Every franchise has that hit that everything that follows must live up to. For the Star Wars movies it’s The Empire Strikes Back, for the Terminator movies it’s Judgement Day, for Call of Duty games it’s Modern Warfare 1 and for Spider-Man games it’s 2004’s movie tie-in Spider-Man 2. Fans, critics and even developers agree that Spider-Man 2 is the benchmark for what makes a great Spidey game.
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also Available On: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, PC, 3DS, iOS, Android
Release Date: Out Now
It’s been 10 years since that benchmark was released and we’ve seen Spider-Man games aplenty, each with their unique attempts to improve on the previous, each with their own disappointments. Despite the many failings over the years, most web slinging fans are loyal to the character and continually seek out the next game in the franchise with hope. The cautious optimism of Spider-Man fans now rests with another movie tie-in, The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
This game marks Spidey’s debut on the current generation of games consoles, though disappointingly as a port rather than a purpose built development. We won’t hold that against the developers though, with the recent announcement that Call Of Duty: Ghosts, a port, is the best selling game of the new generation on both consoles.
Following on from the events of the first Amazing Spider-Man movie tie-in, the story loosely follows the movie without giving away any spoilers that haven’t already been shown in trailers. As with the first game in this series, the main campaign sees the big screen villains joined by some of the fan-boy favourites. Kingpin, Shocker, Carnage and Kraven the Hunter all bring their own contributions to a story which sees a now experienced Spider-Man turn his attention away from Oscorp’s cross-species experiments to focus on the everyday threats of New York from street gangs, only to be dragged into another conspiracy surrounding Harry Osborn and his new business partner.
With a synopsis like that any gamer would be forgiven for expecting an epic story campaign on par with the best of them, right? Something that requires hours upon hours of gaming devoted to the main missions. Sadly the story is incredibly short, lasting only 14 missions. Though disappointing in length, the story is an interesting one and can be quite engaging at times in the same way that players grind through Call Of Duty campaigns just to see the next cut-scene. Sadly you will always feel like an outsider looking in rather than an active part of the story, not helped by the insanely long load times that make actively engaging with the story by seamlessly moving from mission to mission impossible.
Outside of the story missions you’ll find yourself web-swinging your way through the virtual New York open-world, now with extra skyscrapers (conveniently). The web-swinging mechanics can make or break a Spider-Man game, for obvious reasons, and TAS2 doesn’t disappoint. Unlike the one button plus direction approach from previous iterations, Beenox have taken the interesting approach of introducing targeted web-slinging with two shoulder buttons, Left shoulder sends you left, Right shoulder sends you right. Understandably Beenox want to add their own stamp on Spidey’s key mechanics but in trying to add a new level of finesse they’ve overcomplicated something that worked well in the previous game (What’s that old saying? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”).
So you’ve spent ten minutes getting to grips with the new web-swinging controls and you’re loose in the open-world, what have you got to keep you occupied? Sadly the side missions scattered around New York don’t offer a great deal of diversity to an already lacklustre experience. Early on in a play-through, the side missions offer a nice distraction as you roam the city saving civilians from burning buildings, taking down groups of mobsters and giving the police a helping hand with the occasional shoot-out. Sadly, after a few rounds of sides missions the game quickly turns from interesting and variety filled into mindless tedium as you find yourself repeating scenario after scenario.
To add to the players open-world woes, a new, very basic, morality system has been included. The scale bounces between Spidey being seen as a menace or a hero depending on how you spend your time in the open-world, save civilians and you’re a hero, try and take down a corrupt task force and you’re considered a menace and attacked. Sadly the morality system offers nothing more than a distraction and has no bearing on the outcome of the story.
One of the few advantages of grinding through the open-world, and possibly the single best thing about The Amazing Spider-man 2 is the unlockable skins. Despite promising a number of advantageous power upgrades, the suits play almost identically. That said, swinging around New York in the 2099 or Spider-Carnage suit is a lot of fun and something that every Spider-Man fan will enjoy considerably.
The fighting mechanics have seriously improved from TAS1, in no small part because the action has been given something of a Arkham-style polish. Like Batman’s best, the player is given clear indications as to when to press the dodge button and when to attack. In addition, the game continues a tradition stretching back through the Spider-Man games in the form of skill upgrades that can be unlocked throughout the game offering more diverse fighting styles and faster reaction times.
That said, the game never really gives the player the chance to fully enjoy the fighting styles as the story game-play follows a very restricted and predictable path, find the bad guys, fight the bad guys, find the boss, fight the boss with no real challenge requiring any brain power.
The single most annoying aspect of the game-play though comes from the way the game attempts to bring city sized, unrestricted outside feel into a closed indoor environment, the camera angles can make even the most placid gamer rage, it just doesn’t work well and can make missions requiring stealth a lot more painful then they ever need to be as you waste time trying to figure out which way is up whilst the camera is doing the same.
Graphically this game is sub-par for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and although the virtual New York is realistically full of life, the draw distance is laughable. The cut-scenes let the side down considerably with last-generation graphics that, in 2014, the developer should be embarrassed about with painfully poor looking character models and rendering glitches galore.
The voice-over work is fair, though none of the movie cast have added their voices to their virtual counterparts, with the exception of everyone’s favourite cameo king, Stan Lee. Sadly the seriously out of time lip syncing means that even with awarding winning vocals this game couldn’t live up to some of the best.
Despite an interesting story which brings some beloved comic villains into the newly rebooted Spider-Man universe, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a lacklustre affair. The game is filled with forced grinding and repetitive game-play in a graphically dated gaming environment.
That said, Beenox have brought in significant improvements to the fighting mechanics and tried something new and interesting with the web-swinging which adds value and fun to an otherwise dull experience. Not the worst Spider-Man game by far (see Spider-Man 3) but it falls far short of some of it’s predecessors.
As always with Spider-Man games, we await the next instalment with the same cautious optimism and hope we’ve had for a decade.
[tabgroup][tab title=”The Good“]
Drastically improved combat
Loads of unlockable skins for Spider-Man fans to enjoy
Aimlessly web-swinging in open-world is more fun then it should be
[/tab][tab title=”The Bad“]
Very short story
Repetitive game-play with few decent distractions
Graphically well below par for 2014