Game Review – The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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Game Review – The Amazing Spider-Man 2
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The Amazing Spider-Man 2
PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii-U
Review based on Xbox 360 version
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Beenox
Release Date: April 29th, 2014
It’s that time once again! A brand new comic book licensed movie has hit theaters, and with it comes the obligatory game based off the movie that’s based off the comic series/franchise that just happens to be the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Like usual, Activision has enlisted Beenox, the team behind all the recent console adaptations of the web slinger’s recent adventures, to put together a new game like their previous offering for the first film in this line of motion picture reboots. But does this film create a unique enough plot to not intrude on the film itself, or is it just an quickly designed cash grab?

Unlike in Beenox’s The Amazing Spider-Man, or any of the non-movie themed Spider-Man titles they released, this one really is the most basic of everything related to that franchise. It starts out with young Peter Park reliving the murder of Uncle Ben, sending him on the hunt for his killer. This pursuit casts him into a war between the local gangs and Russians, all of which are afraid of a new killer who the press has dubbed the “Carnage Killer” due to the initials “CK” found at each of the murderer’s crime scenes.

While this becomes the main focal point of the game’s story line, you are sent off into a couple different comic book length adventures that all roughly tie into one another. These include the introduction of The Shocker, a battle with Max Dillon as Electro after having saved him from the Russians, stopping The Black Cat’s robbery attempt while learning more about Wilson Fisk, and figuring out just what Kraven the Hunter’s true intentions are that lead to the obvious battle later on. Sadly these chapters end up feeling like throw away stories that poorly rehash the character histories in an Ultimate Spider-Man universe instead of the original, all keeping you busy until Carnage is activated and the final battle against him begins.

While that summary is brief, there’s a lot to cover with this title, most of which in the negative. First up is that the voice actors are all sub-par. JB Blanc (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, The Count of Monte Cristo) does a decent enough job at playing Wilson Fisk, though sometimes you can’t help but feel he doesn’t want to be there. Ali Hillis (Mass Effect, Must Love Dogs) does a mediocre Black Cat voice that beats that love triangle angle to death even further as well. And then there’s Sam Riegel reprising his role as Peter Parker. Even with the game based around his character, the amount of emotion is minimal, and the only range that ends up shown is during moments of betrayal. Other than that it’s a largely monotone, boring voice that you’re stuck with throughout the entire game, saved only by Steve Blum (Cowboy Bebop, Batman: Arkham Origins) as Kraven the Hunter. This character is given the enough depth and pain to become rather believable, and it’s thanks to the character’s background being developed so well in such a short amount of time, leaving Steve with plenty of material to play off.

Sadly, the rest of the audio is as dull as everything else. There’s a few decent scores that could easily fit any of the films in the previous Spider-Man trilogy, the sound effects aren’t too bad, and some of the stock voices have enough comments that it’s not the same thing that repeats after three or four phrases. Other than that you get minimal amounts of life from the city outside the occasional police siren or fire truck honking as they circle the block waiting for you to hop on. Even the every day citizens rarely say anything, and considering this takes place early on in the Spider-Man universe, the fact that all of New York seems to not care that a vigilante in red and blue tights just swung by on a web just doesn’t make sense. Maybe by the fourth instalment it would be commonplace in this universe, but definitely not now.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

And speaking of those people, they are the most robotic crowd filler possible. Previous entries from Beenox at least had the bystanders usually reacting to things or on their own little path to an objective. These just seem to walk around like brain dead robots. I’ve had New Yorkers walking in place in the middle of the road while backing up a line of cars, all the way to walking into a bike rack and just keep going without even bothering to walk around it. This makes exploring the city even more boring. You’re supposed to be a hero to these people who can’t even help themselves with the most basic of tasks, making you question whether it’s even worth it more and more as the hero meter’s importance increases to keep the special police at bay.

