So yesterday I 100% completed Marvel Spider-Man on the PS4, as I patiently wait for the new game plus mode. I feel like I can give a good honest and hopefully un-biased review of the game, lets swing in shall we?
Note – This is a Spoiler free
Peter Parker is 23 yrs old and has been Spider-Man for 8 years now. The game has this really cool movie style intro, giving you a small glimpse of his apartment and waking up to an alert on his phone that the police are raiding the Kingpin’s head quarters. From there he gets ready, jumps out the window and with a summersault and dive, you begin web swinging your way to the firefight. The Kingpin is taken down and sent to a prison called the Raft which houses the most dangerous criminals and Super Villains. Kingpin screams out saying he kept order in the city and that with him gone, within a month they will be wishing he is back. With that, the story opens up and its all about the aftermath of the Kingpin no longer being in power.
Over the course of the game, we see how Peter who is now an established super hero, handles his day job, his personal relationships and being the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. Some of the characters are doing different things from what we have seen them do in the comics, movies, and TV-Series. Which I found to be a refreshing take, but don’t get me wrong. The main characters like: Aunt May, Mary Jane Watson, J. Jonah Jameson, Miles Morales and more. Are still represented faithfully to their character traits and personalities from the comics. I found the story itself well written and engaging and felt like a true Spider-Man Comic book story with a few surprises and twists along the way. At the same time, we see Peter continue to grow as a person as well as work on his relationships with those close to him. I also enjoyed the dynamic he had with detective Yuri, it was like the Spider-Man version of Batman and Jim Gordon. Overall, If you’re a fan of Spider-Man comics, I think you will enjoy the story in this game for sure.
The Web Swinging
Probably the most critical gameplay element of a Spider-Man game is the web swinging. I’m happy to report, it has been done very well and just feels natural. Genuinely, swinging around New York is fun and immersive. It’s not quite 100% realistic, but the trade off is the developers have given us the tools to really go out and have fun with the mechanics. First off, yes to swing you need to have a building of some sort nearby and then you use the joystick to move Spider-Man in the direction you want to go. Swinging low to the ground, and then pressing the X button as you’re rising will give you a boost and get you swinging higher. Time it right, you will find yourself swinging around the corners of the buildings just like in the movies. As your swinging, certain objects in the environment like lamp posts and tv antennas, an icon will appear above them. You can then press R2 and L2 to together, Spider-man will shoot two webs at them to instantly jump onto them, again time it right by pressing the X button, Spidey will launch himself forward and the you can press the X button again for a couple of quick bursts before you need to properly swing again. I could really write so much more on all the things Spider-man does from web swinging, from running across building, doing tricks in the air and even some cool slow-mo moments, where he sort of glides through tight spices. It is cinematic and just a joy to swing around New York, getting from point A to B in a Spider-Man game has never been this much fun.
Now the most infuriating thing, I’ve seen and heard about the combat of this game is. Oh, they used the mechanics from the Batman Arkham games, and added their own Spider-Man elements to it.
In the 2004 Spider-Man 2 game, the combat went like this. You had a strike button and a dodge button, which you would press when the Spidey-Sense appears above Spider-Man’s head. To launch your enemies in the air, you would hold the strike button and then once they’re in the air you could follow this up with more combos or web based attacks. This game-play mechanic, is what is used in this Spider-Man game.
Following on from that, the combat has been improved from the 2004 game. There is much more variety to web based attacks, its not just a case of webbing them up and then swinging them around. You can disarm your enemies and smack them with the weapon. You can pick up objects in the air, swing them around taking out multiple enemies. You can dodge certain aerial attacks like Grenades and rockets, and then grab them using your webs to throw them back at the enemies. Furthermore, you have gadgets that you can unlock and upgrade, these include: Web bombs, Spider-Bots, Electric webs and much more. There is a ton of variety in Spider-Man’s arsenal, and depending on the environment you are fighting you can use more of whats around you or your own personal arsenal. You’re not fighting as Spider-Man in this game, you are actually fighting like him and I personally could not ask for more.
