Comic book movies have been immensely popular for the past few years but they generally have at least one blasé factor associated with them: the game tie-in they have is usually uninspired, rushed, and/or not up to industry standards. The Amazing Spider-Man has dropped into theaters and the Spider-Man professionals over at Beenox have been tasked to churn out yet another adventure based around Spidey’s newest rebooted film. Only a year has separated each of Beenox’s last three Spider-Man games and the haste of the short development time shows, but despite that enough of the Spider-Man spirit comes to the forefront to make it worth a look.
Ignoring the fact that it released before the movie, the game’s story takes place after the motion picture. I made the stupid mistake of flip flopping, so right off the bat, most of the movie’s plot details were spoiled due to events in the game. I could have only wished it had been the other way around because the plot and storytelling in the game is pretty atrocious.
An infection is spreading throughout Manhattan and Spider-Man must fulfill his duties and find out a cure, along with fixing the cross species abominations he unintentionally released into the streets of New York. The premise is a tad promising along with a few instances, but it is told in such a way that is reminiscent of a PS2 game. That’s to say back from a time where storytelling was mostly terrible. No event has any sort of weight or impact due to wooden animations, a mediocre script, and character models that lack detail and the scarce moments that have a shred of potential are quickly dashed away due to poor pacing and even poorer execution. The missions reflect this, as most don’t have much to do with plot at its core and they feel like ways to extend playtime. Crushing deadlines and pressure to release a product neutered any traces of potential and the game was left with a limp story as a result.
Spider-Man’s ability to save the city also might a metaphor as his web swinging saves this game. Okay, this is a slight exaggeration, but the traversal is some of the finest out there. While constricted levels stem out from the city, Manhattan is a giant playground ready for Spider-Man’s webs to swing about. The camera is pulled up right into Spider-Man’s grill, giving a more personal sense to moving about and selling how kinetic the motion feels. Swinging up as high as you can then plummeting to the street only to save yourself at the last possible second was thrilling no matter how many times I did it and I did it a lot. Not only was it stylish but it was also extremely effective, a big checkmark in an open world game such as this.
The web rush move works in conjunction with swinging and allows for a finer touch that the normal swinging doesn’t provide. By holding down the shoulder button, time slows as you peek through Spidey’s mask. This shows pivotal points that he can either automatically perch on, enemies he can attack, objects he can interact with, or places he can leap to. Without this function, it would all too easy to overshoot or undershoot the desired targets and the game would become much more frustrating as a result. I almost always felt in control of situations and even though it is rather automatic, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
However, I can’t say the same about the combat. Brawling directly lifts from Batman: Arkham Asylum, but heavily lacks the finer technicalities along with the broad strokes that makes the Arkham games such engaging titles. Striking and countering is the crux of most fights, along with an under utilized grab move, but it lacks aspects that I took for granted in the previously mentioned games. Batman can fall into an entrancing rhythm when it is being played right and Batman encourages this in multiple ways (more damage, bigger multipliers, etc.). Spider-Man makes it too easy to just mash on the attack button without much caution, leading to fights that feel messy as a result. Countering is made a bit more difficult because of the zoomed in camera and how it is hard to immediately distinguish who is actually throwing the punches due to the Spider Sense being displayed only over Spider-Man’s head. Other oddities like the ability to easily lose a combo, the shaky responsiveness of the special moves, the puzzling lack of animations, and the shortage of choices within the fights leave the combat to be frustratingly out of touch and desperately lacking finesse. It isn’t bad, as I enjoyed some of the fights if I switched off the critical part of my brain, but the fact that it tried to replicate Batman but couldn’t compete made it more disappointing.
The stealth component shares many similarities with the fighting. Simplicity can be fun at times, as sneaking behind an unaware enemy always yields some sort of kick, but it isn’t fleshed out as well as Shattered Dimensions, let alone the aforementioned Bat. Clinging to the ceiling and immobilizing a guard is delightful at its core, but it isn’t as deep as it should be. Since Spider-Man cannot crouch or hide behind many objects, he is either completely invisible or in plain sight. To combat this, enemies are fairly stupid, failing to see Spider-Man right near them in most situations. Because of this, it feels necessary to always be in the rafters with little to no room to improvise or change up the strategy, which is a way for stealth games to shoot themselves in the foot. Like I said earlier, the simplicity isn’t always bad, but seeing other games with much greater depth makes Spider-Man’s shortage in that department seem perplexing.
Any superhero game has a mandate to have plenty of boss fights and Beenox did just enough to have meet the standard. While they don’t hold a candle to Shattered Dimensions‘ efforts in that division, most fights utilize Spidey’s knack for quick movement. Brawls with the cross species are passable and would frankly be bland if they were in any other game, but jumping around the battlefield to gain a tactical advantage was a joy that other games don’t usually hit on, even if the boss fights are better there. A couple of boss encounters take place within the city with very mobile enemies, making for the best moments in the game. Hunters fly about the city with the agility to match Spider-Man’s and they meld the traversal mechanics well with an actual climactic encounter. It felt like a tease since there were so few of these.
Not everything about the city can exhibit a similar amount of polish that the swinging shows. As most open world games are apt to have, side missions pepper the world, but some are questionable. Saving civilians from a pack goons makes sense, but tracking Spider-Man through a camera while you don’t even play does not. Others are just repetitive like rescuing patients or stopping car chases because they feel the exact same every single time. Car chases and grabbing flares are ridiculously easy to beat and don’t add anything of worth to the game. Stopping deadlocks between the cops and mercenaries and finding the Oscorp Labs (read: stealth missions) were not bad, but it felt like most side missions were unneeded fluff that didn’t seem to require any thought.
The Amazing Spider-Man angered me a bit. Obviously it wasn’t a pile of spider crap, but it had mountainous potential that was partially squandered due to Beenox’s annual releases and the pressure to put out a game in time with the movie. The rushed feel extends to almost every aspect from the visuals, story, combat, stealth, and level design even though no particular part is outright bad (except the story). Beenox could probably knock this out of the park if given a bigger budget and longer development time because they have the talent and have proven it with Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Regardless of schedules, The Amazing Spider-Man does just enough things right in the systems it has to make it worth at least a rental. A more fitting title would probably be The Pretty-Good-But-Not-So-Amazing Spider-Man.
+Traversal elements like swinging and web rush are responsive and make movement a pure joy
+Combat and stealth are passable, simple fun in most scenarios
+Most boss fights are gigantic and take advantage of Spider-Man’s abilities
-Storytelling is archaic and pretty bad
-Combat and stealth lack nuance and don’t always seem set up in the best ways
-Most of the game, especially the last act, feels a bit rushed
Final Score: 7.5/10
Platform Differences: The PS3 version supports the Move. I can’t judge on how it works since I don’t have a Move, but it is worth mentioning.