Spider-Man is a lot of people’s dream game, allowing you to properly feel like your playing as the titular hero, swinging across New York, helping innocent people with small crimes while trying to tackle bigger plots from crazy villains… I have to say though, whether you a fan of the hero or not, this game is extremely enjoyable, taken to excellent when you factor in a really well written and acted storyline. So whether this a dream come true or you’re looking for a fun open world game to play, let me tell you why you should pick up Spider-Man…
Rushing to the scene of the crime, helpfully the crime involves a large red light!
Spider-Man was released world-wide on September 7th 2018. It came about when Sony and Marvel decided to cooperate on a PS4 exclusive game, and ended up giving developer Insomniac their choice of Marvel property. The staff voted, and it was Spider-Man by a reportedly large margin…
Damn, well, he’s not dead, but the lamppost in his spine has got to do some long-lasting damage…
There are a lot of strings to Spider-Man’s bow, but at its heart its a pretty normal open world game. There are main missions that drive the core narrative, side missions for the hell of it, smaller activities to do and collectables to collect. The thing that makes this different however is the fact you’re Spider-Man, and this is a very Marvel version of New York, complete with multiple Marvel only buildings (including Avengers Tower!) and abilities unique to the web swinger.
Let’s take a look at those unique moves first. You can swing very comfortably throughout the buildings on New York with a very fun and simple mechanic that actually takes into account things to swing off of (no mysteriously swinging from air in this game!) I can’t properly explain how fun it is to glide between buildings, actually feeling like you’re webbing onto the environment and eventually landing perched on a rooftop. It’s such a great feeling.
Then you get to combat, which is nice and varied. You can punch and kick by pressing the square button, but you can also use your webs to pull yourself towards the enemy, pull an enemy towards you, pull and throw objects that are dotted around the battlefield, jump off of walls, do a web swing kick, knock people into the air and air-combo them, or throw them crashing back down to the floor. You can also dodge attacks, from punches to gunfire, by pressing circle at the right time, which is very satisfying, and you also do other counters by just jumping over your opponent or sliding under their legs. You have various gadgets, from the normal web shooter (which you can use to web people to walls or the floor!) to drones and little spider-bots, and you have cinematic finishers if you build up enough combo to fill you “focus meter”.
That’s also not factoring in suit abilities. You see, during the game you collect various tokens via crime prevention, activities and collectables, and you can put these towards buying new suits out of a total of 28, each with its own ability. Ranging from electric punches and easier stealth, to a guitar riff that knocks people away and straight up temporary invincibility, these suit abilities can make a big difference, even if you can only activate them for short bursts. There is an amazing array of suits as well, plenty of comic books references from the obvious to the obscure, making it very fun to collect them.
The action doesn’t stop there either, as there is stealth abilities like taking people down from above and webbing them up, or gliding down and silently taking them out. There are also plenty of boss fights which, sadly, rely on quick time events to give them a cinematic feel, though I am happy to report those events are pretty much impossible to fail at… which kind of makes it even more pointless, really… Speaking of stealth, there are some… poorly judged stealth sections where you control either MJ or Miles Morales and it’s very old-fashioned “spotted once and game over” style stuff, and is frankly my one major gripe about the game.
Seriously, who thought this would be a good idea for several main story missions?
Other gameplay style things are some mini-games, mostly done while playing as Peter Parker the lab assistant, rather than as Spider-Man. These range from puzzles where you have to direct the right amount of current from one side of a circuit board to another, or matching up lines on a spectrograph. Not very exciting, but it did give a feeling of playing as both sides of Spider-Man, rather than just as the hero.
So, I mentioned activities and the like. Apart from main and sub missions there are base missions, my personal favourite side activity, where you have to take out a base operated by one of the major factions in the game, starting with stealth and leading into a wave-after-wave fight-fest. Given how fun combat is in the game, I loved being able to fight constant waves of enemies, it’s very satisfying. You also have Osbourne lab missions, which are the opposite of fun and satisfying, often having you sort out environmental issues via swinging around in smog or unpolluting water sources. While it was amusingly old-fashioned comic/cartoon-y to have our hero go out of his way to preach correct environmental practices, they were often extremely dull. You also have challenges set by Taskmaster, which include deactivating bombs, taking on waves of foes, taking out a base via stealth only, that kind of thing, and you’re graded on points with bronze, silver and gold ranking. Early in the game you have to do that old chestnut of activating towers to reveal more of the map, too…
Unique to this game is random crimes which happen as you’re freely swinging around. You’ll suddenly hear a police report of a mugging, break-in, stolen car, bomb threat and several much more serious crimes later in the game, and you can go to that area and stop it. I can’t tell you how many times I was dead set on doing the next main mission but got side tracked attending to crimes that randomly broke out on my way there…
As for collectables, there are backpacks scattered around the city, each containing an object from Spider-Man / Peter Parker’s past, complete with a small bit of narration. This was fun as this Spider-Man has been active for over eight years, so it’s nice to get a bit of information on his unseen backstory. You can also collect pigeons for an old man and take photos of various real and Marvel-only landmarks, as well as find and take pictures of little toy cats Black Cat has left around the city for you.
