Ever since the enjoyable Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, Beenox has more or less become a Spider-Man manufacturing plant, tapped by Activision to produce every major release featuring the web-slinger since. This includes the game adaptations of the latest movies, which historically have meant strict guidelines, tight development schedules and budgets, leading to often inferior products and the most widely reviled sub-genre of gaming. So, with that optimistic outlook, here comes The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a game that not only has to beat the stigma of movie-based games, but also has to live up to one of the rare cases which proved to be great – original Spider-Man 2. So how does it do?
The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s premise is a little confusing. After the previous Amazing Spider-Man game took place after the events of the movie, these games take place in their own splinter continuity, which adapts elements from their silver screen inspirations, but also change a great deal. Electrical engineer Max Dillon is still rescued by Spider-Man during a mission, comes to idolise him, and after an accident makes him ridiculous supervillain Electro, he declares war on Spidey. But that’s not all – while the film focuses more on Peter’s relationship with Gwen Stacy, the game spends its time developing a number of other subplots. A serial killer codenamed the ‘Carnage Killer’ (can you guess where this is going?) is on the loose in New York, a gang war is breaking out involving the Russians and the ‘Shocker’, and Wilson Fisk (aka. The Kingpin) partners with Oscorp to bring peace to New York’s streets.
There’s a lot going on, and not everything is developed much beyond the level of your typical Spider-Man cartoon, which is serviceable enough. Yet another subplot involving Kraven the Hunter takes an unusual approach to the material, with the character becoming Spidey’s mentor early on in the game, in a unique and interesting development. Despite murder and gang violence being common themes, the game is remarkably sanitised and safe for kids who are into the movie franchise.
Gameplay-wise, the first question any Spider-Man fan will ask is how’s the web-swinging, and is it as good as Spider-Man 2? The answer: it’s fine, and no, not really. Beenox have improved in some areas , as Spider-Man has to be in the vicinity of objects which his webs can actually tether to in order to web-swing. If you’re too high, or over Central Park, you’ll have nothing to latch on to and Spidey will remind you why not. The physics of the web-swinging itself is alright, but it does tend to glitch out on smaller landmarks like trees or lampposts, allowing you to swing way higher than you should be able to, or spin in circles with no momentum. They’ve also implemented a system where you can control each of Spider-Man’s web-shooters with the two triggers. This seems to make sense, since New York is basically a series of corridors with buildings always on either side of you, but mechanically I didn’t really feel like it made much of a difference.
However, the big addition is a new ‘web-zip’ mode that lets you freeze time and move a cursor around the screen to choose where you want Spidey to ‘zip’ to. He’ll then wrench control from you and make all the appropriate moves himself to arrive there, and if you hold down on the analogue stick he’ll continue with his momentum. It’s a little like the Blink feature from Dishonored, except not as instant. Once you get the hang of zipping, it’s faster to use than swinging a lot of the time, which takes some of the fun out of what most people look forward to in a Spider-Man game.
The combat clearly takes after the Batman: Arkham series, as your Spider-Sense kicks in to highlight incoming attacks for you to parry and dodge, as Spidey flips back and forth between multiple enemies, using his grappling ho- I mean, webs to pull in baddies and launch himself at them. It’s a good system, but it has already been seen so many times in the Arkham series itself, let alone in imitations in other games, that it ends up feeling stale.
There are fourteen main story missions, but they’re short and don’t pose too much of a challenge, meaning you can get through the meat of the game in around six hours. There are plenty of side-missions to tackle, including simple villain punch-ups and mini-games that see Spidey clinging to the side of getaway cars, but these are repetitive and not very involving. Of more interest are the various suits you can unlock, which imbue Spidey with all kinds of buffs and abilities and reference the larger comic world he belongs to. Speaking of comics, there are a ton of comic pages scattered around the game to collect, unlocking high-resolution scans of full comic-books to flip through, which is a nice bonus.
Despite this being the first Spider-Man title on next-gen consoles, the game doesn’t feel like a next-gen experience. You could play The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on PS3 or 360 and get pretty much the same experience, with cartoony visuals and characters who in no way resemble their live action counterparts (with one caveat, as this game brings us no doubt the finest digital recreation of Stan Lee, playing himself, yet seen).
For young kids who live Spider-Man and are into the new movies, then The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a fine, inoffensive birthday gift. The developers have been able to competently execute a free-roaming Spider-Man game that borrows elements from other games to some success and manages to moderately entertain. For many adult players, it’ll be demolished by other higher quality superhero titles already available, like inFamous Second Son and Batman: Arkham City, and is even eclipsed by Beenox’s earlier Spider-Man titles. It’s an average game with a Spider-Man theme that is relatively enjoyable, if stale, and given the history of movie-based games, that’s not all that bad.
Competent web-slinging and swinging, combat | Interesting story | Stan Lee