), it was only a matter of time before Beenox was given a shot to put Spidey in an open-world Manhattan. This is where The Amazing Spider-Man comes in, tying in to this Summer’s blockbuster movie reboot. Games attached to movies have a sketchy history, occasionally providing some pretty good highs but far more miserable lows. Web Head’s latest movie game definitely isn’t E.T., but it’s no Goldeneye either.
One of the most noteworthy aspects is that The Amazing Spider-Man game acts as an epilogue to the film. If you plan on watching the movie spoiler-free, then it goes without saying that you should hold off on playing the game as characters are constantly referencing those events. Beyond that, the story is otherwise insignificant. In the aftermath of the movie’s resolution, there’s a viral outbreak that’s turning the citizens of Manhattan into cross-species mutants, much like the Lizard before. It turns out that Oscorp Industries continued Dr. Connors’ research despite the obvious side effects, and soon enough other super-powered cross-species such as Iguana, Rhino, and Scorpion are rampaging through New York. Connors is the only one with the knowledge to reverse the effects, so Spidey busts him out of the asylum he put him in, to develop a cure. Of course, there are other forces at work that will do their damnedest to make sure that the former Lizard that terrorized Manhattan doesn’t suddenly become its savior.
With the fact that the primary actors from the film lend only their likenesses (though Peter doesn’t even get that), one can’t help but think that this epilogue will have no bearing on the movie’s sequel despite the large-scale destruction and mayhem experienced throughout. As far as the story is concerned, it’s clear that The Amazing Spider-Man exists only to capitalize on the movie’s hype; which is too bad. Also unfortunate is how hit-and-miss the gameplay can be. On the one hand, swinging around the city is a blast. The physics feel true as you propel yourself between skyscrapers, building speed and momentum with well-timed thwipping. Despite its simplicity, web-swinging works quite a bit differently than it did in previous Spider-Man games. Specifically, you don’t always need something to attach your web to. You’ll always be able to swing away from a standstill – even if it’s at the top of the Empire State Building. And you’ll never hit the ground so long as you hold the swing button. While it’s not realistic to be able to get through Central Park this way, it beats the alternative of running like a chump.
The Amazing Spider-Man also introduces the Web Rush, which allows you to slow down time and zip either onto a perch or directly into an enemy to engage in combat. While it’s useful as you whip yourself around the city collecting comic book pages (an addictive aside that unlocks digital comics), there’s little need for it once you’re in a fight. Conversely, the game also introduces the Web Retreat to Spidey’s arsenal, which yanks him from harm’s way and into the shadows at the touch of a button if he’s overwhelmed.
The combat itself is where The Amazing Spider-Man begins to unravel, unfortunately, as it’s simply not very good. The mechanics are heavily influenced by Rocksteady’s Batman games. There is one button to strike, another to counter, stuns via web shooter rather than a cape, and several takedown combos. The sad thing is they are outclassed by Batman in just about every respect. Spidey’s motions seem gawkish as he takes down goons and bots, and it’s not uncommon to completely miss an enemy that you were meaning to hit. Countering can also be touch-and-go, with your Spider-Sense sometimes triggering too late and allowing enemies to get cheap hits in. It’s highly frustrating, but there’s no sense of satisfaction either because of how easy it is to bail on a tough fight.
Ultimately, The Amazing Spider-Man fails at being consistent one way or another. While the character models for Spider-Man and his cross-species rogues gallery look good enough, “normals” such as Gwen Stacy and Dr. Connors are dead-eyed stiffs with terrible lip-syncing all around. The borough of Manhattan looks fine as long as the sky isn’t overcast, where excessive bloom lighting makes it hard to see anything. Meanwhile, going indoors subjects you to laboratory after laboratory, after sewer after laboratory. Usually they are slathered in acidic goo left behind by cross-species enemies in a half-assed attempt to make levels more dangerous to traverse. The thrill of collecting comic pages is canceled out by the monotony of playing ambulance for dozens of infected citizens.
What Beenox has delivered isn’t a terrible game, but that’s hardly comforting. There have been good movie games, superhero games, and Spider-Man games. Hell, we even got all three at once with Treyarch’s Spider-Man 2. While the developer’s third crack at the license and the freedom of an open-world Manhattan held promise, the end result is far less than amazing.