This week, Zero Punctuation reviews The Amazing Spider Man 2.
Boy, isn't it a wonderful time to be into superhero films? It's hard not to feel spoiled when the film studios take enough money to solve all of the developing world's problems and pour it all into a portrayal of your favourite nancy-boys prancing about in leotards. And lest you think Sony's generosity ends with Amazing Spider-Man 2, the film, you don't have to go five fucking minutes without being reminded of Amazing Spider-Man 2 if you don't want to. You can wake up in the morning and go from Amazing Spider-Man 2 toothbrush to Amazing Spider-Man 2 happy meal to Amazing Spider-Man 2 nitrogen asphyxiation chamber. There's just one tiny little stumbling block in the whole system, and that's the fact that Amazing Spider-Man 2 is absolute wank... by most accounts. But I'm sure that problem will go away if they keep throwing money at it. Ethiopia doesn't, strictly speaking, need all those schools, do they?
In all honesty, I haven't seen the film, but that's good; that means however absolute the wank situation, it can't possibly taint my view of Amazing Spider-Man 2, the game! So here goes: Amazing Spider-Man 2, the game, is absolute wank. D'oh, better luck next time! You'd almost think a property about a beautiful young man in tight clothes shooting stringy white goo out of his hands had some sort of default propensity towards wank. So, you should know the drill by now: Peter Parker, Uncle Ben, bang, dead, oh no, power/responsibility, shitty villains, whine-whine, woe is me, I'm beating the pussy off with a stick, etc., and we're sandboxing around Manhattan again!
Effort has been made to make the swingy bits more skillful and involving, the way it was in the previous Spider-Man 2, the movie, the game, so now you can only swing when you're next to something swingable, and you have to employ your hands separately to manage movement and steering. It's alright. I mention this first because it's about the only thing I'm going to praise, and even it is tainted by "trying to web onto a building that isn't there" being one of many situations for which Spider-Man has a pool of about four different witticisms that are always arranged in ascending order of making me want to web at full speed under the wheels of a heavy-goods vehicle, if I weren't paralyzed by the knowledge that he probably has witticisms for that, too! Amazing Spider-Man (1), the movie, the game was no stranger to waddling awkwardly to the bathroom with its trousers 'round its ankles to hastily wash the spunk from its hand, but at least it had a somewhat-coherent narrative; its sequel diddles about with barely-connected threads like a passive-aggressive teen with a badly-strung ukulele.
It starts off, ostensibly, as a side-story to the film, but it opens with Spider-Man hunting the bloke who killed Uncle Ben, which is about as far from a side-story as you can get with Spider-Man! But it is swiftly dropped to rocket back and forth between villains like the most popular prison bitch in the exercise yard. Everyone the films haven't staked a firm claim on yet gets a moment: Black Cat shows up for her apparently mandatory appearance in order to go, "Hey, ever heard of tits? Well, here's two big fat reminders!" and then immediately vanish. Then, after a while, the game starts giving the whole "side-story" idea some funny looks as it contemplates what next to hurl from the balloon, and then – bam! – the movie villains show up out of fuckin' nowhere for a boss fight apiece. And you just know it's because a memo floated down from Mt. fucking Sony-lympus saying, "Remind people of the film more; we need to squeeze money out of this bollocks like a tit-shaped champagne dispenser." So, as a result, the game culminates in a protracted session of "Guess Which of These Boss Fights Is Actually the Final One." Is it the one with Kingpin, ostensibly the mastermind of most of what goes on? Nope, he's only the first! Is it either of the two movie villains, the golden calves before whom this whole mess has been sacrificed? Nope! The correct answer was Carnage, recast here as a sort of vigilante murderer, 'cause what they're trying to do is make him out as the centre of a sort of "dark reflection" running theme. But it completely falls flat: "Ooh, you're just like me, Spider-Man!", he burbles, "Secretly, you also want to murder all those criminals you catch!" And instead of saying the obvious thing, "No, I don't, you fucking weirdo," Spider-Man weakly concedes that he may have a point. You what? Can't say I've ever gotten that particular vibe from Spider-Man: that all his joking around and rescuing people is merely an outlet for his repressed psychotic murder fantasies.
Although, admittedly, in this game, I would happily have started sticking the heads of street criminals on the spikes of Aunt May's wrought-iron fence if it meant I wouldn't have to keep foiling their fucking crimes over and over again. Yes, random street crimes are constantly occurring, and, in the traditional sandbox manner, you can jump in and resolve them, and when I say "can," I of course mean, "fucking have to or be shot." Ignore too many petty crimes and the anti-crime task force will become hostile, which delivers a bit of a mixed message: "We're against vigilante justice, Spider-Man! Wait, he's not doing vigilante justice! What an asshole, let's kill him with vigilante justice!" And take my advice: don't even fucking bother trying to save people from burning buildings. It's always a chore finding them all between the smoke and the camera flipping around and Spider-Man's mysterious difficulties with entering open windows. And one time I failed the mission because I'd gotten the last guy to the safe zone, but the putting-him-down animation hadn't quite finished before the timer ran out. "Oh, you're not satisfied with my performance? Fine, I'll just fucking put him back!"
Spider-Man games at their best are all about flow and freedom-of-movement, but this mechanic is hell-bent on bringing that to a screeching halt. If you could burst in, kick ass, and burst out again, it might work, but each crime must be established with a cutscene and then concluded with a fucking news report telling you how great it is that you beat up three teenagers for loitering next to a Rolls Royce. And the series continues its lofty ambition to be like Arkham Asylum, when all it can do is press its face against Arkham Asylum's living room window until Arkham Asylum calls the police, so the mandatory stealth elements are as annoying as they were last time, dialogue trees have been thrown into cutscenes for no apparent reason except to yodel, "We have no fucking idea how exposition works!" and drive further stakes into the heart of the game's pacing. So I suppose we should summarize:
- Story: A fucking mess
- Gameplay: A fucking mess
- One-Liners: Heavy-goods vehicle
- Graphics: More like "mess-phics"! The game looks like shit even on the highest graphical settings, with, amongst other things, the out-of-costume Peter Parker's head being distractingly too small for his body, like a peach on a bookcase with an extremely punch-worthy haircut.
Should I expect more from a movie tie-in? Maybe not, but while the last Amazing Spider-Man movie game deserved second-degree burns, edging on third-, it was 24-carat gold compared to this one. Well, silver. Well, copper. Copper's still good; you can wire stuff up with it, like Amazing Spider-Man 2's nipples!
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