The Amazing Spider-Man is a sequel to the upcoming movie of the same name. As a warning, that means that this review may contain film spoilers. It's not possible to discuss the plot without ruining things. You know the outcome, and you know who lives and dies. As such, I'll try to limit how much I discuss the story or characters beyond Spidey. To the game's credit, the sequel-focused plot is reasonable fun and feels like a good thing to play right after seeing the movie. The story is a bit cheesy, and the dialogue is weak, but as far as movie tie-ins are concerned, this is the way to go. It might have been better to wait until people had actually seen the movie, but it's a lot more fun than Spider-Man 2, which recycled the film's plot.
The Amazing Spider-Man is divided into two types of gameplay: outside and indoor. Outside gameplay puts you on the vast island of Manhattan and is primarily focused on web swinging around and completing side-missions, interspersed with the occasional boss fight. To the game's credit, web swinging is pretty fun and easy. It lacks of the visceral impact of Spider-Man 2 but makes up for it with simple and exhilarating gameplay.
You have two primary methods of travel: web swinging and web zip. Web swinging is done by holding the right trigger, and it's pretty automated. Spider-Man automatically swings from a nearby building, assuming there is one of reasonable height nearby. Spider-Man's actually swinging from invisible boxes in the sky that are designed to trigger when you're near an appropriate building, but the illusion is good enough to not distract. Web zip allows you to instantly zipline to a location. You can hold down the web zip button to activate a "bullet time" mode to highlight every available spot nearby.
Indoor gameplay is similar, but with decreased mobility. Your web swinging becomes nearly useless, and your web zip becomes practically necessary. The indoor environments are far less interesting than the outdoor environments, as they tend to be indistinguishable underground tunnels or boring laboratories and lack personality. The camera has the most trouble indoors, especially when climbing on ceilings. It's never quite to the point of being unplayable, but you'll spend a lot of time staring at walls and corners while trying to right Spider-Man's viewpoint so that you can see where you're going. It is to the game's credit that this rarely becomes a problem. When you really need to be fast, the game puts you in a wide area so that it isn't a huge problem. With that said, the camera's lack of lock-on really hurts certain combat mechanics.
Combat in The Amazing Spider-Man is Arkham City-style combat, almost to the letter. You have a punch button, a dodge/counter button, an evade/jump button, and a "signature move" button that doubles as your web shooter. You use punch to build up a combo, and once you build up enough, Spider-Man goes into a freeflow mode where he attacks harder and can use his signature moves. Dodging is identical to Arkham, with Spider-Man's "Spidey-sense" popping up to let you know when you should press it. If your spider-sense is red, you have to avoid the attack instead. Pressing the Circle button shoots webbing, which can temporarily immobilize your enemy, and holding it grabs him with a web line and throws him at other foes. The web shooting is awkward, lacking the impact and the assisted targeting of Batman's batarangs, and that will likely mean that players won't use it unless they have to. Signature moves are different than those in Arkham City, but not in a significant way. Damage an enemy enough, and he'll be stunned; pressing the signature move button at that point instantly defeats them.
You can also use a Web Strike attack at any time. Pressing the same button you use to zip also highlights enemies and certain objects in the environment. You can smack into enemies and then quickly dart away from them for quick hit-and-run attacks. The environmental objects are the closest thing to an instant win button. If you Web Strike one of these, Peter instantly picks it up and throws it at the ground, knocking out any nearby enemy. It puts every enemy into a state where you can instantly knock them out by approaching and pressing the signature move button. It's as powerful as it sounds and discourages straightforward combat, as these objects are in every combat arena.
The biggest problem is that the game attempts to mimic Arkham City's combat system — but without the amazingly tight design. In Arkham, enemies with special defenses are vulnerable to certain moves or gadgets, and each move has a distinctive purpose. As far as The Amazing Spider-Man is concerned, there are three useful moves: punch, web strike and webbing. Every enemy is trivialized by these attacks because a majority of fights can be won by smacking punch and then hitting dodge. The same can theoretically be said of Arkham City, but the difference is that Arkham encourages you to use different abilities. In The Amazing Spider-Man, the fastest way to win a fight is to pound buttons or to web strike an environmental object, followed by a signature move. The combat can be fun, but it's extremely limited and unpolished when compared to its inspiration, Arkham City.
The same can be said of the stealth sequences. As long as the wall-crawler hasn't been seen, he is considered to be in stealth mode. If you approach enemies while staying out of sight, you'll have a small purple web aura, and any enemies who step into this aura can be instantly defeated with a stealth takedown. Upgrades to this allow you to hang enemies from the ceiling or defeat multiple enemies at once. It sounds like Batman, but the major difference is that there's almost no variety to the stealth. There's only one tactic: Climb above enemy and hit the R1 button. This never changed at any point or for any reason. If you should get spotted, you have to hit the L1 button, and Spider-Man does a web retreat, which instantly returns you to stealth mode. Batman offers a lot of choice in handling stealthy situations, but Spider-Man turns it into a repetitive affair.
