Developer: Beenox (Most versions), High Voltage Software (3DS version), Gameloft (Mobile version)
Release Date: April 29th, 2014
Available On: Mobile, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii U, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Reviewer’s Note: I played this game on the PlayStation 4. There may be differences between versions.
I can safely say that The Amazing Spider-Man was not a great, or really even good, game. Its good story ended up being ruined by trying too hard to belong in the Arkham series. Still, its few good ideas could have been improved on and made into a better overall package. So I’m glad to say that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 manages to do the exact opposite and actually be a significantly worse game.
While The Amazing Spider-Man featured an original plot that took place a few months after the movie, its sequel instead tries to play its own plot while running parallel to the movie’s events. Spider-Man discovers that Carradine, the man who murdered Uncle Ben, has been killed by someone known as the “Carnage Killer”. Unsure what to do about this, Spider-Man teams up with Kraven the Hunter to learn how to track this man down. Along the way though he discovers a plot from Kingpin that will have him ruling New York. Oh, and occasionally Harry Osborn and Electro shows up to remind you that this game is taking place along side the movie, which hurts the plot badly. The movie elements feel haphazardly thrown in and completely unconnected to the rest of the game. It’s made worse by some really weird story decisions too. For example, Gwyn Stacy is completely AWOL, despite playing a large role in both the original game and in the movie this one is based on. Max Dillon and Spider-Man interact a grand total of once before Max becomes Electro, which makes his hate of Spider-Man feel completely out of the blue. The plot not related to the movie isn’t really good, but at least it’s interesting enough and doesn’t feel broken.
When it comes to the gameplay, it may not look like much has changed in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 at first. Combat still feels like it’s trying to be Arkham, but missing what makes Arkham fun. You press one button to attack and another to dodge/counter when an enemy attacks. One button plays double purpose, letting you fire webs to trap enemies (which is mostly useless once you really get into the fighting) or use special finishers on dizzy enemies (though unlike the original game, where you could do specific actions to make enemies dizzy, now it’s just totally random). You can still use the Web Rush feature to interact with some objects in the environment, but the only thing you can really do with it is toss heavy objects to knock groups of enemies over. With the removal of robot and mutant enemies from the original game (which required specific ways to go about and beat them) the game doesn’t really add anything new to replace them. As such, each fight begins to feel no different from each other, and the game quickly becomes tedious and boring. There is also limited stealth options, but the range of your stealth takedowns has been drastically reduced so it’s less useful. Enemies seem to constantly be toeing the line between being too effective at spotting you, and being completely oblivious to your presence as you take their friends out, so stealth is only really useful when it’s mandatory.
At least you can just swing around the city and have fun, right? Well no so fast as the game manages to mess that up as well. A new weird swinging system replaces the first game’s perfectly functional system. Now you need to use the right trigger as your right hand, and the left trigger as your left. It’s a largely unnecessary system as you don’t need to actively switch hands between swings, but now you’ll have to check to make sure that the side you try to swing on actually has something to swing onto. Yet even when it does I’d often still be hearing the noises and complaints from Spider-Man that there’s nothing there, as he plummets to the ground. Later on you can use both hands to swing a little faster, and also set up a sling shot that is a cool idea but never really slings you far enough to be worth the time it takes to set up. You can also use the Web Rush ability once again, which has you aiming in first person then making Spider-Man automatically swing and parkour to a desired location. Oddly, something must have been changed here as Spider-Man seemed to have a much more difficult time targeting objects than he did last time around. I found a lot of my time was wasted with Spider-Man targeting nothing while I moved my head around wildly.
Even worse, your swinging around is interrupted by the game’s side content. Random crimes will happen around New York all the time, ranging from police shoot outs to petty crimes. Some are more fun than others, saving people from a burning building is basically an exercise in trying to control a piss poor camera and erratic wall crawling, but all of them go out of their way to interrupt your game. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 introduces a meter that determines if the populace thinks Spider-Man is a hero or a menace. Complete side quests and they’ll like you more, giving you a significant boost in stats. Ignore them long enough and the side quests will fail, dropping the meter. Once you become a menace Kingpin’s task force (that super hates you for… reasons) will go after you and you’ll lose the stat boosts. If you don’t want to constantly be harassed while wandering around the open world then I hope you don’t mind doing boring, repetitive, and sometimes broken tasks over and over again.
As you beat up crime and complete levels you’ll get two ways to level up Spider-Man. Each of Spider-Man’s suits that he can earn in the game have their own stats and XP bar, and can level up. If you find a suit that best fits your play style then it’s best to stick with that one, though I ended up sticking with the default suit because it was just the easiest way to do things and hit the max level for it about two hours into the game. The other way to level up Spider-Man is by finding mechanical parts to upgrade your gear. You can either find kits of them hidden in levels, or you’ll get them as a reward. Yet the upgrades themselves seem to do so little that it’s a feature you can pretty much completely ignore and not feel hampered in your completion of the game.
To try and get in at least one positive in this review, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 at least does collectables right. Up to 300 comic book pages can be found around New York City and finding enough of them allows you to unlock entire Spider-Man comics. That’s one cool boon, even if it requires a bit of searching to do it. If nothing else, it’s a good step up from the “worth achievements and nothing else” collectables. I guess it’s also a good thing that the game is short, its main story only clocking in at about 6 – 8 hours, with a few more if you feel like doing some of the non-random side quests. It means you don’t have to spend a lot of time with this game.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was actually a genuine disappointment for me in 2014. While The Amazing Spider-Man wasn’t amazing, it did at least set the groundwork for a title that could have been. Instead we got a game that tears up that groundwork and keeps digging. Hopefully once its done digging we can just bury it this time.