Apart from all that there is also the old levelling up system, complete with getting skill points to put into a skill tree, and a constant flow of J. Jonah Jameson’s podcast / radio shows to listen to. All in all, it’s quite the fun open world to play in!
Graphics and Sound:
Beautiful, and great draw distance, too!
As you can see from the screenshots, the graphics are quite the sight to behold. Not only are they nicely detailed with great facial animations, but the draw distance and lighting are top-notch. Everything look suitably comic-booky as well, the faces of a lot of the characters have that… look about them, I don’t know how to explain it, but compare them to, say, Red Dead Redemption II’s realistic look, and you’ll see what I mean.
Music is a mixed bag, there is a bombastic, though admittedly pretty generic, heroic track that plays as the game loads and often when you start swinging around the city, which is good fun and puts you in the mood. Otherwise the soundtrack is fine, nothing noteworthy. The sound effects are good, with nice thuds and whacks, and the voice cast do a properly great job, so credit to both them and whoever hired/directed them.
Story (Spoilers included, skip to “Downloadable Contect” to avoid them!):
I like how no-one ever mentions that Spider-Man keeps appearing in a variety of different suits…
The story is perhaps where the game shines brightest. It gives us a unique spin on a lot of classic Spider-Man lore, and forgoes the early, unsure stages of his career. The main crux of the plot is the rise of Doctor Octopus, beginning with Peter Parker being his lab assistant while he was still sane, and then slowly, over the course of many hours of the game, showing Otto slowly breaking down, slowly getting more bitter, and eventually becoming twisted by his own invention.
The opening sequence sees Spider-Man deal with Kingpin, then we soon get introduced to Mr. Negative and his masked faction, who then turns out to be under the influence of Doc Ock, along with four villains who escape from prison: Rhino, Electro, Scorpion and Vulture, giving us a Sinister Six for a finale. They really did a great job here, especially painting Otto Octavius as a sympathetic genius who got lost in his own failing health and grudge against his former lab partner Norman Osborn, who for the record was also brilliantly portrayed as a slimy politician with a kind heart… for his dead wife and ill son, and no-one else, but hey-ho. The final fight between Spider-Man and Doc Ock was great, not just cinematically and how fun it was to play, but the sorrow in Peter’s voice when he said how he failed someone he thought of as his hero, all the while Octavius laid beaten on the ground, unable to move…
There’s obviously a lot more to the story. It has Miles Morales, who we see go through the loss of his father, befriending Peter and MJ, then get bitten by a Osborn spider and at the very end of the game, revealing his powers to Pete, who then reveals his big secret too. MJ is a daring reporter, and Aunt May is as sweet as ever (and… yeah well, a teary ending, let’s put it that way.) Along with the rarely used Mr. Negative, we also got Black Cat and Silver Sable as well, fleshing out the world with some more obscure and less-used members of the Marvel universe.
It’s a properly great story, well acted and animated with great flare and style.
A three-part story will be released as DLC in October (“The Heist”), November (“Turf Wars”) and December (“Silver Lining”) 2018 respectively, and feature new missions, side missions, factions to fight and new suits to buy… thoughts coming soon? Maybe?
Final Thoughts (Now):
Spider-Man surveys the scene.
Spider-Man was an absolute joy to play through. If it weren’t for the immediate release of Red Dead 2 I’d be buying and playing the DLC right now, hungry for more extremely fun web swinging and combat, and wanting to see more story from this new alternate Marvel universe. Honestly, if it weren’t for the aforementioned Rockstar-made Western and Smash Ultimate, this would be a shoe-in for Game of the Year. As it stands, it’ll easily be in the top three, at the very least!