Spider-Man games used to rule the roost when it came to licensed comic book properties. Spidey led the way in fact on the NES, and continued his streak into the SNES with classic brawlers like Separation Anxiety and Maximum Carnage, and one of my personal favorites -- the 1995 cartoon adaptation.
But ever since 2004's Spider-Man 2, developers have struggled to recapture the magic of what it means to swing about in 3D. While I saw a lot of hope in the first Amazing Spider-Man game, there's been an unfortunate drop in quality the second time around.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (3DS, PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Released: April 29, 2014
First things first: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 manages to do web slinging right -- something practically no other 3D Spider game has in years. The idea is simple in that the left and right triggers control left and right webs respectively, forcing you to actually see a physical anchor point before swinging around. Yep, that's right, invisible air swinging is no longer an option for the most part. This allows Spidey to maneuver about with grace, since you can let go of the button early to fling yourself to and fro with the new physics engine.
It actually feels pretty great and achieves a sense of speed very close to the films -- and that's not even mentioning the slingshot move that can shoot you forward at high speed, or the returning slow-mo move that lets you pinpoint certain jump points. So while movement around the game's open world is great, everything else is kind of a mixed bag.
Combat in particular is part of that mixture, as it takes cues from counter-based systems like the Assassin's Creed and Arkham franchises, but a lot less inspired and clean. Hits as a whole lack an impact, and despite the fact that the framerate remains fairly consistent, Spidey's animations are incredibly poor, and on top of that you'll have to watch the same few combos over and over. All you really need to do to win is mash the attack button and occasionally press the counter button to dodge and counterstike -- there isn't much to it.
Stealth scenes also return, and again, especially considering the Detective Vision-like Spidey Sense, heavily evoke feelings of the Predator scenes from Arkham. Having said that, I actually enjoy these scenes as Spider-Man a little more-so than the caped crusader, because he can crawl on walls, slither down a web like a spider stalking his prey, and so on -- which gives these portions a unique and interesting feel. Pace-killing Peter Parker scenes occur a little too often though, and while they don't last all that long they do feel pointlessly injected.
Speaking of pacing, the script is kind of all over the place for the roughly 10-hour affair. What starts off as a decent setup and film tie-in becomes its own mess entirely. Spider-Man begins chasing Uncle Ben's killer (which is a simple enough premise), and quickly finds himself in the middle of an attack on Oscorp. From there, it feels like the writers found any and every excuse to just pack in every villain they could find (of which there are seven) regardless of how well they worked.
Having said that, there is a good amount of fun to be had here, especially since new villains are introduced every half hour or so, and in-between them, exploring the city is quite fun. It all feels like a mess, but a fun mess nonetheless if all you want to see is Spider-Man beat up and web-up some bad guys.
It's tough to really call The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a current-generation game -- because it's not. While the aforementioned consistent framerate is definitely a plus on the PS4, the game doesn't look all that great, or detailed for that matter. The city feels relatively lifeless, and the UI and menus feel cluttered and a little too retro for their own good. A lack of polish isn't doing Amazing 2 any favors.
Peter's old friend "Stan" returns from the first game, and this time we get to see him in the flesh operating his comic shop. It's here that you'll be able to access all of the game's extras, including a training simulation, figurine collectibles, and real comic books that you can collect throughout the city. You can also opt to change out your costume in Peter's room (pre-order bonuses range from the Venom Suit to Spider-Man's Cosmic outfiit.
While it's more than a lot of other open-world games offer, nothing is compelling enough to collect or pursue unless you really want to read those comic books. The sidequests in general (fighting petty criminals and taking pictures) are simply a bore, only rewarding you with a generic 10-second clip of the Daily Bugle heralding Spidey's heroic actions. Whereas games like inFamous: Second Son, Saints Row IV, and Prototype offer up unique objectives and rewards to entice you into completing them (as well as a fun sandbox to romp in), Beenox dropped the ball here.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn't a complete disaster, and I can easily see fans of Spidey enjoying it at a deep discount. It's just a shame that Beenox somehow got worse at making Spider-Man games over time, and that the powers that be insist on rushing them as movie tie-ins. Somehow, someway -- we will get our Arkham of Spider-Man games again. Until then, you can just pick up a used copy of 2004's Spider-Man 2.