Spider-Man games have always faced problems, usually concerning a horrendous camera, but players have accepted most of those issues as par for the course. It’s really hard to develop a game that can accurately mimic the movements of a genetic aberration like the Spider-Man as he swings across New York at speed, scales walls and ceilings and bounces around kicking criminals in the back of the head from the front. That last bit makes more sense if you’re actually playing the game. Developer Beenox, who have been handling the outings of everyone’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man for some time now, seemed to be making headway with the issues that games in this series have had but with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which is based off the recent motion picture, they’ve taken a few steps backwards.
Don’t be fooled by the screenshots that accompany this review – much of the game doesn’t look nearly this good. The main character models are presentable, as are a few of the locations, but much of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 looks worse than the first movie based title that was released back in 2012. This isn’t helped by the in-game menu interface that looks as though it was ripped whole and breathing (barely) from a PlayStation 2 era game and given an coat of paint. There are frequent cut-scene errors for players to look forward to, with lips not syncing the way they should and more than a few glitched textures and animations – both in the main game and in the exposition sections. This drop in quality isn’t something that the developers would have struggled with, it looks as though TASM 2 (for short) was rushed out the door in time for the movie’s release. In short, it feels like a cash-in.
And we’d be okay with a cash-in, provided it was a high-quality one, but that isn’t the case here. The potential for a fantastic Spider-Man game is there, it’s visible and we can see what the developers had in mind for this sequel and that just makes the final result all the more depressing. The what-could-have-been could have been spectacular.
Spare Some Change?
Changes have been made, or attempted, across the board but they either haven’t been implemented completely or they were just never finished. Swinging Spidey around New York has been tweaked, mapping his left and right hands to the corresponding triggers on the Xbox 360 controller. This has given the developers headroom to make other changes but it makes web-swinging almost a chore. The first game based on the new movies had a much simpler system but it was highly functional, making just plain movement around the city fun. Still, with a bit more work, TASM 2 could have had the best movement setup ever seen in a licensed Spider-Man game.
The dodgy camera is back, making its presence known any time that Spider-Man, or Peter Parker (since you get to play as Parker this time around) is indoors, especially if there’s any wall-crawling involved. It actually seems to have devolved a bit this time around and getting your bearings when the camera swings between wall transitions is frequently quite nauseating. That’s not that unusual for a Spidey-title though.
Combat has been simplified, borrowing liberally from the Batman: Arkham series of games. One button attacks, the other counters, a third will use Spidey’s web abilities. This could have worked, done correctly, and the developers obviously had high hopes for some revised combat as is evidenced by the new animations and abilities. Unfortunately it doesn’t work, feeling clunky in places and a little slippery in others. Spider-Man will also frequently clip through scenery while in battle, an unattractive defect at best. The upgrade system for combat is also a bit simplistic, though Beenox have done something interesting with the player’s suits. There are several outfits, based on the comic, available to use. Playing through the game with a suit equipped while completing objectives, lets players level their suits up, conferring bonuses based on whichever gear you happen to have. It’s a shame the rest of the game couldn’t innovate this way.
On A Mission
And then there are the missions, both story and optional. The story missions are okay as a whole but there’s nothing really notable that makes TASM 2 stand out. Boss fights are almost humdrum in their predictability, with the same three round, spot-the-pattern approach to named enemies used throughout. Stealth sections are available but these are more annoying than challenging, unless you have a lot of patience.
An open-world reputation system has also been implemented but very badly. To stay on the good side of security forces, players are obliged to stop petty crimes in progress between missions. If this was wholly optional we wouldn’t care but you feel almost forced to do these repetitive missions. Car chases, simple beat-downs, police sieges and rescuing citizens from fires lose their attraction very early on – after the first mission, in the case of the burning building missions. If you don’t do these missions, you’re considered a menace and tech-wielding bozos will be out to get the Spider in short order. Even then, sometimes the game will force your reputation into the red. Just because.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t a terrible game, it just doesn’t measure up to what we’ve seen in the past. In the world of comic-based gaming, especially when stacked against the likes of Batman, that’s pretty unforgivable though. You’ll get some enjoyment out of the story, as confusing as it is, but TASM 2 is generally a repetitive, generic experience that would have benefited from another six months in the shop before it was released.