As part of the story line, Wilson Fisk is working with Oscorp and the mayor to put together a special police task force for the city. The further in you get, the more technology they have. The mechanics of the game include that aforementioned hero meter that goes up or down based on your success in side missions and story levels, or fades to menace when side missions expire or you happen to fail one too many. At first it’s fine and easy to keep up with but the further into the game you get you’re just bombarded with the additional missions to where it’s almost impossible to keep up with them and not be viewed as just some nutcase in a suit who can’t wing three blocks without getting caught up in some kind of special police barricade.

Those side missions are all about as cheap and bland as can be as well. You go to the location on the map, beat up or rescue x amount of people, and that’s it. Lather, rinse, repeat. This ranges from general disturbance calls, police shoot outs, rescuing the always female kidnapped victim from a speeding car, all the way to bringing someone injured to the hospital and the incredibly infuriating burning building calls that you need to rescue residents from. Finding the bomb is a pain with how poor the Spider Sense is, moving about in the buildings on fire or even finding the window in is pretty much impossible half the time, and the rescuing pedestrians from a car accident or under debris is literally just press a button, pick them up, take them to the nearby hospital. Obviously none of which is at all fulfilling…

And then there’s the controls to contend with. Half the time you can’t do what you want to do, the buttons don’t respond or have a delay in the que if you pressed one too many, and using your webs for anything other than tying enemies up or getting around town is rather pointless. Swapping targets is incredibly feustrating too, but don’t worry as the game will do this automatically whenever you block a move (if you can successfully do it on harder difficulties given the aforementioned build up of attack commands that can occur) so the rhythm you have immediately becomes jarred.

The only real bright side to all of this are some of the costumes, as well as the Seismic Web attack you gain after beating the Shocker. That move becomes you best ally to knock enemies out quick when not trying to be stealthy. This was also the only way I was able to take out Carnage’s goons at Ravencroft since fighting them any other way is literally impossible due to how many are there and that you have to stay in the confined little circle to avoid them from threatening the civilian too much. But the costumes also add a little more to your abilities as well, such as the Ricochet costume amplifying to Seismic Web attack and is a life saver at that aforementioned gang bang, as well as the arcade game in Stan Lee’s comic shop. Yes, Stan Lee is in the game and is as inspirational as ever, which is always a welcome perk. Why he doesn’t have a motivation phone application is beyond me…

Back to reality – There’s also the fact that this game looks like a bad port from the PlayStation 2. This doesn’t even look like a modern generation game outside the cut scenes, and even then it’s year one or two of the Xbox 360 at best. The color schemes are often horrible, Spider Sense looks ugly as hell, and every setting looks as flat as possible. Even the ever intimidating Wilson Fisk is reduced to being the bastard child of McDonald’s Grimace and George Corpsegrinder Fischer of Cannibal Corpse.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

But what the game manages to succeed at are the stealth missions. Not every story mode level requires you to remain hidden, but that just makes it even more enjoyable with quickly grabbing the enemy and webbing him up so you can move around safely and, in the event there are people held against their will, no harm comes to them. This is the sort of thing that really is the core of the Spider-Man experience, and it’s a shame there isn’t more to it in the story. There are five bonus missions of going into the sewers that rely entirely on not being seen in order to reach the Oscorp tech hidden within. Your prize for going undetected is a brand new costume to swing around in and level up.

As mentioned, these costumes you pick up actually help out somewhat in your abilities, but many just look cool, spanning various points in the Spider-Man story line. These include the Identity Crisis phase, The Superior Spider-Man, and even a Carnage symbiote infected suit. Admittedly some of these are absolutely worthless, even when capped at the incredibly odd level of eight. You can upgrade yourself in a couple different things like web slinging, Spider Sense, even the Seismic Web attack after you unlock it in the story mode. Each of these options cost experience points which you earn by stealth knock outs, completing story mode missions, and finding random Oscorp crates around town if you can avoid the task force enough to get them all. But really you don’t need to upgrade these at all except the Seismic Web, which really is the only necessity to help you survive Super Hero difficulty due to that Ravencroft battle, not to mention one or two of the boss fights if you’re actually having trouble.

