Developer Beenox might not have the most pristine track record when it comes to making Spider-Man games, but it certainly has the longest. The release of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 game marks the developer’s fourth attempt to bring the iconic web-head into the realm of gaming after 2012’s Amazing Spider-Man movie tie-in game, 2011’s Spider-Man: Edge of Time, and 2010’s Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Of the previous three releases, only Shattered Dimensions managed to garner any critical appeal and even that first attempt by Beenox couldn’t really compare with the success of Treyarch’s 2004 game Spider-Man 2 (which is often considered as the pinnacle of Spider-Man games). As you can tell from my review, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie, but does Beenox’s new game manage to make up for the movie’s faults?
As soon as I booted up The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s tutorial, the game’s lack of production quality was immediately noticeable. Even though the game is loosely based on events from the movie, none of the movie’s actors reprise their roles which is actually a good thing since the overall dialogue and voice-acting quality is sub-par at best, laughably irritating at worst. Spidey has several annoying vocal habits such as spouting the same tired one-liners (which aren’t funny the first time you hear them, let alone the fiftieth time) during combat and constantly reminding the player of the next major story goal every fifteen seconds during exploration. Spider-Man also tends to move around and gesticulate a lot during cinematics which is especially distracting when he’s also trying to carry on a serious conversation with another character or not saying anything at all.
The combat is a rough translation of the refined freeflow combat system from Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham games (Spider-Man can combo up various strikes, dodges, counters, and web attacks) but the choppy, unpolished combat animations combined with the disappointingly small amount of different moves in Spidey’s repertoire turns it into a repetitive affair rather quickly. Swinging around New York is still pretty fun thanks to the game’s well-implemented web-swing mechanics and the return of the “web rush” feature which allows Spidey to stylishly zip between anchor-points, but again it’s hard to enjoy Spidey’s graceful environment traversal when he’s constantly reminding you of your next story goal or spouting off terribly-written bits of fluff dialogue.
In addition to combat and city exploration, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 also tries to work in various other gameplay systems with varying levels of success. Certain segments of the story require Spidey to take a more stealthy approach (again, mimicking the Batman Arkham series’ predator encounters) but Spider-Man’s ability to sense and silently take down enemies is a lot less reliable than Batman’s, forcing the player to often replay a single stealth sequence multiple times. Open-world side-missions offer the standard fare of stopping petty crimes, saving citizens in peril, or snapping photos for the Daily Bugle and, much like the combat, they grow repetitive quickly. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing except for the game’s new Hero/Menace system which takes the normally optional side-missions and turns them into a pseudo-requirement for progressing the story since ignoring them causes Spidey to become a target for the city’s anti-vigilante task force.
As players advance through the story and complete combat encounters, they earn experience points which can be used to buy new upgrades and eventually unlock new suits for Spidey to wear. However, since each suite has its own progression tree, switching to a new suit late in the game can actually hinder the player more than it helps them and most of the upgrades simply provide bonuses to Spider-Man’s existing abilities instead of giving him new ones. I give Beenox credit for trying to tap into the suit-collecting appeal that gave early Spider-Man games so much replay value, I just wish the system had been implemented in a better way.
As for the game’s story, like its movie counterpart it has its high points and its low. The game interweaves the origin stories of movie villains Electro and Green Goblin with more original Spider-Man characters such as Black Cat, Carnage, Shocker, Kingpin, and Kraven the Hunter but, much like the movie’s narrative, the game’s story feels too bloated as a result. The bits about Kraven acting as a sort of mentor to Spider-Man and Spidey’s odd romantic relationship with Black Cat (movie love interest Gwen Stacey is mentioned once or twice but never actually shows up in the game) should act as fun narrative treats for Spider-Man fans but overall the story jumps around way too much, never giving the player time to get invested in any of the characters Spider-Man meets.
Consequently, Beenox’s focus on telling such a dense narrative has the unfortunate side-effect of dragging the rest of the game down. The boss fights, while plentiful, are either laughably simple, frustratingly cheap, or sometimes even both. The Hero/Menace system is so poorly executed it’s a wonder Beenox even bothered implementing it, the game has a fair amount of bugs and glitches (while standing on a ledge, web-yanking an enemy that was below me would often cause them to come flying up through the floor), and, aside from completing the rest of the game’s boring side-missions and unlocking extra suits, there is zero incentive to keep playing once the story has been beaten.
If you’re a die-hard Spider-Man fan and you don’t mind putting up with 6-8 hours of Spidey’s obnoxious one-liners continually assailing your ears, I suppose there are worse Spider-Man games you could play. If you insist on buying the game instead of renting it, do yourself a favor and wait until the price drops, I imagine you won’t have to wait long.