“ Was feeling a bit more animated than usual.”
Spider-Man is an open world action game developed by Insomniac Games. As the titular hero, you will travel around Manhattan fighting random crimes, catching pigeons, doing science projects, and fighting super villains, and to do that, you will use one of the best-feeling mechanics ever put into a game.
Story wise, players start with Spider-Man getting the chance to finally take down Kingpin. This tutorial-esque first thirty minutes not only gives you a pretty good grasp of the combat controls, but also is a catalyst to how the events that unfold through the story are able to come to fruition. This version of Peter Parker has been a super hero for eight years, so he has already fought most of his menagerie of villains at one point or another. The job he has working for Doctor Octavius is going well, even if he is always showing up late and is having a hard time paying the rent. Sometime in the recent past, him and Mary Jane Watson broke up and currently aren’t talking. So, Spider-Man is having a pretty easy go of things while Peter is struggling a bit.
“Hopefully no one noticed I was wearing this out today. Glad I learned how to make a decent costume.”
As the story continues to unfold, you will meet multiple super villains who, for the most part, don’t get fleshed out more than that they don’t like Spider-Man because he has beaten them before. There are two villains, though, that do get some real character development. One is done with some nuance and lets you get to know both sides of him. He is a relatively new villain named Mister Negative who I had never heard of before, but is now probably my third favorite Spider villain. The other evildoer’s character growth is shoved in your face if you know anything about Spider-Man from movies, cartoons, or comics. While still well done in the end, the game sets it up like it is a surprise when they do the reveal, but it isn’t really a secret who the hidden bad guy of the game is. The story that develops over the course of twenty or so hours is not a revolutionary Spider-Man tale but it is still a very well told one. This would have made for a great mini-series on Netflix or HBO.
The conversation and inner thoughts all the characters have are all spot on writing wise and are also incredibly well acted. Spider-Man doles out quips mid fight and makes dumb jokes when talking to his police confidant who gives tips to find baddies. J.Jonah Jameson is given an interesting career change that is the perfect modernization of his personality: they turn him into a Alex Jones like podcaster, but instead of crazy political ideas, he has outlandish Spider-Man theories. I had a few good laughs at these radio show bits, and at Spidey’s routine of being an old, grizzled, Spider-Cop . Almost every character feels exactly like you expect them to, except for Mary Jane. Instead of being a model or actress, she is a journalist in this game, and is a lot more in the action of things, and not just someone for Spidey to worry about. The way she is portrayed makes her a more interesting character, but it also sets up for some of the worst parts of the game.
“Spider-Cop is on his way”
Mixed in the story, to break up from all the awesome web swinging and reflexive action, the game forces you into stealth missions with Mary Jane or Miles Morales. For the most part, these are not fun. I would say a third of them are worthwhile additions, and the rest could have been left out. All the missions result in instant failure if you are seen and there isn’t much you can do if you mess up to fix it without restarting the segment. Not only this, but most of them don’tfeatures interesting mechanics: you just hide behind stuff and knock stuff over to make a guard go look the other direction. The few that do feature a little variety and give you more to do than move are a nice change of pace and give you a different way to look at a world where Spider-Man exists. Luckily for the bad ones, these segments are never more than ten or so minutes at a time. Another weird thing they add mid-story a couple times are instances when you are Peter and you have to conduct science experiments that the game presents as puzzles which involve matching the right slides to make a certain set of bars or connecting the right circuitry with the right amount of power. I personally liked the puzzles, but plenty of other people I know who have played them just looked up a way to skip them (You can, by the way, if they really bum you out).
The main way you play this game is through combat and swinging to traverse. The combat is great and is fairly similar to the Batman: Arkham series of games. If you aren’t familiar, you have combos that you use to fight groups of enemies with and it is really easy to switch between multiple thugs during one stretch of attacks. Fairly early on, they add enemy types that, in order to perform a combo on them, requie you to perform a particular move on them to take their guard down. When an enemy gets close to hitting you, your Spidey Sense tingles ( an indicator shows up above your head) and if you hit dodge in time you will do something acrobatic to avoid damage. There are also gadgets that Web Head can use to help him take down his foes that recharge if you pull off special moves. These are easier to mix into combat than they ever were in the Batman games and are all built for combat, where as Batman’s could be used for solving adventuring conundrums and combat. Mixing all of the different combos, items you can grab off the street, and the gadgets gives players quite a few options to fight the way you want to fight. Stealth sections as Spider-Man are much more lenient and are almost never anything more than a way to make things easier for yourself. Only once or twice do you fail if caught, and the game gives you chances to escape unlike the civilian based stealth missions.
My favorite part of this game is the web swinging. There are not many things that feel as good as traveling by web does in this game. Jumping off the Empire State Building, gaining speed and shooting out a web rope, then following the swings through at just the right time to keep your speed while also staying way above the streets of New York City is incredible. Every web shot connects to a building, street post, or helicopter nearby, and the momentum and directions you can move are based on where the rope shot to. Very rarely does it feel like it doesn’t do exactly what you want it do. If you need to stay level or just get around a quick alley, there is a zip web for that, and if you need to gain speed without stopping, Spider-Man will web sling himself onto small items and push off to great effect. You can also wall run, which works for short travel, except it does mess up sometimes if you try to run under the fire escapes on the sides of some buildings. The main reason to do all this swinging and not just take the subway everywhere is the side missions and collectibles placed around Manhattan.
“Fighting crime one cool pose at a time.”
The side missions and collectibles are jumble of really fun to a way to pad out the game. There are around twelve side missions in the game and half of them come from the same kid and are all basically the same mission, just done in different spots on the map. The random crime-stopping side missions are fun to do while making your way to other places during the game but once everything is done, if you try to 100% the game, they get old fairly fast due to the lack of variation in them. There are only so many times it is cool to stop a stolen car with web and muscle. The backpack collectibles are really well done because when you find them, they each have a little memory that expand the world of the game a little at a time. Science missions are kind of monotonous for the most part but doing them gives you fast travel points so I suggest doing them. The base assaults were my favorite extra thing to do. They each have criteria that have to be met to get extra level up tokens out of them, which means playing them in different ways then the player might usually fight enemies.
“Went to go see Mr. Stark and Captain but they weren’t home. #Whywontheyletmejoin”
Closing my thoughts out, I am a little disappointed in the boss battles. Not due to the way they are set up, but due to fact that they are just a bit too easy. All the developer would need to do improve these boss fights would be to update the game so that the bosses hit a little harder. Other than that, I like how the villain fights are more cinematic than the average throw down. The combat is great, the swinging is excellent, and the story is solid. Exploring NYC for 35 hours so I could get the platinum trophy was one of my favorite experiences this year. In what Marvel is saying is the Iron Man equivalent for starting off their game division, I can’t wait for more adventures like this.
Spider-Man Final Verdict: Purchase.
Spider-Man is a PS4 exclusive that came out on September 7th, 2018.
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