Amazing Spider-Man can do two things for eight hours and most fans would be satisfied: effortless, freeing, and dizzying city web swinging plus fluid, smooth, even automatic combat that dazzles with its flair. That’s the identifying element that brings this sequel to the summer feature to life, a Spidey that feels different, trained in an explosive Lucha Libre pro wrestling style. Facing facts, it’s difficult to separate the Spider-Man Activision games this generation. Amazing Spider-Man makes itself known.
Flourishes and offensive rallies have a genuine spark of animated flair, head snapping flips, web shooting attraction, and gloriously deep punches bring forth combo strings that up the counter. Managing the crowds is a system stolen from Arkham City (or Asylum if you so prefer), the Y button an ever present dictator over what opposing hit connects. The difference? The mechanism feels better built for Spider-Man, who unlike Batman, doesn’t need to slide to reach the next in a chain of attacks. Web slings will send masked Peter Parker into a chain that makes sense, and adds that character.
The overworld, here the often spacious and beautiful New York, is gleeming with potential. What developers have never managed to pull off is a Spider-Man who feels in control of his powers, and attempts to do so have flatlined pace or lose the charm. In the city, even Spidey feels free, whooping and hollering as his near death falls are salvaged by a last second save from the webbing. Motion blur combines with adrenaline-laden sound design to masterfully create an environment this hero was meant for.
Where everything goes sour is the interiors. Here again, the fleetness of the superhero icon is too unwieldy, burdensome against tight walls and jerky camera. A simple jump is enough to illicit a disorientating jitter in the closed off design. The savior, or rather what is supposed to be a savior, is a web shot that propels the player forward to a designated position. Amazing Spider-Man is the first (or certainly one of the only) to carry a consistent reticule despite the friendly aiming. It’s all about web shot and the bandage on the slippery motion that, for the most part, covers most of this gaping wound.
If there’s still seeping blood, Spider-Man is done for, especially in combat with a mind of its own. Animation routines linger and a crutch that slows time to grab objects breaks the flow. It has to be there as strewn debris is critical in taking down clustered enemy troops, and the web shot is wildly imprecise at the usual Spider-Man pace. Finding something specific with the reticule in real time is a pipe dream.
The routine of open world games is followed to the letter, the meaningless side missions an excuse to lengthen the value margin, not create memorable or worthwhile content. Amazing Spider-Man is already gimped in that regard, going so far as to mock itself about the number of air vents within the closed off buildings (unsurprisingly not unlike Arkham Asylum). Level designs are repetitious as a whole, each mechanic slapped on to extend the material past its prime. The number of ripped down turrets, shut off security doors, and yes, air vents explored leaves a sour taste. Nothing here is done just once, twice, or even three times. It’s in the dozens, minimum.
Amazing Spider-Man needs to go so far as to double down on boss fights, party because the movie license doesn’t extend to further named featured villains, and also because of that unavoidable lack of development time. Much of it feels cut and pasted from Edge of Time which shared the same limitless repetition with regards to locked doors. All that work to differentiate combat feels squandered if the same mistakes are made elsewhere.