Tag Archive: comics


I got to guest host on Nerd Alert this week with Kim Horcher. We talked about myriad topics, including the new Justice League movie coming out in November!

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Diamonds are forever

It’s not always easy to provide fresh takes on an established game universe—especially when it’s an annual release like Assassin’s Creed. This hasn’t stopped Ubisoft from trying to approach their crown jewel franchise from different angles, however, and one of their more recent attempts was in the form of the spinoff series Assassin’s Creed Chronicles. Forgoing third-person action adventure for a side-scrolling arcade-like motif, the first chapter in this series, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China, left much to be desired. Nine months later, we now have the second chapter in that series, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India. While it’s improved on several of its predecessor’s shortcomings, enough issues remain to keep this title from being as notable as its open-world brethren.

Set in 1841, ACC: India follows Arbaaz Mir, protagonist of the Assassin’s Creed Brahman graphic novel and father to Jayadeep Mir, better known as Henry Green from Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. After being lost for nearly three centuries, a precursor box once owned by legendary assassin (and fan favorite) Ezio Auditore has once again emerged in Templar hands. The Templars believe the Koh-i-noor diamond—a known precursor artifact, and the focus of the aforementioned Brahman book set two years earlier—could be a power source for the box. Arbaaz must now prevent the two items from coming together, or risk unfathomable power falling into Templar hands.

On the surface, ACC: India plays similarly to China. Arbaaz must work his way through intricately-designed levels while platforming and parkouring his way past Templar soldiers. Each subsection of said levels are scored on stealth and combat efficiency, with the added bonus of high scores leading to character boosts and in-game rewards.

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There are some striking differences between the two games, however. The most noticeable from the get-go is how India is artistically divergent from China. A wide array of bright colors and floral patterns mark Arbaaz’s sword swings and dot the vibrant landscape as visual markers for you to follow through the levels—a stark contrast to the muted backgrounds with splashes of sharp red and black watercolors seen in China. This is, of course, also a welcome reflection of each setting and our respective protagonists, helping subliminally show their differences beyond what we see through the game’s limited dialogue and cutscenes.

ACC: India also offers more gameplay variety compared to its antecedent. There are several sections where Arbaaz will have to cobble together a costume in order to bypass heavily guarded gates, or use cannons and sniper rifles strewn about the conflict-laden region of 19th-century India to clear out and open up new sections of a level. This increase in interaction with the environment helps immerse players into Climax Studio’s version of India—even if Arbaaz’s adventures only begin to scratch the surface of what could have been done in the game.The varieties of objectives these interactions afford are also a nice respite from the constant sneaking the game otherwise promotes.

This leads us to one major weakness that both Assassin’s Creed Chronicles games have in common: combat. You have to be stealthy and sneak around everywhere, because much like China’s protagonist Shao Jun, Arbaaz Mir is easily overpowered if he ever finds himself in direct combat. Countering and blocking remain unintuitive; even with Arbaaz’s superior gadgetry and the returning Helix glitch system (that temporarily makes Arbaaz almost unbeatable), most of the time open conflict is the last place you’ll want to be. This makes Arbaaz feel extremely weak—a far departure from what we have come to expect from the protagonists of Assassin’s Creed—due to how limited your options feel when combat is all but removed from them.

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Also returning from ACC: China are the timed sections, where you have to get through a level as quickly as possible—stealth-be-damned—usually because Arbaaz just blew up something he shouldn’t have. Much like before, many of these levels are a highlight and we see more of them in India than in China. That’s good, because they not only provide more fun, but also lengthen ACC: India by several sequences when compared to its forerunner.

As good as many of them are, though, there are a couple that fail to understand the importance of speed in making them enjoyable. These levels usually require either a great deal more climbing, or stricter timing from Arbaaz’s movements, with platforms that swing, switch, or rotate in ways reminiscent of the puzzle-platforming levels seen in older, mainline Assassin’s Creed games. It’s hard to have a sense of urgency while you’re waiting for platforms to move back into proper position before you can continue on, obliterating any rhythm you’d hope to get into.

Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India is an improvement when compared to the first chapter of this ancillary Assassin’s Creed series. It does a nice job filling in more gaps in the universe’s massive timeline, while uniquely linking itself to the previous tale, which took place 300 years earlier. It’s also a longer game, with a larger variety of gameplay to help keep things fresh, and its arcade scoring system provides some replayability if you’re into setting high scores. The combat and pacing still need some work, but the improvements seen from ACC: China to India make me at least remotely hopeful for what we can expect when ACC: Russia concludes the series next month.

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Developer: Climax Studios • Publisher: Ubisoft • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 01.12.16
7.0
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India learned from the missteps of its predecessor, as gameplay is more varied and its colorful, vibrant levels are both pleasing to the eye and fun to interact with in most cases. Open combat is to be avoided at all costs, however, limiting how you play the game—and some of the puzzle-platforming levels drag in term of pacing.
The Good Better variety to the gameplay, another story that helps fill in the blanks of the franchise’s timeline.
The Bad Direct combat still feels unintuitive and clunky, new climbing sections slow down pacing.
The Ugly Alexander Burnes sounds like a bad Sean Connery impersonator.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Ubisoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Here is the best cosplay I saw at New York ComicCon 2015 and in only 90 seconds!

Knightfall

Editor’s Note: Because of the issues I had with the story, I will be referencing several major reveals from the game, as well as the prior game’s ending. If you wish to remain spoiler free, consider yourself warned. 

Whenever a modern, story-driven action game transforms into a successful series, particularly a trilogy, it starts to suffer from Star Wars syndrome. The middle game is always the best, and all the prequels aren’t nearly as good as the originals. We’ve seen this with Gears of War, God of War, and even Uncharted. Well, we can now add one more trilogy to that list: the Batman: Arkham games.

That’s not to say that Batman: Arkham Knight is an awful game. It’s just inferior to its predecessors (except for prequel Arkham Origins). Instead of bringing everything to a natural conclusion and tying up all the loose ends it left open from previous games, it tries to cram too many new conflicts into this final title in an attempt to needlessly raise the stakes—which were plenty high enough as they were. The results feel like a narrative mess, and I think a large part of this is the result of developer Rocksteady writing the script in-house instead of having it done by a veteran Batman scribe like Paul Dini, who also happened to pen both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City.

Taking elements from some of the more epic Batman stories over the past three decades from various forms of media—including Death of the Family, Death in the Family, Under the Red Hood, and Batman Beyond: Return of the JokerBatman: Arkham Knight sees the Scarecrow filling the criminal void left by the Joker nearly a year after his demise in Arkham City. With his most potent Fear Toxin formula yet, Scarecrow threatens to detonate a bomb that would blanket the entire Eastern Seaboard in the stuff, sending every man, woman, and child into a state or perpetual terror.

This, in and of itself, would’ve been a fine conclusion for the Arkham series, revolving around Batman having to constantly overcome his fears. Also along for the ride, however, is the Arkham Knight—a “new” character whose identity Batman fans should easily be able to deduce based on his taunting dialogue and how well he knows the Dark Knight. But even those who don’t immediately uncover the Arkham Knight’s identity will surely notice the cavalcade of clues, because Rocksteady wanted to make sure they really spelled it out before the big reveal.

Easily the worst narrative decision stems from the fact that Rocksteady and/or Warner Bros. wasn’t brave enough to make a Batman game that didn’t feature the Joker as a major player, though. For some reason, the Joker’s spirit lives on inside of Batman and several other of Gotham’s less fortunate citizens through his contaminated blood (I guess that cure in Arkham City wasn’t good enough), and Joker’s personality is trying to assert itself over those bodies in an attempt to cheat death. As time goes on and they become weaker, the Joker’s personality emerges more and more.

At that point, even as a comic book fan, it was too much. To have three major villains vying for attention in your main story—one in an incorporeal form—left a bad taste in my mouth. At the very least, the game’s ending felt like a fitting conclusion to the series, but I just wish it weren’t such a mess of an adventure getting to that point.

