By – John Williamson

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I’ve often pondered which Marvel superhero would be most suitable for a blockbuster open world crime caper.  Spiderman’s web-slinging abilities allow him to effortlessly ascend tall skyscrapers in the heart of Manhattan and overlook a city ravaged by criminality and gang warfare.  He has an endearing personality and often uses witty quips to tease enemies during fighting sequences.  Movie tie-ins are notoriously dreadful and The Amazing Spiderman 2 is no different.  The game is a rushed, generic mess and attempts to deceive fanatical Spiderman fans who might overlook inexcusable flaws with rose-tinted glasses.

The plot begins with a dramatic flashback two years into the past and explains why Peter Parker is riddled with guilt over the death of his close family member, Uncle Ben.  Peter was present at the harrowing scene of a convenience store robbery and declined to apprehend the vicious criminal by stating, “not my problem”.  This inactivity began to haunt Peter as the assailant shot Uncle Ben in cold blood during an altercation.  Peter was traumatized by the idea that he didn’t have enough courage or moral conviction to detain the suspect.  Initially, your task is to find Uncle Ben’s murderer and seek justice but events take a sinister turn when you cross paths with The Carnage Killer.  This mysterious figure goes on a murderous tirade targeting criminals who have killed people during their sordid past.  The story in general is extremely one dimensional and has nothing to do with the actual film.  This is a shame considering the film’s narrative is actually engaging and exceptionally well written.

There are 14 story missions to complete which all feel fairly similar and can be completed within 2-3 hours.  The game attempts to blur the fact that all you do is fight goons over and over again by placing you in a number of unique locations. Certain missions such as Kraven The Hunter are utterly pointless and arbitrary as you are forced to solve petty crimes until your reputation has increased.  It is ridiculous and completely disjointed that you have to rescue stray civilians to progress during the story.  Surely Spiderman has more pressing matters to attend to when the city is in danger and there is a web of intrigue unfolding.

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The game revolves around a thinly veiled concept that Spiderman may be a threat to national security and a military task force is appointed to monitor your actions.  If you ignore the pleas of endangered citizens then your reputation will decrease and the task force will use their firepower on you.  However, this idea is almost pointless because you can easily use your web slinging skills to evade enemy onslaughts and glide through the air at a high altitude which enables you to avoid detection.  These additional tasks don’t contribute to the game’s completion rate and infinitely spawn during the story.

The tasks range from rescuing people trapped in burning buildings to helping citizens who are kidnapped in car chases.  The situations are some of the most repetitive and uninspired missions I’ve witnessed in any game over the past 20 years. The animations are identical each time and the gameplay never deviates from what you have already seen.  A brief TV report cutscene follows each event and creates the notion that completing these tasks give Spiderman some positive publicity.  While these reports are fairly enjoyable at first, they quickly become bothersome and you end up skipping each broadcast time after time.  I can only assume that this mechanic was introduced to prolong the game’s length.  These additions are unnecessary and ruin the flow during Spiderman 2’s plot.

Other missions have the potential to be exceptional but fall flat due to poor execution and some of the shoddiest AI in recent memory.  For example, the Noone is Safe mission requires you to infiltrate a fundraising event held by Wilson Fisk and eavesdrop into private conversations.  You would expect this to be a fairly enjoyable stealth mission which involves some covert sneaking but the end result is absurd as you can stand directly in front of two characters and listen to their discussions.  Anyone with half a brain would deduce that you are spying into their conversations and contact security immediately.  Even the more unusual missions like this result in a brawl between you and some insidious criminals.

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There are a few boss battles towards the latter stages in Spiderman 2 designed to test your fighting skills and agility against a host of powerful enemies.  During one occasion, you have to defeat the Black Cat who moves at an incredible pace because of her flexible legs and easily evades any basic strikes you perform.  To defeat her, you must use your web sling and temporarily trap her so you can effectively make damaging attacks.  I enjoyed the boss fights but they are all too brief and can be completed within 2-3 minutes.  There is also a difficulty spike when you tackle these bosses which may annoy certain players.  However, there isn’t any subtlety to their defensive and offensive abilities so you should be able to work out how to prevail against them fairly quickly.

You can also embark on a slew of side missions including photo investigations, hideout infiltrations and even checkpoint races.  The photo investigations require you to snapshot key pieces of evidence from crime scenes.  Bizarrely, you can walk directly in front of police officers or security officials and take a photo without raising any suspicions.  You would expect confidential information to be protected with a vigilant police force who quickly question you on arrival.  The idea that you can freely take pictures within these restricted areas is absurd and wastes the potential for more interesting stealth missions which would add some much needed variety.

Furthermore, these challenges become laborious as the developers recycled assets for each investigation.  The majority of your time is spent looking at the same stationary police car over and over again which has an open laptop on its bonnet. This becomes a farce as it seems implausible for a competent police offer to leave classified information in the open.  The reward for completing these missions are audio logs which give a greater insight into the story. They are fairly interesting but unfortunately overawed by the repetitive nature of the photo missions.

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The hideout objectives involve a more covert playstyle as you have to infiltrate areas without being detected and acquire stolen Oscorp technology.  Spiderman can use his spider senses to view the secret location of enemy soldiers and forge a plan of attack.  Sneaking behind objects and performing stealth takedowns is advisable whilst trying to stay out of the enemy’s line of sight.  However, these missions are sorely let down by the atrocious AI. There is a meter that shows the alertness of your adversaries and slowly increases if you are spotted.  In theory, this isn’t a terrible idea because you will fail the mission if the bar becomes full.

