Spider-Man, they say, does whatever a spider can. I disagree. Not once over the course of this game did he lay eggs, inject venom into his prey for easy consumption, or sneak up and scare the hell out of me in the shower. But I guess if he did any of that, Marvel’s Spider-Man would be a very different game.
I’d still play it, sure, but no one else would.
This Spider-Man game is much more what you’d expect from Marvel; Peter Parker (spoilers: he’s Spider-Man!) has gone from inexplicably poor photojournalist to inexplicably poor lab technician, and also you get to punch a lot of people. Honestly though, Spidey, maybe start a damn savings account; I’m embarrassed FOR you.
Those hoping for a smooth movie tie-in with the Marvel Cinematic Universe will (thankfully) be in for a surprise, as this installment takes place in its own little pocket universe, complete with notable names that your pop-culture fattened brain will immediately flag as friend or foe. The story itself is original, thoroughly enjoyable, and also jaw-droppingly ballsy. Alliances shift. People die. And it’s the kind of thing you’ll need to experience yourself, because I wouldn’t want to ruin the experience for you, and there are some real gut-punch moments.
The action… well, it swings from highs to lows, which is nothing if not thematically appropriate. At the beginning of the game, webslinging manages to feel both dazzlingly daring and cartoonishly clumsy but, once you’ve got a few upgrades under your belt and have figured out the surprisingly in depth traversal system, swinging gets smoother, with less crashing halts. You do, on occasion, genuinely feel like a superhero.
Combat encounters are refreshingly challenging, though sometimes your worst enemy is the camera angle. I know you’re thinking Arkham when I start talking about crowd control, gadgets, and dodging, but honestly I preferred this. Its less claustrophobic, for one, and encourages a ton of aerial combat that really shows how flexible Parker is. A combination of gadgets and skills, as well as enemy specialisation, makes the introduction of each new foe interesting, and keeps you from getting too complacent as you progress.
This is an open world game, and that means collectibles and challenges. Should they exist? No. Are they as obnoxious as they could be? Also no. At least some of them have decent rationale behind them, in terms of lore as well as equipment. But the fact that some don’t even unlock till later in the game made me feel a bit cheated; I spent an hour completing this area, and you’re telling me I have to go back AGAIN?
Suit changing and customisation is pretty fun, although you’ll have more powers than you’ll know what to do with so it’s worth specialising. As I’m a creature of habit, I went with a stealth, rapid combo build, prioritising slick takedowns and fast healing. I also spent most of the game in the Secret War spider-suit, which is the most badass of all suits that I am allowed to talk about in a review format.
I hate to mention the bugs, but in a Spider game I have to (spoiler alert: he eats very few). In my very first combat encounter, a guy went through a wall.I spent five minutes trying to figure out what the hell I was supposed to do before finally using my Spider-sense to kick him into unconsciousness, randomly, through the environment. Just like the real Spider-Man! Not gamebreaking, no, but not the best introduction.
Then there’s the collision detection. You can see that Insomniac have worked incredibly hard to make everything line up correctly, but certain maneuvers still look and feel ridiculous, especially around girders and pipes. Webbing enemies to objects is great, but when a gang member is tied by the ankle to a tiny chimney, while still standing straight upright, you just have to laugh.
The music feels sufficiently superhero-y, even if I got WILDLY sick of hearing the same track every time I started swinging. This did eventually change, but it was inordinately irritating for the first third of the game, and I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to violins now.
At the time of writing, Photo Mode is not in the game, though I understand this will be part of the Day One patch. I’ll have to go back in once that’s up and running, and get some swinging Spider snaps.
Despite its flaws, most of my time playing this was well spent and thoroughly enjoyed. Marvel’s Spider-Man makes its mark with killer storytelling and excellent core mechanics; the fun is pedi-palpable. Even just swinging around New York was intensely fun, despite not being a fan of the many, many things it threw at me to distract from the main event.
Is it an absolute masterpiece that redefines the entire genre? No. But it’s a pretty damn fun game that I’ll definitely be hanging around in after launch to see what else comes along.