Imagine the Spider-Man franchise from the perspective of Beenox.
Having acquired a litany of awards from various sources over the years, the Quebec-based developer has been entrusted by owner Activision with the ongoing development of the long-lived series. Regardless of any individual fondness towards one of the most successful superheroes ever invented, it's still a creative crap-shoot. Fans demand authenticity, but without the ability to innovate, development can quickly devolve into the kind of paint-by-numbers rubbish most Hollywood-to-video-game tie-ins exude.
Fortunately however, The Amazing Spider-Man picks up the action from the end of the film, allowing Beenox to add its own touches to a story arc of its own conception, and neatly prevents any spoilers from ruining the take at the Box Office. It also removes the requirement to launch the game simultaneously with the film, which is typically the best way to inflict maximum damage as synchronised releases are virtually impossible to achieve without sacrificing quality. Odd, then, that the game is scheduled for one week prior to the film debut, but this isn't Beenox's first time, so some faith is probably justified.
Following on from the fairly apathetic reception afforded to Spider-Man: Edge of Time, the most immediate and obvious change in Amazing concerns the fluidity of Spidey's movements. Often a cause for contention, Spider-Man no longer tumbles with the grace of a wet dog thrown from a moving vehicle. Rather, reworked animations and tighter camera controls provide much smoother movement to jumps, landings and wall-crawls.
As Amazing also marks a return to New York, it's all the more important that Spidey looks and acts the part – the city environments are large and spacious, with many locations functioning as mission hubs. It's not comparable to open-world titles such as Grand Theft Auto in any way, but does hint at a more sandbox approach for the series, which certainly has much more potential than the rather linear stories and environments featured in Beenox's titles to date.
Perhaps the most important addition to Spidey's arsenal of crime-fighting skills is his new "Web Rush" ability. Enabled by a simple button push, Web Rush highlights points of interest on the map whilst simultaneously slowing time, allowing for new paths and new combat actions to be decided upon mid-flight. A compensatory gesture for sure, but in actuality it's a wonderful addition to the game and allows for fairly effortless movement around the expansive terrain, particularly for those capable of making important choices swiftly.
The appearance of Rhino in one memorable battle shows how Beenox intends to deliver boss fights. By timing Spidey's dodge ability by stabbing a button at an opportune moment, Rhino will tear past and impact an environmental object, allowing a brief pause for Spidey to initiate a counter-attack. In other fights, our hero leaps from car to car delivering a volley of web to obscure windscreens and thwart criminals, as well as picking up cars and dumpsters to fling at unsuspecting baddies.
If a lot of this sounds awfully familiar, it's because Amazing does appear to have been highly influenced by Rocksteady's Batman Arkham series; something that Beenox has been quick to admit. Both The Amazing Spider-Man and The Caped Crusader share similarities with free-form combat and counter attacks, although displaying any concern at this would be as silly as complaining that a modern, four-door family car has been influenced by Bentley, so it's probably best to accept imitation as being the most sincere form of flattery and move on.
While there's much to like about this third Beenox-developed Spider-Man tie-in, it's still wise to remember that it is a licensed product, and as such, the final product could range from completely awful to utterly magical. It's the price of admission for all such strictly controlled intellectual property. It's more than discouraging that nobody in the entire cast of the film could be bothered submitting any audio cues for the game, and although that in itself isn't a deal-breaker, it's probably enough to encourage most to wait until the reviews come in before committing to a purchase.
There's nothing really bold or exceptionally innovative in this release, but perhaps this steady approach towards an expansive world and non-linear gameplay will find favour with Spidey's legion of fans. Much like Beenox, they're keenly aware of his thoughts on great power and responsibility.