As I mentioned above, Kingpin has been taken down and new enemies rise throughout the story and to the very end. These include: The Demon gang, Street thugs, Sable’s private army and remaining Kingpin forces. For the most part, they’re all just different looking enemies that Spidey has to fight to save New-York, but their are subtle differences between the them, some try to just to take you head on, others try to ambush you or surround you. Some like the Demon gang, have certain weapons they use. Where even simple dodges and web attacks will not work and you actually have use a certain combo to disarm them. Sable forces have enemies on jetpacks and stronger armour that you have to damage before you can hurt them. There are big brute enemies, where you need to web them up and hit them repeatedly. Overall, there is a good mix of enemies that you need to fight and does help negate the feeling of repetition. But there are certain optional objectives on the world map you can complete, that does bring out that feeling. But more on that later.
Now we already knew about some of the Villains that are in the game, they included: Vulture, Rhino, The Scorpion, Electro, and Mr Negative. Now without going into Spoiler territory, some villains are more prominent than others in the game. A good example is Mr Negative, a good portion of the story is uncovering the truth about him and his plans. I found him a worthy addition to Spider-Man’s rogue gallery, and someone I did not know much of. So it was a nice refreshing take on fighting a Villain we knew nothing about. I will admit though, this resulted in some pacing issues with the story. I felt maybe there was a bit too much focus on him and the Demon gang, and other villains missed out as a result. I wouldn’t say all felt like an after thought, but close to feeling like a B-level villain, when looking at the overall story.
The villains that hadn’t been revealed, I liked their part in the story and the missions regarding them. Fans of the comics, most probably know who the mystery villain is. Again, I’m not going to spoil anything for you guys here. But the road leading to him was built very well, right through to the climax. All in all, it felt like a very organic piece of Spider-Man story building, you know the villain is coming and the emotional impact was felt.
The Open World
Now I don’t live in New York, only been there on a holiday for a week back in 2013. So I can’t really say how well the city has been re-created. Of course there are certain landmarks and locations that you can recognise, such as Empire State Building, Time Square, Central Park, Queen’s bridge and even the Avengers Tower. What I can say is, it’s a large map with a good degree of variety and is a fun play ground. The city itself is alive and brimming with npc’s. Go for walk on the city streets, pedestrians will react to you. Some in a positive and negative way. You can interact with them, give them a High-5 and take selfies. Some will even tell you about a crime that is happening nearby.
Speaking of crime, there is plenty of it in New York! While there is a good number of different types of crime, its nothing really new from what we have seen from previous open world Spider-Man games. You have the usual, bank robberies, hostage situations, car chases, drug busts etc. So there is that sense of familiarity here, and overall I would have liked to have seen something new done here. Especially as with apart from the Sable faction, the other enemy groups pretty much take part in the same type of crimes. Furthermore, you also have enemy bases that you must take down. Each enemy faction have their own bases, there are multiple of each and are in different locations on the map. There are some that are on roof tops, shipyards, factories and a few others. The repetition kicks in, as you have to go through a number of waves of attacks from the enemies to take over the base. To try to add a bit more variety, there are set of challenges that you can complete to get base tokens, which are used for upgrading your gear and unlocking suits. The challenges will be like: disarm your enemies 5 times, perform 5 perch takedowns and more. Overall, the bases are a fun distraction but I think there a few too many of them and maybe some enemy factions could have had something else of theirs that you must take down.
Along with random crimes and bases to take down, there are some collectibles scattered around the city. My favourite are the backpacks, not only do you find them in some weird and odd locations on the map. They are are totally placed in areas you expect Spidey to leave them behind in. Once you find one, there is a memento that gives you an insight to the last 8 years of his life. Some of them are quite humorous, and really give you a good look into Spider-Man and Peter Parker himself. From his first web shooter, camera, to even the restaurant menu from his first date with Mary Jane Watson. Every time I spotted one nearby, I had to go and get that backpack and discover more of Spider-Mans history. There are also research stations that are owned by Harry Osbourne, he leaves behind a voice note explaining what each station is trying to accomplish and asks Peter to help him. These I found quite fascinating, as it made a narrative sense why Peter Parker, would actually stop by each one and do whatever work was needed. The work was related to the environment, working on particular parts of the city that are a risk to the health and safety of the residents of New York. I will admit in terms of gameplay, not every task for each station was overall enjoyable. Some did a feel a bit like a chore. For example flying into clouds of polluted air to collect data, spraying vaccine into trees to remove diseases carried by birds and even clearing up waste! There were some tasks I enjoyed, like remotely controlling the Spider-bot and not every task was the same. But like I said, I did it as it gave us more background information in what Harry is getting up to, and some of them actually have a more deeper and emotional impact on him, that helps you connect to Harry more on a personal level.
