The recent, high-profile exhumation of ET cartridges for the Atari 2600 shows how, since the dawn of the games industry, tent-pole celluloid blockbusters have been hurriedly turned into rubbish games, more or less as an extension of the movie industry’s mania for merchandising. Games-of-films still have a reputation which is every bit as dire, and the way in which Activision’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 game arrived in the shops without any perceptible fanfare did not bode well. Spidey fans need not despair, though: it isn’t, at least, a write-off.
Neither, though, could it be described as a great game – it’s adequate at best, which isn’t really good enough for a franchise with the stature of The Amazing Spider-Man. Admittedly, it contains some good ideas, as well as the best web-swinging mechanic yet (Spidey can launch web-swings from either hand, and needs to be below the skyline in order to swing this time). But it is fatally let down by some amateurish elements, most notably the story-advancing cut-scenes, which are poorly scripted and wracked by terrible character animation.
Story-wise, it takes a different tack to the film, with our arachnophile hero initially seeking his uncle’s killer, before turning his attentions to the Carnage Killer, a vigilante brutally targeting criminals. The storyline regularly veers off in different directions, making it feel a tad disjointed, although it often does that to generate some tangential references to the movie.
On the plus side, there are plenty of side-missions, Manhattan has been nicely recreated and a decent Experience Points system lets you upgrade Spider-Man’s attributes and add abilities to suit your play-style. And there are a number of different suits to find, which also alter Spidey’s abilities. For Spider-Man obsessives, there’s a meaty experience on offer, which takes in Peter Parker’s favourite haunts, includes plenty of collectibles and, naturally, includes the presence of Stan Lee.
Spidey has some great moves, too, including a web-rush that lets him warp into position accurately. A stealth element also features and, after an initial learning curve, works pretty well. The fighting system is more or less identical to Batman’s Arkham games but nowhere near as well executed: your button-presses just don’t feel as responsive as Batman’s.
This ends up being the game’s biggest failing: you’re controlling Spider-Man perfectly adequately, but you never feel as though you’re inhabiting him like you do, say, in the aforementioned Batman games. It feels a bit like Spider-Man karaoke. If that’s enough for you, by all means invest in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but there’s a decent chance you may find the experience ultimately unsatisfying.