Swinging through the bustling Metropolis of New York is something every Spider-Man fan wants to do. The Spider-Man films (both old and new) show Spider-Man zipping through city and it makes fans desire to be Spider-Man even greater. There are a few good Spider-Man games that make us feel like we are the webbed crusader; Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.
However, none of them has come as close to making you feel like Spider-Man than Marvel’s Spider-Man. Spidey’s latest video game outing is amazing, an incredible thrill ride from start to finish that made me feel like I was actually Spider-Man. Let’s web swing into the review of Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man.
Looking good Spidey
Spider-Man (PS4) is an absolutely gorgeous looking game. Spider-Man has never looked better his suit looks incredible, the attention to detail is crazy. You can see the stitching of Spidey’s suit, it’s a small detail but the fact that Insomniac went to this level is commendable.
Whilst this game is not as uber-realistic looking as God of War, what makes Spider-Man stand out is how colourful and vibrant it is. It’s very pleasing to look at, each of Spidey’s suits are great looking and New York glistens both in the day and the night. I’d argue that this is best New York has looked in a video game.
Character models are brilliantly detailed and this doesn’t apply to just Spider-Man. Other characters like Mary Jane and Aunt May look great. The villains have some fantastic designs with my favourites being Scorpion and Vulture. As I’m sure many of you know, the late, great Stan Lee has a cameo in this game and I freaked out when he was on screen. I didn’t just freak out because it was Stan Lee but because of how lifelike he looked. It was unreal and the moment he appeared was a sombre one as I played this game after he passed away.
Spider-Man, Spider-Man does whatever a spider can
Spider-Man’s gameplay is resonant to that of the Batman Arkham games where it has a free-flowing combat system. Spider-Man can punch, kick and web up his enemies and attack several different enemies very quickly by moving the left analogue stick in the direction of the baddie you want to hit.
Spidey has combos that you can pull off by pressing and holding the square and triangle buttons. Square is your basic attack and triangle is web strike, an attack that can allow Spider-Man to close the distance to an enemy very quickly whilst dishing out damage. The circle button is to dodge and a perfectly timed dodge will allow you to perform a counter. There’s an ability that you can get that if you time a counter perfectly you can do a takedown on the countered enemy.
As I’ve just mentioned ability let’s talk more about them. Spider-Man has a lot of abilities and upgrades you can acquire and all of them are really good. You can unlock new moves to use whilst fighting the bad guys. An example of this is a move that allows you to swing around webbed up enemies and throw them. Every ability is useful and allows for players to have different play styles. If you want to go crazy with melee combat you can; if the sneaky stealth approach is more your thing, you can do that. If you want to mix up your use of gadgets you can do that.
Spider-Man has a wide range of gadgets that he can use such as; a web bomb, a trip mine, impact web and his iconic web shooters. You can use some of these during stealth sections and you can use them all in combat. You smack an enemy, throw a web bomb at another and shoot your web at some other thug. The game does a great job of giving you a lot of variety in the gameplay and it knows that as it presents occasions where you can go absolutely crazy with the combat.
Stealth is similar to the Batman Arkham games but that’s not a bad thing because stealth in those games works well. You hang high in the rafters and beams above looking at the enemies below like a predator stalking his prey. You can use your gadgets here but you have two options of stealth takedowns, perch and web strike takedowns. If you’ve played the Batman Arkham games you might notice that the stealth is very similar. There’s nothing wrong with Spider-Man using a similar stealth system because it works and it works very well with superhero characters.
You might have noticed that I’ve mentioned that the combat has a lot of similarities to the Batman Arkham games and that’s because they have clearly inspired the gameplay. Don’t look at this as a negative, The Arkham games are highly praised for their gameplay so Spider-Man playing in a similar way is a compliment.
Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me I’m Spider-Man
The movement in Spider-Man is incredibly smooth. Swinging through the city, in between skyscrapers gave me such a thrill. I could swing from building to building and zip from rooftop to rooftop. I could run up the buildings and run across them and then jump off and swing away into the urban jungle of New York.
