Remember E3 2016? I do for one amazing reason. The spectacular reveal that Insomniac would be making a licensed video game for the first time in their twenty-two year history, Spider-Man, exclusive to PS4. This was the studio that brought us Spyro and Sunset Overdrive for a start, they’re industry icons. This was a match made in heaven. I pretty much cried when it was announced. My favorite superhero was finally going to get a game that would do him justice. This was a chance at something special. Is the outcome amazing? Will it be spectacular? Astonishing? Sensational? Superior to what came before?
Release Date: 7th September 2018
Size: 46.08 GB
Genre: Action Adventure
Developed By: Insomniac Games
Published By: Sony Computer Entertainment
I don’t want to spoil anything so that’ll be brief and vague. After this section, there’s going to be a huge spoiler section that’ll be marked with a red heading. You’ve been warned.
The story sees you dropping into the shoes of an adult Peter Parker. You’re already established as Spider-Man and many of your relationships have background and history. You’ll go to work in a lab, help Aunt May out at the F.E.A.S.T center, flirt with MJ and have several conversations with police captain Yuri Watanabe. The famous villains are present and play a big role in shaping the story, from Kingpin to Mayor Norman Osborne. The characters and actors are all fantastic. Each role is brought to life marvelously. Spider-Man is childish and humorous, MJ is intelligent and driven, Fisk is powerful and controlling and even Norman is driven and tough. Unfortunately, the story isn’t anything memorable. It treads ground that pretty much every Spider-Man story ever has already covered. It really brings nothing new and twists and turns in the plot often feel underdeveloped or unjustified.
Minor Spoilers – Do not read until you’ve beaten the game!
Welcome to the spoiler section. Here I’m going to divulge in slightly more details my issue with the story. The first problem is that the game’s biggest twist is telegraphed from the very beginning. Anything with the remote knowledge of Spider-Man lore has an inkling of who is likely to be the hidden enemy. The second is the number of throwaway characters. Guys like Vulture, Rhino, Scorpion, and Electro all turn up, do something, disappear. Even Fisk gets barely an hour of involvement. The majority of the game sees Spider-Man gunning for Mr. Negative and the Demons. Then suddenly Silver Sable is involved. Then the other enemy emerges and everything is happening all at once. The pacing is horrible and it leaves no room to enjoy or appreciate the intimate moments between characters. At one point the city is literally just falling apart and there are about four plot lines happening at once. It feels like Insomniac were told to cram all of these elements in and as a result they clash. There’s a real ‘Amazing Spider-Man 2’ vibe to proceedings. There’s also no time to build relationships. Miles Morales character feels shoehorned in for fan service and the sequel set up rather than anything meaningful to the story. One aspect the game excels in is the relationship between Peter and MJ. It’s totally nailed. The game also presumes at least a basic Spider-Man knowledge. If you aren’t a fan characters will come and go and you’ll never recognize their significance. One brilliant plot is Harry Osborne. This works really well. It’s a shame that it’s overshadowed by other events and wasn’t more vital to the storyline.
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— The Loot Gaming (@TheLootGaming) September 7, 2018
Simply put? The gameplay in this game is exceptional. I can’t even think of enough superlatives to do it justice. It’s absolutely marvel-ous. I’ll start with traversal. It’s fun, really fun, like throwing and catching the Leviathan axe levels of fun. You’ll go from building to building, swinging from web to web. The game map is huge and the best thing I can say about both it and traversal is that I only used fast travel once and it was to capture a screenshot. Launching yourself from a roof into a swing, pulling yourself through the air, squeezing between buildings and landing on car roofs is just so deliriously exciting. It’s the closest any of us will ever get to being bitten by a radioactive spider and having the ability to swing through New York City. Insomniac absolutely nailed it here. Especially with the attention to detail. Each web actually attaches to buildings. Head to the seafront or the park areas and you’ll have to seek out something to swing from. You can still dart around though by using things like fences and trees to catapult yourself forward.
