Superhero games have had the bar set extremely high after the amazing job that Rocksteady did with the Arkham games. These games were original stories inspired by the Batman mythos, which allowed a certain creative freedom by the developer. That being said, developer Beenox has done a half decent job developing original games based on Spider-Man previously, so how do they fare when tasked with creating a direct movie tie-in for the second time?
Corresponding with the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the film of the same name, meaning that there was a strict timetable that the developers had to meet. While I have not seen the movie myself, I am going to assume that the story laid forth in the game does not follow the film, or if it indeed does, it only does so very loosely. The story felt like a loose fitting excuse to pit Spider-Man against a large variety of enemies, giving out a lot of fan service in the process. The problem with fan service is that it can lack any level of depth, and that’ the problem that Spider-Man 2 runs into. The plot twists are predictable at best and there is a lack of real emotion in any of the story elements. Characters act out their parts looking like those creepy lifelike Japanese robots, looking severely unnatural and lacking that human ‘spark’.
The good thing about having a variety of villains thrown into the game means that we get interesting and varied boss encounters. Each boss battle felt fresh and didn’t just seem like a rushed rehash of the previous one. New skills and tactics were required to take each boss down and I always looked forward to what challenge the next villain encounter would bring. This was felt throughout the game as a variety of enemy types were introduced and you weren’t simply fighting the same cannon fodder again and again.
Combat is obviously inspired by the successful flowing combat Arkham games, even requiring the same button presses for most actions. If you are familiar with Batman’s fighting style, you will feel right at home as Spider-Man, though its definitely not quite as clean or smooth as it could have been. Enemy targeting is reliant on where your camera is facing, so if an enemy with a gun is off camera, good luck attempting to use a web-grapple to get his firearm away from him. I found a number of small issues with the targeting system that created more difficulty in fights than was necessary. This led to numerous deaths for me, due to attempting to shoot my webs at an enemy and hitting the wall instead.
The open world of New York is any Spider-Man game’s real bread and butter, and this game does not disappoint. Spidey’s webs can only grapple to actual tangible objects (most of the time), so if there isn’t a high rise around, you aren’t going to be doing and web swinging. The physics of the swing are affected by where you grapple leading to a realistic and smooth flowing feeling as you cruise between skyscrapers. There were times however, when I would run into a building and instead of transitioning to a wall run as is supposed to happen, I would bounce awkwardly around, still attempting to swing from my web. Little problems like this showed the lack of polish that went into this game and jarred me out of what could have been a decent open world Spider-Man experience.
Open world events don’t add much to the fun, and only serve to be an annoyance. Spider-Man is ranked on a menace/hero system, completing open world events raises your hero status, however failing to complete them sends you down to menace, and you get hunted by the task force. Often times there are more open world events than is feasible to complete, and I found myself sitting in menace status with very little motivation to try to complete the next heroic event because I felt that I would just be missing another quickly after. Add to this that the open world events required an opening cutscene and ending ‘newscast’ cutscene, and the open world suddenly feels very staccato and stuttered. I wanted to just swing in, beat up a few thugs, and swing away, but every time I did, I was met with an opening shot showing me what the thugs were doing and an ending shot telling me what I did.
Story missions traditionally don’t take place in the open world, and are placed in individual levels that are cordoned off by long loading screens. These levels don’t have the same logic that webs have to stick to something, so Spider-Man can be found cloud swinging on any of these levels that take place outside. Numerous small issues like this kept this game from every really shining. Audio logs that are found throughout the game don’t play in the open world, which means that you have to sit through a pause screen to listen to what they say. Different outfits can be leveled up with different attributes, but I never really felt like they offered much of a different experience from the next one. A variety of graphical issues cropped up, and the characters just look creepy and lifeless. You get the point.
My biggest disappointment in Spider-Man 2 is not inherently within its flaws or even that it is a licensed game. The problem is that a great game can be seen swimming just beneath the surface of the game that we ultimately got, but a severe lack of polish with the need to rush this out to match the film’s release left what could have been a good game buried under mounds of flaws, issues, and sheer drudgery. While there were aspects of this game that really could have been something special or even passable, I would have to say that the overall package of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t really all that amazing.
Review copy purchased by reviewer. Review done on PS4 version. Also available on PS3. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.