The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS
ESRB: T for Teen
Released: April 29, 2014
This is a review of the PlayStation 4 version of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the sequel to 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, developed by Beenox. This is Beenox’s fourth Spider-Man game in five years, their second attempt at an open-world Spider-Man game and is, in many ways, their worst effort yet.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is similar to most open-world Spidey games that precede it. Players freely control Spider-Man within New York’s confines by web-slinging, complete side-missions scattered throughout the metropolis’ streets and rooftops, and advance the main story at their pace.
Whereas its predecessor’s story was set after the events of the first Marc Webb-directed film, which gave Beenox’s writers an opportunity to create an interesting storyline about cross-species genetics, The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s story is very, very loosely based on the second movie’s plot and focuses on Spidey going after a serial killer known as the “Carnage Killer” and Wilson Fisk’s ill-intentioned collaboration with Oscorp to “keep New York safe by stopping crime”. It’s much less interesting than it sounds and serves as a poor excuse for the game to throw as many supervillains in your direction as possible, all while being incoherent.
The cast of villains that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 throws in your direction is great, though. Whereas the first Amazing Spider-Man game featured lesser-known bad guys like Iguana and Piranha (which worked in the context of the first game as they were all cross-species), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 features the likes of the Shocker and the Kingpin. The inclusion of modernized versions of some of Spidey’s greatest foes serves as great fan service on Beenox’s part, along with the fact that there are a ton of unlockable costumes from various universes and full versions of Spider-Man comics for players to read (these are unlocked by acquiring comic pages scattered throughout open-world New York). Some other nods to Spider-Man’s past are also present, and it goes to show that Beenox tried to pack as many easter eggs and references into the game as they could to satisfy long-time Spidey fans.
It’s all well and good for the developer to go out of their way to include all of this, but the most important element of most video games is gameplay, and that’s where The Amazing Spider-Man 2 falls flat on its face. The biggest addition to Spidey’s latest virtual adventure is the revamped web-slinging system. In The Amazing Spider-Man, the hero’s web lines attached to the sky and there was no real momentum or realism to speak of. In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Spidey casts his webs only when he is near buildings, giving the illusion that they really are attaching to structures. It feels better than the first game’s web-slinging system, but is a far cry from the complex, physics-based system present in the ten year-old Spider-Man 2, or even 2005’s Ultimate Spider-Man. It’s a shame that after so much time, Spider-Man 2’s web-slinging mechanics still cannot not be replicated. There’s very little momentum when web-slinging, but, in spite of this, the mechanics are still quite fun.
The Web Rush mechanic is also back, and it allows Spider-Man to navigate around New York in acrobatic ways with the press of a single button. It’s simple: point the cursor in the middle of your screen where you want to go, press R1, and Spidey will go there stylishly. R1 can also be held down for more precision, as the camera goes first-person, the game goes slow-motion, and you can choose your destination. It doesn’t work nearly as well as in the first game, though, as Spider-Man is much more limited in his movement options because of the new web-slinging mechanics, and I must say that I pretty much avoided Web Rush when navigating through NYC as it made the game more clunky than anything else. The Web Rush is also used as a way to navigate through indoor environments during missions and to pull Spidey towards enemies during combat. It doesn’t work very well a lot of the time because when you’re trying to stealth your way through a room full of enemies, Web Rush locks onto them, forcing you to go first-person if you want to move through rooms. It slows down the game’s pace and is vastly inferior to its first incarnation.
Also inferior to its first incarnation is the game’s stealth system. Spidey never seems to be in range of his enemies and sneaking up on them is a frustrating experience. In most cases, it can be foregone for the standard beat ‘em up approach, as that at least works correctly. Combat is similar to The Amazing Spider-Man’s, being Arkham-like. One button is used for attacks, one is used to dodge once your Spider-Sense goes off and to execute an evasive roll, on is used to web up enemies, and each of the controller’s bumpers are used to web pull and Web Rush, respectively. Unlike the Arkham games, The Amazing Spider Man 2’s combat is dull, repetitive, and easy. There’s really nothing to it and it gets boring very quickly. Since combat is what you’ll be doing 90% of the time during missions, 90% of the time spent doing missions will not be fun, especially since the level design is bland and uncreative. Boss battles are designed around using one or two of the game’s mechanics. Usually, the formula is dodge/evade, pummel, rinse and repeat until the boss’ health meter is depleted. These segments are extremely easy and never get harder as the game progresses. The final boss was just as easy as the first and the player’s hand is held throughout the game.
