Canadian developer Beenox is no stranger when it comes to Spider-Man. To web-rush you up to speed, they're responsible for three games starring the friendly-neighborhood superhero, with another just days away from launch. That's right, next week The Amazing Spider-Man 2 swings onto the Xbox 360, just in time to coincide with the US release of its movie counterpart.
We’ve had the opportunity to chat with Stéphane Gravel, the Executive Producer at Beenox, about the studio’s upcoming open-world sequel, and of course we’ve dug up more than a few juicy details. If we worked at the Daily Bugle we have a feeling even J. Jonah Jameson would be proud. Well, probably not, but you get the point.
Read on, true believers!
PX: What can you tell us about the story in The Amazing Spider-Man 2? From what we’ve gathered, it appears as if Kraven is mentoring Spider-Man and teaching him how to harness his unique abilities to become a masterful hunter. If this is the case, how does this relationship affect the gameplay?
Stéphane Gravel, Executive Producer, Beenox: There is that aspect to it, yes, but I think it’s more an impact on the overall tone and narrative than gameplay. These are interesting characters to put together primarily because their fundamental values are just so different, and we wanted to explore the drama that arises when those competing worldviews clash.
But there’s a lot more to the overall story than that. One thing I’ll note is the importance of Kingpin, who’s positioned his armed Task Force in the media as a way to protect New York from violent crime. That’s an unsettling prospect, especially if you’re a masked vigilante who swings across rooftops, and unraveling just how deep Kingpin’s corruption runs is itself a significant share of the adventure.
PX: What are the most notable improvements/changes made to the open-world foundation established in The Amazing Spider-Man? Are there any criticisms from fans and reviewers that you found necessary to address, and how did you do so?
SG: I think people enjoyed having an open-world Spider-Man game once again with the original Amazing entry, but they generally wanted us to take that foundation further in multiple ways, which we found completely understandable. The benefit of doing a direct sequel with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is getting to listen to the responses to the first game – both positive and negative – and address them directly moving forward.
First and foremost, that’s meant taking the roots of an open-world playground laid by our last title and digging deeper, with greater diversity of activity, a broader range of visuals and artwork, and more opportunities to play in that sandbox. We’ve reworked web swinging so that each trigger on the controller corresponds to one of Spider-Man’s arms, making them connect to objects in the environment of appropriate height and distance with every shot. Web Rush was received quite favorably, so that’s still there, and I think it works well to have an alternative traversal system for moments when precision is more valuable than soaring. Fans definitely wanted an experience that engaged with characters from the franchise on a deeper level (without spoiling the movie in the process), so we put a lot of energy into crafting our own narrative that complements the events of the film but exists independently from it.
PX: As far as gameplay mechanics go, have you added any unique skills to Spider-Man’s already impressive repertoire?
SG: Sure. We already mentioned the update to web swinging, but Spidey’s webbing itself can also take on unique properties in combat scenarios, and we played around with that to add some dynamic variety to the thick of battle. I think we should note that it isn’t just Spider-Man whose repertoire is expanding; there are new enemy archetypes that will really punish mindless button mashing, along with a much greater focus on boss encounters with recognizable foes. So for us, it’s not just about adding new abilities – we’re also trying to throw you new challenges that make more interesting use of your existing powers.
PX: We hear that certain missions will actually put you in the shoes of Peter Parker and allow you to converse with persons of interest. What can you tell us about this? What kind of presence will these passive moments have throughout the campaign?
SG: That’s true. It’s not strictly a passive presence as you put it, but it is more a storytelling device than anything else. It’s a way for us to better flesh out the characters, especially Spider-Man, and introduce some flavor to how you interact with the world around you. Peter Parker has always existed to make Spider-Man more relatable to the audience, after all, and I think The Amazing Spider-Man 2 really benefits from those moments where you’re reminded there’s a human being beneath that mask, and he has his own emotional baggage and personal problems to deal with on top of everything else threatening the city.
PX: After extensively scanning the latest trailer to hit the web, our spider-sense has detected Kraven, Kingpin, Black Cat, Electro, Green Goblin, and what appears to be Cletus Kasady/Carnage. While that’s already an impressive rogue’s gallery, should we expect other appearances or interactions with any familiar faces?
SG: I think that list sounds pretty complete, though I’ll have to be a little cagey on those final details just to keep a bit of suspense open for new players.
PX: Just for fun, can you name one Spider-Man villain you haven’t had the opportunity to work with that you’re eager to introduce in a theoretical Amazing Spider-Man 3?
SG: Do Peter Parker’s dance moves from Spider-Man 3 count?
PX: If we remember correctly, The Amazing Spider-Man took us about 10 hours of play to see nearly everything on offer. What kind of length can we expect from The Amazing Spider-Man 2?
SG: I think if you’re just trying to get through the main story, it’ll take around eight hours to reach the end. If you’re a 100% completion kind of gamer, I might double that estimate. It’s always tough to answer this type of question, especially with an open-world game. A good amount of my playthrough is always spent swinging aimlessly around the city for fun and collectibles, and the ‘Hero or Menace’ reputation system means there are always random crimes and emergencies popping up around the map for Spidey to tackle – I think it’ll vary from player to player.
PX: Thank you for the interview, and we look forward to swinging through the neighborhood with Spider-Man on April 29th/May 2nd.
SG: Thanks again. We hope you and your readers enjoy.
The Xbox 360 version of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 launches on the 29th of April in the US and the 2nd of May in Europe. The previously announced Xbox One version has been delayed and currently has no official release date attached to it. Stay tuned for further details when we receive them.
For anyone interested in Beenox's past Spider-Man efforts, check out Shattered Dimensions, Edge of Time, and The Amazing Spider-Man — all of which are available for the Xbox 360.