Released: Sep 7, 2018
I believe the best asset that superheroes have is that their lore is interchangeable - and therefore, they can live forever. Superhero stories don’t just remain the same throughout the years anymore. The heart of the stories may remain true to the characters but the way it envelopes these worlds and all the characters you see is constantly evolving. There are new iterations, for better or worse, but when it works - it soars to new heights. Insomniac doesn’t just make a new Spider-Man game here but it reinvents the superhero himself and makes sure he’s up to date. Not only is this just a brilliant Spider-Man game, but it may also be one of the best portrayals of the web-slinger that we have ever seen.
Insomniac’s take on Spider-Man is fresh and ready to be consumed by this generation. Not only does this Spider-Man take place in modern day, but it is a story of an older Peter Parker in 2018. Yes, I am aware the comics do this, but seeing such a high production interpretation such as this one feels unreal sometimes. The only other superhero game to be funded to this caliber was that of the Arkham series - which this game does take so much inspiration from I cannot deny. In the newest Spider-Man film, Spider-Man: Homecoming, we see a modern take on Spider-Man but we see him as a teenager and that works for the movie in its own sense, but it is truly fresh to see an older Peter Parker in a modern screen reiteration.
From the get-go, Marvel’s Spider-Man is absolutely gorgeous. Even in just the linear introduction to the game, it is apparent how much detail went into designing it. Not only does Spider-Man look incredibly detailed, so do the enemies as well. With every environmental attack, the particle effects flying around is just so visually appealing and it runs fantastically every second of the way. Once you get to swing around New York City is where it looks even more appalling because not only does it look good, it is one of the best looking open worlds I have ever seen. Each building looks completely unique and beautifully textured and for the first time ever, we have reflections on the windows (kinda) in a Spider-Man game! Exciting stuff.
When it comes down to it, thanks to Insomniac Games and Marvel, Spider-Man just got the Sony treatment. The quality of the production is comparable to that of marvels in the PlayStation exclusive library such as The Last of Us and even God of War. The voice acting, the cutscenes, and the story are all top notch and really carry the rest of the game when you’re not kicking bad guy butt and wall running all around New York. And the story truly is great; it really feels like a proper modern retelling of Spider-Man that stays true to the original heart of the character. Insomniac writers have gone through years and years of Spider-Man comic book history to concoct this brand new interpretation that feels fresh because of that. There are lots of twists and turns throughout the story and when the stakes keep rising, the world changes along with it. This really allows for another sense of immersion because it really feels as if through the course of events is not just affecting you, the player, but the entire city that you are trying to protect. And as you get into dangerous situation after situation, Spider-Man has many corny quips to go along with every stressful situation. But seriously, some are really corny and I can see some people not really enjoying those moments though being a small part of the game in the overall picture. However, being a Spider-Man fan, I felt it stayed true to the character and I enjoyed these witty remarks quite a bit.
Whenever Spider-Man games have come out as of late, there is always a lack of great Spider-Man villains being present. Insomniac, however, does not hold back when it comes to Spidey’s expansive library of unique baddies. You face incredible foes that haven’t shown up in games nor movies yet for that matter. And Insomniac does a great job at building up the world and the future of these games as well, hinting at possible villains in a very tasteful and unique manner. There are moments in the game that take you out of the normal action of the game and lets the player take control of Mary Jane and even Miles Morales. These parts of the game act as kind of a bridge for the story through what you do as these characters affect the overall plot as well. The game is definitely slower during these segments but it provides a lot of world-building elements and once again makes it really feel like a “Sony exclusive.” Once again, some might get bored of these parts and want to jump back into the action as Spider-Man but I appreciated the variety of gameplay Insomniac wanted to input into this title. I do not want to spoil the role Miles Morales plays in this game but I was truly surprised how much of a major role he played in this game and am looking forward to what happens with his story in future installments. The game manages to be a very fun and over the top (as a Spider-Man game should be) as well as really getting serious during many segments as well; It manages to find a very good balance with having an emotional story as well as a fun one. All of this is supported by a great score that keeps you gripped constantly. One gripe I do have about the story though is I really wish that sometimes it would take its time to let the actual impact of the story sink in with the player (The Last of Us and God of War do this incredibly) instead of moving so fast.