Instead of trying to shoehorn so many foes into the main story, maybe Rocksteady could’ve just added more side villains to allow the primary plot a chance to breathe. Those that are included—referred to as “Gotham’s Most Wanted” in-game, since you have to actually drag them back to GCPD after defeating them—provide a nice respite from the muck that is the main narrative. I could’ve easily done with more, especially Hush, Man-Bat, and Deacon Blackfire—or at least some longer missions involving them. The game does feature more than a dozen side missions in total built around a double-digit amount of classic Batman rivals, which helps to take some of the focus off of Scarecrow, Joker, and Arkham Knight. It’s a testament to the size of the world that it never felt like any of Batman’s Rogues’ Gallery encroached on each other’s turf, and I still had to search long and hard at times to uncover my next set of clues.

That’s definitely one of Rocksteady’s most impressive achievements with Arkham Knight. Gotham City is absolutely massive and comes alive like never before. Whether it’s ACE Chemicals, Port Adams, the GCPD, or Wayne Tower, the game includes every building and street that Bat-fans want to see, and you can seamlessly explore them all with no loading times while you hunt down your enemies as Batman.

Plus, Detective Mode has been expanded to help you on those hunts. With new elements like deep-tissue analysis on murder victims, security camera footage reviews, and fingerprint reconstruction, along with the addition of crime scene reconstruction from Arkham Origins, prowling Gotham for clues is as rewarding as ever.

Combat remains the high point of the Arkham series here, though. The smooth, free-flowing battles return, meaning that you’ll pull off 50-hit combos with regularity, but the game also adds new throw counters that help with crowd control, and instant environmental takedowns that can immediately remove the toughest thugs from a fight. Arkham Knight even offers special missions where you’ll team up with Robin, Nightwing, or Catwoman and can take control of them mid-fight instead of Batman as seamlessly as you do a counter, or perform team-up moves for some truly epic action. With these added nuances to combat, no encounter ever plays out the same way twice.

Predator Room combat has also seen a drastic improvement. The new Fear Takedowns allow you to remove as many as five enemies from the field at once when you’re fully upgraded. This will have you planning out your knockouts well in advance in an attempt to get enemies to bunch up together so you can swoop in and wipe them out in a single flourish. New devices like the Disruptor also lend a hand in planning strategy before jumping into the fray, since its special bolts will jam any gun—and, when upgraded, it can even short out enemy drones.

I wish that every element of Arkham Knight’s gameplay were so stellar. On the whole, all of these additions and improvements almost make you forget about the muddled plot. Then you get in the Batmobile. This was one of Rocksteady’s most touted features leading up to the game’s launch, and at times, the Batmobile is everything it was supposed to be: a dual threat fast enough to chase down fleeing enemies that still packs enough firepower in combat mode to take on dozens of Arkham Knight drones. The Batmobile even helps with ground combat by unleashing rubber bullets that incapacitate enemies in the streets.

But Arkham Knight relies on Batman’s ride far too often—and in far too many missions. The car’s deficiencies easily become evident, and it’s revealed to be one of the least enjoyable aspects of the game. I get that it’s supposed to be this monstrous vehicle, but trying to control the Batmobile in pursuit mode is a chore; it pinballs all over the road. Even after putting 30 hours into the game, with more than half of them in that damn car, I still never felt like I was in complete control.

And the Batmobile’s tank mode is even worse. While it features a strafe ability, I still felt like I was a sitting duck most of the time during an enemy missile lock-on, since the strafe only moves you a short distance in a particular direction. Then you have to try to dance between the two Batmobile forms to sneak up on certain tanks. They wanted me to be stealthy? In the Batmobile?! I just wanted to hang up the cape and cowl at that point.

The problems don’t stop with the Batmobile gameplay, though: Arkham Knight includes its fair share of bugs. I played on Xbox One and didn’t experience all the glitches that make the PC version unplayable, but the Batmobile still fell through the world in several instances where I had to drive up walls. And the bugs weren’t limited to the car, either. Several times I had to restart checkpoints when necessary button prompts wouldn’t appear, and I couldn’t advance unless I reloaded.

As much as I loved Arkham City and Arkham Asylum, Arkham Knight is nothing short of a disappointment. Two things are clear: Sefton Hill and his team of writers pale in comparison to Paul Dini, and Rocksteady should stay as far away from car combat as possible in the future. The excellent gameplay foundations, however, still shine. The fighting, side content, and stealth are as polished as ever, and considering the massive world fans have to explore here, they should still find something to enjoy with Arkham Knight, even if it’s not the conclusion we all hoped for.

