Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a hard game to categorize. If it's meant to be a movie tie-in game, it misses the mark completely; Peter Parker doesn't look or sound like Andrew Garfield and the movie villains are only dropped in briefly, making them feel like a complete afterthought. In fact, the game and the film seem to contradict each other once you add in some continuity issues related to Harry Osborn.
Once you leave the movie link behind, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 you're left with is a continuation of the plotlines established in 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man game. Think of it as an alternate reality version of the movie's universe. Reporter Whitney Chang and the entire cross-species idea are brought back from the previous title, though each is only vaguely touched on. Instead, Spider-Man is tasked with dealing with Kraven the Hunter, the Kingpin, Black Cat, and serial killer Cletus Kasady (spoilers for comic fans). The plot isn't a cohesive whole and feels hacked together to get everyone on the same playing field. The strongest thread is Kraven's, which could've explored the grey area of vigilante crime-fighting, but that gets shoved out of the way to give the other characters some space.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the evolutionary outgrowth of everything Beenox has done with the character since Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. The game's combat tries to mimic the Batman: Arkham series, but without the same fluidity. You'll punch enemies until you can use a finishing move and dodge their attacks when the prompt appears. Spider-Man's webbing adds a bit more depth by letting you slow down foes and pull yourself towards an enemies or vice-versa. Finally, a seismic shock move rounds out your major abilities, allowing you to stun larger enemies to take them down. It's all very serviceable, but not particularly exciting except in boss battles, which play as normal encounters with the difficulty turned up. The real problem is the combat lacks any weight, one thing that Arkham does very well.
Movement around the city is much improved with a new web-swinging mechanic and the return of Spider-Man's Web Rush. The Web Rush still allows you to point yourself at a target and have Spider-Man do the hard work of getting there; the system is same as in Amazing and it only needed a little improvement.
The new web-swinging mechanic binds Spider-Man's right and left web-shooters to your triggers. Swinging hinges on the idea that Spider-Man's webs attach themselves to actual buildings, though that breaks down in the game's building-less Central Park area. If there's a building on your left, use the left trigger. If you want to curve around the building to the right, use your right trigger. Momentum matters, so you can adjust your swing speed by releasing your web at different points in your arc. Combined with the Web Rush and a new wall-run move, it all works well. Getting across digital Manhattan is a breeze, even if things do glitch out every now and then.
And you'll need to get around Manhattan, because there are a number of random heroic events to tackle, comic pages to collect, and new Spider-Man costumes to unlock. The costumes you'll unlock by finding secret Russian hideouts around the map. These hideouts, like many of the game's primary missions, drop the free-roaming magic of Manhattan to place Spidey in an average stealth game. The costumes themselves provide different bonuses; while one costume may boost swing speed, another allows you to shrug off more damage. They're all based on uniforms Spider-Man has worn in the past, from the original Amazing Spider-Man film outfit to Miles Morales' Ultimate Spider-Man costume.
There's also photo investigations that have you taking pictures of suspicious activity around the city, web-swinging races, and collectible audio logs, but you never feel like these extra collectibles have any real impact on your time with the game. They feel like they're there because open-world games have things to collect, not because they feel particularly "Spider-Man".
The Amazing Spider-Man 2's randomized events also check off feature boxes in perfunctory way. These events include beating up thugs or rescuing civilians from car chases and fires. They'll spawn randomly on the map; complete them and you'll fill up the Heroic Meter. Higher levels of heroism boost the effects of the different costumes.
The problem is the events are time-sensitive and ignoring them causes the city to view you as a Menace; you're not being judged by the people you saved, but by the crimes you couldn't stop. The Hero/Menace meter isn't cumulative like in Infamous: Second Son. You can finish two events and miss two more because you're not close enough, meaning you ultimately accomplished nothing. Events seem to spawn faster than you can get to all of them, so you'll find yourself grinding random events just to stay in the black and not have any penalties to your chosen suit bonuses. Beatings up random thugs can get boring, saving citizens from fires is rather tedious, and ultimately grinding heroic events to stay at certain level doesn't feel very heroic. It's a shame, because with some tweaks and changes, the Hero/Menace mechanic could be a lot of fun. In Amazing Spider-Man 2, it's just busy work hoisted on your shoulders.
Graphically, Amazing Spider-Man 2 is just okay on PlayStation 4. When you're flying high above Manhattan or swinging through its streets and alleys, it looks great. The effect falters when you pause for a moment and look at what you're really seeing. Streets that lack any traffic, cars that wait at red traffic lights forever, sidewalks empty of pedestrians; New York in the world of Amazing Spider-Man 2 is just lifeless. It's dead enough that I expected to find out that Spider-Man was dying a slow death trapped in Arcade's virtual reality Murderworld.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 comes a few months after Infamous: Second Son, another superhero title that outclasses it in every way. When you step back from the relatively short main campaign, you'll see a game that's just average all around. The excellent execution of Spider-Man's web-swinging is hamstrung by the average or poor execution of everything else. It doesn't excel, it exists. And for $60, I'd hope that Spider-Man fans would want just a little bit more. A mediocre film is just $12 and 2 hours of my life; I'm not as forgiving of a mediocre game at $60. There's a core of a real Amazing Spider-Man game here, but Beenox hasn't capitalized on it. That's a shame, because the developer is close and I want to see them reach the finish line. This isn't it.
Beenox latest Spider-Man game is a swing and a miss. The developer has improved the web-swinging mechanic and getting around Spider-Man's Manhattan has never been better. Unfortunately, the rest of the game drags it down. A schizophrenic story, a lifeless New York, and boring villains are what you can expect for the price of entry. The game's Hero/Menace system even takes all the fun out of just randomly swinging around the city. Beenox can do better, so I'm hoping the developer's next outing results in something truly 'Amazing'.