Spider-Man is king, at least in terms of video games. The web-slinging superhero has appeared in over thirty since the ’80s, more than any other Marvel superhero ever. Following a high level of anticipation, this reinterpretation of the classic comic book character comes to us from Insomniac Games, the legendary studio responsible for the Spyro and Ratchet and Clank franchises. Here, they’ve crafted a groundbreaking, immersive vision…one that shows players how far video games have come since their beginnings.
Minor spoilers ahead.
It’s not often that one finds a good superhero game, but in recent years the genre has found some strength. This was mainly thanks to Rocksteady Studios, who reinvented the wheel with their Batman: Arkham series. However, it was Activision’s video game adaptation of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 in 2004 that truly revolutionized the concept of a Spider-Man game, and superhero games in general. Insomniac borrows from that installment, and it pays off handsomely. Everything feels perfect while playing this game. From the web-swinging to the story to the combat, you can really get behind every ounce of what goes on. This had an immense amount of hype and lives up to expectations in every way imaginable. Let’s get into the specifics.
As mentioned prior, Marvel’s Spider-Man follows a mature and grounded Spidey. This is something that sets the game apart from every one of its film counterparts. There is no room for innocence. No time for test-runs. It places you right in the heat of the moment, as shown by both Parker’s character dynamics and his relationships with both his friends and enemies. However, just because it abandons the classic origin story doesn’t mean that it throws everything else to the curb. In fact, those who were disappointed with Spider-Man: Homecoming will find nothing to complain about here, with lots of fan-favorite characters (both good and bad) showing up throughout the course of the story. These characters are just as important as Spider-Man himself at points, especially Mary Jane Watson and Miles Morales.
What completes these characters, though, is the development that goes into them. There’s never a time where you’ll ever feel bored while playing as them, even when some of the missions prove to be a bit repetitive. Thanks to the both simple and complex story, you’ll find their reasonings and relationships increasingly more interesting in multiple ways. Laura Bailey proves to be an amazing Mary Jane, perplexing in all the right ways and self-assured to the point that I wished were able to see even more of her (despite already seeing a lot). The missions both her and Miles take hold of are far from great, however. While what we see of the pair in cutscenes is superb, their playable missions are quite a slog. They’re not insanely horrible. There’s so much more that could’ve been done and the boring end result is a little disappointing. Everything works just fine regarding controls and playability, but the level of creativity on display is just “meh”.
New York City is as awesome as ever. Swinging around the Big Apple has never felt so good, and the constant outpour of crime adds a new level of detail to the already architecturally vast city. However, this is where the main issue with the game comes into play. While mostly everything about it is pretty flawless, side missions and crime events become a bit repetitive. Much of them retain the same basic structure, and waves of enemies can be increasingly tedious when there’s really no variety to them. In terms of originality, the combat feels new and refreshing in and of its structure, but is essentially the same thing as the Arkham games, save for being more focused on agility instead of in-your-face fighting. This doesn’t mean it isn’t crazily fun, though. Each move you land to your foes is perfectly felt and makes you truly feel like Spider-Man.
Another minor issue with the game is its simplicity in boss fights, leading to uninspired battles that end rather abruptly, and quite honestly, too quickly. Everyone in the game retains a simple formula: wear the villain down, beat him up some, repeat. There’s really no sense of variety with any of the boss fights, the only changes being the smaller details (i.e. the villain & what you hit him with). Yet again, there’ still an incredible sense of fun, especially when you see which villains come into the fold, but the bigger picture could’ve been so much more refined and new-feeling.
In terms of graphics, Insomniac knocks it out of the park. Character models are insanely detailed and realistic, but nearly everything else is amazing too. Swinging around the city would already look cool, but the studio manages to take it even further with extensively lush city landscapes and lighting. The game’s “Photo Mode” is extremely handy here, giving players a chance to capture their runs, jumps, leaps, flips, and spins while web-slinging across the city. Voice acting is top-notch and grounded, adding another layer of extreme detail to the already jam-packed adventure.
As for the Spider-Man suits, most of them transfer well to the video game medium. Certain ones are definitely more favorable than others, but with each suit comes a unique power that can be rearranged to fill another suit’s slot. The mixing and matching of suit powers really makes this game stand out, and gives it another slight edge over other superhero games, in addition to being able to change it up whenever you want. This is a game that demands your interest and will do anything to keep you invested in its world. By giving players awesome stuff, and having it all at their disposal, it’s rarely boring playing as this version of Spidey.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is everything that I wanted it to be but ultimately falls short in a few spots. Repetition plagues it, which ultimately causes boss fights to feel simple and anticlimactic. In addition, missions featuring side characters like Mary Jane or Miles Morales feel like a waste of time. Despite those flaws, though, there’s so much to love here. Insomniac delivers a beautifully rich and luscious New York City, packed to the brim with people, places, and skyscrapers. It truly allows you to be Spider-Man. Everything is built with such love for the material. The most minute details are noticeable and come together to create an intricately crafted, very well-developed adventure with a high replay value.
Simply put, I had a blast playing this game. It brought me waves of nostalgia, allowing me to relive the excitement of prior entries, in addition to giving an updated vision with a more refined storytelling and visual style. Overall, its imperfections can be rightfully ignored because of how unique it is and how it differentiates itself from other games like it. To say it’s one of the best games of the year would be an understatement, and it obviously comes highly recommended.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is available for PlayStation 4.