CHARLESTON, W.Va. — If there’s one particular gameplay element every self-respecting Spider-Man video game needs to absolutely nail, it’s the web-swinging. After all, if you take away Spidey’s ability to zip through the cavernous streets of New York City, what’s left to separate him from any other costumed vigilante?
While many games have tried to capture that essence of what it means to be Spider-Man, only a few have truly succeeded. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” can now be added to that list.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” developer Beenox is no stranger to Marvel’s web-crawler, having been at the helm of Spidey games since 2005. During that time, they’ve had quite a bit of success — including 2010’s “Shattered Dimensions,” my personal all-time favorite Spider-Man game. But their collective takes on Spider-Man have lacked in the web-swinging department. The 2012 movie tie-in for “The Amazing Spider-Man” was a step in the right direction, returning Peter Parker to his NYC roots and giving him free reign to move about the city. But the unrealistic ability to attach your webs to seemingly thin air was a constant reminder of how much further they had to go.
The developers rectified that situation in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Now, swinging through New York requires not only alternating left and right trigger presses to recreate the feeling of shooting webs from each hand, but webs must also actually stick to a building or some other surface. It may sound like a small change from past games, but in practice it completely changes how you maneuver Spider-Man around the Big Apple. There was a definite learning curve to the new system, but having gotten the hang of it, I can’t imagine ever going back to the old web-swinging ways.
It’s a good thing swinging through the city is so much fun, because “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” stumbles in other areas.
The combat is solid yet unspectacular, the Peter Parker missions felt like filler and hero/menace dynamic, which rewards players for completing side missions and stopping crime, should have been fleshed out more. The story, which follows alongside the events of the film, features plenty of villains from Spidey’s rogues’ gallery, but the over-arching plot that ties them all together was convoluted, to say the least. That said, I must give Beenox credit for staying away from the classic movie tie-in pitfall of trying to recreate the film scene-by-scene in a game. I’d much rather see a developer take an, ahem, swing with something original and miss than play it safe and spit out a paint-by-numbers rehash of the source material.
Visually “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” looks really good on current-gen hardware, but the PlayStation 4 version I also played certainly didn’t deliver next-gen graphics. I’m looking forward to seeing what the developers can churn out once they put all of their focus on creating for the more powerful consoles, because the character models outside of Spidey are certainly in need of a boost.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” isn’t the best Spider-Man game I’ve ever played, but there’s no denying it’s fun in its own right. Much of the enjoyment is gained simply from the adrenaline rush that comes with swinging through the streets of New York, but facing off against some of Spidey’s most recognizable foes was likewise a treat. With any luck, Beenox will continue to improve on its tried-and-true formula and gamers will be treated to a Spider-Man game that’s truly amazing.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”
Available for: Multi ($49.99-59.99)
Rating: T for teen