The Amazing Spider-Man Review (Xbox360)

Okay, firstly a huge word of warning to anyone considering buying The Amazing Spider-Man without having seen the film first: don’t. Despite coming out a week beforehand the game picks up straight after the movie and completely assumes that you’ve seen it – the entire plot is spoiled, right down to the ending and which characters are still around to see it. Hopefully by now everyone’s seen the film (good, well acted, slightly unnecessary, felt like a few scenes were missing, B-), so now we can get to the serious business of checking out the latest movie tie-in game! Hooray!

Yeah, yeah, you’re less than thrilled. Movie tie-ins have a reputation for being rushed, with little care or attention put into them. Still, let me remind you that the best movie tie-in game of all time is a Spider-Man game, and Beenox have finally ditched their linear level design to bring Spidey back to the open world swinging around New York that we actually want, so maybe The Amazing Spider-Man has a shot after all?

That'll be hell to shift

I’ll avoid spoilers from the film, but basically the game begins with a visit to Oscorp where a man named Alistair Smythe is continuing Dr Curt Connors’ research into cross-species mutation. Of course these experiments break out, and Spider-Man is left to find a cure (since the mutations can infect humans), stop the animals, and avoid the attention of the numerous robots Oscorp have unleashed to stop the cross-breeds – which Spider-Man counts as of course. You’d think the cops would have something to say about Godzilla-size worm robots tearing up buildings, streets and pedestrians in order to eliminate a few rats, but that’s politics for you.

In all honesty the plot is actually quite good, continues the film’s themes well, and is generally well voice acted, however I am utterly disheartened by Activision’s tightness in not licensing the voices or even likenesses of the film’s cast. Peter Parker, for example, is never ever seen without the full Spider-Man costume on, and his voice actor sounds nothing like Andrew Garfield. There’s definitely an aura of tightness around the whole game, something that doesn’t really go well with also being rushed.

There are two types of gameplay on offer: open-world and linear interior levels. Let’s start with the open world, since that’s the game’s big selling point. The results are, well, not good to be honest. Remember the excellent physics-based webslinging that made everyone fall in love with Spider-Man 2 and made just exploring the city loads of fun? Well guess what: it’s not here. Instead you just hold Right Trigger and watch as Spider-Man swings through the city, with his webs attaching to everything but the buildings. No physics, no skill, no fun. You can also press RB to activate Web-Rush, which zips you to a point extra-fast, and that’s generally more fun (especially using it to shoot into the sky) but still nowhere near as good as the swinging in 2 and 3.

Some of the bosses are quite impressive, if a little unsubtle

There’s also a severe deficit in things to do in the open world. People may have mocked the balloons and the pizza deliveries in previous games, but at least they were random tests of skill. Two muggings to foil, a simple QTE car chase and the odd picture to take between missions don’t make for a compelling open world (although admittedly you get more to do as the game goes along, but none of them are random). In terms of obligatory item pick-ups at least Beenox get this right as you get to collect readable Spider-Man comics, which is a much bigger incentive than pointless tokens for a bit of a XP. Still, that’s not much really for an open world, and by confining itself to just one part of Manhattan there’s a distinct lack of city to do that stuff in either. A few hours in and you’ll be bored of swinging around, and that is quite an achievement.

The interior levels play more like a linear, under-polished version of Batman: Arkham Asylum (there’s even a damn insane asylum level) with a few more spider-webs and wall-crawling, although that barely plays any part. Stealth combined with action, air vents, the odd minor puzzles, and things to beat up. Enemies take the form of humans, mutations and robots, and none are particularly smart or fun to play against. Perform a stealth takedown in front of everyone in the room, do two “Web-Retreats” (LB, which zips Spider-Man to a random part away from the action), and bingo – they’ll have forgotten all about you.

It’s more fun to get stuck in there and fight them, although only just. If the interior levels are a bit Batman-like then the combat is exactly Batman-like, albeit with more speed and less finesse or skill. Bash bash bash, hold B, enemy down. You can do special takedowns after reaching a certain combo level (sound familiar?) but most of the time enemies will be incapacitated long before that. Little wavy lines over the hero’s head indicate when it’s time to dodge (SOUND FAMILIAR?!), but they’re so subtle (the only time I’ll ever use this word in this review) that they’re often hard to see during combat. It’s just a little bit dull, in other words.

Graphically it’s not much better. We’re definitely looking at a first-gen Xbox 360 title here. A couple of the bosses are pretty damn impressive, but the city’s just… so… meh. All identikit buildings of various sizes, not that it matters anymore since webs attach to the sky. Spider-Man’s animation is good, but everyone else has a few canned animations and that’s it. For example people you rescue will always take a picture of you on their phone, no matter if you’re still stood in front of them or not. There’s a distinct lack of life to this city.

Oh no! It's the dastardly Specifically Not A Lizard!

Which goes for the whole game really. I’m honestly struggling to say things about it good or bad, it’s all just so average and forgettable. Swinging around the city as Spider-Man foiling crimes was got right on the PS2, so why is it so boring here eight years after Spider-Man 2? I quickly found literally all I was doing was pressing RB all the time to zip around collecting comic books, since the side-missions take about two minutes or less. Combat’s a poor imitation of Arkham Asylum, as are the interior levels, and you’ll find yourself getting bored of everything very fast.

The story’s fairly competent and ties into the film well, but the lack of Andrew Garfield or even a remote sound-alike ruins its chances of feeling like the movie it’s supposed to tie in to. It’s more like a cartoon, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but the No. 1 goal of a movie tie-in is to at least feel like you’re part of the movie. I never did, despite having the entire plot of the movie spoiled. There are moments of fun to be had in Amazing Spider-Man, and in general it’s competently put together, but it’s just so mind-numbingly mediocre you’ll forget all about it a few weeks down the line. Well, apart from that one crucial unanswered question: what the hell are his webs attaching to?!

Top Game Moment: Bruce Campbell as the XTreme Journalist in a blimp issuing challenges, because it's Bruce Campbell.

Platform Played: Xbox 360