Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4) Review
Insomniac’s friendly neighbourhood, wall-crawling open world superhero title swings it’s way onto the PS4 and gracefully sticks the landing.
A good Spider-Man game has been long overdue. Given Spidey’s colourful diverse cast of characters, abilities and decades’ worth of stories, it’s surprising that there haven’t really been too many videogame adaptations that have really stood out or made good use of the wealth of content at their disposal. While most fans tend to look to 2004’s videogame adaptation of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 as the benchmark of everything a Spidey game should be, it was still hindered by the licensed game curse of having to cater it’s scenarios and key plot points to the film it was attached to, with varying degrees of success.
Still, that didn’t matter because the game’s free-roaming, web-swinging open world was unparalleled at the time. New York City was your playground and it was up to you to zip, run, hop and jump through the city to tackle petty crimes, rescue children’s lost balloons and web-zip costumed villains right in their faces.
That was fourteen years ago, and to most it feels like Spider-Man hasn’t had much success since then. While admirable efforts were made with Shattered Dimensions, Edge of Time and Web of Shadows, the general consensus is that Spider-Man 2 was the last truly great Spider-Man game.
It should be something of a blessing then, that 2018’s Spider-Man, developed by Insomniac Games is fantastic, amazing even. With the 15+ hours I spent playing the game up until the hard-hitting finale, I’ve felt a mixture of excitement, sadness, some frustration and a large sense of satisfaction that we finally have a proper Spider-Man game that just seems to get everything right.
The gameplay is everything you would expect from a Spider-Man, which is to say you’ll be spending your time swinging throughout the big apple, fighting large gangs of crooks, doing errands for other characters and spending downtime playing as Peter Parker. Given that this incarnation of Spidey has been around for 8 years, there’s not much in the way of him having to learn to juggle the responsibilities of a hero with his own personal life as was commonly the case in other Spider-Man stories, there are a couple of key moments in the game’s story that really put a heavy weight on Peter’s shoulders and it’s these moments that made me fall in love with the game.
Yes, he’s still the quippy acrobatic ass-kicker that he’s always been (which is great) but personally the thing that has always stood out to me about Spider-Man were his inner, personal struggles that hit harder than any super-powered villain could ever could.
Spider-Man has never played better. The combat’s smooth and highly variable rhythmic attacking/dodging system may conjure up memories of the Arkham series, but it’s more similar to the way Spider-Man 2 played, albeit highly streamlined and refined. During fight sequences Spider-Man will have to time landing hits on foes while simultaneously keeping an eye on incoming damage with his Spider-Sense, represented by the classic white bolts around his head.
What really makes the combat in this game stand out is just how many options you have at your disposal when fighting. Since Peter’s a bit of a genius it’s no surprise that he has a whole array of gadgets available to use, ranging from simple webshooters to robotic drones that can assist you, which can lead to plenty of experimentation to see what works best for the player. My personal favourite gadget is the impact web, which can knock foes clean off their feet, flying straight towards the nearest surface where they will be webbed up and incapacitated. In addition to gadgets, a range of unlockable costumes are in the game that pull inspiration from Spider-Man’s history including his suit from the Civil War movie, 2099 and Spider-Man Noir.
Each suit comes with a specific bonus ability that you can use to make traversal or combat easier, and the best part is if you hate the look of the suit but the power is too good to pass up, you can assign them separately to your own liking.
The story of the game involves a Spider-Man with 8 years of experience that has already dealt with past villains such as Shocker and Rhino, in addition to having already met (and been involved with) Mary Jane, so there’s not much in the way of an original story for Peter here, although throughout the game you will see and be involved in the creation of certain other noteworthy characters that I won’t go into any more details of because it’s best experienced without any knowledge of the game’s twists. As a Spider-Man fan myself with some degree of knowledge of the character and his stories, some of the reveals this game dropped before me took me by surprise, leaving me very excited and curious to see where they’ll lead.
The title features a photo mode, something I absolutely adore as a feature and wish more games had. With a quick tap of the options button, photo mode enables the player to modify the snapshot of the game that occurs at the moment of pause, with access to different filters and levels of zoom, a rotatable camera and stickers. The possibilities for taking screenshots are endless.
Whether you’re a hardcore Spider-Man fan, an open-world aficionado or just a person hungry for more high-quality action games, Spider-Man on the PS4 is a love-letter to the character that has clearly had a lot of love put into the formula that results in a fun, action-packed experience that’s satisfied the webhead in me, in addition to providing a challenging open-world beat-em-up that rewards combat creativity and acrobatic prowess. (Seriously, I’ve spent about three or so hours just swinging around New York aimlessly, it’s just that enjoyable).
While I found a couple of the non-optional stealth sequences to be a bit of a drag that left me wanting to get back to swinging as soon as I could, and some of the story turns may be off-putting to hardcore Spider-Man purists, I can’t recommend this game enough and can confidently say that it’s a spectacular game and undoubtedly the greatest Spider-Man video-game ever made. It may lack the memorable pizza delivery missions and runaway balloons but this title manages to crawl its way to the top in just about every way imaginable.