Another Spider-Man game, another disappointing purchase.
Before we jump into this review, my credentials: I'm a lifelong Spider-Man fan and video game enthusiast. I've had a Spider-Man dangling from my review mirror (no matter which car) for 12 years. I've played every major Spidey game, I even got to review one. I did freelance reviews for five years or so—before my illustration work, and my kids, put an end to that. So I know Spider-Man and I know games.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not a good game.
It should have been great. Here's what I said about the last game in a blog post in 2012:
As a lifelong Spider-Man fan, that new close-up camera angle (which makes for some dynamic-looking traversal) and Batman: Arkham City inspired combat system sold me on the Amazing Spider-Man (to be fair, I'm borrowing it from my brother. But after playing it, I'd gladly buy a sequel if Activision will actually let a studio iterate on a Spider-Man game to clean up those now-trademark rough edges).
That thinking right there is what led me to pre-order Spider-Man 3 all those years ago. Remember that? Spider-Man 2 was a revelation, rough edges and all. Surely the sequel to that game would be the Spider-Man game to own, right? Nope. It was buggy, removed a lot of what worked in Spider-Man 2, and didn't fix the stuff that was broken.
You'd think I would have learned. But there I was a couple weeks ago, pre-purchasing Amazing Spider-Man 2 on Steam. I figured if it was the same team as the first one, building off the solid (if slightly wobbly) foundation of the last game, this game would be great.
It's been 10 years, I'm tired of giving Spider-Man games a pass because I'm a big fan. I'm an idiot for pre-purchasing this game. That's not going to happen again. But because it was short, I'm up at odd hours because of a newborn, and I'm a sucker, I finished it.
Before I jump into the good and bad, let's go ahead and rank this game against the other open world Spidey games.
1. Spider-Man 2 - The best swinging that still holds up. Decent everything else.
2. Ultimate Spider-Man - Wonderful art style, solid swinging, fun story.
3. Amazing Spider-Man - Entertaining story, good looking swinging, decent combat.
4. Spider-Man: Web of Shadows - Excellent combat system, the worst Spidey voice actor ever.
5. Spider-Man 3 - Sort of like Spider-Man 2, only slightly worse in every way.
6. Amazing Spider-Man 2 - The best swinging since Spider-Man 2, tons of great ideas, poor execution on...almost everything.
So if you haven't yet purchased this game, and haven't played any of the games above it in the list, go play one of those instead. They'll be cheaper, and you'll have a better time.
Now, on to the good and bad.
-The web swinging can be great when you get a good rhythm going. It forces you to swing a bit closer to the ground. The sound design and zoomed in camera can make swinging feel quite exhilarating.
-At crucial moments Spidey's spider sense goes off and everything slows down. You have to rotate the camera to find the incoming danger, then dodge it. It's only used a handful of times, but it's a neat concept.
-Some of the additional costumes look great.
-The idea of having to investigate things as Peter Parker is a good one.
-If you're not swinging somewhere with a purpose, on a straight shot to your goal, the web swinging can be a nightmare. Sometimes pulling you in unexpected directions or smashing you into buildings. Also, the web slingshot move you can unlock is worthless. Why not just use the Spider-Man 2 method of "hold down button to launch from web" when you want to go far?
-The whole Kraven as Spidey's mentor thing is a cool premise, but instead of developing it they fumble it in favor of cramming more villains in.
-Peter Parker has a tiny head and it looks weird. The dialog options, while a nice addition, are ultimately meaningless. There's no reason for them—skipping them has zero impact on the story.
-Speaking of story, it's not good. Hey game writers, there's a difference between plot and story. This is a plot—a sparse outline. The bones of a good story are there, which makes what we get even more depressing. The same could probably be said of the whole game.
-The last game felt like it was in the movie universe. It was set after the movie and although the voice actors were different, the Gwen and Peter dynamic remained. It was like a nice little side story, or made-for-DVD movie. This game is like some weird alternate version of the movie universe. It's like they made their own game, then went back later and dressed up some stuff to sort of make it tie in to the movie.
-The Hero/Menace meter actually discourages wondering about the city. The more you progress, the more stupid side missions you'll have to do just to keep the robots and web swinging electro-nets away. What you'll probably end up doing is ignoring them as best you can as you zip your way to the starting point of the next story mission (of which there are a whopping 14).
-Spider-Man's upgrades and suit stats do not seem to have a noticeable impact on gameplay.
-Many character models are just plain ugly, suffering from that weird arm thing so many games the last generation have problems with. This does not look like a next gen game, or even a late gen game.
-You will fight the camera as much, if not more, than the game's thugs.
There you go. Way more bad than good.
It's been 10 years. This game should have been much better than it is. What stings the most is the potential. It's on the fringes, hints of it here and there. Dozens of good ideas, all executed poorly.
Don't you hate that sinking feeling you get when you start to realize the game you just paid $40 (or more) for is not very good? Avoid that feeling friends, don't buy this game.