Sling and swing is the name of the game in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Activision and Beenox know their Spider-Man games. This marks the fourth Spider-Man adventure the developer has crafted, and we recently had the chance to go hands on with the Xbox 360 version of the game. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 video game is due out for 3DS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Wii U on April 29 – just in time for the movie, which hits theaters on May 2.

Story

Inspiration. Although The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is officially a tie-in to the upcoming movie, it’s more accurate to say that it was loosely inspired by the film rather than an actual adaptation of the film’s story. The heart of the story follows Peter Parker, aka Spidey, as he hunts for his uncle’s killer. The big screen versions of many familiar Spidey associates like Harry Osborn and Aunt May appear, but the story is original and does not follow the events of the movie.

Spidey’s ability to freely swing through the city is a cornerstone of the game.

There’s also a new set of villains for Spidey to battle, including: Black Cat, Kraven the Hunter, and more. We never saw these villains in my demo, but Beenox promised that they all factor in. The one name that did come up during a cutscene in which someone tried to poison Harry Osborn for unknown reasons, was that of Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin. The crime lord will play a major part in the game, although it’s not clear exactly how.

Hero or Menace. The game is set in an open world, and your actions in the sandbox version of Manhattan determine how the public at large reacts to you, thanks to a mechanic called “Hero or Menace.” Random events occur throughout the city, ranging from hostage situations to car chases; as a self-appointed friendly neighborhood superhero, it’s your duty to interject. If you do and are successful, you are treated to a local news anchor touting your heroic deeds in a quick cutscene. People cheer for you as you swing by, and the city will embrace you as its hero. If you fail, or just ignore an event and let it expire (a time bar appears and begins to countdown how long you have once you swing near an event), J. Jonah Jameson himself – or at least his voice – takes to the airwaves and condemns the wall crawler. People boo and hiss you as you swing by, and the city’s love turns to fear and hatred. Beyond this though, Beenox wouldn’t say how this mechanic might affect the story. 

Gameplay

Swinger. Spidey’s ability to freely swing through the city is a cornerstone of the game, and how you will spend a significant portion of your time. In order to swing around the Big Apple most efficiently, you’ll need to alternate using both triggers (on an Xbox controller), with the left trigger acting as the web shooter on your left hand, and the right trigger handling the right. You can use just one, but the result is an awkward movement that slows your momentum and pins you close to the building you are swinging from.

Timing the swings correctly, alternating from one building to another, creates a graceful sense of movement that is unique in video games to the character of Spider-Man. Spidey can also flat out haul across the city using this method, as long as you know your surroundings. Webs attach to buildings (unlike the previous game, where they attached to invisible points in the sky), so you need to have a sense of your location. You can also swing from trees, but the taller the building, the more surface you have to connect. If you need a boost, there is a catapult maneuver to get you moving, as well as the returning web rush, which allows you to pick a highlighted location and zip your way over to it with the touch of a button.

Spidey-fu. The combat focuses on a familiar combo and counter system, but Spider-Man also has several stealth takedowns at his disposal. Using his Spidey sense to see enemies that are otherwise out of sight, along with their Cones of Vision, he can pick enemies off without alerting others. If that fails though and guards are alerted, he will find himself facing off against a variety of enemy types, from armed to armored and everything in between.

Taking down tougher foes is made easier with new moves you purchase with experience. To earn that experience, simply complete story missions, or rescue the beleaguered citizens of New York in the random side missions that continually pop up. We only saw a few of these upgrades, but they include new moves and additional types of webbing to use in combat.

Presentation

Dress up. If you are a comic book fan, then one of the most appealing aspects of any game starring a long standing hero is the ability to switch between multiple costumes. It’s a feature that’s nearly as old as the superhero video game genre, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is no different. Throughout the game you’ll come across 15 different suits (not counting pre-order bonuses), ranging from the Ultimate suit worn by Miles Morales to the Spider-Man 2099 suit to the recent Superior Spider Man suit.

These suits can be swapped out at specific locations, including Peter’s house in Queens (which was off limits in the demo), and each suit gives a stat bonus of some kind. These boosts appear to be based on the comic history of each suit, so the Iron Spider suit might have more armor, for example, while the Noir suit improves stealth.

Big Big Apple. Our quick swing around Manhattan wasn’t enough to get a true sense of the game’s scale, but the city is big. It’s also more grid-like than even the real Manhattan, which makes for easier web swinging thanks to conveniently parallel buildings.

There are plenty of things to do and collectibles to find – like the assorted comics littered around the city – so there’s plenty of reason to explore.

Conclusion

Beenox has a proven track record when it comes to Spider-Man games, so if anyone is going to make a game based on the upcoming movie, it’s nice to know the property is in good hands. The original story and swinging mechanics alone should be enough to attract Spider-Man fans, but the pedigree certainly doesn’t hurt either.

(Images and video © Marvel)

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