The Amazing Spider-Man: Caught in a superhero web

July 26, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man is equal parts Batman: Arkham Asylum and inFamous, and the combination works. The game story picks up after the film is over; I won’t spoil any story beats for you here, but I also can’t advise you whether the game contains spoilers from the film. What I can tell you is that, as a game, The Amazing Spider-Man is fun, but the inspiration draws are obvious, and I found myself missing those games instead of thinking that Beenox took a good idea and made it great. What really happened is that they jammed two great games together and got a good one.

The combat is reminiscent of Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum with one key difference: the move set isn’t as deep and has a rhythm that’s too forgiving. While Rocksteady encouraged the player to time Batman’s strikes perfectly, Beenox encourages the player to mash away at the attach button until the room is clear. Where Rocksteady encouraged the player to plan out a sound attack strategy in a predator room, Beenox has given Spidey an easy way to retreat (the left bumper action is actually called “Web Retreat”), regroup and regain health. Some of the fault here lies with level design because there are some encounters with armed enemies that are nearly impossible to complete unseen.

Where The Amazing Spider-Man sets itself apart from Arkham Asylum is Spidey’s ability to use objects strewn about the room. Many items can be interacted with, like soda machines. Spider-Man, with the press of one button, can pick up a soda machine and throw it at the nearest enemy. The resulting explosion and stun duration make it possible to stun everybody around, subdue them with webbing, and then rake in some experience. And while that’s neat it seems too powerful and easy to abuse. Whether it’s too many armed enemies in too small a space or too easy to use object the balance in combat never feels quite right.

Outside of missions, Spider-Man is free to roam the streets and skies of New York City where he can collect 600-plus hidden collectibles or stop petty crimes. Stopping petty crimes is ridiculously easy, since it’s Spider-Man against one opponent. Whether armed or unarmed, no one thug is a match for the player. It’s fun to swing around the city put trackers on police antennae, but stopping crimes isn’t fun. Chasing down getaway cars is fun, but if I never stop another mugging I won’t be sorry about it.

Collecting comic books isn’t great either. Without any way that I found to add collectible locations to the map I wasn’t driven to round out my collection. Sure, I’d hit RB to grab a book if the prompt came up, but I never could force myself to scour the city for them like I could when collecting blast shards in inFamous. With all the cribbing Beenox did from other games, they really dropped the ball on collectibles. Look back a generation, and make collectible locations a quest reward like Rockstar did with Bully or implement a more organic system like Rocksteady did in both Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. They already lifted the combat concept, including the counter indicator, so skipping the excellent collectibles concept seems strange.

It’s hard to put a license to good use, and The Amazing Spider-Man is no exception. There’s nothing done here that isn’t done better somewhere else for a lower price. If you’re a die-hard Spider-Man fan, then this is certainly the game for you. Everybody else should be playing other superhero games with better combat and better mission variety. It’s not aggressively bad, which is a step in the right direction for a movie tie-in, but we’ve still got a way to go before carrying a movie license is a boon instead of a boat anchor.

Pros: Combat looks good, chasing getaway cars is fun
Cons: Combat is too shallow, stealth is poorly thought out, collectibles are annoying to collect

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.