One of the biggest games of the year — Marvel’s Spider-Man — is now out, and it’s exclusive to Sony’s console the PlayStation 4. The big question now is: does it live up to the hype, or does this spider turn into ash before it does anything good?
Right out of the gate, I can say with certainty that Marvel’s Spider-Man (or Spider-Man PS4) is the best Spider-Man game of all time hands down. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts, this is the best representation of the wallcrawler that we’ve seen, and it’s comparable to what the Batman Arkham series has done to the Batman property in terms of making people realize that a game based on an superhero license should be an advantage, not a crutch.
Right off the gate, players will be delighted to know that swinging along rooftops and buildings in Marvel’s Spider-Man is a dream. There’s no steep learning curve to master, and the swinging animations are top-notch. It’s a joy to continuously swing, web dash and just run around the game’s environments, which helps making errands, fetch quests and side missions easier to take.
Everything movement-related is assigned mostly to the R2 button for parkour and web swinging, and X for web dashing and jumping. Sure, there are specific moves like pinpoint jumping to a location (L2 + R2), but for the most part, expect the R2 trigger on your DualShock 4 to earn its keep. For the most part, unless you’re getting stuck behind buildings or the camera, swinging and movement in Spider-Man PS4 is super inuitive, its hard to think why so many developers failed at making a Spider-Man game control this seamlessly, and Insomniac Games nails it from the get-go.
Combat feels just as well, thought the camera sometimes gets in the way. Every punch, counter, air juggle, dodge and gadget is super intuitive to use, and to combo with each other. While most people might claim that the combat feels a bit too similar to Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham games (a fact that has merit), Insomniac Games does enough beats of their own to make the combat feel fresh, and creative enough that you won’t feel bored with combat side missions and the like.
One thing that I was surprised to see were the gadgets Spider-Man has at his disposal. There are web bombs, web traps, and more. It’s enough to make a certain pointy-eared superhero green with envy when it comes to superhero toys. Couple this with suit powers, and an expansive abilities progression system, and you have one deep combat system that has enough flash and depth to satisfy comic book and action fans alike.
The only downside to the combat is, sadly, some of the boss fights. It usually boils down to Spider-Man needing to through an object to daze said boss, and you’ll web in, punch the crap out of them. Rinse and repeat. Still, there’s a fair bit of variety to them (especially the last act), and truth be told, it’s hard to think of a better way of introducing boss fights without having Spidey be too powerful.
Elseworld’s Spidey Edition
Possibly the most surprising thing in Marvel’s Spider-Man is the story. Not only does it not follow the usual origins story trope most games have, but it even manages to throw in unique twists and turns that makes sense. Insomniac definitely deserves kudos for not only having a fantastic story in place to complement the deep combat system, and exhilarating swing mechanics, but for also having the guts to shake up the Spider-Man story lore.
Without going into spoilers, the game starts off with Peter Parker already comfortable being Spider-Man. Sure, there’s a tutorial mission all throughout the first act of the game, but it’s done so without making the player like a novice. The familiar characters like Mary Jane, Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, etc., are all given fresh new takes as well, with each character having enough familiarity baked into them, that they don’t feel too foreign. Kudos also goes to the amazing voice actors and actresses that fit their roles just right. No one sounds campy or out of place, and each one gives a memorable performance that rivals those of the voice-over work done in animated movies.
Even the ending, which you’ll reach in roughly 15-20 hours depending on how you much side mission content you do, is a nice reminder of how much Insomniac is changing things in the Spidey-verse. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. Of course, Spider-Man purists might have issues with some of the changes given how drastic they are, but taking it on its own, it’s a breath of fresh air that makes the story feel unique and brand new which will appeal to even non-comic book readers.
Metal Gear Solid Spider?
Unfortunately, there are certain aspects of the game that could have been omitted out, or maybe reduced a tad. It’s impossible to mention it without going into details, but I’ll try. In some parts of the game. you’ll be doing a lot of sneaking — and just sneaking. While it makes sense given the story context it’s framed upon, it’s not exactly what people would call fun, or what they’d expect if they picked up a Spider-Man game.
Sure, it breaks up the monotony once in a while, but I found these forced stealth missions a tad too plentiful, and consumed too much time, and felt like a forced palate cleanser of sorts, and were just there to give us a different character’s point of view — something that could have been done without forcing people to sneak around and stay grounded.
Possibly the only silver lining in these stealth segments are the added story expositions we learn, and how they tie in to the overall plot. Just don’t expect any Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid level of badassery while you’re doing it, and you’ll trudge through it fine.
In the first few hours (or minutes?) of playing Marvel’s Spider-Man, it’s evidently clear that Insomniac borrowed a lot from Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham games. Be it the combat mechanics, stealth combat takedowns, Spidey’s “Detective mode” vision, the list goes on. Of course, these elements wouldn’t work if the game didn’t have a solid foundation to stand on, and we’re lucky it has it in spades.
While a few gameplay mechanics and elements were clearly borrowed in other titles, Insomniac manages to make their own stamp on it. From side missions that somehow tie into the main story arc, to collectibles that make sense given Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s social and economic status.
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man
Even with the forced stealth segments, over reliance on side missions to (kind of) pad the game’s length, Marvel’s Spider-Man is still a hallmark in amazing video game design and execution. Don’t be surprised to hear of a sequel soon, since Insomniac has left a lot of wiggle room to work on, and more than enough hooks to leave players hanging.
It’s surprising that Insomniac’s first foray into the superhero video game scene is this ambitious, and what’s even more surprising is, the studio managed to shatter all expectations. Make no mistake, this Spider-Man game is one mean action game even without the license, though it uses it to great effect, which puts the game from “good” to “excellent” all in one go. Simply put, Marvel’s Spider-Man is one neighborhood you’ll want to swing by, and be a part of.
- Swinging and combat mechanics are spot-on and intuitive
- Story is fantastic and unpredictable to some degree
- Nails Spider-Man on every front (combat, character, voice-over work, etc.)
- Did we mention how fun it is to swing around New York?
- Stealth mission pop up too often
- Camera sometimes gets in the way during combat
- Boss fights are not that climactic
Marvel’s Spider-Man review copy provided by the publisher for review purposes. Reviewed on PS4. You can read MP1st’s review policy here.