Would you rather be a hero or a menace?
I really liked last year’s The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition, so I was excited to see a return to that gameplay formula with the newly-released The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a game which is tied into the film by name but only loosely follows it. While ASM2 is, by and large, similar to its predecessor, it differs in important ways that delivered mixed results. Most of the new features feel poorly implemented and rushed. It’s still fun, but it’s a step down from last year’s Ultimate Edition of the first game.
The game’s storyline succeeds the first ASM game. You’ll recall that ASM1 (the game) is a sequel to ASM1 (the movie). Well, ASM2 (the game) is a sequel to ASM1 (the game), and doesn’t really follow the events of ASM2 (the movie) at all except for some shared characters and late-game reveals. As an example of how self-contained ASM2 (the game) is, Gwen Stacy, a main character in the latest movie, doesn’t even seem to be present. The story has Peter initially searching for Uncle Ben’s killer, which almost immediately leads him on a hunt for another criminal, nicknamed the “Carnage Killer.” Kraven the Hunter, Kingpin, Shocker, and Black Cat all feature prominently. Green Goblin and Electro, the two villains from the movie, are also here, but have been relegated to later parts of the game’s story, almost as afterthoughts.
It’s an interesting plot, but a little long in the tooth. I was never particularly invested in finding out what happens next. Instead, I was busying trying to appease the citizens of New York City, lest I be seen as a “menace.” In the first ASM game, you could swing around New York at your leisure between story missions, stopping crimes here and there to earn experience points—again, at your leisure. This was nice, and because it wasn’t required, I spent an ungodly amount of time doing it. Well, apparently people weren’t doing it ENOUGH, because Beenox went ahead and made it required in this game. If you’re not constantly rescuing citizens or stopping criminal activities, you’ll be perceived as a “menace” and Wilson Fisk’s task force will try to kill you. They try to kill you in a number of unique ways, including shooting you, sending drones after you, and blocking your routes. It’s a little like fighting off Alistair Smythe’s Spider Slayers in the first game.
So you’ve got to keep an eye on your “Hero/Menace” meter, as I call it. Once the meter drops below a certain point (“Hero Level 1”), you can expect a visit from the task force. Keep that meter full and you’ll be fine. That meter drops precariously when you either fail or miss a heroic task (some of them time out) or while you’re busy doing a story mission. When you get back out to NYC, you’ll notice that your Hero/Menace meter is suspiciously low. If you did a lot of missions in ASM1, you’ll recognize them all here:
1) Rescue some dude and take him to the ER 2) Stop some criminals from stealing a car or breaking into a building 3) Rescue a hostage from a moving vehicle 4) Beat up a bunch of criminals with guns who the police can’t pin down
There is also a new one: rescue people from a burning building. This kind of quest sucks so hard that I always avoided it. If the people are stuck on the exterior of the building, fine. But if they’re inside? Let those idiots burn. Your Spider-Sense “vision” (a cheap imitation of Detective Vision from the Batman Arkham series) is rarely helpful, there’s never enough time, and it’s hard to see anything in a smoke-filled, burning building. Also, Spider-Man’s suit is not flame-retardant!
You’ll still earn experience, which you can use to upgrade your moveset. Experience also levels up your different Spider-Suits, which you actually acquire with some regularity if you hunt down all the Russian mobster hideouts. Each suit has different stat bonuses, and they level-up through combat. This adds incentive to try all the suits as you find them. I mean, you’re supposed to, but once I found the 2099 suit, that was the only one I wanted to wear.
I should also mention that they changed the web-swinging (for the better). In ASM1, you could web-swing from the clouds, high over NYC, at a constant rate. Now, however, you’re using the ZR trigger to swing from the right hand and ZL to swing from the left, and your webbing has to attach to something like a building or a tree (in Central Park). It feels great, and results in plenty of close-shave traffic fly-bys that you so often get in the films. And yes, Web Rush has returned if you want to hone-in on your destination, like collecting comic book pages.
You’ll also spend some time as Peter Parker, wandering around and talking to people. These sequences are never enjoyable, and your conversations with NPC’s is wooden and consequence-free, since you just select which questions to ask—in a row—before selecting “end the conversation.” Stan Lee appears as a comic shop owner, which is clever (I guess), where Peter can view character trophies, concept art, and partake in combat challenges. The Peter segments, however, really show off a bad side to the game:
The non-Spider-Man character models are just horrible. I’ve seen better-looking PS2 character models. Aunt May in particular looks unfinished. I should mention here that, like the first game, NONE of the characters look anything like their movie counterparts, and nobody is voiced by their respective actor. Wilson Fisk looks particularly malformed, and not just because he’s the size of the Hulk; his head looks like a pear. On the other hand, Spider-Man looks great (although, during cutscenes, he seems toenjoy moving expressively in a frantic manner) and it’s clear that all the effort went into his character model. Environments also look fantastic—I’ll always be impressed by how smooth and detailed NYC looks as I’m swinging through it.
There have been a few hilarious glitches: enemies get caught on geometry, going into perpetual seizures; some speech clips have repeated like a skipping record player; and there have been occasions where Spider-Man would land on a building after web-swinging around and all the textures just suddenly pop into place in front of him. None of these have been game-breaking (they’re often funny) but I certainly don’t remember them plaguing the first game.
For the most part, ASM2 is more of the same, but the unfortunate addition of the “Hero/Menace” meter turned a previously-enjoyable aspect of the game into something I was obligated to do, and thus I quickly became resentful of it. I wound up spending a lot of time between story missions rescuing civilians not because I wanted to, but because I wanted to avoid the task force. ASM2 is still a good game at its core, with some improvements over the original, but they really botched the Hero/Menace element.