Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Is Not The Spidey Game You’ve Been Hoping For
Beenox previously raised fan expectations for Spider-Man games with exciting ideas and fresh approaches to development. The Amazing Spider-Man was a decent attempt at a movie tie-in that showed some promise, and fans would be looking for a big improvement going forward. It's a great pity then that the Amazing Spider-Man 2 does not live up to that. Read on to find out why.
- Worth The Time?Only if you loved Beenox's previous outing.
- Things LovedSpider-Man looks great, some aspects of the story are more coherent than the film, swinging feels good, there are many awesome suits to unlock.
- Things HatedIt's too similar to the original, some voice acting and dialogue can be cringe-worthy, it gets really repetitive, there's not much to do, the city is lifeless, the Hero or Menace system takes the fun out of swinging around, combat has no diversity, many of the boss battles are poor and without challenge, not enough variety in animations, dialogue choices are pointless.
- RecommendationIf you absolutely loved the original offering by Beenox, this is more of that and worth your time. It's easy to enjoy. But if you're waiting for the next stand-out Spidey game, or even just a good one, this isn't it and you'd best give it a miss or get it cheaper.
- Name: The Amazing Spider-Man 2
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Developer: Beenox
- Publisher: Activision
- Price: R542 (PS3, 360), R630 (PS4, Xbox One)
- Reviewed On: PS4
Beenox has had a rather mixed time at the helm of the Spider-Man games, but thus far they could be credited for their fresh ideas and new approaches to the games. While they haven’t reached greatness yet, they’ve certainly excited fans of the wall-crawler and showed that they were willing to take risks. Shattered Dimensions was good, Edge of Time was an awkward misstep and The Amazing Spider-Man was a completely fresh approach to the usual formula that ended up being pretty decent overall. With The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Beenox had the opportunity to build on the undiscovered potential of the first and deliver a much better game. Unfortunately they’ve largely failed to even attempt that, let alone actually do it. And that brings us here to another Spider-Man game that falls short of being memorable, but probably has done enough to please die hard fans.
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The premise of the game could have worked well enough, had it not broken down into a rushed mess through villain prostitution in the latter parts of the game. The beginning sees Peter searching for his uncle’s killer, something the film story didn’t go back to yet. Rather boldly Beenox attempted to resolve that plot line. While it’s great to see the developer taking liberties and not being tied down to the movies, their approach is flawed, mainly with Peter’s characterisation. In the first movie, an initial quest for vengeance ended when Captain Stacy turned Peter flaccid and highlighted that he wasn’t a hero, and Peter had to realise he could be one after saving the kid on the bridge. At the end, it’s left as an unresolved issue. In this game for some reason Peter is back to wanting revenge and seems hellbent on finding it with Batman levels of obsession. It’s not really believable. On the plus side though the dialogue with Aunt May at the conclusion of that story is nicely done, and the general plot picks up from there as you begin to delve into the origin stories of a number of memorable villains. For some reason though there are dialogue options during set confrontations such as with Aunt May, but these don’t alter story and simply decide the order of topics covered, making them pointless.
New to the game are Peter Parker sections, which usually involve investigations or conversations. They’re nice enough pauses from the usual and fit in well enough with everything else. Overall though the story does genuinely flow early on. Villains are gradually introduced and given appropriate time to develop, and some aspects of the plot, such as Harry’s illness and increasing desperation for a cure, and Spider-Man’s refusal to offer up his blood, are actually handled more coherently than in the film, and you can get on board with the rationales. However, once you reach a certain point, it’s like Beenox just gave up and the story disappears, with it all just becoming an assembly line of villains, one after the other. It was disappointing because even though there are literally no surprises and it’s all predictable, it’s at least authentic up to a point and continued Beenox’s trend of making their own story rather than sticking to the movies and telling a watered down version of the same plot. One thing that didn’t make any kind of sense though was Gwen. She wasn’t in the game! She just disappeared, which is incomprehensible considering she was in the first and this one has, well, Green Goblin? I imagine it was done to avoid any spoilers for the movie, but it ends up being silly and very strange.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 plays the same as its predecessor. And by that I mean it’s practically identical with little attempt to make any improvements, never mind actually making any. The one good thing is the spiced up swinging system, where now Spidey’s webs have to attach to buildings and you can alternate between his left and right hands. The Web Rush is still as pleasant as it was in the previous game, but it’s disappointing to see that nothing new has been done with it, which fits the general theme of the game I guess. However I’m sure that many devoted Spider-Man fans would be really glad to find that parkour and swinging around the city is great, as that’s what a lot of fans play these games for. Sadly the downside is that there are two things that either limit or take away from the fun you’ll have. The first is that the city is really lifeless, and even though there is a button to interact with civilians many of them won’t even notice your existence. The best you can hope for is a comment, which is a real downer because being a superhero who is invisible to the public isn’t all that cool. The second thing is a bigger problem, and it’s the new Hero or Menace system.
