We gave the original 6/10 when we reviewed it last year. A strong six, because even with its problems, there was a sense of freedom in exploring New York, the gameplay was solid, the Spidey-quips (and thwips) decent. We also knew that developer Beenox had been under a lot of pressure to deliver a game in time with the usual tight scheduling that comes with a movie tie-in.
But news of the sequel has been swinging around the web (apologies for the god-awfulness of that pun) for a year now. There's been a tease of fancy new-gen screens periodically over the past few months. Expectation still wasn't sky-high, but there was at least hope that building on the original would mean for a tighter, better experience. After only an hour, we realise that's not the case.
The key elements are still in place, but cut-scenes and voice acting are still poor. Production feels sloppy, and unworthy of the character. The only real improvement over the original is the web-slinging mechanic, which feels like exciting Tarzan-like swings at roller-coaster speeds. Each web-line now sticks to a physical object in the world - a tiny detail you may miss if you don't pan the camera to check, but it embellishes the force of the swings, making you feel directly connected to the world you're whipping through. There's no firing lines into thin air, which many previous games did. It reinforces the feeling of controlling the real Spider-Man.
And there's deeper mechanics to the web-slinging. Movement is mapped to the analog triggers, and it takes a while to adjust to the rhythm of the movement, pressing one to fire a web-line, holding as Spidey swings on that arm, then following up with a press of the other trigger at the end arc to fire from the other arm's web-shooter and maintain momentum.
But, as much as it was also proven in Bionic Commando, it doesn't matter how much fun it is to swing if everything else in the game is substandard.
The enemies are idiotic, and while the combat system owes a lot to the Dark Knight (but then, what action adventure title doesn't use the Arkham franchise as a template these days) it's not as flawless. We get the icon indicators over heads to indicate coming attacks, but there's not a clear-cut definition of how far enemy attacks will reach, making us unable to prioritise enemies by distance from our fists and feet.
It becomes a guessing game. And unsatisfying. Combat quickly becomes repetitive. The last four hours of the game saw us repeating the same tired mission over and over again. Yet it lead to an exciting, fan service-heavy, crescendo with some great boss fights.
Included in the game are 'interactive' sequences, much like an adventure title, that require you to make active choices during conversations with key characters. These choices do not affect the game in any way, and so feel only a quick way of adding some extra minutes onto the gameplay time.
And then, we have the visuals. Cross-gen titles come with an expectation of some concession in the graphics department, more so with movie tie-ins. But that doesn't excuse them. You can see that for the new-gen version of Spidey, the team have used the same rendering tech and character models as the old-gen, and just added some better mapping techniques, slightly improved lighting and a little bit of polish. Whatever you do, don't stack this side by side with Infamous: Second Son. You may laugh. You'll probably cry.
So, The Amazing Spider-Man 2: typical movie licence game fodder. Shame.