Developer: Rocksteady Studio • Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 06.23.15
6.5
The main story is a convoluted mess, and the Batmobile gameplay is a serious detractor on the fun factor—especially since the Dark Knight is forced to use this clunky vehicle far too often. The combat outside of the car is better than ever, though, so exploring the game’s bountiful side content remains a bright spot in an overall disappointing conclusion to the Arkham franchise.
The Good The combat might be better than ever, the world is absolutely massive, and the story provides a fitting end to the Batman of the Arkhamverse.
The Bad There’s too much reliance on the Batmobile, the Joker aspects are unnecessary, and the game has a fair amount of glitches.
The Ugly Every Batman fan will be able to guess the identity of the Arkham Knight from his dialogue long before the big reveal.
Batman: Arkham Knight is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the benefit of this review.

Holy Lego Bat-Trilogy!

Batman, as a character, has been a part of my life for as far back as I can remember. Growing up, I had Batman bedsheets, a Batman lunchbox, and I’d watch the syndicated reruns of the 1960s Batman during dinner with my mom and go absolutely bonkers each episode, shouting out each onomatopoeia as it flashed on screen with joyful enthusiasm. So, it was with a near-equal childlike glee when I found out that Adam West and the ‘60s TV show would be getting a pretty fair-sized tribute in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. Working one of my all-time favorite TV shows into a series that’s already established itself as a great jaunt for Bat-fans of all ages? Sign me up!

Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham picks up right where the last game in the series left off. After his failed team-up with the Joker in Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes, Lex Luthor is still trying to become President of the United States, but he knows he’ll have to knock off the Justice League if he has any hopes of following through with the misdeeds he’d have to commit to get there. Enlisting the aid of other DC villains to his cause like the Joker again as well as Cheetah, Firefly, Killer Croc, and Solomon Grundy, Luthor sneaks into the Hall of Justice—and, from there, teleports his team of rogues to the Justice League’s orbital space station, the Watchtower.

Unbeknownst to the heroes and villains as they clash high above the Earth, though, is that a new villain, Brainiac, an android obsessed with collecting slices of various civilizations and preserving them in his personal macabre museum, has been up to mischief of his own. He’s gathering the seven spectrums of light in order to power up his shrink ray, and he plans to make Earth doll-sized and add it to his species-preserving collection. Only through the heroes and villains coming together to tackle Brainiac as a team—and visiting the homeworlds of each Lantern Corps—does Earth have a hope of surviving the unstoppable android.

What TT Games is able to accomplish here with this, their third Lego Batman, is nothing short of impressive. Sure, the gameplay’s mostly the same as it ever was: Go around smashing pieces of Lego bricks around the world to open up new pathways, collect a variety of items, or rebuild them into something useful to take on the bad guys. Along the way, you collect “studs,” the series’ form of in-game currency, to unlock extra characters and other goodies.

But the scale of this Lego Batman compared to the previous entries is what blew me away. There may only be 15 story levels, the same number as all other Lego games, but each one’s far larger and more intricate than before. What’s more, they offer myriad new puzzles that really put you to the test in Free Play mode if you want to 100-percent the game.

And the story itself is yet again one that Bat-fans of all ages will appreciate. It starts off pretty slow, not really hitting its stride until about the seventh level, but it’s chock-full of the simple-but-enjoyable slapstick humor we’ve come to expect from the Lego series of games. It also stays very true to the source material, so you’ll be hard pressed not to relish the twists and turns of this latest adventure.

Besides the story, though, the game also offers nearly another 15 levels just to run around in and find a variety of DC or Lego themed collectibles. Whether it’s the Legion of Doom headquarters, the Moon, or each and every homeworld for each respective Lantern Corps, you’ll be blown away by just how much you can explore—and how much detail went into each area. From the lava rivers of Ysmault to the emerald fields of Oa, or the exotic forests of Odym to the prisons of Nok, Free Play mode will suck up your time as you undertake sidequests and hunt for the 250 gold bricks scattered about the DC Universe.

