If this latest outing with Marvel Comics’ famed “Spider-Man” serves a single purpose, it is clearly a scream for help. After four titles — two original, two movie tie-ins — it’s high time Activision dug into their well of talented development studios and got someone other than Beenox to start crafting games based around the ol’ webhead.
A screenshot from the game “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
Spidey’s tangled with some fiendish foes in the past, but the smothering blandness and sloppy gameplay of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is too much of a brute for even the most stalwart superhero.
This is exactly the type of rapidly developed cash grab that Marvel Entertainment seemed poised to avoid when no game emerged either leading up to or in the wake of the 2012 mega-hit that was “The Avengers.”
As has been the case for the past 10 years, Activision seems content to constantly try to recapture the feeling of 2004’s “Spider-Man 2,” based on a previous film adaptation (don’t think about it too hard).
And what it doesn’t photocopy from a decade’s worth of near-identically designed software (e.g.: the open-world New York City, repetitive side-missions and shallow combat), it bungles with ill-advised gimmicky additions that rob the game of any sort of life.
Among these fumbles gamers will find a half-baked web-swinging mechanic that has them alternating between pressing the left and right shoulder buttons to control each of Spidey’s hands. Interesting? Maybe, but hardly implemented well.
The sensation of rocketing through the canyons of glass and steel was the only exhilarating portion of Beenox’s previous Spider-Man outing, and to see it for all intents and purposes crippled by shoddy controls is disheartening.
Adding to this frustration are the equally bungled spots where players strip out of the blue and red suit and hit the streets as Peter Parker, Spidey’s secret identity. Peter meanders around, snapping occasional pictures when the game calls for it, and progressing the wafer-thin story through dialogue sequences that are all trussed up in a sad mockery of “Mass Effect.”
There are no real choices to be made, and the illusion of controlling the outcome of the story is very slight. It is simply used to introduce each of the new villains Spidey will be bringing down as the game unfolds.
I suppose they wouldn’t be so offensive if they weren’t so long and such jarring interruptions.
There’s also a new “Menace” mechanic introduced in “ASM 2,” but it fizzles right from the barrel. Obviously taking a cue from Sony’s “InFamous” games, this has public perception of Spider-Man changing on whether he stops certain crimes in progress or allows them to transpire.
Now, with only an all-too-limited handful of different crimes occurring around Spider-Man at any given time, and their effect being so minimal — as in they give a negligible boost to Spidey’s stats, and decrease crime so long as he remains a hero in the public eye — one begs to ask why they bothered.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, PC
It’s one thing to introduce a few new wrinkles to shake up gameplay, but it is another to simply sew on the base idea of an element that worked in another game without even exploring why it worked in the first place.
This same result plays out in ASM 2’s secondhand arsenal. Stealth sections that play a fifth as well as they did in Rocksteady’s “Batman: Arkham” franchise, boss battles that stubbornly cling to the same patterns and mechanics that Activision’s Spider-Man titles have been using since the days of the PlayStation 1. Spidey’s newest super-villain isn’t a victim of an industrial accident, or an Alien Symbiote, it’s the crushing mediocrity of this game.
Not helping in any way are the thoroughly unimpressive visuals — ASM 2 might look great in screenshots, or running at high speed when Spidey is zipping around on web lines, but when the game slows down, or stops for a cut scene, it reveals a hellishly ugly appearance. Character models look as if they were meant to be viewed from afar. There’s also a truckload of clipping issues and collision detection woes that make the game look exactly as it is, a buggy mess.
“Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a far cry from Beenox’s best outing with the wall-crawling hero (in my opinion, 2010’s “Shattered Dimensions”). In fact, it is without a doubt their worst work. Everything that they’ve made work in previous titles has been dumbed down to a fault, and the new elements simply don’t work.
The tie-ins with the polarizing movie are tenuous at best, leaving very little reason for this trashy entry in the Spider-Man mythos to swing by, even for an afternoon.
Platform: PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC (PS4 version reviewed)
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Rated: T for Teen.
Walking through the wastes of the digital frontier, Jon Mercer fights a lonely war against the nefarious agents of boredom and mediocrity. If you seek his help, or wish to join his cause, send a communiqué via firstname.lastname@example.org.