The Amazing Spider-Man 2
When 2004’s Spider-Man 2 hit theaters, the video game tie-in was an example of how licensed products could be done right. Ten years later, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is on the big screen, but this time the game is just an empty commercial cash-in. Like every Spider-Man game since Treyarch's title, this one features a shortlist of some of Spider-Man’s most dangerous enemies, a vast open-world version of New York to swing through, and a variety of petty crimes to stop. This formula was a blast back in 2004, but history has been repeating itself for a decade. Unfortunately, Spider-Man’s open-world shtick has been overplayed so many times that his puns look fresh by comparison.
After the serial killer Carnage starts terrorizing the city by killing thugs, the Kingpin puts together a vigilante task force that somehow ends up hunting down Spider-Man. Honestly, I don’t need to tell you anything more about the plot, because it just doesn’t matter. Beenox incorporated a few RPG-like dialogue sequences where Peter Parker does some investigatory journalism to discover who he needs to web against a wall, but these scenes are straightforward and the characters’ exaggerated animations make them look like vaudeville performers, which makes the drama impossible to take seriously. I also found it strange that in an ostensibly movie-related game, none of the characters look or sound anything like their silver-screen counterparts. The main female lead, Gwen Stacy, is nowhere to be seen, and the movie bad guys have been jammed into the plot like an afterthought. This game has enough problems of its own, and the tie to this summer’s film isn’t doing it any favors.
As Spider-Man swings through the tired plot devices, he slowly earns experience and a closet of new suits. You can upgrade the strength of Spider-Man’s webbing, the speed with which he swings through the city, and buy one bizarre upgrade that allows Spider-man to throw objects (as if that were a special super hero skill). Most of the upgrades are not interesting, and I went through a large swath of the game where I forgot I even had experience to spend. You could probably beat the campaign without purchasing the majority of Spider-Man’s upgrades, which is sad for a superhero game.
Combat tries to emulate the attack/dodge rhythm made popular by Batman’s Arkham titles, but the action in Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t balanced to be nearly as interesting or challenging as that series. Some enemies are so big that you have to hit them with a concussive web blast before you give them a pounding, and a few late-game enemies wear body armor that you have to remove before attacking. For most of the game, however, you just perform the same attack/dodge combo when Spidey’s spider-sense goes off. You go through the same ritual for boss fights, except bosses have larger heath bars and occasionally throw things at you or spawn minions – some of the later bosses do both!
In the usual fashion, side missions, scattered across the city, try to distract you from the main story. These range from stopping carjackings to saving civilians from fires to taking pictures of crime scenes. The game coerces you into completing more petty crime missions with a Hero/Menace meter. The more crimes you stop the higher your Hero meter climbs, but if you wait too long, some of these crimes time out and the meter dips towards Menace. This is a cool idea, but since most of these missions are repetitive, I didn’t appreciate the pressure to complete them. In the end, I didn’t see any meaningful consequences for my actions reflected in the gameplay or story, which made me feel like I wasted my time.
I’m sad to see that the Spider-Man games have fallen this far, because the formula once worked exceedingly well. Beenox’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 is trying to cash in on its film’s popularity while emulating many of Treyarch’s touchstones, and in nearly every area, this game is inferior to a title that came out nearly a decade ago. The combat is dull, the side missions are uninspired, and swinging around New York has been done to death. Activision probably hopes to attract a crowd of Spider-Man fans who are simply happy to squeeze into the hero’s spandex for a stroll through Manhattan, but even they don’t need to bother with this title, because they’ve probably played it several times over the years.
Spider-Man’s open-world shtick has been overplayed so many times that his puns look fresh by comparison.