There’s also a special post-credits level. Not only can you rescue Adam West 30 times in the game (much like you had to with Stan Lee in Lego Marvel), but you can play as him, too. The post-credits level is a tribute to the 1960s Batman, with Adam West as the narrator. You can (briefly) drive the ‘60s Batmobile and then take on the Joker—redesigned to look like Cesar Romero. He even has a little Lego mustache poking through his white facepaint. It’s an epic showdown worthy of the Batusi!

Beyond all the extra story content, there are also 150 different characters to collect and play with. You’ll find variations on the main characters, like Batman of Zur-En-Arrh and lesser-known villains like Music Meister—even the reality-altering fifth-dimension inhabitants Bat-Mite and Mister Mxyzptlk. If they were ever a part of DC lore, chances are they might be here. Beyond Adam West, a few other random celebrities make an appearance, like Smodcast host and legendary Bat-fan Kevin Smith, the Looney Tunes’ version of the Green Lantern, the Green Loontern (Daffy Duck dressed as Green Lantern), and Conan O’Brien. With the first two, I can at least see some loose connection to the DC Universe, but have no idea why Conan was there, and he proved to be extremely annoying while serving as the guide for many of the hub worlds. He’d often repeat himself to the point where I almost muted the TV when he was around.

But, as the narrator of the 1960s Batman TV Show used to say at the start of each second episode of the two-part stories: The worst is yet to come. For as much as TT Games was able to cram into Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, there are a lot more technical issues than normal. You’ll see framerate drops on almost every other level, and they often crop up at the worst times. I can’t remember experiencing this with a Lego game before, so it was really jarring for the issues to pop up as often as it did here. It’s also still a little mind-boggling that TT Games hasn’t instituted online co-op into their games yet. I understand that local co-op probably works better for a game like this, given its chaotic nature, but I think offering players the option would be nice.

The camera also remains a greater threat than anything the Legion of Doom could hope to throw at you: quest-givers hidden away behind the scenery, your hero falling off an edge because the field of view doesn’t follow them into a blind corner, or just trying to keep all the action onscreen as you take projectile damage from enemies you can’t even see.

The technical shortcomings don’t sabotage the overall package, though. With dozens of hours of post-story content to keep players coming back for more, plenty of new worlds ready to explore, and a story that somehow finds a way to entertainingly tie it all together, Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham remains as reliable and enjoyable for fans as Bat-Shark repellent.

Developer: TT Games • Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 11.11.14
8.5
Despite some technical shortcomings, Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham does a fine job of continuing to build on what the series has established while also hitting all the right notes to keep pleasing Bat-fans of all ages.
The Good Massive universe to explore. ADAM WEST!
The Bad Camera is a nuisance more than ever; surprising amount of framerate drops.
The Ugly Just how much I know about a TV show that originally aired 20 years before I was born.
Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, OS X, iOS, Wii U, 3DS, and PS Vita. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Warner Bros. for the benefit of this review.

Three years after the game’s release, players are still finding hidden messages from Calendar Man in Batman: Arkham City.

Julian Gregory Day, a.k.a. Calendar Man, is best known for committing crimes centered on holidays, seasons, and anniversaries. He first appeared in Detective Comics #259 (September 1958) and was long considered a joke villain until he was reimagined by Jeph Loeb in Batman: The Long Halloween. This more sinister take on the character would follow him into Batman: Dark Victory, the 80 Page Giant Batman Special Edition “All the Deadly Days”, and, of course, the Batman: Arkham series.

Locked away beneath Arkham City’s courthouse, Calendar Man would taunt Batman even though he was trapped inside a cell for the entire game. If you approached him on various holidays throughout the year in Arkham City, his dialogue would change as he recounted some past crimes. If you did this once a month for 12 months on specific holidays, you’d unlock an achievement in the game.

Fans of the game, however, have not stopped grilling the cryptic criminal, even three years since its release. After a mysterious YouTube channel—which many fans think is actually a dummy account for series developer Rocksteady—uploaded a clip titled “Arkham City Secret?” where Calendar Man was seen spouting never before heard dialogue before it faded to black halfway through, fans sprung into action to unlock the riddle of how to trigger it themselves.