This isn't helped by the fact that stealth in The Amazing Spider-Man is, perhaps, too strong. Aside from areas where it is impossible, there's little reason to not use it. In almost all cases, it's quicker and easier than fighting. Enemies with special defenses are instantly defeated by a simple stealth takedown, and the ability to return to stealth mode via basically nullifies any risk. You don't have to worry about getting caught, but you can simply prey on an entire room without difficulty. Whereas the Predator rooms in Arkham City represent some of the coolest moments of the series, similar rooms in Spider-Man feel like a pale imitation.
This is made most clear in the way the game handles personal and technology upgrades. The personal upgrades are improvements to Spider-Man's powers. They let you do new attacks or have more time in Web Zip mode or similar power-ups. Technology upgrades are improvements to Spider-Man's gadgets, primarily his web shooters. You unlock personal upgrades in the same way as you do in Arkham City. Defeat enemies, complete side-quests, and find unlockables for experience points. Earn enough, and Spider-Man gains a point to spend on a power. Technology upgrades are more like money. Defeat robotic enemies, and they drop tech salvage that you can use to upgrade your web shooters. The problem is that a majority of these powers are worthless. You can upgrade to destroy turrets so it works when they've spotted you, but why bother when you can Web Retreat and then destroy them right afterward. There are a few powers that are darn near essential, such as reducing the number of combo attacks to enter the powered-up combo mode, but the rest are stuff you'll grab because there isn't much else to get.
Oddly, the bosses in The Amazing Spider-Man are both the high and low points of the game. The fights against Alistair Smythe's Spider Slayer robots are awesome. The robots are dangerous, epic and huge. Battling a gigantic snake monster as it rampages through New York City might be a final boss in other games, but it's just one of the giant beasts you battle. Smaller enemies are less exciting. The "cross-species" supervillains, such as the Rhino or Scorpion, tend to be short, repetitive fights. They take place in enclosed, cramped arenas, and most of Spider-Man's natural agility is nullified, turning the fights into straightforward brawls. The monsters also tend to be very similar, with many of the cross-species fights feeling like a palette-swap instead of a creative and interesting fight. There are good boss fights here and there, but the supervillains are probably the weakest point. That's rather disappointing, considering the quality of Spider-Man's rogues gallery.
There's a lot to do in The Amazing Spider-Man. Aside from the main story, there are a lot of optional side-quests to earn extra experience points. Truth be told, a lot of these involve swooping down and beating up muggers or carrying disabled people to a hospital, much like in older Spider-Man games. Some are bad, such as the inexplicable minigame that involves keeping Spider-Man in the camera's viewpoint. There's a lot of fun to be had swinging around the city, saving people and being a good superhero. Perhaps the lengthiest side-quest is the ridiculous hunt for hidden comic books. There are over 700 to find scattered throughout the city. This ridiculous hunt isn't that bad, as the game will tell you when you get near one, but it's still a lengthy process. As a reward, you unlock actual digital comic versions of famous Spider-Man issues to read. You can also unlock new costumes for Spider-Man by finding hidden emblems throughout the city, but at the time of this writing, it seems that most of those are time locked, and you'll have to wait to access them all.
The Amazing Spider-Man isn't the best-looking game on the market, but Spidey's animations and nice and fluid, and his combat and stealth takedowns look and feel appropriately weighty. My biggest complaint would be that the indoor locations are bland and lifeless, feeling like a bunch of generic corridors instead of the interior of a monster-infested sewer or the under-siege interior of Oscorp's secret labs. There's very little effort put into making the areas feel distinctive, and it's pretty easy to get turned around at points because both directions look almost the same. The voice acting is not bad. It's a bit hokey in some spots but otherwise does a good job of giving the characters personality. Spider-Man's voice actor in particular does a solid Peter Parker, although I am unable to compare him to the movie version at the time of this writing.
The mechanics are smooth and the gameplay is fun, but The Amazing-Spider-Man is relentlessly average and destined to be forgotten in the annals of time. The game displays a bunch of promise that it never manages to fulfill. There are a few sequences that shine, but they're buried among the otherwise mediocre parts of the game. If you're a fan of Spider-Man who's looking for a game to play, this is one of Spidey's best. It doesn't have the superb web-swinging mechanics of Spider-Man 2, but it makes up for it with improvements to almost everything else. It doesn't pull off an Arkham Asylum-style reinvention of the character, but this is a great choice for rental or purchase.
Editor's Note: Now that you've read our review of the video game, be sure to check out our review of "The Amazing Spider-Man" movie.
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