The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Nearly two years, the Amazing Spider-Man film rebooted the franchise and its video game incarnation hit stores to a lukewarm response. The previous generation’s Spider-Man 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man games were the apex of the wall-crawlers gaming exploits, but ASM’s dev Beenox did a bangup job with Shattered Dimensions – so there was at least a pedigree there to believe in. Sadly, ASM wound up feeling like a bad remake of the PS2-era Spidey hits because of its open-world design. It was certainly a bigger world, but felt more empty and web-slinging wasn’t as well-done. Camera problems were everywhere as well, and it made it difficult to figure out where you were in the game world.
Now, the sequel’s game is out before the film and uses a modified timeline that doesn’t quite fit into things logically. It’s best to think of it as an alternate universe, as it begins in the midst of the original ASM movie, with the death of Uncle Ben. From there, things fast-forward two years and Spidey is still looking for the killer. He finds him, but he’s been slain by the mysterious Carnage Killer. Peter asks Aunt May for advice and she says that at least the man who killed Ben can’t hurt anyone. Then things shift into a Kingpin/Harry Osbourn alliance with a task force being formed to take out bad guys…and mainly Spider-Man for reasons that are never really explained. The task force is introduced and then they’re suddenly out to attack you if you don’t do enough good deeds.
That leads to a quarter-assed good/evil mechanic for Spidey in this game. Unlike Infamous or Prototype, it’s not so much evil deeds that get you in trouble – it’s not doing enough good ones. There’s no skill tree for good or evil here, just a heroic meter that needs to be constantly filled or you wind up with the Fisk/Oscorp task force out to kill you. This means that like the original Infamous, you can wind up getting cheap-shotted to death and it’s just annoying. There’s no good reason for this crap to actually be in the game – it is just filler that pads the game’s running time. There are only 14 main missions to complete, which terrified me at first when 30 minutes of play (including cutscenes) showed a 7% completion rate overall.
Amongst the busy work is saving people from fires, which is nearly impossible to do thanks to the camera. It’s all over the place even outdoors, and wigs out terribly in confined spaces – which these portions are full of. The fighting-based acts are the best since they take the least amount of time, and car chases can be done quickly as well. The most rewarding ones involving beating a ton of gun-toting thugs to help the police out, as they offer the most challenge and aren’t cheap. Comedy-wise, nothing quite tops Spider-Man trying to get rid of bombs because it instantly brings back memories of the ’60s Batman movie. Sadly, there’s nothing as amusing at Batman avoiding a row of ducks here – you just swing around with a bomb until you reach a location. The same basic things happen when you’re rescuing someone and take them to the hospital. However, there’s a catch with all of these things – after each one, you get a little newscast alerting everyone that Spidey did good. This adds a good minute onto things each time AND PADS THE GAME OUT EVEN MORE. It’s a mind-numbing bore to be forced into doing these things over and over again. They threw in some nice fanservice with extra costumes, comic collecting, and even have a little Amazing Spider-Man arcade game inside Stan Lee’s comic shop – but nothing is really done with them.
You can level up each suit, which is easily the best overall thing there, but the 300 collectible comics are hard to get due to the camera – even with the beeping sound effect to let you know one’s nearby. The Amazing Spider-Man arcade game could’ve been a fun little 16-bit styled game to pass the time and provide something different. Instead, it’s just a horde mode against a black background. That’s it – there’s nothing visually-appealing about it and playing it just taking time away from fighting enemies that you can use to up your heroic standing. That meter dwindles quickly, so you’d better hoof it to kick some ass and save lives or you’ll wind up getting attacked. I had a whole three-level meter built up, and within one trek to Times Square for the next story mission, it was 95% gone. Having the petty crimes go on during the main missions makes logical sense, but makes the game incredibly annoying as a result. Oh, and the game has some major load times, which is more than a little disappointing with the next-gen requirement of all games having full installs.
The gameplay and controls are a mixed bag at best. Like ASM, the combat revolves around a faux-Arkham style with blocking leading to attacks and stealth takedowns. Combat is much faster than the Batman games, which is good, but everything lacks a layer of polish that hurts things. Spider-sense works during rescue missions to find debris, and doubles as the wacky screen filter stealth indicator from Arkham so you can see enemies through things. One problem is that the filter used makes it really hard to see where you are since everything gets the same outline, and the lighting makes it impossible to judge depth. It’s also tough to move the camera around here, so you nix the view, move a bit…and then get spotted. Luckily, there’s a gigantic meter that leads to a fail sale, so you can still fight 70% of a giant group of enemies and still not have it count against a stealth section – that doesn’t really solve the core game design problem, but makes it much easier to deal with.
As mentioned before, the camera is a bit of a nightmare and makes some missions entirely too difficult. Just swinging around the world is tough with it since the camera just goes wherever it wants to at times, regardless of what you’re doing with the right stick. It will lead to a lot of missed comics and it makes it far too easy to get turned around in the world while going through from point A to B. This means that you could wind up missing a side-mission and thus have your reputation ruined due to this issue if it happens enough times, and like the forced do-gooder stuff, it’s just not any fun to deal with it. Being a completionist is one thing, but forcing it on people just so the game can’t be beaten in a single sitting is tiresome.
Visually, Amazing Spider-Man 2 is quite underwhelming in most areas. Given that it’s also being made for last-gen platforms, it’s not altogether shocking, but it’s still sad to see. Going through the next-gen version honestly never felt any different than going through the PS3 version of ASM two years ago. For an open-world game, far too many things look dreadful. Cars look terrible and pop-in fairly frequently. Spider-Man himself is easily the best-looking part of the entire game. Every costume has a unique texture to it, and they all have small details that are impressive…then you get to the other characters. Kingpin looks fine, while pretty much any character with a name looks fine. However, NPCs look on-par with original Xbox games from a decade ago. True Crime: Streets of New York had main characters look better, with far more detailed clothing and that also had better night-time lighting effects for New York.
The environments look fairly drab, with Times Square being a highlight, but still not looking as good as you would imagine in a next-gen game. Large bodies of water look like a basic texture over land, and don’t give off the look of real water at all. Buildings are just a sea of brown and grey, leading to a drab look to the world as a whole – unless you’re climbing a building and get stuck in it due to bad collision detection. Buildings, like cars, also pop-in more than they should. Everything has a distinct last-gen look to it, and going through the PS4 version didn’t give me any sense of just what benefited from the additional hardware. As far as open-world games go, GTA V is vastly superior visually in every regard – although ASM 2’s character animation is pretty good overall. Spidey’s movements are a bit rushed at times, but at least look correct to the eye.
Musically, ASM 2 is just fine while the voice work is largely okay and rarely all that memorable. The work done for Kingpin is probably my favorite overall, as he just exudes being a cocky giant who you just know is up to no good. Stan Lee’s work as Stan the comic book store owner is every Stan Lee appearance ever – endearing, but not likely to stick with you. The soundtrack is full of sweeping music, but it never quite gets to that epic level – it certainly wants to be that though.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 is easily the worst overall Spider-Man game released since Beenox took over development. It’s a technically functional game, but it’s not very fun to play. There’s a ton of padding and the forced side-missions are a tacky way to extend the life of a game that simply doesn’t have much substance to it. For an open-world game, that seems nearly impossible, but here it is. Graphically, there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done better on the Xbox 360 or PS3, and it’s a shame to see next-gen hardware squandered like this. If you loved the original ASM, or just want to see the story unfold, then give it a rental – it shouldn’t take more than about ten hours to beat, and you can halve that easily if you don’t mind putting up with a goon squad coming after you between missions.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on a digital copy of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Activision.