There are also different challenges placed throughout the map, courtesy of the Taskmaster. These range from combat, stealth, and web swinging. They were a fun a distraction, as they can be completed in short bursts. There is plenty of interaction between Spider-Man and the Taskmaster, leading to a final show down once you complete all his challenges. There are also landmarks placed throughout the city, which you must take photos of. Doing all these optional tasks, challenges, and finding collectibles. All contribute to different tokens that you use to upgrade your suit and gadgets with, so even if you’re not a completionist there is a decent amount of incentive to complete them. Overall, there is plenty to find and do in New York city.
There are a good amount of side quests in this game, sometimes I feel like some open world games have too many and take you out of the main story. But quite a number of the ones in this game, actually provide further depth to the main plot, and story wise make sense why you would do them. Well most of them anyway, there are a couple where you think in the grand scheme of things should Spider-Man be wasting his time here. There is one particular side quest that involves a Super-Villain that hasn’t been shown, so I will leave that as a surprise. I was hoping that there would be a few which involved more characters from the Spider-Man universe, but overall I think they were done well and would recommend doing them.
Mary Jane Watson & Miles Morales
Both of these characters play quite prominent roles in the story, and their influence on Peter Parker and Spider-Man grows as you progress. But colour me surprised, where there are certain missions where you actually play as them. However, I don’t think they were really worth being playable characters if I was honest with you. When you go from swinging around the city and webbing up your enemies and pinging them up to the air, it suddenly gets very jarring when you play a character with no abilities at all. When you play as Mary-Jane and Miles, they are very basic stealth missions. Where you need to get from point A to point B or retrieve an item without being seen. Each character gets an item to distract an enemy who is in the way, but generally its just you avoiding obstacles that can make a sound, and timing when to move to the next area. All but one of the missions, I feel could have just been done via a cut scene. The one I felt which was fun and done well, is later in the game where you play as Miles. I sort of get why Insomniac added this to the game, but I just think people want to play a Spider-Man game as Spider-Man and not anyone else.
The Other Good Stuff
- Just The Fact With J.Jonah. Jameson – Frequently, these audio clips from the man himself are played in the form of a radio show. Story wise he has retired from the Daily Bugle, but he is using this show to continue his agenda against Spider-Man. Every time he comes on, you will find yourself laughing at what he has to say. From chastising his own guests, commenting on Spider-Man’s recent escapades, to shouting at his Intern. These sound bites are pure gold, and thankfully you can listen to them again from the menu screen
- Unlock-able Suits – There are so many suits on this game, and they’re not just a different skin. Each suit comes with a special ability that is unlocked once you have acquired the suit. What makes it even better, you can mix and match the ability with whichever suit you want to play with. The variety of suits are vast, really going through the history of Spider-Man.
- Playing Just As Peter Parker – I enjoyed these sections of the game, as they worked well in giving a nice change of a pace to the story. You get to know more about Peter Parker personality wise, and seeing his close relationship with Aunt May who runs a homeless shelter was heart warming to say the least. He is also working as a scientist, and there are puzzle based challenges that you can do. Some have liked them others think they were pointless. I genuinely enjoyed them, they’re not extremely challenges but more mild brain teasers and I thought they were a fun distraction. You even have to do a few, while being Spider-Man.
Is it Really a Spider-Man version of Arkham City?
I feel like that this is a question, that really doesn’t have a straight answer. But there are definitely similarities between the two, no doubt Insomniac were influenced by Rocksteady. In the Batman games, there are certain passages that you must unlock by matching a radio frequency of some kind using a gadget. In Spider-Man you must hack Police towers, by pretty much the same thing. The Taskmaster challenges are very much like the challenges Batman does in Arkham City. I stand by my comment that the combat isn’t copied, but the use of gadgets certainly are. But hey there is nothing wrong in using a success-full formula right? But apart from that, I think that is where the similarity ends. This is a Spider-Man game, where the world and game-play mechanics are all built for this character and this character only. You take Spider-Man out and replace him with another Super-Hero and it will not work. Thats what makes this game unique to the Batman Arkham games, and that is why I don’t think it should be given the label as a Spider-Man version of Arkham City.
