Article first published as Playstation 4 Review: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ on Blogcritics.
With the recent success of Sam Raimi’s "Spider-Man" trilogy, a reboot of the series might seem like a baffling idea. While Raimi’s vision of the webslinger were commercial hits, the films arguably lacked weight and played a little too fast and loose with existing "Spider-Man" cannon. Though the two latest "The Amazing Spider-Man" films failed to achieve the mainstream success their predecessors did, they are certainly not flops. I would argue, there may be some "Spider-Man" fatigue coming into play, even though many consider the newer efforts better films.
As one of the most recognizable Marvel properties, the ever-popular Spider-Man is an easy call when it comes to a videogame tie-in. Even though all of Raimi’s films got an interactive version, there was really no doubt that the two new "The Amazing Spider-Man" movies would get games too. For the most part, all five of these videogames are very similar. Essentially they are all PG-rated versions of the open-world "Grand Theft Auto" game with webslinging. "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is easily the most mechanically refined of the lot, offering the most "Spider-Man"-like gameplay experience.
The controls in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" are fairly straightforward, but may require a little more dexterity than younger gamers can handle. The swinging is done by timing right and left trigger pulls to maintain Spider-Man’s momentum. Alternatively, the bumpers can also be used to shoot forward or to particular locations. The dynamic and upgradeable combat system borrows from the recent "Batman" games, allowing for counters, and stealth kills. Of course Spider-Man can also use his webs in combat to pull his targets toward him. While the combat mechanics are fairly basic, button mashing will only get you so far. Unfortunately, the payoff for mastering "The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s" mechanics never really seems worth the effort.
Available for both the new Playstation 4 and Xbox One, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s" visuals are terribly uneven. It’s not really a fidelity issue that holds the game back, it’s more so that a good portion of the game looks unfinished. Spider-Man, the main villains, and Stan Lee’s cameo models and textures all look great. The rest of the characters, most notably Aunt May didn’t receive anywhere as much love. The environment, while vast, looks terribly generic and even some of the set pieces in the cinematics look out of place. In one of the opening cinematics, the Metro train and the rails it rides are skinned with generic textures, making them look like out of place toy miniatures, instead of parts of a living breathing city.
It’s not just the visuals that make "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" seem like an unfinished game. The game does use a reputation system where, good deeds will make your life easier. Unfortunately, there are only a couple of different cutscenes that play after completing or failing each activity and there is no real cumulative effect. Though, there are different kidnapping victims you can save, the finishing cinematic only uses one particular character model. Except for the main narrative, there isn’t any sense of continuity throughout the game.
Speaking of narrative, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is a pretty solitary experience. For some reason, the game starts when Uncle Ben is shot, sending Spider-Man on a quest to find his killer. It’s not the backtracking itself that is troublesome, it’s that there really isn’t a purpose. Where Uncle Ben’s death could be used as a means to adding weight to the story, it’s largely squandered. There are plenty of characters in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," some have returned from the last game, but for the most part they’re all pretty thin. In the corresponding movie, it’s Gwen’s storyline that adds most of the punch, but she’s completely absent from this game, leaving an emotional vacuum.
There is plenty to do in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," if you really want to do it. While it is fun to swing through the city and unlock the costumes and vintage comic books, the game’s narrative doesn’t provide any real payoff. In that way, it’s really more of an arcade game than an action adventure. Sandbox gameplay has long been an excuse for a lack of narrative, but those days are gone. Games like "Assassin’s Creed," "Grand Theft Auto V," and "L.A. Noire" have shown that sandbox and narrative aren’t mutually exclusive terms. Add that to the inconsistent art direction and it makes it hard to recommend "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" video game as premium AAA game.