Spider-Man is perfectly suited for the role of a video game protagonist. I mean, not only does he have all of the tools — including phenomenal agility, superhuman senses and the ability to web-swing at will — but he also comes with a ton of rich and thoroughly interesting fiction. There’s a lot there for writers and developers to pick from, yet they sometimes fail to take advantage of what’s right in front of them. That was the case with Spider-Man: Edge of Time, a constrictive and somewhat boring experience that was set within a dull office building, and is, unfortunately, also now the case with The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Let me begin by saying that I respect Beenox and think that its brand is represented by a talented collective. Several years ago, they gave me what is easily one of my favourite Spider-Man games to date, that being Shattered Dimensions. Going further, I thought that they did a good job with the character’s last interactive offering, The Amazing Spider-Man theatrical reboot’s tie-in. Still, for every good game that they’ve crafted with this dream license, a mediocre-at-best one has followed. It’s becoming a trend now that it’s happened twice, which is unfortunate.
I’ll admit that I went into reviewing Beenox’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 branded video game with high hopes. However, I tried to be realistic at the same time, and made sure to not expect too much from it. In honesty, though, all I really wanted was a game that would be built around its predecessor’s positives, and one that would end up being a better experience for it. Unfortunately, the final product is not that game. Instead, it’s an undercooked downgrade from what we received not that long ago. That’s not to say it’s a bad or terrible game, though, because it isn’t and remains quite fun, mostly due to its web-swinging mechanics. It simply pales in comparison to two of Beenox’s three previous efforts, and feels like it wasn’t given enough time by its publisher, Activision.
Although this game is named after the movie it complements, it doesn’t follow the same storyline, or even feature all of the same characters. You see, it was decided that the developers would forego following the plot of Sony’s theatrical cash cow, and would instead create their own plot, which was both a good decision and a bad decision. It was a good one, because the result is somewhat interesting and its non-canon status means that the film — which I’ve yet to see — has not been spoiled for myself and the others who decided to play this game before purchasing a movie ticket. On the other hand, it was also a poor choice, because the resulting plot isn’t unique or memorable.
This time around, things begin with the untimely murder of Peter Parker’s beloved Uncle Ben, then progresses from there. Said storyline is not filled with sadness, or a depressed superhero, but those themes are there and do come out from time to time. Instead, things generally focus on Spidey’s attempts at figuring out who’s behind a recent wave of New York City murders. And, in expected fashion, one discovery leads to another and so on. I won’t spoil anything on you, because I don’t want to be that guy; however, I will note that a smorgasbord of familiar foes make an appearance in one way or another.
The best thing about this game — and every other open world Spider-Man title — is the freedom it provides and accentuates with its web-swinging mechanics. They work differently this time around, and have probably been changed for the better. You see, instead of just pressing one button to swing throughout the game’s decent-sized representation of New York City (a setting I wish less video games would use), you must now use one for each hand. It’s a sensible change that works quite well, but isn’t perfect. It gets a bit frustrating when you go to swing and find yourself falling instead, because there’s nothing for your web to snag onto. That was an issue last time around, though, and is a result of the industry’s near-constant strive for added realism.
Climbing has also become a manual thing, a change that has introduced some frustration into the mix. Having to press a button to mount a wall and begin crawling on it never felt cohesive or organic, and was always a nuisance that I avoided whenever possible. I hope that, with the next game made from this license, it will return to an automatic function, because it’s better and much more sensible that way.
Where this game falters most, though, has to do with its newly-designed and stolen combat system. Having been clearly inspired by Batman: Arkham Asylum and its peers, it tasks players with countering foes who intend to hit them, via the press of a single button. The only major differences include the fact that Spidey can counter two incoming attacks at one time, whereas Bats can only counter one, as well as the chosen colour scheme. In lieu of the blue thought marks that come out of grunts’ heads in the Arkham games, baddies who plan to hit Peter Parker turn a shade of red that does more to negatively impact the game’s visual quality than anything else.
If this new combat scheme worked well, it wouldn’t be much of an issue. However, it’s imprecise and will occasionally fail to register players’ counters properly. As such, it’s tough to get great combo chains going, or avoid damage altogether. The new, zoomed-in camera angle also fails to help, because it blocks the player’s view of incoming attacks. Even if an enemy isn’t in your shown sightline, he can still hit you, and it’s tough to block what you can’t see.
Other questionable changes come in the form of a new Hero/Menace meter, and forced manual healing, the latter of which has its speed based on which suit players are using. Several can be unlocked simply by playing the game and beating all of its content, and even more are available as pre-order bonuses, and they’re all different, stat-wise. One may decrease the amount of damage you take by a certain amount, while another will increase your attack power, or something else. Usually, each suit has three different skill buffs attacked to its use, and at least one or two of them buff players’ healing speed. Still, it’s sometimes tough to find a good spot to stop and bandage one self when one’s enemies have uncanny aim.
The aforementioned meter, on the other hand, pertains to The Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s side missions; an uninspired list that includes nigh impossible attempts at saving folks from burning buildings, as well as putting an end to violent car chases, shootouts and robberies. You know, the kinds of secondary activities that these games have had for about a decade now. The difference here, though, is that if you don’t help people, it will hurt you by turning the city and its newly formed (and technologically savvy) task force against you. However, in the end, it’s more of a nuisance than anything else.
Playing through The Amazing Spider-Man 2 took me two play sessions and approximately 7 to 8 hours. It’s not a lengthy game, and is one that I could’ve beaten faster had I not done so many side missions. There exists only fourteen story missions, and most of them aren’t very long. They do get a bit tougher as you progress, but you’ll have some new abilities (such as corrosive webbing and a pulse cannon shot that can knock foes over) at your disposal. Such abilities become available through progression, and can be upgraded through your hard-earned experience points. They’re welcomed, too, because they add a bit of variety to what is a rather basic combat system. However, they also make a somewhat easy game (even on the hardest difficulty) relatively easier.
Aesthetically, this movie tie-in is a mixed bag. When you’re swinging through the city for fun, or with a point, it can look pretty good, thanks to its 1080p definition and current-gen shine. However, underneath that is a last generation game that has simply been given added makeup, and a glitchy one at that. Close-ups of characters, locations and textures tend to look dated, and even come with random issues (pop-in, glitching scenery, an abundance of darkness, and animation problems). The darkened and dated models are most apparent during scenes where you play as Peter Parker, which come with dialogue choices that simply exist to provide more information, not to change how things play out.
The dialogue itself is half-decent, but tends to be cheesy – something that is especially true of the one-liners that characters repeat ad nauseam. He’d simply repeat the same several lines over and over again, throughout the game. Thankfully, Peter’s voice acting is pretty good; though, the quality fluctuates from character to character. None of it is spectacular or indeed amazing, like the character himself, but it’s all serviceable in movie game land. The sound effects, on the other hand, are fine.
In the end, the video game bearing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as its title is a bit of a disappointment, because it’s an obvious step back from its predecessor. Granted, there’s still a decent amount of fun to be had over a weekend, especially where the two-handed web-swinging is concerned. It also seems as if Beenox was given less time to work on and release this game than their last effort, which is likely the main culprit behind its faults.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.
Despite being a downgrade from its most recent predecessor, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 remains an above-average movie game that fans of the web-slinging superhero should find enjoyment in.