Regrettably, what can be said about Marc Webb’s passable The Amazing Spider-Man can also be said about developer Beenox’s video game tie-in of the same name. The second-rate postscript to this summer’s first official superhero blockbuster is big on web-slinging appeasement, but lacks a true sense of creativity and newness that its cinematic counterpart also calls for in spades. Not only that, but much of The Amazing Spider-Man feels like a direct cut-and-paste job, an arachnid-husked clone of Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham City and its predecessor. However, as simply a response to the rabid requests from fans to allow for more liberating, expansive exploration, swinging around Manhattan with stylish speed and gusto as only Spidey can, Beenox fulfills this desire piously, but unluckily, it’s not quite enough to override the multitude of mistakes they’ve otherwise made. Unarguably, in all variations, be it Sam Raimi’s film or its well-received Treyarch-helmed PlayStation 2 supplementation, Spider-Man 2 remains the essentially unshakable benchmark for ubiquitous entertainment.
Beenox is responsible for both 2010’s above-average Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (despite its glitches, the gameplay prevailed due to its inventiveness) as well as last year’s botched Spider-Man: Edge of Time, so it’s a bit shameful to see how they’ve dropped the ball here once again with an intellectual property that comes prepackaged with such high potential. The Amazing Spider-Man is perhaps one of the most spoiler-y video-game correlations to arrive in ages, dropping plot bombs regarding the conclusion of Webb’s movie from roundabout frame two, so if you happen to be afflicted with spoilerphobia, beware of the consequences of playing the game before seeing the film, or just go ahead and avoid both entirely. The central storyline involves the pathogen let loose by Dr. Curt Connors, a.k.a. the Lizard, and its troublesome aftermath spreading quickly across the Big Apple. Additional villains round out a decent adversarial roster, including Scorpion, Iguana, and Rhino. Felicia Hardy, a.k.a. Black Cat, also makes an appearance in one of the narrative’s more well-executed passages. The actors from the film version don’t reprise their roles audibly, as expected, but the game’s auxiliary cast is generally adequate, with notable veterans from the voice-acting field such as Kari Wahlgren, Steve Blum, and Nolan North turning in worthy performances.
The Amazing Spider-Man’s combat mechanic is frequently diverting if you can manage to place the fact that it’s very nearly an Arkham City doppelganger in the back of your mind.
The graphics are nothing special, with commonplace interiors like robotics laboratories and yawn-inducing grimy sewers comprised of flat, colorless tones punctuated by little variation, and the concrete jungle of NYC is like one giant grayish, skyline-lit blur that rarely pops or elicits a sense of enthusiastic wonder as it rightfully should. Even though it’s so obviously reminiscent of Rocksteady’s successful blueprint, The Amazing Spider-Man’s combat mechanic is frequently diverting if you can manage to place the fact that it’s very nearly an Arkham City doppelganger in the back of your mind. Ballsy, full-frontal assaults come along with dexterous punch/kick combinations and nimble reversals; stealth maneuvers allow for traditional take-downs, and if you opt to strike while perched upside-down on an adjacent canopy, an amusing animation triggers, with Spidey entombing his unsuspecting targets in layers of webbing, then leaving them there to dangle from above like damp laundry. Sadly, these intermittently rewarding moments are plagued by an overall unpolished experience; lag and choppiness occur periodically, ruining any chance for consecutive fluidity during fights, especially the boss battles, which hardly feel like distinguishing, momentous sections as is customary for this genre (the difficulty level sits somewhere between effortless and mildly irritating).
Of course, there are numerous side quests to choose from in The Amazing Spider-Man, from putting a stop to low-scale arbitrary criminal offenses happening around the cityscape (burglaries, individual denizen infections, etc.) to the ultimately more gratifying yet time-consuming comic-book page-collecting. The former is assisted by the Gravity Rush-esque Web Rush ability, which, with a quick tap of a shoulder button, has Spider-Man flying across lengthy expanses of skyscrapers to meet his next mission waypoint. The latter is ostensibly Beenox’s response to the restless fanbase shouts of “We just want to web-swing around the boroughs for hours on end!,” and with 700 comic sheets scattered throughout the map you’ll likely still be searching long after the majority of your other more pressing objectives have been completed. The application of the PlayStation Move motion sensor wand adds a bit of liveliness to the control scheme (basically, point where you want to Web Rush to and so on), but it really can’t hold a candle to the casual accuracy of the standard DualShock 3.
The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t a terrible product, merely a mishandled one. Rather than erring toward the side of laziness by duplicating what has proved fruitful in the open-world category before (read Arkham City), Beenox could have contrarily drawn outside the lines—even taking a cue from its own Shattered Dimensions—by tweaking the superhero adventure formula, albeit ever so slightly, to conceive something more than just the next mindless popcorn flick in video-game form.