Web-slinging its way straight to mediocrity
Reverse ParkerIf you’d told me before I started playing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that it was essentially a HD remake of Spider-Man 2 for the original Xbox, I’d have gasped with joy for a moment before resuming a level of decorum befitting a 30-something male with a penchant for silly action games that can be breezed through as if made of crepe paper. Now The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has dumped its load onto my PS4’s rapidly-filling hard drive however, it’s pretty clear we've all moved on from those heady days of 2004.
By any yardstick this is a bit of a letdown. It’s not so much that Amazing Spidey 2 is a full-on car crash of wanton movie-licenced awfulness, but more that it’s relies on tired and boring gameplay systems, injecting itself with a hybrid serum of elements copied from superior superhero games and yet never web-slinging its way close to anything approaching greatness. This is a PS4 game that looks, and belongs, in a completely different era. There are moments of enjoyment to be found, but they’re heavily anchored in a sense of nostalgia that just doesn’t hold up.
Peter ParkourWhat separated the original Spider-Man 2 (and some of its successors) from its predecessors was a web-slinging mechanic that captured the essence of “being” Spider-Man. That 2004 version of New York city was neatly arranged in blocks (even more uniform in layout than the real thing), and with a grip on the right trigger you were able to swing and release from Spidey’s wrist ejaculations, arcing your way through streets and gliding around corners to neatly crest the traffic just inches from your stinking teenage feet. Simply swinging from place to place felt good, and for some of us that was more than enough.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is *almost* as exhilarating in motion, but regularly shoots its own webbed feet with pointless frippery. Individual triggers now control Spidey’s left and right wrists, and unless there’s a building within range of your trigger-pull, you’ll be swiftly plummeting towards the ground or holding R1 to pause the action and zipline your way towards an environmental perch. Power-up abilities eventually allow Spidey to launch himself directly into the air or pull back for a slingshot in whichever direction you choose, but they feel bolted-on and unnecessary.
In combination, those mechanics promote more of a staccato rhythm than you might expect when swinging around New York, and although basic web-slinging is still capable of producing an excellent sensation of momentum, more often than not your progress is halted by unnecessary practicalities and fiddly controls. Not that this really matters anyway, there’s precious little to do in the Big Apple that amounts to any real entertainment value.
The majority of Spidey 2’s storyline missions take place inside facilities or areas that break away from the main map, so that leaves the entire city as a monotonous playground in-between. A half-dozen citizens can be saved from the same fires and car crashes over and over again to swing your morality meter back into the blue (troops come after you if you go into the red); comic book pages can be collected to unlock their full editions from within the main menu; weapon crates can be destroyed; pictures can be taken; evil forces kept at bay; hideouts gatecrashed and races swung.
On paper it’s a heck of a lot of open-world content, but in practice The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is repetitive even within its first hour. There’s simply no life to the city; almost every area is held back by a lack of detail and some of the flattest, most uniform design you’re ever likely to see, populated by animatronic cars that pop into view alongside precious few humans. It’s an engine that creaks in a befitting fashion for something that looks like a HD remake of an existing HD remake, and it’s just not enough. The stuttering framerate, long load times and awful menu make compound an inexcusable lack of polish.
Parker PoseyAnd we also need to talk a little about Spider-Man’s personal confidence, because although he’s outwardly the definition of the kind-hearted cocky kid you might imagine, his combat moveset appears to be morphing into Batman before our very eyes.
Basic attacks auto-lock onto the nearest enemy and can be chained onto others with a push of the left stick, whilst counters and dodges are signalled by red and white symbols above Spidey’s head. A quick tap of a shoulder button disarms an opponent or propels you in their direction, allowing for combination attacks to be dragged out across the battlefield at range. Hammering another button roots an opponent in place with the white sticky stuff, while holding the same button launches an area attack that stuns everybody within range.
On paper that might sound like a solid hybrid of third-person combat systems already flourished in Arkham Asylum and City, but nothing Spidey does seems to carry any weight. He’s necessarily lithe and nimble as a character, but a lack of visual and auditory feedback makes you feel as if you’re constantly punching thin air as opposed to the sensation of Batman’s hulking slabs of meat. It’s far too light, airy and way too easy; there’s precious little of the sense of rhythm and timing that extended the life of Gotham’s finest.
So that leaves the story missions as a last bastion of hope, but unfortunately they tend to be carved out of the exact same cloth as activities in the main city. Non-combat objectives take shape as boring rescue missions or vehicle hijacks, with a few QTE events thrown into the miserable soup for good measure. There’s hardly a spark to be found, and although Spidey’s conversations with his antagonists hint at several interesting storyline avenues that could have been explored, they’re all too quickly sidelined and Spider-Man shunted onwards towards the next action sequence.
It’s interminably dull. Even when infiltrating facilities and buildings, a repetitive loop forms around swinging from arena to arena, taking down a group of thugs before moving on to do the same thing somewhere else. Stealth attacks expand the combat repertoire a little, but there’s never an obvious penalty for just dropping to the floor and dealing with everybody head-on. Even in one mission that explicitly states you shouldn't be detected, it doesn't matter a jolt if you just burst in and start web-blasting at the patrolling idiots. What’s the point in doing otherwise?
- Web-swinging is occasionally good
- Sharp texturing on Spider-Man
- One of the villains (spoiler redacted)
- Terminally dull
- Bland visuals
- Choppy framerate
- Boring combat
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 PS4 ReviewThe problem with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is that it’s only doing an acceptable job of rehashing the core mechanics of Treyarch’s ten-year-old title, as well as bogging everything down with terrible production values and a worryingly sporadic framerate. The overriding sensation is that of a developer treading water, and whether it was a lack of ambition or a lack of time that put paid to this project, the end result is mediocrity at very best, abject boredom the rest of the time.
Nailing the basics with Spider-Man is key, and it’s fair to say that The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s web-swinging mechanics are capable of doling out bursts of exhilaration from time to time, but the fiddly controls and additional traversal manoeuvres never really feel as if they belong. Combat follows up with its best impression of a hybrid Assassin’s Creed and Arkham Asylum, yet solidity and timing are either entirely missing or reduced to a feathery mush.
It’s not good then, and that’s a huge shame given the occasionally wonderful moments to be found when swinging above New York traffic, colouring in memories of a childhood spent reading and watching Spider-Man. Time, money, whatever it takes; the next Spidey needs a super creativity serum to wake it from what could be a terminal slumber.
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