Jumping into the gameplay, the combat is very reminiscent to that of the Arkham series so essentially, mashing the attack button and using the counter button when needed. However, the game never fails to remind you are explicitly playing a Spider-Man. With every attack, counter, and dodge everything really feels as if a Spider-Man comic has come out of its pages and you, the player, are in total control. One move that stood that stands out to me is being able to slide under your enemies’ legs to disorient them and come at them from another angle. It all feels so fluid and surprisingly not as floaty as the Arkham games when it comes to the base combat. The web-zip is another really useful and fun move where you can web yourself straight to any enemy in order to take out those pesky snipers and rocket launcher guys. Insomniac always has been known for its unique weapons and gadgets available in the Ratchet & Clank series and that is something they have brought into Marvel’s Spider-Man as well. In your arsenal of Spidey gadgets include spider drones, electric webs, trip mines, web bombs, and more. Each of these replaces your normal web shooter when equipped but it is very easy to switch back and forth between them. When it comes down to the web-slinging, it feels like a perfect improvement from the Spider-Man 2 video game from 2004 - as well as adding simple parkour elements to make everything feel so much more fluid. Just swinging around New York feels so satisfying and even though I unlocked the fast travel system later in the game, I found myself choosing to ignore it most of the time. The skill tree in this game is fairly basic though the abilities you unlock are all very fun and add a lot more depth to the game when it comes to combat and web swinging. There are a lot of collectibles to find around the city as well, including finding backpacks and catching pigeons. The backpacks are really fun ones to collect because inside are lots of memorabilia referencing years and years of Spider-Man history. There are side quests scattered throughout the city as well and though they can be humorous and fairly entertaining, some of them obviously have not been given the same care and attention given towards the rest of the game. One that definitely did stand out to me though are the missions when you do trials for Tombstone, an albino notorious crime boss, and end up fighting him as well in a really intense boss battle. Speaking of the boss battles in the game, there are a bunch of them and overall, they kind of do play out in the same manner; they manage to be simple but engaging at the same time. I never really struggled with the difficulty in the game but there are moments where you may be confused on how to beat a boss but once you figure it out, it’s smooth sailing. There are also enemy bases in the game for the different “gangs” taking over the city but they all pretty much consist of the same thing which is fighting six waves of bad guys - getting a little more difficult with each wave. And as much as I love the combat, these base takeovers can get fairly repetitive. All of these side missions allow you to gain points that go towards unlocking new skills, abilities, and even costumes. One element of the gameplay I did not enjoy as much were doing these puzzles when you play as Peter Parker to help Otto Octavius in his lab. These puzzles feel tacky and honestly kind of annoying but it wasn’t till after I finished the game I realized I could have skipped these segments entirely. A huge highlight of this game for me was definitely being able to switch between the various costumes all from different eras of Spider-Man history. Not only do the suits look amazing, but they also each come with a different “super ability” that has to be charged up to use. Some of these include being bulletproof, radiating emp blasts, and even having electric punches. Relatively, it is a very small detail in this game but it makes so much of an impact on the overall passion you can see that went into making this game.
All of this just allows Marvel’s Spider-Man to be so much more than the sum of its parts and by the end, you will just be craving more. The story took me about fifteen or so hours to get through but I am still trying to get that 100% completion so I know that I have a few more hours of gameplay left. Insomniac really nailed the portrayal of Spider-Man in this game and sets a new standard for what superhero games have the potential to truly be. All we can do now is count down the days till the new DLC featuring Black Cat and I just can not wait. Props to Sony and Insomniac for making this because it really just reminded me of how much I truly love video games.