Developed By: Insomniac Games
Published By: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Reviewed On: PS4 PRO
Those two words are the tagline for Marvel’s Spider-Man. Those two words are also the running theme for the game. Ironically, those two words were also the two words I kept coming back to while trying to write this review.
Every new game is a unique experience born from the men and women who work hard on it and Insomniac Games are one of my favourite developers. I am a huge fan of the Ratchet and Clank series and when it was announced that they were doing Spider-Man, it just felt like the perfect fit. We did not manage to secure a review copy so I couldn’t dig in earlier, but I already pre-ordered this game months ago anyway. I took the weekend off and decided I just wanted to soak in as much as I could, be as thorough as I can and just enjoy it because sometimes as a reviewer we tend to forget what a joy it is to just play games.
A Slightly Different Spider-Man
Peter works as a lab assistant to one Dr Otto Octavius designing prosthetic limbs. Mary Jane Watson and Peter have broken up. She works at the Daily Bugle. Norman Osborn is the mayor. Aunt May works at an organization called F.E.A.S.T with Martin Li to help the homeless. Spider-Man’s contact in the police force is Yuri Watanabe. Those are the major players and although at their core they are the characters everyone knows and love, there is a welcome variation to them as Insomniac Games are telling a new story with them. The game starts up with a very experienced Peter Parker getting called into action as Spider-Man. Not long after defeating some common thugs, he is sent to take down Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin. While being arrested, Wilson exclaims that it is him who keeps everything in check around New York City. It is then that slowly the game reveals what exactly was being kept in check and what awaits Spider-Man throughout the next 20 or so hours.
Be warned that there might be some spoilers in the next section as I go through my thoughts on the game.
What I Liked
- Graphics – I mean after the technical powerhouse that was God of War, who knew that Marvel’s Spider-Man would come close? The cutscenes are gorgeous and I only experienced frame-drops very briefly during my whole time with the game.
- Story – I really liked how they decided to make their own story with these characters and bring a new fresh perspective to them. Peter being Dr Octavius assistant was brilliant as it provided an even deeper context to their relationship.
- Music – When it was not being drowned out by the PS4 PRO’s hyperdrive engine, the music really stood out to me and I only wish that it was brought to the forefront more.
- Combat – I mean I get it. Everyone is saying that it feels very similar to the Arkham style of games. To be honest, though I feel as though it fits almost perfectly and really made me feel like Spider-Man jumping over enemies acrobatically, webbing them up and taking them down.
- Traversal – It took me a while to get used to the traversal in the game but once I did it really felt very fun to zip and swing from end to end. I think I only ever used the fast travel was because I was chasing time (and also that trophy).
- New Characters – I really liked Yuri as a character. Although her job was basically a glorified “human police scanner”, she really stood out to me. Her relationship with Spider-Man is one of the highlights of the game. Also, because Spider-Cop.
What I Wished Was Better
- Story – Although I did like the overall story, I did feel that certain parts of it were just very rushed and maybe even unearned. As I mentioned earlier I liked that Peter was Dr Octavius’s assistant. We all know by now that eventually, he becomes Dr Octopus and it really was so good watching how it unravels in this version of the story especially with Peter actively assisting him in the design and creation of his “arms”. I genuinely thought to myself that it would really give a good emotional beat for Peter to feel guilty that he helped to create this villain. Unfortunately, that just never came. The slow creep towards the turn was replaced with an almost rapid one. As soon as he tries out his new arms the first time Dr Octavius becomes evil almost immediately and the game tries to play it off by showing he was already influenced by them the whole time. Everything that comes afterwards just does not hit as hard. That can be said for another important character as well. I just felt like that was just a huge missed opportunity.
- Side Content – It is not bad, to be honest. It might even be good. My nitpick with it I guess is that it feels like something we have already experienced before in the Arkham series of games. A checklist of things to knock off in each district. I mean after beating up a gang of thugs the fifth time I was already getting tired I had to do it with the Demon’s or Sable Agents or Prisoners. There is very little variation. In the end, they all feel like reskinned enemies with just different abilities. I feel that at this point we should already be seeing the next iteration of this open world formula making it feel more organic, varied, and meaningful. Like I said, it does not feel terrible but just feels so worn out.
- Pacing – Maybe it is just me, but I did feel like the game’s pacing was a little off. It would have been nice to have faced additional villains earlier in the game. Although they were cool, ultimately it felt like they were just padding and did not really add much to the overall impact of their participation. Then there are the stealth sections. I mean I did not hate them but they felt mostly unnecessary except for one where MJ directs Spider-Man where and when to take out enemies. At one point I think I even dreaded seeing the “15 minutes before” pop up on the screen.
- Inconsistent Traversal – Spider-Man can run up the side of buildings and yet when he stops he falls right off. I mean he literally stands off the side of one in a cutscene.