Marvel’s Spider-Man is a true testament that the PlayStation 4 is the console to beat this generation. The narrative, combat, exploration, and care given to the source material blended together into a titan of an experience. Insomniac Games have truly outdone themselves with this game. Marvel’s Spider-Man puts players in control of an older, and slightly more mature Peter Parker, who is struggling to keep up with being the friendly neighborhood superhero and the standard life of Peter Parker. The balance between the two sends Peter through a 15-hour adventure all throughout Manhattan in attempt to stop the Sinister Six, as well as rebuild a relationship between himself and Mary Jane Watson, plus help Aunt May at the FEAST shelters across town.
Spider-Man’s story can be broken down into three different acts. Each act raising the stakes higher and quickly incites players into a panic state to finish the story and stop the epidemic taking over New York City. While the last act is a panic fueled rush, the first act is a slow burn that allows players to get acclimated to combat, travel, and the many open world activities. I spent most of the first act constantly asking when the game was going to start rolling but looking back I was thankful that I was given time to master web swinging, which isn’t exactly intuitive but is a lot of fun. In each of the acts that follow the tension gets raised higher and higher but all the while, ensuring the player doesn’t forget that Peter is human and has to take care of personal matters while saving the city. This dichotomy creates a compelling story that’s able to pull hardcore fans and newcomers alike. While a backlog of Spidey knowledge is helpful, it’s not required. The game does a great job explaining the important bits, while rewarding those who know what’s going on with added bonuses in the environment and in the conversations between characters.
While it ends up becoming a panicked beautiful mess, where the story really shines is the relationships that are formed through the game. Spider-Man focuses more on the emotional connections between characters. A lot of love and care went into ensuring that interactions are genuine and pay off in some way. This is my favorite part of the game. I’m a complete and total sucker for great writing, meaningful conversations, and subtle plot threads that pay off, and Spider-Man has all of that and more. Throughout the narrative, Insomniac drops little hints about the big bad at the end, and I chose to ignore most of them because I didn’t want to believe what was happening. Over the course of the 15-hour game, Spider-Man made me emotionally invested and when the final twist happened I thought back to all of the hints I ignored, I broke a little. This is the first game this year to make me cry and I couldn’t be happier for it.
Combat in Spider-Man is simple but rewarding. It is most comparable to the combat in the Batman: Arkham series with one main attack button, a counter, and access to a plethora of gadgets. The combat feels robust, but near the end, when I was going back and clearing up the rest of the map, the combat did get a little repetitive. It’s fun the first time you take out a group of fireball shooting demons, but around the hundredth time you go up against the same enemy it gets a little tiring. To spice up the combat, it became imperative to swap the use of gadgets to extend the enjoyment. Swapping between the web bomb to gum up a whole squad of goons, then swapping to the impact web to stick some guys to the wall is an absolute blast. The simplicity of the combat allows the player to keep focus to what’s happening around them while still looking pretty cool in the meantime. And you can’t look cool without a closet full of different suits mostly based on Spider-Man’s comic book past. Each and every suit can be unlocked through standard play, but the suits look absolutely amazing. Each suit offers different bonuses and skills that players can use. For instance, the Iron Spider suit adds four different robot arms that aid in combat and the new spider suit gives players massive focus regeneration for a short period of time. If you like the Iron Spider power, but not a fan of the way the suit looks, don’t worry. You can mix suits and powers. I rotated between three different suits, but I only used one power for the entire game.
While Spider-Man is a blast to play it does have some issues. We live in a society where all of the biggest and best comic book heroes are getting bombastic theatrical releases that have incredible scores that echo the action and upcoming challenges for our hero. I expected the same with Spider-Man, but the music only appears when going into battle or zipping around the city and even then, it’s mostly forgettable. When the beautiful orchestral score is playing it feels so cool to web enemies, but the second it stops I completely forget the tune. That’s a huge bummer. All but two of the boss fights felt rushed or just plain awkward. When going up against the Sinister Six you tackle two at a time and even then most of the fight was spent just waiting for the right prompt to appear. It was a let down. Insomniac had so much lore to run with but it feels like they rushed it so players could get to the climax. I wanted more. The mission that built up each member of the six was more engaging and interesting than the actual final fight. I wanted massive bouts with Vulture and Rhino and the rest, not a weird waiting game to deal massive damage and rinse and repeat.
Spider-Man has some growing pains, but it still met my expectations and has plenty more for me to experience. The combat is a little mind numbing, but it allows for personalization from player to player, and gives the illusion that the player is Spider-Man. Exploration is fun and rewarding and the story brought me to my knees; leaving me wanting more. Sure, there are some road bumps here and there, but what the game does offer is more than enough to makes up for the issues. With the first DLC slated to release in October and more to follow in November and December; Spider-Man very well could be my go-to holiday title. Marvel’s Spider-Man isn’t something you should let swing away.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is currently available for PlayStation 4 and can be purchased here. This review is based on a copy purchased by the writer.