The one downside is that the camera can sometimes get stuck behind a tree or a wall. It rarely happens but it did happen to me. The issue with the camera was clearly apparent during the boss fight with Shocker in my playthrough. It’s a small issue that doesn’t break the game or the immersion and you can work through it if it does happen.
Spider-Man’s movement in this game is nearly flawless and it made me feel like I was Spider-Man. I was swinging through the city getting the collectables and then all of a sudden I was overcome with emotion. I had tears in my eyes because finally, I fulfilled a boyhood dream of mine, I became Spider-Man.
Adventures with Spider-Man
The story of Marvel’s Spider-Man is brilliant and I was engrossed in it from the start until the very end. It starts off strong as soon as the game starts you are pretty much in control of the game. After a small introductory cutscene, you are thrust into the driver’s seat and you control Spider-Man as he swings through the city.
The story features many of Spider-Man’s well-known villains such as Kingpin, Shocker and Electro. However, the story focuses on a villain that doesn’t get shown off in games much or even in the films. This antagonist is Mr Negative and I think Insomniac not only did the right thing by having much of the story’s focus on him but also, that they are brave for choosing a less-known villain. Insomniac could have easily gone for the more popular Green Goblin or Venom but they didn’t and I applaud them for that.
The main story is phenomenal and it doesn’t let up at all, even in the slower portions of the story it doesn’t diminish the levels of excitement and enjoyment. The only parts I think that could have done with some improvement were the Mary Jane sections. As you progress through the story there will be times when you get to play as MJ. Whilst I think playing as MJ is awesome I just wish there was more to do other than a sneaking stealth section. This is something Insomniac can work on in the inevitable sequel.
There are plenty of side missions for you to go through, each of them has its own small self contained story. Some of them are better than others but there are a few that are quite good. My favourite involves Spider-Man investigating an area that the villain Tombstone is supposed to do business. It’s a series of missions and the end result is a rather fun boss fight with Tombstone. I wish there were more side missions like the few with Tombstone as they could have used more of Spidey’s villains but you do run the risk of overfilling the cup with bad guys.
New York, New York
Spider-Man’s hometown is New York and the iconic city has been in many video games but this is the best it has ever looked in a game. Iconic landmarks like Wall Street are in the game and you can visit them as if you are on a virtual tour of New York. If you are just exploring the city, it really does feel like you’re on a tourist bus but that bus is Spider-Man.
It isn’t just real-world landmarks that are in the game, places that are in the Marvel universe are also present. Nelson and Murdock’s Law Offices are in the game, a reference to Daredevil. The Wakandan Embassy is in New York which is a reference to Black Panther. Alias Investigations is located in Hell’s Kitchen and it’s a reference to Jessica Jones. There are loads of little easter eggs located throughout New York which should please any comic book fans out there like they did me. The big one though is the Avengers Tower an iconic building if your a comic book fan and/or are a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
All of these little easter eggs and representations of real-world locations all help with the world-building and it helps with the immersion that you are in a world where Spider-Man and all of these other Marvel characters exist.
J. Jonah Jameson the comedian
One of the best and funniest parts of the game is when J. Jonah Jameson pipes up with some rant or conspiracy theory on his show, Just the Facts. Every so often Jameson’s show will pop up and he will start talking (in most cases shouting) about Spider-Man and the things that are happening in the game. After almost every story and side mission you complete he will provide some commentary on what just happened.
Jameson is hilarious and some of the stuff he comes out with had me on the floor laughing. I laughed so much at some of them that my stomach started to hurt. There is an option to turn JJJ off but why would you turn off comedic gold. Whoever wrote all of the Jameson stuff deserves a medal.
There aren’t enough words to describe how much I love Insomniac’s Spider-Man game, I truly fell head over heels for it. Every single second of the action-packed web-slinging adventure was absolutely phenomenal. It’s very rare I cry when I play games but I did do whilst playing Spider-Man. Not because of the story but because of the feeling it gave me, I felt like I was Spider-Man. As a kid, I always wanted to be Spider-Man and this game allowed me to fulfil a boyhood dream. I became Spider-Man.
Do you want to know the biggest downside of this game? That I won’t be able to experience it for the first time again. My god, what a game Insomniac. I tip my hat and thank you for one of the best gaming experiences I have ever had. Excelsior!