Several days later, it seems the Batman Arkham Videos channel on YouTube has solved the mystery. By setting your console or PC’s calendar to December 13, 2004, and then visiting Calendar Man, the dialogue starts. The significance of this date is that is when Rocksteady was founded.

To hear the new dialogue, you can check out the video below, but it once again features cryptic messages talking about the beginning and the end of things. Could it tie into Batman: Arkham Knight somehow? We’ll have to wait until June 2, 2015, to find out.

Batman: Arkham Knight will be available for purchase on June 2, 2015, and will also have two different collector’s editions, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment announced this morning.

The first collector’s edition is the Limited Edition and includes an 80-page art book full of concept art, a unique SteelBook case with the game, a limited edition comic, three skins from DC’s New 52, and a Batman Memorial Statue. This entire package will cost $99.99.

The second collector’s edition is the Batmobile Edition and will include everything as the Limited Edition, except the Batman Memorial Statue is replaced by a fully transformable Batmobile statue by Triforce and will retail for $199.99.

The final chapter in Rocksteady’s Batman trilogy (Arkham Origins was done by Warner Bros. Montreal) was originally scheduled for release sometime this fall before being delayed earlier this year. There were then rampant rumors, including some started by the voice of Batman himself, Kevin Conroy, which had the game looking at a Q1 2015 release. WBIE put all the speculation to rest, though, with this announcement.

Batman: Arkham Knight will be available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

Ray Carsillo interviews film producer Adrian Askarieh about his upcoming videogame-based feature films, including the upcoming Hitman: Agent 47, Deus Ex and Kane & Lynch.

Ray Carsillo interviews Disney Interactive’s Jose Villeta about the latest developments to the Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes universe during the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con.

Spider-Man No More

If you’re like me, Beenox is a developer still relatively fresh on your radar. Sure, they ported some Spider-Man games to the PC in the mid-2000s, but it wasn’t until 2010’s Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions­, when the studio took point on the web-slinger’s gaming presence, that they really grabbed my attention. Since then, they’ve delivered three solid Spider-Man games in a row, a feat that hasn’t been done, in my opinion, since the LJN/Acclaim days. Unfortunately, it seems that all good things must come to an end, because Beenox’s latest, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, is one of the worst Spider-Man games I’ve ever played.

Right from the get-go, the game may confuse more casual fans, since it’s not a true “movie tie-in.” Instead, you need to go back to Beenox’s first Amazing Spider-Man game. There, they didn’t follow Marc Webb’s first take on the character beat for beat, but rather continued the story of that movie: You played through the fallout of Dr. Curt Connors’ cross-species research and fought several new creatures that resulted from it. Since Sony Pictures seemingly wasn’t enamored with the idea of having their blockbuster movie franchise follow the story a game created, Beenox continued their story from The Amazing Spider-Man, thus crafting an alternate continuity from the films. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 game, therefore, only has the loosest of tie-ins to the new movie in that Green Goblin and Electro are there (Rhino isn’t, because in Beenox’s Amazing Spider-Man universe, he’s a cross-species monster).

Still with me? Once you wrap your head around the multiverse idea, it’s not the worst thing that could’ve happened. This allows Beenox to still have a little creative freedom with the story and not be regimented to following a movie script. After the complicated setup, however, things quickly become mundane in regards to the narrative: Each chapter devolves into loosely tied-together boss battles. In fact, there’s barely any narrative cohesion, period. Most of the story relies on your ability to find audiotape collectibles instead of actually telling you as you progress through the game.

And the dialogue is some of the worst I’ve ever heard in a game, from both Spider-Man as well as his foes. My favorite was a thug screaming out “I like to hurt people!”—truly the bad-guy equivalent to “I like turtles” if I ever heard one. At the very least, the actors who deliver these miserable lines try the best they can with a script that clearly lacks any sort of entertainment value.

The weak narrative isn’t the only thing that makes this the worst Beenox Spider-Man yet; nearly every aspect of the gameplay is inferior to previous titles by the developer. The “menace” system, touted when the game was announced, is a joke. This is your typical “good guy/bad guy” meter that you see variations on in games like inFAMOUS and Mass Effect. As expected, it hinges on doing good deeds in the open world, or ignoring them and seeing the people’s view of you diminish. Only a handful of the same crimes repeat, however, so they become as boring as the boss battles. Meanwhile, there are usually so many going on at once that it’s a neverending uphill battle to keep Spidey from being viewed as a threat. The worst part is that all this has no influence on the narrative, and the reward for being lauded as a hero is minimal stat boosts and fewer enemies in the world. Why even bother at that point?

