'Amazing' by name, merely 'Good' by nature
Beenox have had a rough time with Spider-Man games recently - Shattered Dimensions faltered critically, and its follow up, Edge of Time, didn't do much better. However, with The Amazing Spider-Man, there comes a feeling that those games were merely test subjects, a dry run for a 'real' Spider-Man game. Developed alongside those two titles over the past 2 years, The Amazing Spider-Man represents a new direction for Beenox's Spider-Man games, more in line with the publically adored Spider-Man movie games of the past. And whilst it boldly lives up to its legacy as a spiritual successor in that regard, there are still enough issues to be found in The Amazing Spider-Man that stop it from quite living up to the 'Amazing' part of its name.
Set after the events of the new Sony movie (which as of writing, bizarrely, is yet to be released - so the game spoils several major plots points for the film even in the first few hours of play) of the same name, Peter Parker, now fully established as the webslinger, is witness to the break out of several 'cross-species' monsters - that so happen to conveniently be similar to several of Spider-Man's famous villains, including The Scorpion, Rhino and Iguana - at Oscorp's labs, which bring chaos and a deadly plague to Manhattan in the process. With his girlfriend Gwen Stacy already infected, and Oscorp's new CEO Alistair Smythe (voiced here by the ever-charming Nolan North, firing another shot in the great North/Baker voice acting war of 2012) sending hordes of robots out to fight the cross-species that also class Parker himself as a target , Spider-Man eventually turns to Doctor Curt Connors (a.k.a The Lizard, the villain from the movie) to help him find a cure for the cross species infection and fight back Smythe's army of Robotic drones. Although elements the cross-species monsters and outlandishly giant robots are a little jarring when placed into the slightly more grounded and realistic world that the new movie establishes, what follows for the next 8 or so hours of the game's story mode is a fairly passable tale. It's a original story that definitely benefits not being beholden to the movie's plot itself - whilst a little pedestrian, it's enough to keep you interested as you progress. After the story ends you're given free reign to swing around Manhattan and finish off collecting comic book pages or snapping photos to unlock bonus outfits, but aside from the same repeating side missions there isn't that much to do.
Unlike Beenox's previous Spider-Man games, The Amazing Spider-Man takes a leaf out of the much loved Spider-Man movie games of the past (particularly Spider-Man 2), by once again returning to Manhattan as an open world playground for you to swing around in. Although it takes time to open up fully, and there are only a handful of repeating 'random crimes' for you to stop that eventually become a little too repetitive, the satisfaction of merely swinging around New York, collecting comic book pages (which in turn, once completed, become fully readable digital copies of famous issues of Spider-Man comics from yesteryear, from the first appearance of Gwen Stacy, to the origins of the hero himself in Amazing Fantasy) and occasionally beating up muggers is enough to grab you for a while. The web-swinging, although somewhat simplistic - you can either press and release the right trigger as you swing, or merely hold down for continuous swinging - feels great, like you're just on the verge of losing control, and there's a sense of speed to the spectacular animations of Spider-Man twirling his way around that makes traversing the city enjoyable. This sense of speed also lends itself to the game's new traversal mechanic, the 'Web Rush' mode. Holding the right bumper brings you into a first person view, slowing down time and highlighting areas that Peter can web-zip to, making traversal fast and direct. These points can be strung together through just tapping the button too, treating you to a dizzyingly fast acrobatic display from Spider-Man that looks amazing to watch. Web Rush can also be used in combat too, highlighting either objects Spider-Man can interact with, or individual opponents you can target for a web strike attack to get up close. It's an interesting mechanic that plays to the strengths of the character, and helps to jazz up an otherwise pedestrian combat system. Although it borrows heavily from Rocksteady's Batman games, it's much more simplistic - you can build combos up to perform a 'signature move' to finish opponents off, and dodge incoming attacks with your Spider-Senses, but most of the time you're just hammering the X button until an enemy is on the ground. It's kept from being too monotonous through some utterly fantastic animations from Spider-Man himself, who unlike Batman is very light and nimble in combat, flipping around and unleashing lightning-fast flurries of kicks and punches. In larger groups of enemies, it becomes a joy to watch Spider-Man dance around his opponents, even when you realise your own input as a player is decidedly barebones. There's a level-up mechanic that allows you to upgrade and learn new skills as well, but these rarely have much of an impact on the combat outside of increased damage or Spider-Man's durability. Overall, whilst the combat cribs just enough from the Arkham games to be interesting, it doesn't go far enough to make it as compelling as those games - however, balanced out against the enjoyable traversal mechanics it stops the gameplay from feeling too empty on the whole.
Whilst overall visually The Amazing Spider-Man is rather pedestrian (Spider-Man's suit however, stands out as a very nice model, with great texturing), where the game really shines visually is in its animations. Spider-Man moves, well... like Spider-Man should. He's athletic, lithe and acrobatic, bouncing his way around the city and through fights in a bevy of twists, spirals and web-aided slings. There's an agility to the character that embodies the player with a profound sense of speed, and it's greatly handled most of the time - although this speed can sometimes hinder the game, with the almost over-the-shoulder camera perspective sometimes failing to keep up or accurately display your surroundings as you blitz through them. It would be remiss to not also mention the voice acting. Unlike past Spider-Man movie games, The Amazing Spider-Man does not feature the vocal talents of the movie's stars - most notably absent being Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as Peter and Gwen - which creates this bizarre tonal inconsistency wherein these characters vaguely look like their movie counterparts (Gwen particularly has a bit of a rough transition into the game's world, but on the whole character models are good), but the voices coming out of them are completely different. The biggest difference comes in Spider-Man himself, who is admirably voiced by Sam Riegel - it's very different to Andrew Garfield's Spidey voice, but it's a great, light hearted and sarcastic portrayal of the webhead that is highly reminiscent of the Comic Books.
In all, The Amazing Spider-Man does enough to rise above Beenox's past Spidey titles, and the majority of movie tie-in games as well - but not quite enough to live up to its own moniker. There is an interesting enough base here for Beenox to hopefully develop on and expand into in a future game, one that could live up to Spider-Man 2 in the public eye. The Amazing Spider-Man certainly has its moments - but in too many areas the game fails to go beyond anything other than just above average, and that holds it back from being a must-play title for anyone other than a die-hard Spider-Man fan.