The gang members are slow to react and become puzzled even if you step into an open space.  The goons are single minded and never work as part of a team which means avoiding them is all too easy.  They remain stationary even if you start to engage other guards in combat within a close proximity. Surely these guards should investigate the sudden surge of noise coming from around the corner.  The meter in general moves so slowly that you can be spotted about 3 times without failing the mission.  Successfully completing these tasks will unlock a number of unique and colourful Spiderman outfits which is a great piece of fan service.

Finally, the checkpoint races seem a peculiar addition because they don’t fit with the game’s theme.  Spiderman uses his web to glide through checkpoints and hurtle around the city.  These missions become a chore due to the clunky web slinging controls which often lack accuracy.  As a result, you can easily dip under the checkpoint rings and be left stranded trying to regain some momentum and back onto the correct course.  I can only theorize that the developers were struggling for ideas and included these races because similar events are often found in other sandbox games.

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There is a rudimentary upgrade system which allows you to exchange experience points for new skills.  Experience is obtained by either completing missions or finding hidden crates. The crates are placed in obvious locations and can be found even if you aren’t actively looking for them. Spiderman has the option to extend the range of his spider senses, increase the trajectory of his web sling or enhance a number of other indispensable powers. The upgrade system works proficiently and transforms Spiderman into a more menacing figure.

The developers also tried to emulate Rocksteady’s fluid and crisp combat engine from the Batman franchise. Spiderman 2’s fighting stages become rather dull and repetitive because there isn’t any variation in the standard moves. Spiderman has a predictable moveset containing rudimentary attack patterns.  The defensive skills fair slightly better as Spiderman can use his nimble stature to jump over enemies and forge counter attacks. One excellent addition is the ability to disarm your foes carrying weaponry with a web slinging attack and throw the item out of their hands.  The action often causes massive frame drops which makes the combat feel awkward at times.

Another feature which might have extended the game’s appeal is a Co-op Multiplayer mode where you can roam the open world with a friend and defeat hardened criminals who profiteer from the violence in Manhattan.  Unfortunately, there is no local Co-op or online play whatsoever so this seems like a missed opportunity.

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The PC port of Spiderman 2 is abysmal due to poor optimization, frame hitching, stuttering, screen tearing and wild frame drops.  This is a shame because the options menu is fairly impressive and contains settings for Draw distance, Citylife density, Shadows, Lighting, FX, AA, AF. Texture Quality, DOF and VSync.  Speaking of Vsync, the game is locked to 30fps if you enable this feature.  This an appalling decision because it doesn’t utilize the power of the PC platform.  You can turn VSync off, but the framerate is all over the place and causes horrendous screen tearing.  You can try to use Nvidia Adaptive VSync or an AMD equivalent to force Vsync at 60hz/120hz, but this is a measure you where you shouldn’t have to mess around.

I attempted to run the game on maximum settings at 2560×1440 and experienced mixed results.  The frame rate attained highs of 62 fps and dropped below 20 on occasions.  This wide range of performance creates a jarring experience which is difficult to enjoy as you become distracted by the fps dips.  I should be able to achieve above 62 fps using a Sapphire Tri-X 290 but the game hard locks to this frame rate with Vsync disabled.  As such, users with 120hz monitors will be extremely disappointed. From a graphical standpoint, the game is adequate and has it moments especially during nocturnal hours.  However, the city skyline looks a little washed out and the texture quality could be significantly improved.

The keyboard controls within the menu are also bizarre because you have to navigate with the WASD keys instead of the standard arrow keys.  Using the keyboard in the game is also pretty cumbersome so I would recommend that you use a 360 compatible controller.  The mouse also feels a little sluggish and unresponsive at times especially when you use high DPI settings.  On a more positive note, the game does support a Windowed mode and a wide variety of resolutions.

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Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

The Amazing Spiderman 2 is a generic, uninspired game which has an extensive amount of unwanted padding to artificially prolong the mediocre and dry story.  I am completely dismayed by this release because there are promising features that have the potential to be thoroughly enjoyable.  The PC port is a shambles and barely works which is bound to infuriate gamers looking for a fluid 60fps open world action game.   Spiderman 2 is the epitome of an unfinished game which was not ready for commercial release.  Avoid this game at all costs because it is dreadful and not worthy your time or hard earned money.

The Amazing Spiderman 2 Technical Summary:

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  • Time Played – 9 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 2560×1440
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • DRM – Steamworks
  • System Specs – Intel i7 4770K, 16GB RAM, Sapphire 290 4GB OC
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Steam, Amazon
  • Save Game Location – \Documents\Activision\The Amazing Spiderman 2\Save\
  • Control Scheme – Keyboard and Mouse, Controller (Highly recommended)
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – Terrible optimization, 30 fps lock with Vsync 62 fps without, AI problems, stuttering, huge frame drops
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  • St1ka

    That’s a real shame, I remember when Spider-Man 2 came out for the PS2 and it was a really fun game. A shame the developers/publisher dropped the ball :

    • John Williamson

      Yeah, there is a lot of potential here for a fantastic open world experience but it feels cobbled together and unfinished to tie in with the movie. I would prefer publishers to just give the developers the time they need and create better consumer goodwill through a solid and well thought out game.