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Review

Review: Marvel’s Spider-Man

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Spi­der-Man isn’t exac­t­ly a new­co­mer when video games are invol­ved. Various tit­les have tried to cap­tu­re his abi­li­ties to vary­ing levels of suc­cess, though it’s been a long time sin­ce a gre­at game based on the fran­chise has been released. With this latest attempt, it seems like deve­lo­pers Insom­niac tru­ly under­stand what makes Spi­der-Man both a gre­at super­he­ro and a gre­at choice for video­ga­mes.

The basic sto­ry set­up should be some­what fami­li­ar for fans, though the­re are a few dif­fe­ren­ces com­pa­red to pre­vious Spi­der-Man media. Ins­tead of giving us yet ano­t­her replay of his ori­gin sto­ry, the game takes place when he’s alrea­dy made a name for him­s­elf. Peter Par­ker, who was bit­ten by a radioac­tive spi­der to beco­me the titu­lar wall craw­ling hero, has long sin­ce finis­hed uni­ver­si­ty and is working on prost­he­tics with the sci­en­tist Otto Octa­vi­us. Star­ting with a slight­ly older and more estab­lished Spi­der-Man allows the wri­ters to crea­te some new sto­ries ins­tead of just retel­ling what we alrea­dy know.

That doesn’t mean that new­co­mers will have a hard time figu­ring things out though. You quick­ly get an under­stan­ding for what this Peter Par­ker is like and his accom­plish­ments. This is still the same cha­ris­ma­tic hero that many will know from the comics, and it’s fun see­ing how he inter­ac­ts with his fri­ends and the various vil­lains throughout the game. What did come as a sur­pri­se was the amount of time spent focu­sing on Peter Par­ker him­s­elf rather than just his alter ego Spi­der-Man. It makes this sto­ry feel a litt­le more nuan­ced, offe­ring a look at both his super­he­ro anti­cs along with his regu­lar life.

While Peter’s inter­ac­tions with various fami­li­ar faces may be humo­rous, the over­all sto­ry ends up being a litt­le disap­poin­ting. Some ele­ments – like Peter’s work with Otto – are well deve­lo­ped, but near the end of the game many plot ele­ments are rus­hed just to try and fit in a few more vil­lains. That’s not to say that it’s still not an enjoy­a­ble sto­ry as a who­le, it’s just that the main sto­ry could have done with a few more hours to give a litt­le more time towards cha­rac­ter deve­lop­ment. The ending does still end up having a lot of emo­tio­nal impact regard­less of the­se short­co­m­ings, and it was nice to see how many fami­li­ar faces were inclu­ded in the game even with their lack of screen time.

Web swin­ging is whe­re Spi­der-Man real­ly shi­nes, offe­ring the clo­sest rep­re­sen­ta­ti­on of the superhero’s powers so far. Swin­ging feels natu­ral, each web phy­si­cal­ly atta­ching to buil­dings ins­tead of just magi­cal­ly latching onto the sky as they did in some of the ear­lier Spi­der-Man games. Buil­ding up speed is easy, and it’s fun just to whizz though the air as you chain web swings tog­e­ther. But this isn’t just what makes tra­ver­sing New York fun. Our hero has a pletho­ra of dif­fe­rent move­ment abi­li­ties along­si­de his regu­lar web slin­ging. He can pull him­s­elf towards cer­tain objec­ts and spring off them for a burst off speed, along with quick­ly being able to switch from wall run­ning to web slin­ging wit­hout any delay.

Com­bat also makes use of Spider-Man’s uni­que move­set, though not to the same level of suc­cess. Figh­t­ing is simi­lar to the Bat­man Ark­ham games, focus­sing on dod­ges and coun­ter-attacks against lar­ge groups of enemies. You have access to basic com­bo attacks, along with a varie­ty of skills and upgrade­ab­le gad­gets. From basic web­bing to small robots that shock enemies, the­re are a decent varie­ty of ways to deal with enemies. The pro­blem is that it’s usual­ly most effec­tive to just web up enemies against walls or other objec­ts, sin­ce basic goons can be web­bed up extre­me­ly quick­ly. This lea­ves you with a lar­ge move­set that for the most part can be igno­red, though some of the har­der encoun­ters do at least requi­re a litt­le more diver­si­ty in your attacks. One addi­ti­on to com­bat that we’d like to see in other games of this type is the focus meter. When this fills, you can per­form an instant KO on one ene­my, or more import­ant­ly heal some of your HP. It adds an ele­ment of risk ver­sus reward – do you take out an ene­my easi­ly or keep your health top­ped up – and makes batt­les a litt­le more inte­res­ting even with the afo­re­men­tio­ned issu­es.

This wouldn’t be an open world game wit­hout an exces­si­ve amount of collec­tibles and side activi­ties, and for the most part Spi­der-Man does the­se right. The­se side activi­ties can ran­ge from taking out bases full of enemies to time tri­als, each type of mis­si­on awar­ding various tokens. The­se tokens are used to unlock new suits with their own abi­li­ties and upgrades for your gad­gets. A lot of types of activi­ties have bonus objec­tives that award extra tokens, many of which requi­ring you to use moves that you’d usual­ly igno­re. The­se help to make optio­nal con­tent seem a litt­le more varied, but after a while the amount of extra mis­si­ons you can do feel a litt­le bloated. The­re are many dif­fe­rent cri­mes you can sol­ve in each part of the city. Even after having done ever­ything else on the map and unlo­cked every suit bar one, the­re were still around half of the­se cri­mes left to com­ple­te.

One aspect of Spi­der-Man that real­ly sur­pri­sed us is the visu­als. Ever­ything looks fan­tastic on a base PS4, and the game runs at a solid 30fps most of the time. This helps to make swin­ging around New York feel even bet­ter than pre­vious games, being the first game to real­ly cap­tu­re Spider-Man’s speed. The amount of detail is also impres­si­ve, espe­ci­al­ly when it comes to the various suits you can use. Each one has been faith­ful­ly recrea­ted, right down to the type of mate­ri­al used when you look clo­se­ly. The amount of gra­phics opti­ons are also wel­co­me. Being able to turn down the moti­on blur is some­thing all games should have, and it real­ly makes a dif­fe­rence in Spi­der-Man.

Conclusion

After a mul­ti­tu­de of rather disap­poin­ting games, this is an ama­zing return to form for the web craw­ling hero. Spi­der-Man may not have the grea­test sto­ry, and it suf­fers from some of the usu­al pro­blems found in open-world games, but it’s still a fan­tastic expe­ri­ence. This is what future super­he­ro focu­sed tit­les should aspi­re to be, and I can’t wait to see what Insom­niac Games will crea­te in the com­ing years.

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