People have been raving about the PS4’s newest offering, Marvel’s Spider-Man from Insomniac Games, and declaring it the best Spider-Man game since Spiderman 2. I’m here to tell all you webheads and curious buyers, you can rest easy. Precision controls, a bustling city, and an all new story breathe much needed life into the web slinger’s corner of the superhero market.
The Initial Leap
The game starts up with our favorite hero in his apartment, flashing over plenty of easter eggs in his messy room as he wakes up to a catchy tune to get you hyped for the game. His phone rings and duty calls, but as he suits up something catches his eye: a notice that he hasn’t paid rent. This strikes a new tone. While most superheroes are off saving the day, beating the bad guys, and rescuing the damsel in distress. Spider-Man is still becoming an adult and barely qualifies as a hero. He might climb walls, spin webs, and stop robberies, but he still has to go to college and hold down a job. It brings a strange, grounded realism to the story that is a welcome breath of fresh air.
With that, he swings out the window, showing off the lovely graphics before dumping you right into the game. No tutorial, no cut scene, no Uncle Ben. The game knows we’ve seen this story a hundred times before, and doesn’t mess around with holding our hand until we’re ready to jump off a skyscraper into action. We’re right into the fray, with Wilson Fisk, AKA, The Kingpin in our sights. The game gives you ample time to adjust to it’s finely tuned controls, a topic of major worth in any Spider-Man game, before dumping you into a major firefight between the police and Kingpin’s goons.
Time slows for a brief moment, explaining how to engage these foul ruffians in fisticuffs, and you’re off, swinging, dodging, and bouncing around like the webhead himself.
Now, if you’ve ever played an Batman, Arkham Game, you’ll be all too familiar with this style of combat. While fighting your special dodge sense can go off, prompting you to get out of the way, and you’re right back into the fight seamlessly. You’ll maneuver around ballistics, explosives, and anything else with grace and ease. As you fight your way up the tower, the game also introduces you to indoor combat. While Spider-Man most often swings around the bustling streets of New York, not all crime happens outdoors, and while previous games made you feel cramped and confined while fighting, the newest installment knows exactly how to stage a fight indoors, keeping the element in your favor. There are large pillars to swing off of, huge, open floors to dodge around. You’re not fighting in a subway car (for the most part).
Regardless, onward and upward you go, ready to take on one of the many villains the game holds when your spidey sense tingles. Looks like not every cop is as straight and narrow as our protagonist, and they open fire on you, introducing a new mechanic: enemy variety. The police are equipped with riot shields, and no amount of spider strength or webbing is going to help you punch through steel. That’s where the springy, spry mobility of our hero plays in. You can leap off walls, slide under foes, and web them to disable them, and with each new type, you need to be mindful of just what you’re up against.
Once you’ve beaten Fisk, you’re finally free to explore. Now, my review can’t quite explain just how skillfully this game is designed, but within the first encounter alone, before the game even opens, you’ve learned how to swing, fight, use the environment and tools to your advantage, and fight different foes, all without once needing to stop to explain much of anything. Sure a few prompts here or there, but the game never once slows it pace.
A Deeper World
The game is set in a richly detailed world. The city of New York is bustling with activity, and I do mean bustling.
People below you call out, traffic flows, birds leap to the sky as you stir them from their homes, and that highlights another point of the game. The city is alive, truly alive. People know of you, and will actually call out as you zip by to stop a robbery, but in the dull moments, where nothing happens, you may want to take a look at the polished city, when a stranger asks for a Selfie! Unlike most games where the citizens act merely as decoration, people actually do admire you and will summon up the courage to greet you, letting that perfect spider-charm radiate. As you continue on, you’ll hear a Jingle, and an old friend will come on the radio to discredit your deeds. J Jonah Jameson makes a marvelous appearance, and will often comment about everything you do, from stopping a robbery, to saving a man’s pigeons, to taking down the villain of the week, and not once, ever, will he say anything nice. It’s rather humorous, the lengths he goes to discredit anything you do.
Now, I’d rather not go much further in explaining the story, as I’d love for you all to play this lovingly crafted game for yourself, though I will let you in on a few things I discovered while enjoying this game over the weekend with a friend for his birthday, the most important being costumes. It’s no surprise by now that you can play as many of the Spider-Men. Not man, men, as these outfits pull from several incarnations of the wallcrawler himself, and each come not only with their own cosmetic appeal, but special powers! The best part? You can mix and match any of them, and a few of them have their own secrets tied to them. So rock out as Spider-Punk, get your sneak on with Spider-Noir, or enjoy maybe just running around in your undies (if you get that far) because nothing holds you back.
Now, par for the course are the standard collectibles in every open world game. There are towers to unlock the map, big bases, hidden collectibles, but much to the developers credit, all of these are heavily rewarded with tokens you can use to upgrade gear. Research tokens, Crime, Base, Backpack, and more are all scattered about the map, waiting for you to grab them through their respective missions. My personal favorite are Crime Tokens, unlocked through stopping – well – crimes. As you zip by you may hear of a robbery in progress, or a crazed driver, reminiscent of Spiderman 2. They’re short, sweet, and to the point, always giving you something to do.
Characters in Depth
But when you tire of the collect-a-thons, the running about, and all the things that make a game a game, the story is what shines the most. We deviate fascinatingly from canon, with Aunt May working at a homeless shelter known as F.E.A.S.T (Food, Emergency, Aid, Shelter and Training). The citizens there are more than acquainted with Peter, but helping the homeless doesn’t pay rent, unfortunately, and that’s where your job at Octavius Industries comes in. You work alongside a familiar face, Doctor Otto Octavius, helping make prosthetics for the disabled. It’s so interesting to see this one note villain, the crazed doctor oc, be a humble scientist hoping to help a veteran hug his daughter again. Which makes it all the more tragic as you have to fight him, which in turn brings me to my final point.
The villians Spider-Man must face are many and varied, both graphically and in terms of back story. Each one with unique motivations and depth, giving them more variety and spice. The Rhino is trapped in his suit, and wants to be free. The Vulture has cancer from his wings, Electro wants to become pure energy, and Mr Negative … Well, that’s for you to find out.
The Final Verdict
With so much to do, see, learn, and play, Marvel’s Spider-Man for the PS4 is a must buy. Its finely crafted gameplay merges perfectly with its loving care for its world, the developers poured time and care into every last inch of the game. Oh, and as a final note, there is a fast travel system, but never once did I feel compelled to use it. Moving about the game is too enjoyable to even want to teleport. That is something not many games, especially ones with the scale of the city of New York, can boast.