Put simply, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t a bad game, it’s just not that amazing. Though fun and fairly accessible, repetition and a lack of original ideas hold it back from greatness.
Instead of mimicking the recent blockbuster film, Beenox’s latest Spidey game uses it as a backdrop for its own original story, chock full of comic book cameos. Electro and Green Goblin may still be on the scene, but they play second fiddle as Peter Parker goes in search of a ruthless serial killer.
It’s an interesting albeit predictable romp around Manhattan, featuring appearances from Black Cat, Kingpin, and Kraven the Hunter, to name but a few. Though some of these characters come and go in the blink of an eye, others are well portrayed and add some depth the story.
Players progress as they go through a series of campaign missions, each accessible within the game’s sprawling open world, but between these beats, you are free to explore Manhattan, taking on side missions and scouring the city for challenges and collectibles. Since Treyarch released Spider-Man 2 almost a decade ago, this form of free-roam action has been core to the superhero genre. From Prototype and Crackdown, to inFamous and Arkham, each game gives players the tools and space to realise the extent of their powers.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is no different, strictly adhering to these conventions. One thing that has always set Spidey games apart, however, is the web-slinger’s unique method of navigation. Using both trigger, players can seamlessly hoist themselves across Manhattan with speed and style. One second you’ll dive from a building, only to arc above a sea of traffic, and catapult yourself into the skies once more.
What’s refreshing to see is that Beenox has attempted to refine this system further. Tapping the right trigger, players can “Web Rush” to any surface highlighted by the aiming reticle. It’s quick, simple, and remedies those moments when a web swing goes too far or wide. It’s also very useful when exploring interior locales. These often crop up during story missions, which weave a healthy dose of stealth gameplay into the mix.
Similar to Rocksteady’s Arkham series, the game will have players zipping from point to point, occasionally rappelling down and snatching enemies from the shadows. It’s effective and brings some much-needed diversification to the table, but it’s stifled by repetitive room layouts and inconsistent AI.
Combat also takes cues from the recent Batman games, by adopting a counter-heavy system. Each brawl quickly turns into a reflex test as you read and dodge enemy attacks only to deliver a barrage of your own strikes.
It may work well and suits the overall feel of the game, yet there’s a disappointing lack of depth. For the majority of encounters, you’ll only be using two buttons in combat, with the occasional disarm or grapple thrown in. It would have been nice to see more web attacks and special moves, especially given the brilliant fight scenes in the movie.
Overall, the campaign weighs in at roughly eight to ten hours and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Still, after the credits roll, there’s plenty more to do, as Manhattan is peppered with dozens of collectible comic pages, challenges and ambient side quests.
Another feature Beenox uses to keep players engaged is the new “Heroic” system. Whenever Spider-Man completes one of the myriad on-the-fly events scattered throughout Manhattan, a blue gage will partially fill. Perform enough good deeds and you will eventually unlock a boost to your stats and gain experience.
However, there is a downside and this is perhaps the game’s greatest shortcoming. You see, unlike inFamous and its Karma system, your level of perceived heroism isn’t static; it’s subject to change every time Spidey earns “Menace.” This isn’t gained by performing evil actions because, well, there are none, instead it monitors the player’s complacency.
When exploring Manhattan, some side mission will occasionally ping red and, if left long enough, disappear, taking a chunk of your Heroic meter with it. Do this too often and you’ll attract the New York’s populace’s ire, shifting your to the Menace side of things and in turn decreasing your stats, in contrast to the increases that you get on the Heroic side of the scale.
This isn’t the worst part though. It’s not so much the concept that’s bad, but the awkward execution. Too many times I found myself completing mission after mission, only to find that a handful more had expired within that time. It’s a poor design choice, taking control away from the player, and one that saps away at an otherwise leisurely free-roam experience.
Another aspect that may fail to excite players is the game’s visual presentation. Certain characters may be dolled up, but the majority of NPCs are dull and uninspired. Texture pop-in is an occasional problem too and removes some of the glitz one might expect from a next-gen depiction of downtown Manhattan. Still, the game runs almost flawlessly on the PlayStation 4, although the generation gap may be harder to detect than in other cross-generational releases.
After four years with the license, Beenox has yet to deliver a truly ground-breaking Spider-Man experience. Yet, despite not having that “Arkham” effect, this latest movie tie-in is still worth a punt. It may be a little rough around the edges and could have done with more substance, but it’s still fun for a good few hours and ideal for younger gamers.
Version tested: PlayStation 4