Also, going back to the boss battles for a brief moment, while it’s nice to see some of Spidey’s most iconic villains again in a videogame, the battles themselves are of the worst “rinse and repeat” variety, wherein the bosses don’t have more than two or three easily avoidable moves, causing you to repeat the same pattern over and over until you whittle away their health.

The developers also emphasized how much time you’d be spending in the open world this time around compared to the last Amazing Spider-Man game. That’s as blatant a lie as I’ve ever heard. There are just as many “dungeon” segments in Amazing Spider-Man 2 as there were in the previous game, and you probably spend even less time web-swinging down Manhattan’s concrete canyons than that one due to the shorter story. Beenox can do indoor sequences perfectly fine, as proven in previous games developed by them like Edge of Time and Shattered Dimensions, but when you stress that you’re going to keep players more in the open world, do it.

Speaking of web-swinging, though, this is the worst gameplay change. Talk about trying to fix something that wasn’t broken to begin with. I understand there’s a movement for “realism” in comics and games, but this is a story about a man who has spider-based powers fighting a man made out of electricity. The need to be grounded in reality isn’t necessary, but Beenox tried anyway and now web-swinging requires a solid surface to stick to. While this design has been done in games before, this iteration of Spider-Man’s Manhattan—already a bland and lifeless shell of the hustling, bustling metropolis—doesn’t lend itself well to this tweak. I’d often shoot my web at some ridiculous angle, if I could find one at all, in order to adhere to this rule. Thus, I never really got into a great rhythm with my web-swinging, which was especially frustrating during the game’s racing side missions, which require a lot more precision than the game allows.

But wait! There’s more! While it’s clear that the combat/counter system is a rip-off from the Batman: Arkham games, it seems Beenox couldn’t resist to steal a little more from the Dark Knight. Amazing Spider-Man 2 sees stealth rooms make an appearance, and they just reek of the “predator room” designs from Rocksteady’s games. And, like everything else in this game, they’re inferior in every way. Spider-Man’s Spider-Sense replaces Batman’s Detective Mode, and much like Arkham Asylum, players will run into the problem where they’ll feel like they never have to turn the power off. This means that even if the levels were beautifully designed (which they aren’t), they’d only see them in the red-and-blue hues this mode paints everything in. On top of all this, the combat upgrades from the first game have been simplified into only eight powers, with three upgrades each. So much for doing everything a spider can.

My final issues with the game come from the technical side of things: Glitches galore, folks. Not only are the character models bland—and only half a dozen of them are scattered throughout the game—but many of them love just vibrating themselves through walls, sidewalks, and rubble. Throw in three late-game crashes in the middle of boss battles, and I almost had enough to never look at this game again.

Despite the abject time I had playing the game, I was able to finish it, however, because flashes of the competency Beenox illustrated in their previous games do appear sporadically. These came in the form of tributes to some iconic moments from Spider-Man comics—like Cletus Kasady being wheeled into Ravencroft at the start of the Maximum Carnage storyline—that, as a lifelong fan, I understood and instantly recognized. But that only made me more frustrated, because it meant that Beenox had to know them, too, and yet they still let this miserable pile of data get stamped onto a disc and sent to stores. If you’re a Spidey fan, hope that Activision lets Beenox out from under this movie-licensing deal and gets them back to making original Spider-Man games.

Developer: Beenox • Publisher: Activision • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 04.29.14
2.5
Easily Beenox’s worst outing with the Spider-Man brand. Nearly every game system is a step backward from the previous three Spidey games—this one isn’t worth your time or effort.
The Good The story has its moments.
The Bad Web-swinging takes a huge step backwards, the “menace” system is a joke, and the dialogue made me want to stick a pencil in my ear.
The Ugly 40 years of comic book history was diluted down into a less than 10 hour game.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U, 3DS, iOS, and Android. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Activision for the benefit of this review.