The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review (PlayStation 4)
With poor licensing comes poor development. Ten years ago, the movie tie-in game for ‘Spider-Man 2’ revolutionized the superhero gaming genre and gave us a genuine experience of what it would be like to explore the entire island of Manhattan as the famous wall-crawler. The 2004 Spider-Man 2 title was beautiful from afar, had amazing depth perception and introduced us to some beautiful web-slinging mechanics, but it also had many shortcomings, such as a shallow combat system, a lackluster story, annoying/repetitive side missions, clipping issues and butt-ugly graphics details. It has been ten years since then, and while Peter Parker is being played by a new actor and Spider-Man has gone through two different generations of consoles (Spider-Man 2 was released during the PS2/original Xbox generation), very little has changed. This culminates to a critique we were hoping wouldn't apply to this game but unfortunately must say: every good and bad thing we could possibly say of the 2004 Spider-Man 2 game is applicable towards The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
For every advancement The Amazing Spider-Man 2 tries to make on the tried-and-true series of Spidey games, there are the same hindrances to its overall experience that have plagued the entire franchise mixed in with Beenox's own hiccups. Although Marvel Entertainment's vice president of game production, TQ Jefferson, has recently said that his company is no longer trying to rush its movie-based games in order to meet a theatrical release date for cheap cash-ins, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is exactly that. The biggest merit this game has to offer is the same asset this franchise has had in its corner throughout nearly every Spider-Man game made in the past decade: swinging through the city. Everything else the game tries to originally do, whether its stealth mechanics, combat system, side missions or Peter Parker's costume-less sequences, all fall one webbing too short to help this game climb out of its obvious rut.
Upon starting up The Amazing Spider-Man 2, everything appears to be well in order. It puts you in the all too familiar story of Uncle Ben being shot and killed by a robber as Peter Parker swings into action for the first time in order to catch his murderer. The segments where you play as Peter Parker in his everyday attire were an interesting twist on Spider-Man's gameplay, but slow everything down tremendously. As Peter Parker, you just walk around, take a few pictures and interact with famous Spidey characters with the new ability to choose your dialogue. Parker's dialogue pieces are nothing but cheap attempts at recreating the BioWare or Telltale Games' styles of discussion but lack their narrative semblance -- you simply cycle through each available line or question of dialogue until the story moves on. This means that you're just going through the motions of listening to all of the script unfold in a cheap way of trying to give you the sense that you're in control of what's being said, whether you're talking to the Black Cat, Kingpin, Kraven or Harry Osborn. These segments merely act as sluggish, dragging moments that try to set up The Amazing Spider-Man 2's overall poor attempt at stitching together a plot that throws six plus villains at you in under an hour or two of overall storytelling, stretched throughout multiple boring episodes as Peter Parker.
The fun in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is mainly (and obviously) to be had while wearing a mask and swinging through the streets of New York. Manhattan looks great in motion, whether it be at night or during the day. Like its predecessors, the greatest aspect of this game is to just swing in-between skyscrapers, weaving through New York traffic and shooting out a last-second swing just before you hit the ground. The Amazing Spider-Man 2's web-swinging is the best the comic franchise has ever offered in game form, but much of it is still attributed to previous games games in the franchise -- Beenox simply added some polish and a few bells and whistles to traversing as Spidey that we haven't seen before (like fast-travelling and a new catapult mechanic). Everything encountered while swinging through the city looked great, but it wasn't until the red and blue superhero stopped moving when everything started looking ugly.
Even while playing on a PS4, this title looked like it was made specifically for current-gen systems. Getting up close and personal with Spider-Man's world is where this game tends to fall apart. It would seem that nearly all of the game’s models, even the ones made exclusively for cutscenes and the Peter Parker discussions, were designed to be seen from Spidey’s traditional zoomed-out perspective. The same can be said of Grand Theft Auto V’s graphics in a way, but whenever GTA V had cutscenes, Rockstar’s models were much more polished and detailed. When you’re moving at high speeds throughout the city or in the middle of combat, these lackluster models don’t matter as much, but their awkward designs will catch your attention soon enough. Even the rules of clipping get tossed out the window throughout your adventure. Expect to see bad guys’ heads, limbs and even whole bodies just Shadowcat themselves through inanimate objects, walls and even New York traffic randomly throughout the game. The game's issues with clipping are even more apparent during Spider-Man's stealth missions, where the bad guys aren't following you but patrol simple, repetitive routines that always end up with someone walking in place with his body stuck halfway through a wall. The enemy AI (especially game-breaking boss sequences) is just as fourth wall-shattering as its clipping.
The random enemy and citizen models of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are particularly bad. It would seem that Beenox only cared in designing Spider-Man and his handful of super villains while purposely giving Aunt May, Gwen Stacy, the other secondary characters and every citizen/criminal a bland model with a few color swaps to differentiate from the ones that look the same. In particular, nearly every random bad guy encountered throughout the game looks like he was comically pulled from Saints Row the Third: expect to beat up on armies of criminals wearing wife-beater shirts, oversized pants and cowboy-style bandannas over their faces. We know that the game was designed to have dozens of cars on screen at once (it is New York), but whenever there was a cutscene or sequence focusing on a single vehicle, it just screamed PS2-era graphics.
As stated previously, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 delivers in terms of its web-slinging, but the rest of the game fails to address many of the detrimental effects that have afflicted nearly every 3D Spider-Man game that has ever been made. In particular, its combat is nothing but glorified button-mashing mixed in with the same Spider Sense/counter-mechanic that has been involved with the series since the 2000 Spider-Man game (remember the Carnage symbiote taking over Doc Ock as its last boss?). Rocksteady Games' fighting mechanics with the Batman: Arkham series show how to properly evolve this concept, whereas Beenox simply added a few new web attacks to that they included with the first Amazing Spider-Man game, which was all stems directly from what the franchise has been doing for nearly the past 15 years.
Ultimately, there isn't much to warrant a purchase of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The standards of open world gaming have grown far past what Spider-Man has to offer based on his latest offerings. More importantly, gamers have been becoming more and more aware of the overwhelming low quality commonly associated with rushed, licensed cash-ins that have been afflicting the superhero/movie-based genre for years. In terms of what works, Beenox has not really contributed anything new in terms of innovation and did nothing but remind us why we fell in love with the 2004 Spider-Man 2 game in the first place. The numerous costumes are a nice touch and tribute to the fanboys. Roaming New York in an electrified Spider-Man 2099 outfit or even the Spider-Carnage outfit is an excellent feeling, but getting there is such a drag, and you get the same hollow feeling remaining after your character hits the ground, regardless of costume. Much like its tie-in's shock ending, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 let us go when we were least expecting it and Beenox failed to swing in to save Spider-Man's love when it mattered the most.
This review is based on a purchased digital copy of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for the PlayStation 4.