When I reviewed Beenox’s The Amazing Spider-Man (which I rather liked), I stressed one word for the sequel: “innovation.” That was a note thrown onto the cork board of ideas and covered up by a million pieces of paper that just said “Make it like that old Spider-Man 2 game.” The Amazing Spider-Man 2 feels like a step sideways from the sound compilation of ideas that made up the first game. Beenox took the Arkham Asylum approach towards an open world design, sectioned off mission areas and a well-developed combat system that could be used for future Spider-Man titles. Those ideas exist in the sequel but the lack of improvement speaks volumes.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 offers an alternate retelling of the film instead of a pseudo-sequel. With the exception of Rhino, all of the movie’s villains are present along with a few other Rogues Gallery members. Even though the story is inspired by the film, the game’s version of it is told very poorly. You would think the writers of the game could have just copied the screenplay. Instead, what the player gets is a complicated, incoherent mess that makes little sense on how the action gets you from point A to B. I even wondered if scenes were missing because of how often the story would take sudden sharp turns without warning. Some characters are absent in the game including one of the most important people in Peter Parker’s life. Gwen Stacy, a major character in the films and the first game is nowhere to be seen. Making the story worse is the bad voice acting. There is nothing to the story that will you feel invested with Spider-Man’s latest predicament. This is a big disappointment compared to the first game’s story that I thought would have made a solid Spider-Man comic storyline. While both games do an interesting job including villains from the comics in a way that fits into the movie universe – the appearance of Shocker is enjoyable if abrupt – most of them feel ham-fisted. Why does Carnage show up? Likely for no other reason than Beenox really wanting him to be there.
Despite all these problems, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 plays really well. If you enjoyed the Arkham Asylum-style combat from the first game, then you will have fun with it all over again even if there is very little innovation to the combat. The mecahnics feel mostly unchanged with the exception of the double counters upgrade. Other moves include pulling weapons out of thug’s hands with your web abilities but you’ll largely spend time smashing faces and webbing people to walls and floors. While the combat itself is entertaining the scenarios to use them in are not particularly well designed. Combat challenge rooms, which I sorely wanted in the last game, have found a home in the sequel. These rooms along unlocked comics and character figurines can be viewed within a comic shop run by Stan Lee (yes, the real Stan Lee). There is also a plethora of alternate costumes you can unlock that actually have their own stats and skill levels which adds some replay value. There are more things to do in the city for side quests that I thought to be better and more creative this time around. Going into random burning buildings to rescue people was a particularly nice addition.
If web swinging is your sole interest in a Spider-Man game, know that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is just as good as Treyarch’s Spider-Man 2. Moving around the city has never felt better thanks to an incredible swinging mechanic and the return of web rush mode. I had fun with the swinging and the combat alone although it is a real shame that the game suffers from its story. As bad as the story is, where the game mostly suffers are the pointless Peter Park sections. Multiple times you’ll control Peter out of the costume and interact with other characters that have very little impact on the game or a justifiable reason to exist. All you really do is work through a dialoge tree that almost always plays out the same way for each encounter. These sections should have been dropped in favor of putting more work into the writing and more innovation to the gameplay.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 may not be the best looking game, especially on the verge of a generation split, but it doesn’t look terrible. Spider-Man himself is well modeled, the action of beating people up looks nice, and I really enjoyed the look of the city. This time around I thought the textures looked little cartoony and feel separated from the tone of the movie. It’s fine but it felt a little off after the first game. The human characters, including Peter Parker, look atrocious and barely resemble their live action counterparts. If you were going to add these sections in the game then at least put in the effort to make them look good. Nothing from this game is going to “wow” anyone but in the end, it just looks fine.
While the first The Amazing Spider-Man could have been a great launch point, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 feels like the same thing all over again with, at most, half steps taken to improve. The development schedule might have been tighter, it’s hard to say why the game isn’t as polished as it should be. I know Beenox is capable of more than this. While the gameplay is fun enough to check out, the story feels like it was written by someone who glanced at the movie script for half a second and then filled it with a bunch of half realized ideas. An average experience, this will only please true Spider-Man fans purely from a gameplay standpoint.