Note: This is a SPOILER FREE review.
Beenox is back to put you into the web-shooters and skintight pants of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Using an upgraded web-slinging system, spider-sense mechanic and dialogue choice feature, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” attempts to add more depth than the first entry. The problem, however, is pretty much everything outside of swinging through the city. From sloppy camera controls, to a poorly executed fighting system and frustrating ground movement, the second your red boots touch the ground, all of the game’s issues present themselves.
There are several features of the game that became more fun since they have been overhauled. Using the triggers will now control each arm individually as you swing throughout the city. Unlike other Spider-Man games where you could virtually attach a line of web to anything, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” does a great job of making you focus on your surroundings, even reminding you with an audible pulse that you cannot web-swing from the air. The result forces you to swing lower than a sweet chariot past traffic jams, citizens and suppression agents which in turn gives you that satisfying feel of being Spider-Man. After generating experience points, you can upgrade your swing and use the opposite trigger from which you are using to boost through the city much faster. The improved web-rush feature makes it easier to continuously move from one point to another by holding forward on the left analog stick after successfully landing. Spider-Man can climb and run up walls at the press of a button as well, and it’s cool to see him keep his momentum going by webbing his way up.
During fight sequences, you’ll spend most of your time spamming the Square button and occasionally tapping Triangle when your spider-sense goes off to avoid incoming damage. Toward the end of an enemy’s life, they’ll appear dazed giving you the opportunity to do a signature move. All of this can become repetitive, dulling any excitement I had entering a fight sequence. Lacking is any variety during moments of combat. Each fight is essentially the same, especially in the challenge maps. The main problem here is the lack of a solid combat system coupled with the camera. It is difficult not to compare the fighting mechanics to the “Batman: Arkham” series because they are so similar at their core. The free-flow combat of those games would have been amazing if put to use in this one. Instead, you will often find yourself shooting the wrong thug with webbing (or attacking the wrong person all together) or having a combo ruined due to the strange proximity of the camera during big fights. Boss fights help change things up, but seeing as you spend 90% of your time fighting thugs, it doesn’t make up for it.
A lot of fan service exists in the game, and I appreciated the effort. You start out as Peter Parker on the trail of Uncle Ben’s killer. We’ve seen it before, but for some reason it plays a lot better this time around. The movie cross-over elements are alright, but the game’s narrative is a little schizophrenic. There are tons Marvel characters (good and bad) in the game and seeing a budding serial killer follow his destiny is a real good time. One of my favorite fan implementations is the addition of Stan Lee as a character. He is the owner of a comic book store that Peter used to go to as a kid with his father, and little meta moments like that touch all of my nerd buttons just right.
Spider-Man looks best when he’s swinging through the city. The PlayStation 4’s graphics could have done so much more to serve the game on a better visual yield, but they still get a lot of it right. There are several moments when the sun is setting as Spider-Man swings through New York City, creating a backdrop of golden lit buildings that look amazing on screen. The lit up nights of Times Square look great also. The character design for enemies are essentially the same, and there are more than a few times where Spider-Man addresses that specifically. Spider-Man’s physical animations as he carries conversations are well timed, as is the lip-syncing.
The absolute standout elements of this game are the audio tracks. The sound picks up beautifully as you shoot your web and hear the webbing stretch against your weight. You will hear every fluent motion of your suit as you flip and twirl through the air. The low rushing sound of wind brushing past as you careen through the city is both exhilarating and soothing. Whoever thought swinging could be so therapeutic? Swing low and you’ll hear cars honk and civilians cheer you on, all to the backdrop of some very great filler music. I couldn’t help but smile every time I would swing through the city with this amazing combination of sound to propel me forward. These moments of web-swinging made me feel like Spider-Man. Sadly, it only ever lasted while airborne. The voice acting is all very solid, with Peter’s quips being the highlight even if some one liners got old.
Beenox tried to make “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” great, but the second you touch pavement, its true colors show. The game is still fun to play, which is the most important thing, but overall, it’s just okay. True believers will love the collectibles, costumes and fan service as much as kids will love being Spider-Man, but waiting a month or two for the price to drop wouldn’t be the worst thing. My spider-sense tells me it’s not worth the full price tag. We lose yet another potentially amazing Spider-Man game to the constraints of the “release with the movie” marketing that has plagued video game/movie tie-ins for decades.
Would you rather play or watch “The Amazing Spider-Man 2?” Let us know in the comments below.
*This review of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is based off playing a retail copy of the game on the PlayStation 4 console.
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