The open world is excellent. It’s huge and truly beautiful. The sun shines realistically, pedestrians move around the world and interact with your presence, roads are crammed with vehicles and there’s plenty to do. Zipping around gathering collectibles and snapping photos of landmarks is really fun and is a very Spider-Man task to be given. However, random crimes and side missions aren’t the same levels of fun. Crimes get repetitive quickly, side missions never really set themselves apart. There’s not many supporting characters out with the main story to make anything interesting with the exception of Tombstone. This is the biggest downside to the open world. It’s so fun to travel but there just isn’t much to do that’s genuinely fun, exciting or intriguing. The shining star of the open world that is legitimately excellent is the Taskmaster challenges. These are fun and introduce an intriguing and mysterious new character. In terms of content, there’s a decent amount, it’s very short in comparison to other open-world titles. You can have the platinum wrapped up in 25 hours or less, the story in 12.
It’s fortunate then that the missions in the story are incredible. They’re varied, the dialogue is funny and they are even intense at certain points. Racing through the city is a thrill, taking on bosses intent on destroying Spidey is brilliant and even the stealth sections shine as you systematically defeat a large group. What doesn’t work is the MJ and Miles sections. They kill the momentum and are plain boring. In these you’ll sneak past several enemies while making it from point A to B. They’re very simple and just bland. However, there is one section for each character that changes this. MJ has a level in Grand Central train station that includes Spider-Man that’s a blast to play. Miles has a small section where he gives Rhino the runaround, it’s a little terrifying but really exciting.
Then there’s the combat. You might be forgiven for thinking I didn’t like the gameplay. Yes, the traversal is good but the world is bland. Well, the combat fixes that. The combat is absolutely wonderful. It’s a free-flowing fluid dance that comes straight from the Arkham games. In fact, it’s almost identical. That’s a very, very good thing. The main difference is that you feel like Spider-Man here instead of Batman. You’re faster, more agile and you have an all-new arsenal at your disposal. Webbing up one enemy while dodging incoming gunfire before throwing a bin at the third sounds like fun, it’s incredibly satisfying when you pull it off. Thanks to the intuitive controls you’ll be pulling it off easily. The interactivity with the world is truly immense. If you kick an enemy off a rooftop, you’ll shoot webs to stick him to the walls. By shooting enough webs at an enemy on the floor, they’ll be stuck down. If there’s scaffolding nearby you can pull it down on a group. Little touches like these really help you to feel like the Webhead.
Finally, there’s the gadgets and suits. There are a ton of options available to you in both. The gadgets are the most practical. During combat, they’ll help to keep things fresh. Discovering the best uses and situations for each one is something I had a ton of fun with. From using trip mines to trick enemies into knocking each other out to simply dropping into a crowd and setting off web bombs, or the cruelest option: going to a rooftop and using the concussive blast to send enemies plummeting from your side, it’s all fantastic. The variety of suits is amazing. There’s definitely going to be one you love and will use, for me it was the basic suit, but they are so unique that you’ll have a ton of fun trying each and seeing how they look. The level of detail, from each fiber to the eye movement, is astonishing. I could honestly say a lot more about the gameplay but I won’t, so much deserves to be experienced first hand.
Graphics and Sound
It’s beautiful. This is the definition of a well polished game with a developer who genuinely cares and is passionate about the quality of a product they produce. I didn’t encounter a single glitch. The draw distance is frankly unbelievable. I can’t actually recall a single instance of pop in or textures not loading. The HDR on PS4 Pro is another impressive aspect. The sun’s rays are gloriously incandescent. Finally, there are the character models. These are some of the most realistic people I’ve ever seen virtually. Graphically this game is absolutely top of the scale, I think it even tops God of War.
There’s also the photo mode. A superb addition. It’s a ridiculous amount of fun to play around with, from taking selfies, creating comic book covers or just experimenting with different filters for your dramatic screenshots. A lot of work has gone into this and it shows, as well as the soundtrack which is excellent. It’s very reminiscent of the Sam Raimi movies in the best way possible. It’s epic and continuously conveys the heroic nature of events. The sound effects across the city make it feel like a living and breathing environment.
There’s no doubt that Insomniac has crafted a special video game here, it’s one of the best-licensed games of all time. However, it isn’t without fault. The open world gets repetitive, side missions are bland and the story is painted by numbers fare. Fortunately, the game’s sheer beauty, exceptional characterization, wonderful combat, and brilliant traversal ensure that Insomniac’s legacy is upheld. Hopefully, with the sequel (there’s definitely gonna be a sequel) some of the issues can be ironed out and Insomniac can find their own voice with these characters. Marvel’s Spider-Man is amazing, it just isn’t spectacular.