Developer: Insomniac Games
The amazing, spectacular, sensational Spider-Man has made his triumphant return to the world of video games (let?s forget about MvC Infinite). Spidey?s last solo game appearance was in the mostly forgotten (and if it?s not forgotten it should be) Amazing Spider-Man 2. Activision tried taking the Spider-Man IP down many roads during it?s time with the licenses, but Amazing Spider-Man 2 was the end of the line. With Activision out, it was time for someone else to take the mantle and Sony stepped in to grab exclusive rights for the PS4 (which I?m sure demanded a king?s ransom) and brought on Insomniac to develop it. So here we are a few years after its surprise e3 announcement and Spider-Man is ready for the masses. Was it worth the wait, or just another poorly constructed superhero game that doesn?t have Arkham in the title?
Some background on my superhero likes? Spider-Man is my favorite Marvel hero since I was a little kid, watching the cartoon on FOX Saturday mornings (Batman is my DC favorite for those that wanted to know). So I hold Spider-Man games to a high level and check out pretty much every one released. Shattered Dimensions was the last great Spider-Man game, in my opinion, and that came out eight years ago so we are extremely overdue for a well done web slinger title. Long story short, Spider-Man for the PS4 is a fantastic game and might be my game of the year. Within minutes of starting up the game, you can tell the love and level of knowledge the crew at Insomniac has for Spidey and the city of New York. It?s also immediately noticeable that Insomniac was very influenced by the Arkham series, which is not a bad thing, but also has me wondering if we will ever see another superhero game that doesn?t use similar gameplay mechanics.
While combat may feel very similar to Batman games, the Arkham mechanic of countering enemies really fits Spider-Man even more than it should for Batman. You see, Spidey has spider sense which flashes around his head when you should hit the counter button during combat, avoiding bullets, punches, rockets, stun sticks, pretty much any weapon imaginable. The Arkham similarities don?t end there either; you build a combo meter and can even unleash a finishing maneuver once your combo is high enough (which is even performed using the same button combinations as Batman?s finishers). So as many say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in this case I think Insomniac might have out Rocksteady?d Rocksteady. The combat is fluid and really a blast, and it just gets better as you make your way through the game. Of course, Spider-Man features an upgrade system and with that upgrade system comes new moves for combat and web swinging (even one for performing tricks while swinging around NYC).
Not only are you leveling up and getting skill points, but there are plenty (and I mean plenty) of collectibles and other tokens to obtain during your time as your friendly neighborhood Spider-man. Disclosure time; I want to avoid all spoilers for not only the story but also what you collect/obtain. Sony provided me with a review copy of Spider-Man and included a review guide for spoilers that are and aren?t acceptable in reviews. I feel like a true single player experience involves going in fresh and since I don?t know the level at which you, the reader, has experienced Spider-man when it comes to previews, videos and message boards, I will reframe from diving into anything beyond the first few hours. The amount of items to collect and areas to explore just make it so damn easy to get lost in New York City, (and no I don?t mean you can?t find your way around) and that?s without all the story and side missions. One minute you?ll be on your way to meet up at the shelter Aunt May is working at and the next thing you know you just spent an hour taking pictures of Madison Square Garden, stopping a store robbery, finding forgotten backpacks, and much more. There?s no shortage of things to keep the webhead busy.
One of the side missions/collectibles that you need to collect/complete in order to unlock certain spoilery things are the Research Stations. You?ll encounter these after doing a handful of the story missions. These missions reminded me of another CLASSIC superhero title, and by CLASSIC I mean probably one of the worst games of all time; Superman 64. These missions task you to go through polluted air pockets (?fly through my rings?) to capture scientific data. The problem is, the areas where these clouds are don?t always have the best buildings with which to web swing from. While these are the missions I found to be the most annoying, I still appreciate that Insomniac added them to give more variety of things to do throughout the city.
Comic fanboys might have a polarizing opinion of the game?s story and some of the character choices. It?s weird to me that Peter doesn?t work for the Daily Bugle, instead working for Octavius Enterprises (yes, that Octavius). Spidey is also partnering with the police, which is where I draw the line in being too similar to Batman, but I gave it a pass because of the humor that?s delivered during these missions and the dialogue with detective Yuri, Spider Cop is on the case! For all those Bugle fans I can ease your worry about not seeing JJ Jameson since Peter doesn?t work there; you see, JJ hosts a podcast/radio show. You’re subscribed to the show by default, which will just start playing while you?re swinging around (not a fan of JJ?s hatred for Spidey and his propaganda? just unsubscribe!). To further ease some fanboy frustrations that could arose from the new costume featured in the game, is the ability to unlock 25+ costumes, all with unique abilities. I think you?ll be hard pressed to not find at least a few costumes that you like. Though it is kinda weird that you can unlock the Tom Holland Spider-man costumes, despite this game having nothing to do with the MCU, but that?s a real minor gripe.
Let?s talk a bit about one of my favorite aspects of the game, and something I?m always on the lookout for during a strong single player experience; sound and music. While web swinging throughout the city, the music is top notch and borderline epic. Some of the best musical score I?ve heard in a game that doesn?t rip off of a movie. On top of that is the voice acting, which is also incredible. The casting of all the main characters, especially Peter, is fantastic. Many single player games live and die with their voice acting, and Insomniac made some great casting choices. Peter reminds me much of the Fox?s Spider-Man I spoke on earlier, which will always be my definitive voice for Spidey. Score? check, voiceover? check, but what about the sounds of NYC? Another big check knocked off, the city sounds great (especially as someone who works there five days a week). You can hear the city below you as you webswing, from pedestrians to vehicles, the city feels extremely alive. Then you land on the street and you can hear people talking about you, asking for a high five (I hope Square Enix is playing attention for their future Marvel titles?if they ever come out).
One other Major gripe I have (which might not be so major to most), is that a main story spoiler was given away during the e3 trailer from two years ago. If you haven?t seen that trailer or don?t remember it then you’re in the clear. Unfortunately, to me it was a glaring realization as I played that REDACTED was not who he/she appeared to be and that I was already spoiled by their turn in the trailer over two years ago. I know that?s a really minor thing to many when playing a game that is based on a comic but it did annoy me a bit, especially that it?s hammered home that this character is such a good person. That complaint aside, I really dug the story and all the places it takes you. Everything you do seems tied together with the story and even just unlocking areas of the map becomes news to JJ during his podcast. Everything seems important and that just gives you more of a reason to try to do everything.
What more is there to say? Insomniac?s Marvel’s Spider-Man is truly spectacular. Like I said earlier, it?s certainly a game of the year candidate and personally my favorite game I?ve played this year. I know I am a bit biased, based of my love for the character, but that?s more of a reason why I can be a harsh critic of the character. Spider-Man has had a rough series of solo adventures; Amazing Spider-Man 2, Edge of Time, and Web of Shadows (send me your hate mail), so it?s about time that we had a return to form for Marvel?s heart and soul. I hope Insomniac can build off this title and knock out a sequel using this engine. While you wait for Red Dead Redemption 2, you would be hard pressed to find a better single player experience this year or in the past few years (Benny, the ball is in your court with Tomb Raider). Spider-Man is a must buy and the new king of superhero games, Rocksteady you still out there?
SIEA provided us with a Marvel’s Spider-Man PS4 code for review purposes.