Speaking of bosses, their characters are never really developed, much like the rest of the game’s cast. Beenox did attempt to add some depth to Spidey’s character by including segments where players control Peter Parker, but these instances are rare and undoubtedly the worst part of the game, since Peter usually has to simply has to get to an objective, interact with an object or person, and then go elsewhere. Also on the subject of interactions, certain dialogue segments in the game are presented as “interactive”, but there are no actual choices to be made as the dialogue you select will not affect the outcome of the conversation. In fact, these conversations can be skipped altogether and mostly serve as a way to shine some light on story elements.
To develop Spider-Man’s character, Beenox chose to include the Hero or Menace system. The Hero or Menace system is, on paper, a good addition to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 because it makes the player feel more like Spider-Man. Spider-Man can be perceived as a hero by the press by completing side-missions or a menace by ignoring or failing them. This “Hero or Menace” status is represented by the “Hero Meter”, which allows the player to reach different levels or “hero” or “menace” status (levels one through three of each). The more the player fulfills their duty as a hero, the quicker the stats to level up Spidey’s various costumes will increase. If the player decides to ignore the calls for help and embraces being a menace, a “taskforce” that is spread throughout the city attacks Spider-Man, with stats increasing at a more moderate pace.
The Hero or Menace system is boring, repetitive, and poorly designed. Every time Spider-Man initiates a side-mission which is shown on the map, usually a car chase, beating up three to a dozen thugs, saving people from a burning building or finding a bomb and disposing of it, a cutscene is played. You play through the side-mission, which is exactly the same as the last side-mission of the same type that you just played, and watch a cutscene of a news report where Spidey is praised by Whitney Chang as a hero if the mission is completed successfully, or flaunted as a menace by J. Jonah Jameson if the mission is failed. Your Hero Meter is affected by the outcome. The opening cutscene cannot be skipped, so you will watch the same cutscene a few dozen times throughout the game, and the ending cutscene can only be skipped halfway through, so it becomes tedious in no time.
The worst part about the Hero or Menace system is that side-missions expire. If they expire, you lose hero points and become perceived more and more as a menace. There is no indication of when a side-mission will expire, so as you’re heading to a main story mission, your map will start flashing red to indicate that a side-mission will be expiring soon. Before you get there, the side-mission has disappeared from the map and you will have lost hero points. This happens very, very often after having completed just the first few main story missions. To make matters worse, sometimes two flash at a time. Basically, you’re being forced to constantly do these repetitive, boring side-missions if you want to keep your suit’s stats up, and they falsely extend the game’s very short length, which is definitely under five or six hours.
The Hero or Menace system never truly leaves players time to explore open-world New York, since there is always a certain sense of urgency when playing through the main story. The same sense of urgency is still there once the story is completed. Beenox tried to remedy a problem in the last game, which was that side-missions weren’t there endlessly, but created a new one by implementing the Hero or Menace system.
To make matters worse, the voice work throughout the game is mediocre at best and cutscenes seem unfinished most of the time. Flickering textures and shadows are abundant, and characters have very awkward, unnatural animations. The game isn’t a looker. I played the PS4 version, and I can safely say that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on PlayStation 4 wouldn’t look that good as a PS3 game, for the problems mentioned above, frequent glitches, low-poly enemy models and low-resolution textures. Luckily, Spider-Man’s character model does look quite nice, and the game runs smoothly. The soundtrack is good, if not a bit repetitive. It gives a nice sense of heroicness and sets the tone for the game, much like the movies’ soundtracks.
All in all, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a mess. There are some cool little references here and there, and the web-slinging system is better than the one found in the last game, but semi-functional mechanics like stealth, Web Rush and Hero or Menace bog down the game’s overall sense of “being Spider-Man”. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is tedious, ugly, unpolished and frustratingly easy. I wouldn’t recommend it to Spider-Man fans or video game fans because other, older Spidey games are more enjoyable alternatives for a fraction of the price.
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