Spiderman has always been difficult to get right in Superhero games. The general consensus is that Spiderman 2 got it mostly right, with web-swinging that required the webs to actually connect to surfaces, a sense of momentum as you moved about and webs that actually stated in the game world at least for a little while. It was tricky to be sure, but once you got the hang of it you felt like you were controlling the ‘proper’ Spiderman. Of course that meant you also had the limitations that Spiderman might face. Getting through Central Park was a pain, losing momentum was irritating and getting a swing wrong resulted in you swiftly face planting the next wall. Beenox have tried to capture the magic of that first game, but attempted to eliminate some of the frustrations that went a long with it. In the process they’ve face planted the entire game into every wall in Manhattan.
The most striking and immediate thing you’ll notice about TAS2 is how ugly it is. Textures are flat, all character models except for Spidey’s look distinctly last gen with static clumps for hair and cold lifeless eyes that constantly stare. Even with everything turned up to full on PC it looks horrendous. Shadows don’t function right, reflections seem pre-baked, there’s a significant amount of pop-in as you cruise around the city and the sheer lack of detail is astounding. Go to a hospital and there’s no ambulances or doctors about, go to the rail line and there’s no stations or people doing anything. The whole city feels entirely lifeless, and even more unforgivable, there’s loading screens everywhere. Every time you enter a building or change area you’re faced with one. It was difficult to get across how poor this game looks so we’ve put together a video for your viewing pleasure. This is the game running with everything turned to max by the way. We’re wearing the Spiderman Noir suit which was a pre-order bonus.
The sound-design doesn’t fare any better with a single nice feature being the ‘swoosh’ in volume as you swing close to street level. Other than that you’re faced with anaemic combat sounds and snippets of dialogue that areoccasionally repeated every 3-4 seconds, particularly in events like races. The voice acting is flat and lifeless and the script is reasonably diabolical. Spidey has occasionally funny one-liners but for a generally comedic character that’s simply not enough, he’s generally dull and disinterested, with the dramatic scenes coming across as entirely muted, a problem endemic in the whole game.
The controls are incredibly janky due to a huge disconnect with the game world. Yes to swing you need to be latched on to an actual surface, but you can pull yourself up by attaching magically to the sky and it seems as though Parker doesn’t even need geometry to stand, often floating above surfaces or off edges. There seems to be basically no collision detection and enemies and Spiderman will all clip through walls and objects pretty much freely. As you majestically swing around a building and then attempt to run up the side you’ll often find your direction changing 180 degrees instantly with no speed lost, you’ll be swinging vertically down or running horizontally across a building when you want to go up. There’s overhangs on many buildings and this causes the entire system to freak out and often throw you in a random direction. The developers clearly identified this early on in the development cycle, but rather than fixing it they simply added a web-zip style move on RB that lets you shoot towards an object, or comic book collectable, or mysterious floating point in space, or somewhere a mile away that for some reason lights up as a possible destination. There’s no consistency to the controls other than the speed, you’re nearly always travelling at one speed, with no concerns of momentum to speak of. Things get worse once you’re inside and you need to climbs over walls and zip from perch to perch. The Batman Arkham games got this so right and allowed you to feel like the caped crusader. In this game you feel like a drunk Housefly who’s come home late and is desperately trying not to wake up his family. You bumble about and shoot off too far or not far enough, forcing the stealth sections in the game to turn into ‘lets move incredibly slowly so we don’t break anything’. Hardly graceful or Spiderman-like.
The combat is a little better with a simple attack/dodge system that’s bolstered by a few special moves that unlock over the course of the game. Sadly the collision detection pretty much ruins it as enemies often fall through walls, but rarely in an entertaining way. Nothing interacts with anything else, there’s no real physics engine so clipping is the game of the day and you’ll find combat gets increasingly tedious as it’s so easy to avoid everything and launch into single-button combos. Some foes will have weapons that require disarming, and many enemies require one of the special moves to take them out but these feel like cheap gimmicks and rarely do much to improve the flow of the fights.
Across the game there’s a campaign, tonnes of collectables, some races and then a load of side missions. You have a ‘hero meter’ that tracks how heroic you’re being, and this is entirely based on how many side missions you do and how quickly. They’re all identical within their types, being a matter of beating up some thugs, stopping a car chase or rescuing people from a burning building. The last of these is the most depressing as the flame graphics seem largely 2D, making it difficult to tell where the hitbox is. If you don’t do these dull side missions quickly enough you become a villain and the local robotic law enforcement will attack you. Because of this you’re basically forced to be constantly doing content you don’t want to just to make sure the titular hero of the game is actually still seen as a hero. The collectables and races are slightly stronger, with the collectables unlocking actual comic books for you to read and the races eventually giving you the awesome Hornet costume – but it’s still a very barebones affair. There’s no online leaderboards or even levels of difficulty. There’s simply a single goal time for each race and even messing up considerably we didn’t miss a single one on our first try.
The whole game feels incredibly phoned in, with so many corners cut it’s surprising Sony were happy for the Spiderman licence to be used in this way. Citizens on the street won’t react to you literally standing there throwing web in their face, Aunt May looks like a walking corpse, even the menus are weirdly low-resolution and ugly. The crazy swinging mechanics make it more reminiscent of Goat Simulator than anything else, but Goat Simulator is infinitely more entertaining and a third of the price. If you absolutely love Spiderman stories and you see this for under £10, perhaps it’ll be worth your time. If not, avoid it at all costs, go play Goat Simulator and sing the Spiderman theme in your head, that’ll be infinitely more entertaining than this embarrassment.