If you look over the video game reviews on About.com and, really, across most of the internet, you’ll see that people who review games are an awfully lenient bunch. The average numbers for games on sites like Metacritic rank higher than film, TV, or literature critics as a whole. We’ve reached a point where a 4/5 for a game, which means an 80 on Metacritic, is perceived as a “bad review” and that’s just not the case across most other mediums. Why? Is it because the state of the industry is stronger than film? Maybe. But television? Which most would agree is in its golden age? Is the video game in its golden age? Again, maybe, and yet we shouldn’t be wary of pointing out when a title really, truly fails to deliver on its promise of entertainment for your gaming dollar. In fact, I would argue that tough criticism across the board is the best thing for a format, giving developers a bar to strive for and a low watermark that they don’t want to hit. And so I can say with all honesty that I mean to help when I tell you that “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” video game just released for the PS4 is not only the worst game of the year to date; not only the worst PS4 game, period; not only typical of bad movie tie-ins to bad movies—it’s all of the above. Clunky beyond all understanding as to how people could put a pricetag on such an inferior product, it’s derivative of better games (like the “Arkham” series) when it’s not just awful. If you’ve never played “Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions,” the only truly great webslinger game to date, go do that instead. If you have played it, just play it again.
One of the first startling things while playing “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is the tenuous connection it seems to hold to the actual film. The plot doesn’t follow the movie other than in pure, bare-bones outline form. It’s as if someone told the developers, “Spider-Man, Electro, now do something.” The opening scenes of Spidey stopping crime around the city and jamming radar have NOTHING to do with the movie. Not a thing. Eventually, Electro will play a role but even that origin story is messed up. Imagine the oldest relative in your family trying to explain the plot of your favorite summer blockbuster to you years after they saw it. That’s about how much the story here has in common with the movie. Which wouldn’t be a huge problem if it developed an interesting story of its own but it just never does.
Which only leaves us with gameplay, which can be infuriating. Swinging through the city is clunky with camera work that pivots in weird ways, especially if you move too fast for it. Angles are flat and weird, making timing wall runs and swings maddening. The number of times I was looking the wrong way after a swing is insane. There’s nothing fluid about the movement, which holds true for combat as well, which directly mimics the “Arkham” games with its attack, counter, special move melee system but doesn’t flow with half the energy. Punches don’t look like they connect, input lag persists, and use of special tricks like Spidey Sense don’t engage the gamer at all.
Horrible story, bad combat, boring gameplay—what’s left? How about that it looks awful? “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is flat where it needs to pop, cut scenes are generic in concept and execution, and the city is your typical, dull cityscape with nondescript buildings and boring NPCs. Everything about “Amazing Spider-Man 2” feels half-complete, whether it’s the graphics, gameplay, perfunctory “hero or menace” structure, routine enemies, or dull story. It’s a first draft that’s been released as a complete game. Let’s hope they revise a few times with the next Marvel game.
A version of the game was provided by the publisher for review.