The Amazing Spider-Man 2 game review: No web, no
You know that scene in Spider-Man 3 where Tobey Maguire is walking down the street, dancing and shooting fingers from his hips to music? The Amazing Spider-Man 2 video game never approaches that level of bad, but considering what it could have been, it's quite a disappointment. There are some wonderful concepts, but the game feels rushed and there's a lot of poor execution.
The game starts off by teaching you to walk and look around as you move towards your Uncle Ben's demise. It's the set up for a story that has Spider-Man searching for his Uncle's killer and encountering enemies in a plot to pit gangs against each other, take down Spider-Man and run the city. The problem is that the story never gets very interesting. The most captivating part of the story is over half-way through the game.
You go head-to-head with a good amount of Spider-Man villains – Shocker, Electro, Kraven, Kingpin, Black Cat, Green Goblin, Carnage – but the fights lack the excitement you would expect. They're pretty much all the same thing, but using a different mechanic you've learned throughout the game. I would say the Electro fight was the most exciting because it's the most impressive one visually, but all of the fights are repetitive, with the only real challenge coming when other enemies were on-screen.
I think part of the problem is that a character is introduced early in the game, with very little interaction, and then later on it's supposed to be some big deal boss fight. Bosses are presented to you in a very linear story – one that doesn't let you stray at all and choose what villains to pursue at your leisure. There are multiple storylines going on at once, so if the game let you choose which ones to go after at whatever time you want, it would've been more enjoyable.
The only control you have comes via the menace/hero meter. While the idea of this system is fine, its execution is flat-out terrible. In between story levels, of which there are 14, you swing around New York City. Laid out across the map are icons for various mission types – rescuing a civilian and bringing him/her to a hospital, finding a bomb and bringing it to water, rescuing a civilian from a car chase, taking out all of the bad guys in a shootout with police, and rescuing civilians from a burning building. There are so many problems with this system, but I'll attempt to tackle the ones that come to mind.
First, there's no real benefit to the system. There's three levels of heroism, each increasing the bonus stats on whichever suit you're wearing, while the three levels of menace decrease the stats. The thing is, you don't even notice the bonuses or penalties. The missions are so annoying and repetitive that I ignored them for the second half of the game and it made no difference. If you're a hero, you'll hear people utter nice things about you in passing. If you're a menace, they'll say some not so nice things. But sticks and stones, ya know?
At some points throughout the game, there's so many missions available on the map that you have to pick and choose which ones you want to do, and since there's a certain amount of time on each one, you feel like you should constantly grind them to keep at maximum heroism. But again, they're so repetitive in nature and pointless that it's better to just skip them. Not to mention, each of them are instanced, so they don't even feel organic to the game. At the end of each one, a reporter gives a brief news cap that differs on whether you succeeded or not, but there are only about five different ones, so that becomes annoying too.
At the end of the day, the system feels like a chore instead of something you want to do as a hero. And even if you work hard to keep at max heroism, the game erases your progress at certain points and sets you all the way to menacing.
Outside of those missions, there's 300 comic book pages to college by swinging around the city, audio logs to collect in and outside of missions, pictures to take for J. Jonah Jameson, and stealth missions to unlock new Spider-Man suits. These stealth missions are one of the shining spots of the game. You're tasked with sneaking around an underground area, taking out all the baddies stealthily, not letting the awareness meter get full (which happens from them spotting you), and decoding the Osborn tech for a new suit once all of the baddies are disposed of.
There are good amount of alternate suits, each having three different bonus stats affected. While they each level up on their own from using them throughout the game, you hardly notice the bonuses. And it's kind of annoying to have to level up each and every single one.
While the suits each level up on their own, you do have an overarching upgrade path for Spider-Man. Using tech points that you get throughout the game, you can upgrade your web shooters, sonic attacks, web slinging and the slingshot move. Again, the upgrades feel a bit lackluster, as they mainly just decrease the amount of time it takes to slingshot or charge up a shot.
The brightest spot and most enjoyable part of the game is swinging through the city. Beenox absolutely nailed the art of web-swinging. The webs connect to actual buildings instead of mysterious objects in the sky, and the left and right triggers are mapped to each hand. It allows you to decide which hand to swing off of, when to let go, and when to build up speed. It's exhilarating. That said, the slingshot move is awkward to control, and sometimes swinging through the city streets can get a bit disorienting once you hit a building. Without missing a beat, you'll just start running on the side of the building, but camera angles and the wonky cameras can disorient you and get you turned around.
There's a web rush button that lets you slow down time (when you want to be precise) and pinpoint where you want to shoot yourself off to, or just tapping the button to get to a location quickly. It interrupts the flow in web-slinging and obeys no laws of physics, but it's really handy in the stealth missions.
Combat is a complete copy of the Batman Arkham series, though the execution feels a little more sloppy. It's still enjoyable though, since I'm a sucker for watching Spider-Man use acrobatic moves to take down his enemies. Visually, I encountered a lot of bugs -- A LOT. In one scene, Harry Osborne was holding a glass of champagne while talking to Peter, and the color of the champagne expanded out of the glass in streaks of light. Audio and dialogue was out of sync, Spider-Man had drastic movements in cutscenes, and player models are just not pretty. Spider-Man looks good at times, but enemies all look alike and central characters have last-gen textures or worse. Accompanying effects and sounds from breaking a window or running through water were also absent at parts.
I put plenty of time into this game. I love Spider-Man, so I wanted to give it every opportunity to win me over, but the entire experience felt more like a hassle than it should be. Maybe that's what being a real superhero feels like... a hassle. Because with great power comes great responsibility. I can only recommend this to the biggest of Spider-Man fans. There's good ideas with poor execution, but the web-slinging is phenomenal. I wish the rest of the game matched it. That said, my son is five, a huge Spider-Man fan, and had a blast web-slinging through the city. Everything looks better to a five-year-old.
[Reviewed on PlayStation 4]