Where the Game Can Improve
The Police Towers – I wouldn’t have them in the game at all, Spider-Man has been at the job for 8 years, so why do we need to complete these towers to unlock sections of the city on the map?
Add Something New to The Formula – The game essentially ticks all the things we expect from an Open World game. Don’t get me wrong they are done well, but I want something new here. Lets have less enemy bases and collectibles and add new side activities to the world we are playing in. We’re playing as a guy who can climb up walls and has super strength, surely there is something we can add. Batman Arkham games had detective mode and the stealth sections, Lets have something specific like that for Spidey, and speaking of stealth
Add More to the Stealth – There are certain times where you have to take out your enemies while being hidden and not being heard. They were in hostage situations, Taskmaster challenges and even at the beginning of certain enemy bases. Just like Batman’s perch takedowns, Spider-Man’s were just as satisfying. Batman’s use of gadgets for stealth were done especially well. I feel with Spider-Man’s they could have been fleshed out more. They can add more complex sections that really make more use of his powers and webbing for stealth purposes. Spider-Man isn’t bullet proof, so stealth option actually makes sense for him. I could have done with more of these. But this one I think is more of personal taste.
Don’t Introduce DLC so soon – This isn’t much of a critic towards the base game, I wrote how they should haven’t included the dlc so soon. As this meant it could have been part of the main game. Turns out that was exactly the case, there are Black Cat missions where you need to track her down by figuring out what places she is about to steal from next. By the end of it all, she ultimately gets away. But she is expected to return in the game and unfortunately it is in the form of dlc that is coming out in a few weeks! I mentioned how it would have been nice to see side characters involved in Side quests, Black Cat is certainly one of them. All you see of her, are just voice notes. It is a shame I will have to shell out at least another £10 just to meet her in the game..
Camera Could Still Do Some Work – This has been an issue in pretty much every Spider-Man game I have ever played. It is definitely an improvement over previous titles, but it still can get a bit out of control from time to time. It happens a lot when web crawling in tight areas or when your fighting a ton of enemies and your zipping from one section to another. It is not terrible, but there were enough occasions for me to notice it.
With my Spider-Man hat on, this game was amazing, spectacular, one of the best super-hero games I’ve ever played. I just loved being Spider-Man, playing as Spider-man, and going through the story and reaching its satisfying climax. I can easily recommend this game to Spider-Man fans, this is the game we have been waiting for more than 10 years now. It reached the hype for me, the wait was worth it. In one week, I completed it 100% and got my first ever platinum trophy. The game was not short by any means, I think I spent around 30 something hours of it and I wasn’t bored one bit.
Now I take off the Spider-Man hat, and I see the game more objectively. I see its flaws and shortcomings. I can’t deny that this is a by the numbers open-world game with a Spider-Man skin on it. Yes the production value and the overall quality is high, but if you have played plenty of open world games before. A lot of the stuff you have to do, will feel very familiar to you. If you’re happy with that, then great, pick up this game. If you’re looking for something new and you’re not really a Spider-Man fan or into open world games, I will say give this game a miss or wait for a sale.
Having said all that, Insomniac have a very solid base to work on for a sequel. The world is now established, the core-gameplay works well and the character of Spider-Man is ready to be explored some more. The game does end with a sequel in mind, and no doubt there will be one. Spider-Man fans like me, may enjoy more of the same. But really for the sequel to reach that critical acclaim, then it will need to do what the Arkham series did with comic book games. By revolutionising the genre, I say all this as we know how talented the people at Insomniac are. They have created a fantastic Spider-Man game, but I’m hoping the sequel will be even more creative to bring in other fans and really set the benchmark even higher for comic book games. Spider-Man fans, this is a must own game for you, and highly recommend you pick it up if you own a PS4.
So there is my review for Marvel Spider-Man , what are your thoughts on the game? Share them below, as I would love to read them!