For the last four generations of videogame systems, I’ve always christened my new system with a Spider-Man video game. For PlayStaion 1 it was the original Activision Spider-Man game, for PlayStation 2 it was the first Spider-Man movie game, for PlayStation 3 it was the adaptation of Spider-Man 3, and now my first retail purchase of a game for PlayStation 4 is this game, Amazing Spider-Man 2. Beenox’s Amazing Spider-Man, which came out in 2012, had been a fun affair, although at times repetitive. There were many side missions for Spider-Man to take part in, yet ultimately there were only a few different types that were available. Added to this was the almost obnoxious amount of collectibles littered throughout the game, which tried to lengthen the gaming experience, with mixed results.
Prior to playing this new game, I was actually quite excited to see how the game would look on the next-gen systems. Beenox had been promoting certain changes, which included a menace/hero choice system that came from whether the player did heroic acts, or instead turned away and pursued another objective while swinging through New York City. The web-rush mechanic, which had been introduced in the last Amazing Spider-Man game, was tweaked, and the web-swinging itself was modified as well, to make it a tad more realistic.
Although Beenox made these tweaks to better their product, the tweaks instead felt underdeveloped, and at times detracted from the solid product they already had in the last game. For a character like Spider-Man, the speed, precision, and, let’s face it, fun of web-slinging has to be front and centre for the game to succeed. Unfortunately, the web-swinging has been negatively affected by some of the changes. Previously, a simple button press would start a web-swing, but now (for the PS4) the L2 and R2 buttons control web-lines with that specific arm. It makes web-swinging a tad more realistic, in theory, but the physics don’t always work, and can make swinging a bit of a chore. It used to be easier and more straight forward to achieve elevation, but now it's not as simple. They’ve removed the ability to easily web jump your way up vertically. When swinging, if you hit the side of a building, you can completely detach from the web line, and are stuck to the structure sometimes. To start wall-crawling, you now need to hit the triangle button to start. Before this would activate by running against a building to wall-crawl. The web-rush mechanic, which made its big debut in the previous instalment returns, but nowhere near as refined as it was previously. For instance, when traversing New York City, you can collect floating comic book pages (thankfully in the new game there are only 300, as opposed to last game’s 700 pages). Previously, it was really easy to lock onto these collectibles with web-rush, making collecting them easier. Now, the lock-on is not nearly as useful. It's finicky in actually allowing you to lock in, and there were so many times I ended up web-rushing to get a comic page, despite it not actually locking on at all.
The combat in Amazing Spider-Man 2 for the most part is on par with prior outings, although the web-pull feature in the game can be extremely challenging to use accurately in the middle of a fight. The use of signature moves to level devastating attacks on an enemy have returned, and are accompanied by some great animations. The gameplay makes use of a spider-sense mode which is clearly inspired by Batman’s detective mode in the Arkham-series games, but it can be difficult to differentiate what is in the same room as you. This is most noticeable when playing through the new side mission that has Spider-Man rescue innocent civilians from a burning building. The spider-sense is essential so that you can locate the bystanders trapped in the building through the smoke and fire, but you have to constantly switch the mode on and off. If you don't you’ll find yourself slamming into doors and walls, which don’t show up at all in the spider-sense mode. In theory spider-sense mode is quite helpful, it just doesn’t always live up to its promise.
Another big change is how unfaithful the game is to it's movie counterpart. The first Amazing Spider-Man game took place after the first movie, and dealt with new cross-species enemies menacing New York City. This one takes place after the first game, but tells a story all its own. There are some similar story beats, but otherwise it blazes its own path. Fans of Spider-Man will be rewarded with some great portrayals of Kraven the Hunter, Black Cat, Cletus Kasady (both before and after he’s bonded to a certain symbiote) and more. The story made the inclusion of the various villains work, amidst a plot-line surrounding an increasing gang war within the city. The story feels like it is more organic to telling a strong Spider-Man story within the game than it did in the first game, which is to Beenox’s credit. As a fan of the first game, I liked that certain characters and elements recurred here, such as Spidey’s ally in the press, Whitney Chang.
One of the touted features of this game included the first time that Peter Parker himself is a playable character in his alter-ego, not just as a skin for when he’s web-slinging. He actually plays a part in the action. That being said, it’s not all that it was cracked up to be. The Peter Parker gameplay feels tacked on, instead of instrumental. There were a few times when I felt that a cut scene showing what Peter did would have worked out better than having the player clumsily navigate Peter through a charity event, amongst other things. Doing the side missions can be fun at first. There are a few more variations than there were in the first game, but they soon feel even more repetitive than before. The car chase sequences, for example, were a lot more dynamic in the previous game, but the animation for those sequences in this game pale in comparison to last one. It doesn’t have the same thrill that the first game’s car chase sequence had. A fun new addition are races for Spider-Man to compete in. The only downside with the races is that there aren’t more of them. Stan Lee returns to this new game, as he now is the proprietor of a comic book shop that Peter can frequent, to check out the collectibles you earn in the game, as well as to play some challenge maps against assorted enemies.
The graphics for the PlayStation 4 don’t feel like they really put the system through its paces, instead feeling like a slightly upscaled version of what I would imagine the PlayStation3 version would look like. At times the game does feel like a rushed sequel to the original, which doesn’t try out many new elements, and instead sticking to the same elements that were on display in the first game. This game could have been called Amazing Spider-Man 1.5, as that’s often what it feels like.