As far as the boss fights go, it doesn’t matter what difficulty you have this game on, they are easily vanquished by learning basic patterns and exploiting them. The only ones you might have trouble with are Black Cat due to how fast she moves, thouhh this is more of an irritant than a problem since you have to find her after a couple hits. The battle against Kraven is a pain as well when he hides in the trees. Even with your Spider Sense upgraded to maximum, it fails miserably to find him. Even the fights in the arcade machine at the Comic Stand are more difficult than anything story mode throws at you, but, again, upgrading Seismic Blast and the right suit will help you sleep walk through nearly every stage it has.

Another thing that needs to be addressed are the glitches. These were very rare, but sometimes they are enough to make you restart from your last save point. I’ve been trapped under things, I’ve fallen through the ground and had to double jump my way back to the street or else I’d keep falling, and I’ve been stuck in never ending free falls under those water towers on top of buildings. It also doesn’t help that you automatically start crawling if you’re in the air and next to something, which is how half these errors occur in the first place. Also, whoever chose to make the button to bring out the camera be pressing down on the right analog stick should be shot as it has cost me many battles by accidentally bringing it up by moving the in game camera with tense hands or grazing it when my thumb slipped.

But, the biggest redeeming factor about this title is the save function. This happens quite often, especially when you complete a mission, side mission, or pick up a collectible. You may start back a little further, but most of what you pick up is still accounted for, making the collectible hunt much easier. There’s also a level select in your room at Aunt May’s house, which you need to get to by taking the metro. There’s also the option to heal yourself if low on health. Instead of just regenerating by itself, you have to go somewhere or wait until the end of a battle to wrap injuries with your own webbing.

Next up is the load times. This game has so many loading screens it’s insane. Half the time you have to wait for the loading screens too, especially after certain side missions. And every additional objective you do in New York City ends with a brief news package from the Daily Bugle channel either praising or having J. Jonah Jameson bash you. It gets old after the third time, let alone the thirtieth or three hundredth depending on if you’re only in it for the story or pushing for all the achievements or trophies. But even the regular load screens can take up to a minute, and this is for the digital version that is installed on the hard drive, not even the retail version on a disc so I imagine those must be a little longer.

Finally there’s the fact that The Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s story line is literally seven hours, but if you want maximum completion you’ll tack on at least another ten to twelve collecting things. There’s just an insane amount of items you can pick up, which includes forty audio journals and three hundred comic pages (though you only need two hundred and eighty-six of them to unlock the related achievement). But if you’re going for completion then you’re probably looking to clean up all the achievements and trophies, which is just mindless repetition of side missions and grinding away at opponents to level out all the costumes (use the Ravencroft glitch for this to knock out a suit in thirty to thirty five minutes each). And you should get as much of this done early on since the game ends with a bonus clip of Wilson Fisk telling the mayor he’ll fund the task force himself, leading to a hint at a follow-up or downloadable content. Problem is the task force is where it was when you finished, making the final leg of that search an absolute nightmare.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Just thirty minutes with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is all you will realize Beenox was pressed for time, or just don’t care about the movie tie-ins. While the short levels introduce a range of enemies, there’s nothing to them outside of Kraven’s backstory. The whole game is essentially button mashing with bad Batman: Arkham City defense. There’s no complexity, everything is flat, repetitive, and there’s more to grind out in this game than there is actual story. If this were to have come out back when the PlayStation 2 were still around, which is what era this game genuinely looks and feels like both in game and during cutscenes, it might have faired a little better than it does now. In the end this is a poor movie licensed game with a few good features thrown in to save time. It was made available day one for fifty dollars, but the price will probably drop dramatically if it hasn’t already. Sadly, even Spider-Man fans will struggle to complete this entry, and even let out a sigh of relief once you bring yourself to removing it from your collection or deleting it from the harddrive whether you finished it or not.

Overall Score: 4/10
Digital review copy of this title provided by Activision via Sandbox Strategies.