Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review
Written Tuesday, May 13, 2014 By Richard Walker
Batman ruined it for everyone. You can't make a superhero game anymore without it inevitably being compared to Rocksteady's masterclass, but then The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was never going to live up to that kind of lofty standard anyway. Granted, the first game was something of a surprise given that it didn't make us want to prise out our eyeballs with a rusty screwdriver, so expectations for the sequel were set higher than they normally would be. We are still talking about a movie tie-in here, after all.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 takes the same well-worn formula as its forebear and does very little with it, producing an open-world jaunt that not only feels last-gen, but also looks startlingly like it belongs on previous console platforms. Save for the slightly higher resolution sheen, animations and graphical touches are largely shoddy, while the city of New York itself feels cold and slightly soulless. It's merely a playground where you'll collect hundreds of glowing comic book pages and foil various crimes over and over and over, ad infinitum.
Does whatever a spider can, indeed.
Loosely based on the events of the movie, with a bit of extra padding of its own, The Amazing Spider-Man 2's narrative component is surprisingly short for an open-world title, its 14 missions clocking in at around the 8-10 hour mark. You can replay missions at any time to gather collectibles like audio logs and J. Jonah Jameson photograph assignments you might have missed, stealth your way through Russian Hideouts, beat some irritating race events (we're getting sick of these in open-world games) or you can simply swing around New York City preventing various crimes. We say 'various', but variety is something severely lacking in the game's ambient challenges.
Emergencies pop up randomly all over the city, and consist of stopping petty crimes by beating up thugs, diffusing police standoff 'Deadlock' situations by beating up thugs, rescuing hostages by beating up thugs then pulling a woman (it's always a woman, for some reason) out of a car, rescuing stupid people from burning buildings, stranded boats, wreckage or whatever, or locating and disposing of bombs. That's about it. Failure to deal with these emergent events contributes to Spidey's reputation as a menace – as perpetuated by JJ and the Daily Bugle - while successfully completed scenarios add to your heroic status.
All of this 'red meter = bad and blue meter = good' stuff is ultimately rendered pointless, however, when Kingpin launches his robotic task force to track down and eliminate Spider-Man later in the game. From there on out, you'll find the meter almost permanently jammed at the 'menace' end of the scale, while the game's epilogue tasks you with merely collecting all of the comic book pages and Oscorp crates you might have missed. The morality gauge (if you can even call it that) tends to fluctuate for no apparent reason too, making the entire system seem completely arbitrary.
The dance-off really started to heat up.
Happily, swinging between skyscrapers is still a thrilling experience, with each of the triggers controlling ol' web-head's left and right web shooters, while wall running and the Web Rush ability enables you to retain a constant momentum as you websling from A to B. It's the core gameplay mechanics that prove to be Amazing Spider-Man 2's saving grace, with a sense of speed and inertia making for an authentic Spidey experience. Even the combat is solid, taking its cue from the Batman: Arkham games once again, with rapid strikes and Spider-Sense counter attacks mixed in with web pulls, disarms and web rush attacks for a nice bit of variety during brawls. It remains immensely lenient however, letting you get away with continuously jabbing the punch button to get results.
Holding down on the d-pad during a quiet moment enables Spider-Man to wrap his wounds in webbing and heal himself, meaning failure either never happens or only occurs due to a lapse in concentration (or out of sheer boredom). The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a remarkably easy game, it must be said, though this simplicity does feed in to the feeling of empowerment you get playing as Spider-Man. Nine times out of ten, you'll hand a boss's ass to him (or her), doling out a serious beating with little effort. Even a nemesis like Electro, Kraven or Carnage fail to present much of a challenge, even on higher difficulties. Beenox's latest Spider outing is a cakewalk.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is enjoyable in places, but the overall experience is patchy, with a lot of rinse and repeat boss encounters, some fairly mundane objectives to perform as Peter Parker and more collectibles than you can shake a web shooter at. The fruits of your labour can be surveyed at the Comic Stand, where owner Stan Lee mans the counter, letting Peter stroll around and read the comic book collection you've amassed. There are figurines and pieces of concept art to collect too, as well as combat challenges to unlock that consist of tackling waves of enemies against various parameters. You can also hop the Metro home, where Peter can chat with a bad Sally Field waxwork (otherwise known as Aunt May) replay missions and change his costume, of which there are a number to acquire, from the classic red and blue threads to the Spider-Man 2099 outfit, Spider-Carnage duds, Ricochet costume and a plethora more besides.
"I'm behind yoooooouuu!"
There's no shortage of activities on offer, but a great deal of it soon becomes repetitious. Beyond unlocking bonus items and what not, it's all about racking up the achievements, and on that front, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a straightforward and very simple 1000G. Beat all of the bosses, collect all of the audio logs, Oscorp crates, comic book pages, complete all of the photo challenges and stop a bunch of the never-ending crimes dotted all over the city, and you'll nail practically everything on the list. There's little else to do beyond that lot, apart from a few by-the-numbers challenges that won't push you too hard. It's a serviceable achievement list, but one that fails to elicit much in the way of excitement.
Save for a skittish camera that sometimes goes insane while trying to properly orientate itself, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 proves to be enjoyable for the most part. It simply fails to build upon the first game in any particularly meaningful way and offers no compelling reason whatsoever to purchase the Xbox One version over its Xbox 360 counterpart. If web-slinging and fighting some of Spidey's greatest enemies sounds like enough of a draw and you can overlook the somewhat dated presentation, then you'll find a lot to like in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Otherwise, you can expect more of the same kind of Spider action as the first game, albeit entirely forgettable.
The movie-style soundtrack fits the bill just fine, and despite none of the movie's cast being involved with the game, the vocal talent do a good enough job. Musical cues occasionally kick in for no reason, which can be jarring.
Spider-Man's mannerisms and animations are a little over-egged, while NPCs look pretty shoddy. New York looks nice and the draw distance is impressive, but overall, the game is one of the genre's weakest visual examples in recent memory.
Beenox has become increasingly adept at bringing the webslinger to life, and on that front The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn't disappoint. Swinging and fighting is good, clean fun, but repetition quickly begins to set in.
The story-driven portion of the game is relatively short, presenting a string of henchmen and bosses to punch into submission. There's stuff to do while free-roaming around the city, but it's not particularly varied.
A rather conventional list for a rather conventional game. If it's an easy 1000 Gamerscore you seek, then look no further. It does the job.
Essentially picking up where the last game left off, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does little to push the series forward, instead choosing to play it safe and reheat the same gameplay structure. That said, there's still a fair bit to enjoy here, especially if you missed out on the first Amazing Spider-Man. Thwip.
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