It’s been five years since Spider-Man’s previous appearance in movie theaters, but Marvel’s webslinger has been plenty busy on video-game consoles. Since 2007, he’s headlined four games and made guest appearances in at least four more. None of them have been particularly outstanding.
Fans have been hoping that a new movie Spidey might reinvigorate the video-game franchise. But while the Quebec-based developer Beenox has given “The Amazing Spider-Man” (Activision, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $59.99) some new tricks, it still feels a little threadbare.
Moviegoers beware: The game takes place after the events of the latest film, and it blithely spoils a couple of major plot points. The upshot is that a few more human-animal hybrids (like the movie’s villain, the Lizard) have escaped from the labs of Oscorp Industries. Meanwhile, robotics whiz Alistaire Smythe has shifted Oscorp’s research focus, creating an army of mechanical behemoths to take down the mutants. Spider-Man, being somewhat of a hybrid himself, is stuck in the middle.
Spider-Man’s duels against Smythe’s robots and familiar comic-book villains like the Rhino, the Iguana and the Scorpion provide the noisy, somewhat predictable spectacles you would expect in a superhero game. But the main story also includes missions in which Spidey has to infiltrate various Oscorp facilities. You need to carefully plan your attacks here, taking out Oscorp guards one-by-one so they don’t gang up on you. The gameplay is reminiscent of “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” but it’s frequently marred by awkward camera angles that make it difficult to spot your enemies before they spot you.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” becomes exciting only when you step outside its main story and take to the skies. Swinging between the skyscrapers of Manhattan is exhilarating, and the new “web rush” feature, which lets you pinpoint your next goal and zip right to it, is very handy when you’re trying to find the stray comic-book pages hidden all over town.
Spidey’s aerial acrobatics are so thrilling it’s a shame they aren’t better integrated into its story. There’s plenty to discover in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” but it falls short of being the truly inspired adventure fans have been anticipating. Two stars out of four.