Rocksteady and Warner Bros have spoiled us all rotten with their excellent Batman Arkham franchise. Not only do they do an excellent job of providing an authentic Batman experience, those games are so damn good in every respect, even people who could care less about Batman would eat it up. Batman: Arkham Asylum will undoubtedly be remembered as being one of the most important games of the last generation of consoles with good reason.
However, when I was playing Activision and Beenox's latest entry in the Spider-Man series, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, it felt like I was sent through a time machine. I couldn't believe that I was playing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014, it felt like a game that I would have played 10 years prior. Even though the game shamelessly borrows many gameplay elements from the Batman: Arkham games, they aren't executed with the same amount of care and the overall lack of quality of the game did a great job of making me think back to the PlayStation 2 days. And I played this on the Xbox One, by the way! The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does have fun moments but considering it is a full price product, we deserve much more.
From a story perspective, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 picks up around the time when uncle Ben dies (for the billionth time) and understandably, Peter Parker/Spider-Man is looking to dish out justice. From there, the story manages to cram in lots of elements and characters but it is all in a very loose and slapdash fashion. From a gameplay point of view, this is good because it keeps things moving and you do get to see lots of different Spider-Man villains, which is certainly one of the game's highpoints if you are a fan of the franchise. However, as far as the story is concerned, it's a mess. Oh and for the record, I haven't seen the theatrical version of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, so I don't know how well the videogame ties in but nevertheless, the story presented here is not worth getting excited about.
At least the game does a pretty good job of making you feel like Spider-Man. This is the first Spider-Man game in a while where the webs that you shoot out while swinging around the city actually hit solid objects... for the most part anyway. There are certain parts of the game that completely ignore this, for whatever reason! There is also a web rush ability, which is another great way to traverse a lot of ground. The swinging controls take a little while to get used to but after a while, you will be getting around in no time.
However, the controls generally lack precision, especially when transitioning between swinging into running or climbing. The camera can be a right pain in the backside as well. It is fine when playing in more open environments but more often than not, you will be fighting enemies in confined rooms or alleyways and the camera often gets hung up on the geometry.
During the main story missions, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does a good job of keep things fresh, thanks to constant stream of notable villains to deal with. However, the actual gameplay doesn't have a lot going on.
Combat is a breeze. It is basically like the Batman Arkham games in its overall approach but without the fluidity or the weight that made the combat in those games so awesome. You will just be mashing the X button most of the time and occasionally hitting Y to counter incoming attacks. You can also perform a zip-kick attack and a web-pull attack, which is handy for disarming armed enemies. It is all functional and some of the animations used for Spider-Man during combat are cool but the combat at its core is far too simplistic and gets old fast.
There is also a stealth system in place. During scenarios were Spider-Man is outnumbered by several gun-totting thugs, it is usually best to be stealthy. But much like the combat, the stealth here is very basic stuff. Generally, you just want to stick to either the walls or the ceiling (apparently all of the foes in Amazing Spider-Man 2 have no necks) and once you get behind an enemy, you will get a prompt to perform a stealth takedown. The stealth takedowns look cool, especially when Spidey webs a guy up and hangs him from the ceiling, but just like the combat, there isn't much to it. The Batman Arkham games' stealth mechanics are fairly simple just as they are, and this is an even simpler version of that.
Structurally, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an open-world game. In between missions, you are free to swing around and explore before tackling the next story mission. However, this is one of the most lacking aspects of the game. The game's recreation of Manhattan feels lifeless. Pedestrians and cars never actually do anything, they just follow pre-set paths. It would be cool, like in games such as Red Dead Redemption, if random crimes or activities would just reveal themselves out of nowhere, but this never happens. Instead, all of the optional crimes are regulated to side missions.
There are several different types of side missions. There are gangs to beat up, bombs to defuse, people to save and so on. There is a decent amount of variety of side tasks on paper but reality, they get tiresome fast and there is little variety within each type of side mission. So even though a car chase scenario might have only one backseat thug instead of two, the gameplay remains basically the same throughout.
The main reason why you might want to do side missions is this weird morality system. There is a hero meter on screen during the free roaming segments and to keep this meter filled, you have to do side missions. If you let the meter drain, that means that Spider-Man will be seen as a menace and the military task force will go after him and make things much more annoying for you. It is an interesting gameplay system in theory, but in practice, it's just a cheap way to get the player to take on more tedious side missions.
Aside from the side missions, there isn't much else to do in the open world. You can find collectables, participate in a wave-based survival mode and... that's about it. Just playing through the main story missions will only take you 4-6 hours, though of course you could waste a lot more time doing other stuff but there just isn't a good enough incentive to do so. It is safe to say that at full price, the game is a bad value.
The graphics in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are very dated. As I mentioned earlier, I played the Xbox One version and wow, I couldn't believe I was playing on such a system! The only remotely good looking thing in the game are all of the different Spider-Man costumes but the rest of the game looks painfully last gen. I have recently played through Batman: Arkham City on Xbox 360 and I think that looks better than The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on Xbox One. It's buggy as hell too with loads of clipping issues and an instance where I couldn't web rush onto objects anymore and I needed to restart to game for it function properly again. This game probably shouldn't have came out on the new consoles.
The sound throughout is better for the most part. The sound effects used for combat and general gameplay are spot on, the voice acting is good and the music does the job. My main problem with the sound design is the general lack of ambiance when you are exploring Manhattan. I've never been to Manhattan in real life, but I doubt it is this silent.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn't a terrible game but it is one of those games where you notice problems and compromises constantly and it all adds up. There is fun to be had in seeing the different Spider-Man villains and the core gameplay is functional but after playing games like Batman: Arkham Asylum, there shouldn't be superhero games this mediocre.
TWO OUT OF FIVE
(A bad game with an abundance of flaws which outweigh its positive aspects)