The Hero or Menace system is interesting in concept but poor in execution. Contrary to the usual binary morality systems you get in games, this time around being a menace basically translates to being a weak hero. There are three levels of hero and menace, and you’ll constantly move along the scale depending on what you do or don’t do. Throughout the game there will be crimes and hazards in the city which you have the option of attending to. These are your expected side missions such as beating up a few criminals, disposing of a bomb, saving civilians in trouble or aiding the police. Doing them awards you with hero points, while avoiding them long enough causes them to resolve and disappear off the map, giving you menace points. If you’re a hero you’ll get buffs to your stats and total freedom, whereas if you’re a menace you’ll get penalised and the authorities will hunt you. While it sounds good on paper and does give you incentive to do good, the biggest problem is the invisible time limit attached to side missions which takes the fun out of just swinging around the city, because the longer you do it and ignore the world the more you’ll see your hero points drop, which is sour. It basically forces you away from the very thing you play Spider-Man games for,
The system, much like the rest of the game, also just becomes far too repetitive. There are only a handful of side missions, and being made to essentially grind them for points loses its appeal quite quickly. Fortunately it only takes a few to get your points back up and you gain them faster than you lose them, but over the course of the game it just becomes more of a chore. What makes it even more irritating is that side missions aren’t organically laid out around the map, and instead you have to go through numerous pauses in gameplay to trigger them, pass the short intro cutscene and skip through the resulting news report. The whole thing seems unnecessary and could have been executed just as well in real-time. Sure it’s nice the first few times, but not so much the next couple of dozen. Apart from these side missions, there’s barely anything else to be entertained by in the city. Like the first game you can collect comic book pages to unlock some comics to read, and that’s welcome. But often you’ll just get on with the game because the world isn’t fun, and swinging around comes at a price.
The combat is identical as well to the previous game, with a few additions made. There are now dodge rolls and additional skills which can be bought from the upgrade menu with tech pieces that take a while to gather. It’s always good to have a sense of progression and be able to acquire new skills, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has a rather senseless upgrade system. Rather than open the doors to many new skills and use the chance to add a lot more variety to the game, there are only a handful of abilities of which you can increase their potency. The costs are also straight up weird. The most expensive upgrades fall short of 10 000 tech pieces, but all of the highest tier upgrades make little to no impact on the game. For an example, it costs 6000 pieces to add a close line to the end of a web pull. Yes literally all that just to punch someone after rearing them in. They hardly change gameplay or spice it up, and you’ll feel it was badly needed since the combat is repetitive and really shallow. It’s strange that a game which draws from the Arkham series of games for its combat and stealth has not done anything for diversity over two entire games. Here it’s just button bashing with the occasional dodge or finisher.
The one addition I quite liked was the seismic blast, which is a skill you get early on that allows you to charge up a sonic web boom and fire it off to stun enemies. It’s smile-worthy to imagine it as a Kame Hame Ha attack with the way it looks. Aside from little pleasures like that the trick to winning is just punching people until they drop, and you have little to no room to spice up combat. It surprises me as well that even though the web strike ability was inspired by Web of Shadows, over two games Beenox still hasn’t added any variety to it and it’s so dull an attack that you’ll only use it to get close to enemies. I guess it just falls in line with most of the game. Small things have been added here and there, but nothing substantial. The same goes for the stealth. Sure it’s nice to be able to do inverted takedowns while rappelling, or to be able to take down enemies from any surface, but nothing has actually been added to the way stealth works or what you can do. While it”s all still enjoyable as a package, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just does little to excite you and nothing to advance its mechanics.
One of the best things is the addition of many bonus costumes you can unlock throughout the game. As you progress you’ll unlock new side missions which are stealth-centered and require you to eliminate bad guys without being seen. Succeeding gets you access to a new suit. The suits aren’t purely cosmetic though, and they do bring combinations of stat buffs. For example the Noir suit improves your stealth efficiency, ballistic resistance and takedown range while the standard suit increases your combat damage and efficiency and web speed. The suits are levelled up as you gain experience to further increase their buffs, and you’re free to change by returning to Peter’s home. They look awesome and it’s great for fans, but it does lead to you becoming overpowered as you max them out, particularly when it comes to boss battles and you have high damage resistance or damage output. Speaking of, it’s not such a downer since many of the boss battles are poor and without challenge, revolving around the usual of just repeating the same pattern until victory.
It might seem outlandish that I can say I had fun with this game despite all the damning criticisms I’ve made. But the truth is that you can enjoy this game and if you really liked the first then this will cater to you just fine. The greatest disappointment though is that there actually is potential here and Beenox does have good ideas. They’ve just totally failed to add to anything they built in the first game or broaden the mechanics. Essentially The Amazing Spider-Man 2 stays at square one, and it’s simply the foundation to build a much better game out of despite the fact that it takes a few steps back from the original. What’s just as sad is that Spider-Man games from years ago have had more variety in their combat systems and more entertainment value to be found in just swinging around the city, yet Beenox fails to bring any of it into their games despite drawing from the Arkham series.
Visually The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is fairly attractive. Spider-Man looks great, and the city itself is pleasing enough on the eyes throughout the stages of the day. It’s a pity that the glitchy animations can detract from the visuals though, especially during some dialogue scenes where it appears as though characters are over-animating. By large though, you won’t have many complaints about the visuals in this game. The same can’t be said for the audio, where some voice acting and dialogue can be cringe-worthy. One of the most satisfying aspects of the audio and visuals is the rush of wind and feeling of momentum you get when zipping through the city at high speed or free falling, and it’s in these moments where you can at least feel more than ordinary. Despite hearing a lot about glitches in the game, I didn’t encounter all that many and had a relatively smooth playing experience.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a nice attempt by Beenox, but it will only please those who absolutely loved the first game. Curtly put it’s not the great Spider-Man game you’ve been hoping for and it’s not even a good one at that. In the end it’s a mediocre offering and an ultimately frustrating package in which glimpses of potential and greatness are squandered by a lack of ambition and an absence of fresh ideas and any kind of substance. It can be a fun game, but it’s also one you can skip or pick up at a bargain price without losing any sleep. It’s sad to see a developer who once looked set to inspire the Spider-Man series of games or at least inject creativity into it reduce themselves to virtually making no progress from one game to the next, and that’s more of a letdown than the game itself.