The Amazing Spider-Man preview

It's unfortunate that The Amazing Spider-Man is titled as such, because it's inevitable that not-so-clever journalists like myself will go for the obvious headline: "The Bot-So-Amazing Spider-Man." While Beenox's latest effort has a lot of interesting ideas, it doesn't go above what you'd expect from a rushed movie license game.

Fans have been waiting for a new open-world Spider-Man game for a long time. And while Amazing offers a virtual New York City to swing through, it's simply not fun to move around the environment. Spider-Man doesn't feel like he has any weight about him, and his magical ability to swing off of nothing in the air does little to make you feel like Spider-Man. After playing for a few minutes, you'd think Peter Parker's real super power is the ability to magically cling onto the side of buildings and lampposts--even if you don't want to.

Beenox does offer an alternative that offers a bit more accuracy. Web Rush mode lets you pause time and aim Spider-Man at precisely where you want to go. A procedural animation then plays, gliding Spider-Man to the point you selected. It's a novel idea, but it breaks up the pace of normal movement way too much. You can also choose not to pause time, but Web Rush is far less effective when launched "automatically."

While there are random crimes that you can stop as Spider-Man, exploring the environment is just not fun. The graphics are ugly; this is probably one of the ugliest recreations of New York I've seen this generation. The world feels lifeless, as if Marvel's continued attack on the city has abandoned it of cars and pedestrians. The various crimes you can stop--such as chasing down runaway cars--aren't particularly fun either.

Amazing Spider-Man might not do open world gameplay in a satisfying way, but its close-quarters combat is no better. It takes cues from Rocksteady's Arkham games, letting Spidey "free-flow" from one enemy to the next. The Spidey-sense that kicks in as an enemy attacks lets you dodge easily, and fits the character well. Unfortunately, the combat system feels sloppy, with the combo system feeling disjointed. There's no sense of connection as you move from enemy to enemy, and the lackluster animation certainly doesn't help.

Movie license games always invite a fair deal of skepticism because movie release dates rarely afford developers much time to polish their games. The Amazing Spider-Man is an even more ambitious game than Beenox's previous titles, and it's clear that it needs much more time to coalesce into something more polished. With its release imminent, it seems unlikely The Amazing Spider-Man will shape up to live up to its namesake.

Watch the Shacknews E3 2012 page to follow all our coverage of this year's show. This preview is based on a hands-on demo shown at a pre-E3 event.