Platforms: PlayStation 4
Release Date: September 7th, 2018
Reviewed On: PS4 Slim
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment.
Marvel’s Spider-Man was the highly anticipated game from Insomniac Games, with a large hype train driving it. With a long line of mediocre games behind it, could Insomniac games reach the high level of expectations of Marvel fans? Let’s find out.
Now the first and most important part of a Spider-Man game is the web swinging, it’s Spider-Man’s calling card and very few games have nailed it in execution. That being said, Insomniac Games did some magic, and clearly took what they learned from developing Sunset Overdrive and made a swinging mechanic that just feels amazing. While it is a very simple mechanic, there are upgrades that you can do via skill points that add different aspects to the web-swinging and while it is simple to learn, it takes a bit a to learn the finer details about swinging through the city.
Prior to the release of this game, many people compared the combat we saw in trailers to that of the Arkham series. While there are many similarities in how the fighting works mechanically and even in the enemy types you face, that is not a bad thing for many reasons. The first and most important is that Spider-Man brings a whole host different tricks to the fight, whether its different kinds of webs, mines, and bombs that all have their own unique purposes for taking out enemies. The combat is fluid, with no block feature, but rather a “Spidey sense” dodge mechanic that suits the game perfectly. The game also took a very unique way of how health was regained. As you beat up bad guys you fill your “focus bar” now you can use your focus to refill your health, or it can be used to insta-kill your enemies once it fills up to a certain point. Later in the game, you are constantly balancing keeping yourself healed and knocking out henchman as quick as you can. It is an intriguing take on health regeneration, and one I found to be very balanced in how I used it versus insta-kills on henchmen. My only complaint with the combat system is that sometimes it lacked the precision, especially during stealth segments where one miss-aimed attack could ruin your element of surprise, with some missions requiring some very quick and sneaky maneuvers. The lack of precision in the stealth system was a detractor to a point, but could quickly be overcome through the use of gadgets and other gear.
There are small sections of the game, where you play as Mary Jane Watson and another undisclosed character due to spoilers. While these sections are not as high paced and action packed as the Spider-Man controlled parts of the game. It adds a different aspect of how you play the game while playing Mary Jane you spend a lot more of your time sneaking and looking for information to help move the story forward. It does slow the pacing down in some parts which may detract from the experience for some, especially if you are not a fan of mandatory stealth missions.
Collectibles. A word many people dread in open world games, as usually they are tied to achievements or trophies and don’t offer many in-game rewards for collecting them all. Insomniac Games had a plan for this, all the collectibles you hunt down gives you tokens. Whether it’s for taking over bases, finding backpacks, taking pictures of landmarks or any other side activity. These tokens could be used for unlocking new suits, and gadget upgrades which means I spent a lot of time hunting collectibles to unlock my favorite Spidey suits. That being said there is ALOT of side content that just feels meaningless and tacked on, and very repetitive. Side activities like stopping crime, start to feel very similar but are saved only by the fact that you are a superhero swinging through the city. Spider-man suffers from a lot of the same repetitive side content that many open world games face, however with a great combat and mobility system it still manages to be fun, if not just a little bit grindy at times (Especially if you are working towards the platinum trophy.)
I had a few concerns heading into Spider-Man, one of the biggest ones was a struggle that the Marvel universe had with the character for a long time. Which is portraying shy, nervous and nerdy Peter Parker while also being able to capture the cockiness and quick wit of Spider-Man. I need not have worried as there are some legendary one-liners while fighting bosses that made me laugh much more then I should have, while also being balanced out by awkward Peter Parker moments that felt genuine and gave the man behind the mask a lot more depth.
The story is set 9 years after Peter Parker got bitten by that legendary spider that made him the hero he is today. While the story starts off very slow, as the tutorial level sees you taking out crime boss Kingpin. This is a very high energy start that winds down very quickly, while the story takes a little bit to get going once I got into the second act of the story I was hooked. The real true moments of how good of a story it culminates in the final act of the game, while obviously, I will not go into spoilers, but the games final moments are probably the most emotional I have seen in a superhero game since the end of Arkham City. The voice acting brings this story to life, and really separates this game from the movie and comic universe and really feels like it brings the start to a great video game verse for Spider-Man.
One important aspect, that is great for comic and movie fans alike is the level of fan service easter eggs held within the story, through cutscenes and collectibles. If you are going through the game and grabbing collectibles make sure to examine them, as you get to piece together more of Peter Parker’s life in this universe and ultimately it helps give a lot more depth to an already well-written story.
The game is visually stunning and the amount of life that is brought into New York City is absolutely astounding. One of the most noticeable aspects, especially due to its open world dynamic is the rendering distance. When you perch atop a skyscraper you can see all of New York City in almost perfect detail. This is the most impressive use of this feature that I have seen since the Witcher 3. Now before the release of this game, there was a lot of drama surrounding whether Spider-Man had received a downgrade since its reveal trailer. While this was debunked by Digital Foundry, the sheer level of detail can be jaw-dropping at times, especially in regards to the wide arsenal of Spidey suits that you have at your command. Insomniac Games has definitely set the bar high in regards to open world games, especially with how densely populated the game is with NPC and tons of baddies for you to beat up.
There was a lot that Insomniac Games could have messed up in regards to the audio of this game. However, they knocked it out of the park with the fine attention to detail that shows up continuously throughout this game. The voice acting in this game is spot on, especially in some of the more emotional scenes throughout the game. There were no phoned-in performances, with the whole cast playing their roles and truly immersing you in the Spider-man universe. One of the small details that were pointed out by several people, is that when you are talking on the phone, what you are doing as Spider-Man affects Peter’s vocal lines. If you are stationarily perched on a building he has a very relaxed and level tone, however, if you are swinging through the city or fighting a gang of criminals, Peter’s voice is noticeably strained even sounding out of breath at times. While it is a small detail, it’s these small details that truly immerse you in the game. The musical score that kicks off when you start swinging building to building is absolutely mesmerizing and makes it very easy to get lost in a well-executed mechanic.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is a great open-world adventure that captures everything people love about one of the most well-known superheroes. While the game does fall prey to some open-world grind, it makes up for it with a great story and some of the best gameplay Insomniac Games has ever produced.