Spider-Man No More
If you?re like me, Beenox is a developer still relatively fresh on your radar. Sure, they ported some Spider-Man games to the PC in the mid-2000s, but it wasn?t until 2010?s Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, when the studio took point on the web-slinger?s gaming presence, that they really grabbed my attention. Since then, they?ve delivered three solid Spider-Man games in a row, a feat that hasn?t been done, in my opinion, since the LJN/Acclaim days. Unfortunately, it seems that all good things must come to an end, because Beenox?s latest, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, is one of the worst Spider-Man games I?ve ever played.
Right from the get-go, the game may confuse more casual fans, since it?s not a true ?movie tie-in.? Instead, you need to go back to Beenox?s first Amazing Spider-Man game. There, they didn?t follow Marc Webb?s first take on the character beat for beat, but rather continued the story of that movie: You played through the fallout of Dr. Curt Connors? cross-species research and fought several new creatures that resulted from it. Since Sony Pictures seemingly wasn?t enamored with the idea of having their blockbuster movie franchise follow the story a game created, Beenox continued their story from The Amazing Spider-Man, thus crafting an alternate continuity from the films. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 game, therefore, only has the loosest of tie-ins to the new movie in that Green Goblin and Electro are there (Rhino isn?t, because in Beenox?s Amazing Spider-Man universe, he?s a cross-species monster).
Still with me? Once you wrap your head around the multiverse idea, it?s not the worst thing that could?ve happened. This allows Beenox to still have a little creative freedom with the story and not be regimented to following a movie script. After the complicated setup, however, things quickly become mundane in regards to the narrative: Each chapter devolves into loosely tied-together boss battles. In fact, there?s barely any narrative cohesion, period. Most of the story relies on your ability to find audiotape collectibles instead of actually telling you as you progress through the game.
And the dialogue is some of the worst I?ve ever heard in a game, from both Spider-Man as well as his foes. My favorite was a thug screaming out ?I like to hurt people!??truly the bad-guy equivalent to ?I like turtles? if I ever heard one. At the very least, the actors who deliver these miserable lines try the best they can with a script that clearly lacks any sort of entertainment value.
The weak narrative isn?t the only thing that makes this the worst Beenox Spider-Man yet; nearly every aspect of the gameplay is inferior to previous titles by the developer. The ?menace? system, touted when the game was announced, is a joke. This is your typical ?good guy/bad guy? meter that you see variations on in games like inFAMOUS and Mass Effect. As expected, it hinges on doing good deeds in the open world, or ignoring them and seeing the people?s view of you diminish. Only a handful of the same crimes repeat, however, so they become as boring as the boss battles. Meanwhile, there are usually so many going on at once that it?s a neverending uphill battle to keep Spidey from being viewed as a threat. The worst part is that all this has no influence on the narrative, and the reward for being lauded as a hero is minimal stat boosts and fewer enemies in the world. Why even bother at that point?
Also, going back to the boss battles for a brief moment, while it?s nice to see some of Spidey?s most iconic villains again in a videogame, the battles themselves are of the worst ?rinse and repeat? variety, wherein the bosses don?t have more than two or three easily avoidable moves, causing you to repeat the same pattern over and over until you whittle away their health.
The developers also emphasized how much time you?d be spending in the open world this time around compared to the last Amazing Spider-Man game. That?s as blatant a lie as I?ve ever heard. There are just as many ?dungeon? segments in Amazing Spider-Man 2 as there were in the previous game, and you probably spend even less time web-swinging down Manhattan?s concrete canyons than that one due to the shorter story. Beenox can do indoor sequences perfectly fine, as proven in previous games developed by them like Edge of Time and Shattered Dimensions, but when you stress that you?re going to keep players more in the open world, do it.
Speaking of web-swinging, though, this is the worst gameplay change. Talk about trying to fix something that wasn?t broken to begin with. I understand there?s a movement for ?realism? in comics and games, but this is a story about a man who has spider-based powers fighting a man made out of electricity. The need to be grounded in reality isn?t necessary, but Beenox tried anyway and now web-swinging requires a solid surface to stick to. While this design has been done in games before, this iteration of Spider-Man?s Manhattan?already a bland and lifeless shell of the hustling, bustling metropolis?doesn?t lend itself well to this tweak. I?d often shoot my web at some ridiculous angle, if I could find one at all, in order to adhere to this rule. Thus, I never really got into a great rhythm with my web-swinging, which was especially frustrating during the game?s racing side missions, which require a lot more precision than the game allows.
But wait! There?s more! While it?s clear that the combat/counter system is a rip-off from the Batman: Arkham games, it seems Beenox couldn?t resist to steal a little more from the Dark Knight. Amazing Spider-Man 2 sees stealth rooms make an appearance, and they just reek of the ?predator room? designs from Rocksteady?s games. And, like everything else in this game, they?re inferior in every way. Spider-Man?s Spider-Sense replaces Batman?s Detective Mode, and much like Arkham Asylum, players will run into the problem where they?ll feel like they never have to turn the power off. This means that even if the levels were beautifully designed (which they aren?t), they?d only see them in the red-and-blue hues this mode paints everything in. On top of all this, the combat upgrades from the first game have been simplified into only eight powers, with three upgrades each. So much for doing everything a spider can.
My final issues with the game come from the technical side of things: Glitches galore, folks. Not only are the character models bland?and only half a dozen of them are scattered throughout the game?but many of them love just vibrating themselves through walls, sidewalks, and rubble. Throw in three late-game crashes in the middle of boss battles, and I almost had enough to never look at this game again.
Despite the abject time I had playing the game, I was able to finish it, however, because flashes of the competency Beenox illustrated in their previous games do appear sporadically. These came in the form of tributes to some iconic moments from Spider-Man comics?like Cletus Kasady being wheeled into Ravencroft at the start of the Maximum Carnage storyline?that, as a lifelong fan, I understood and instantly recognized. But that only made me more frustrated, because it meant that Beenox had to know them, too, and yet they still let this miserable pile of data get stamped onto a disc and sent to stores. If you?re a Spidey fan, hope that Activision lets Beenox out from under this movie-licensing deal and gets them back to making original Spider-Man games.
|Developer: Beenox ? Publisher: Activision ? ESRB: T – Teen ? Release Date: 04.29.14|
Easily Beenox?s worst outing with the Spider-Man brand. Nearly every game system is a step backward from the previous three Spidey games?this one isn?t worth your time or effort.
|The Good||The story has its moments.|
|The Bad||Web-swinging takes a huge step backwards, the “menace” system is a joke, and the dialogue made me want to stick a pencil in my ear.|
|The Ugly||40 years of comic book history was diluted down into a less than 10 hour game.|
|The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U, 3DS, iOS, and Android. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Activision for the benefit of this review.|