Insomniac delivers a comic book classic. The PS4 exclusive Spider-Man is a mighty impressive stroll through a fresh take on the Web-Head.
Taking Spidey for a spin
There’ve been tons of Spider-Man games over the years, released to varying degrees of success. I grew up with some terrifically fun titles, though all of them were very traditional and very linear. I’m talking about Spidey games on the SNES, the Sega CD, etc… While some of those games were excellent, they were all lacking one thing – an open world.
Even the sublime PSOne Spider-Man title (my personal favorite) was pretty limited in scope. That all started to change though, as we got games like the movie Spidey titles, as well as Ultimate Spider-Man, which is far and away one of the best Spider-Man games ever.
That change in formula permanently altered the format for any game starring the wall-crawler. From that point on, Spidey games were judged in large part by how sprawling their versions of NYC were, and how cool the web-slinging was. The best of them managed to string together great web-swinging (for their time) and interesting stories.
As for where this new PS4 exclusive Spider-Man game lands on that list, it’s pretty freaking high.
A story worthy of a comic book epic
Spider-Man starts out slow. It doesn’t start out on the highest of notes, as crazy as the Kingpin-centric opening is. I actually wasn’t crazy at all about Spider-Man when I first started, and that feeling stuck around for some time. But once it picked up, it picked up in a very big way. What you probably know is that this is a fresh version of the web-head. The world that surrounds him is familiar, though all-new in some ways.
Warning, some spoilers follow. Skip the rest of this section if you haven’t played yet.
As Spider-Man’s narrative rolls on, the game’s world gets deeper and much more detailed. The ad campaign really gave precious little away. Yes, Mister Negative is a major villain, and so are a cast of five other Spidey super-villains. But the real main baddie is none other than Doctor Octopus, and the leader of the Sinister Six is a force. He doesn’t show up for some time, but once he does… oh man does he.
The narrative goes from okay to amazing in no time flat before that though, less than halfway through the game. And once things come to a crashing crescendo, any Spider-Man fan will almost assuredly be overjoyed with this script. Oh, and stick around for the credits (though you can skip them once the mid-credits scene has passed).
That’s right, in true Marvel movie style the credits are punctuated by two different non-playable scenes. The first introduces a new hero, while the latter might -might- introduce two or maybe even three new villains. It’s awesome stuff, with some great twists and new spins. And even though I spoiled some stuff here, I won’t spoil that. It’s too cool.
Spinning a gorgeous web of graphics and Sound
The graphics are stupendous in Spider-Man, and haven’t been “cut back” in any way as far as I can see. The cityscape is almost a full sized New York, and almost every nook and cranny looks awesome.
The buildings even have little rooms that you can see into from the outside. So there’s a feeling of depth and life to everything, whereas most other games like this have just flat textures. Likewise the characters almost all look great.
Superheroes, villains, and even random thugs look cool. And most of the latter have some neat hooks, or cool effects or variations to them. It’s all just enough to keep things interesting as you plow through wave after wave of them. That’s excepting the main baddies of course, who are all interesting and really great to battle against. I wasn’t wild about some of the re-designs from the classic comic looks, but almost all of the fights are different and memorable.
As far as the sound design goes, it’s just as good. The city is absolutely alive with the sounds of NYC, and that includes random people and the never-ending din of cars driving by. Oh, and the voice work is almost all great throughout.
This is a talented cast, not the least of which is Spider-Man/Peter Parker himself, who’s played by actor Yuri Lowenthal. His vocals reminded me of the Spidey from the 90s cartoon show, and that is a very good thing indeed.
Controlling a spider
Another space where Spider-Man excels, the play-control is excellent. Once again though, I wasn’t sold on it at first.
The fighting felt skittery and hard to manage, and traversing the city via web-swinging felt way too complicated. Web swings were supplemented by point-to-point zipping, leaping after one of those said zips, and slingshotting forward (also via webs). Couple all of that with parkourinrg off of and across buildings, and it felt congested… at first.
Once I got past the first hour or so though, I learned what came when, and when was best to use which means of slinging. And once that happened? Wow did it get awesome. With so many ways to get around, swinging across the city never felt boring. Even doing something so mundane (for Spidey anyway) felt like tons of fun.
As for that combat that I mentioned, that got infinitely better too. Taking on crowds of baddies gets way easier and more fun as you play, and even the stealth takedowns felt great to pull off. Playing the game means unlocking new abilities and powers as well, and those enhance all of the above to great effect.
There is one thing however, that I have to say needed to be left out of the game. That’d be the stealth missions. You’ve no doubt heard this already, but there missions where you don’t play as Spider-Man, and those are strictly of the stealth variety.
In these, you play as Mary Jane (who’s a reporter in this universe), and an un-powered version of (other Spider-Man) Miles Morales. Sneaking around, avoiding bad guys and gathering clues or other items, and then making your escape just isn’t fun. I’d rather have been playing as Peter Parker (which you can also do in some parts). Also, what was the need to make MJ a reporter? That seems like such a weird change, that isn’t seen in any previous part of the Spider-Man mythos. It never feels right.
Have I mentioned how Spider-Man is excellent in almost every way? Well, here’s another one. Aside from the main adventure, developer Insomniac’s stab at Spidey is loaded with pretty much everything and anything that you could want.
Yes, there’s a main storyline that you’ll have to play though to “beat” the game. As I’ve mentioned, it’s really, really good too, so you should absolutely make that a priority. Past that though, the map is almost over-crowded with optional side missions and activities. These include everything from taking snapshots of monuments and finding old backpacks that Pete left webbed up around town, to taking down bad guy strongholds and stopping random crimes. It’s all fun (maybe to varying degrees) and actually changes pretty radically at a certain point. That mixes things up nicely.
One important thing too – I’m talking about a point in the story there, that you might think will make you unable to go back and do peripheral activities. That’s not true though. You’ll still have a chance to do whatever you like once the main quest is over. So no worries.
A fresh take that works
I love this game. I might not have at first, but it’s a testament to Insomniac’s Spider-Man that it got so good so fast that it completely turned me around and made me a believer and a half. The game is excellent and should be on the must-play list of every Spider-Man fan. That’s not to mention too, that it’s just plain going to be on Game of the Year lists. I can guarantee that, since it’ll definitely be on ours.
Oh – and if you don’t care for the “white spider” suit, no worries. You can change out of it in no time flat. You can even unlock new suits and transfer their special abilities to other costumes, so your Spidey can wear whatever you like, whenever you like.
Personally, I spent the entire game in the classic togs.
Release Date: September 7th, 2018
Platform: PlayStation 4
Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man
Amazing graphics and sound - 98%
Top flight controls, that might have a little learning curve - 87%
A story that any Spider-Man fan should love, though with some iffy stealth segments - 94%
Awesome action - except for the non-Spidey stealth missions - 90%
There's almost noting to dislike about Marvel's Spider-Man by Insomniac. The game offers a cool, original Spidey universe the somehow manages to make some of the longest-lassoing elements of Spider-Man lore feel fresh. I didn't love all of it, but every bit of it was entertaining and enrapturing. The gameplay is great, the graphics are awesome, and the voice cast is superb. This is great stuff... except for most of the missions where you play as secondary characters.