November 3, 2019 at 9:38 PM #594
Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding
The Spider-Man game I’ve always wanted
Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero growing up. When I was a kid, I remember playing the Spider-Man 2 movie game on the GameCube, which was a game that was way better than it had any right being. However, one thing that always stuck out to me about that game was how much fun I had playing it because of how good it felt to swing around New York and be Spider-Man. I’ve played some of the games in the years to follow, but none of them managed to capture that same magic of playing as Spider-Man like that game did for me. When I first saw footage for Insomniac’s new Spider-Man game, I got properly excited for a new Spider-Man game for the first time in years. Now, after playing the hell out of this game, I can definitively say that this is the best Spider-Man game we’ve gotten in years.
Insomniac’s Spider-Man game operates under the assumption that you’re familiar with the character of Spider-Man. As such, the game doesn’t bother with any kind of origin story for Spider-Man. Instead, in this game’s story, Peter Parker has been established as Spider-Man for eight years now. So, most of his villains have already been introduced in this iteration of the story, and Peter is into his adult life now. He’s supposed to be about 23 here, and is working a job as a lab assistant under Dr. Otto Octavius (who hasn’t been established as Doc Ock yet at this point). The game also explores the relationship between Peter and Mary-Jane, who in this story have dated in the past, but broke up. Now, they are trying to figure out their relationship as they work together on a new case.
The story is surprisingly amazing. It can be really hard to break new ground in long-established franchises like this, but Insomniac has created a story that feels really fresh, while also paying a lot of respect to beloved characters. To me, one of the most compelling parts of the Peter Parker/Spider-Man story has always been how he balances all of the different facets of his life, and this game never loses sight of that. It delivers a great Spider-Man story with having him up against the new villain Mister Negative, but it also never loses sight of Peter Parker’s story. In fact, the exploration of his relationship with Mary-Jane was quite possibly my favorite aspect of the whole story. It’s a story that builds meaningful relationships between its characters and makes you care about where their paths will lead next. This was definitely a well-done aspect of the game.
Now let’s talk about the gameplay. It’s become part of a cliche at this point to say how the game Â¡Â°really makes you FEEL like Spider-Man,Â¡Â± but there’s a reason why so many reviews have been saying it. One of the most impressive feats of the game is just how well it nails down that feel. From the moment you start playing, you’ll be able to freely swing through the city, and this movement just feels incredible. You’re allowed to swing and zip around anywhere from the start, and I found that often times I’d enjoy simply swinging around for the hell of it. I didn’t even have to be doing anything particular, I just liked the feeling of swinging around, which I feel is essential for a Spider-Man game.
Then there’s the combat. This also just feels fantastic. It’s admittedly a bit harder to get the hang of than regular movement, but it never felt overwhelming. After an initial onslaught of moves, further combos and things are introduced little by little, and they’re often pretty meaningful and fun additions. The thing that I found so impressive about the combat is that there are so many different options, and yet I never felt like I didn’t know how to do what I wanted to do. In some games, you also find that you just want to mash one or two moves over and over, but with Spider-Man I found that I often enjoyed switching it up between many different moves, and that different moves would lend themselves best to different situations. It also felt really balanced and natural, so the combat system is just overall very impressive.
In-game progression also feels very fluid and well-implemented. In Spider-Man, you’ll gain XP after every mission or fight. This XP is used to level up Spider-Man, and with each level comes new options. Generally, you’ll have new skills, gadgets, suit upgrades, and suits (with each bringing a new suit ability) to unlock with each level. Unlike other modern games that make you grind for rewards or else submit to paying extra money for them (by the way, Spider-Man has no microtransactions, thank God), Spider-Man has a leveling and reward system that feels…well, rewarding. I always looked forward to what I’d be obtaining next, and it made the game stay fresh and interesting for its entire duration.
Surprisingly, the game has more than one playable character. You’ll obviously spend most of your time playing as Spider-Man, but during certain missions you also play as Peter, Mary-Jane, and Miles Morales. Peter’s sections generally involve some sort of puzzles to complete, which usually come in the form of circuit boards or spectographs, given that he’s a scientist. Then, with Mary-Jane and Miles, you’ll be completing stealth sections where you have to sneak past enemies. Playing as other characters was actually much more fun than I was expecting, and it ends up adding a lot of diversity to the game.
I’d also like to briefly mention boss fights. There aren’t that many in the game, so I do wish there would have been more, but the ones that are there are pretty fun. Basically, you have two boss fights towards the beginning of the game, nothing at really in the middle, and then four or so in the final act of the game. I felt like this was a bit uneven, so it affects the pacing slightly, but luckily the story is strong enough otherwise to make up for it in other spots. Still, a Â¡Â°complaintÂ¡Â± I have is that I liked the boss fights so much that it would have been nice to have a few more.
In terms of gameplay, the last thing I really want to mention are things that you do in the game. So, you have your main missions and everything, but then there are also a litter of side activities that cover the in-game map. Some of these are simply collectibles, but you’ll also find some other activities like criminal hideouts where you’ll defeat waves of enemies, or challenges where you’ll have to do things like defeating a number of enemies without being spotted. Some of these side activities can be interesting and diverse, but after playing through a lot of them they can feel pretty overblown and repetitive.
This is probably my biggest criticism of Marvel’s Spider-Man. If you’re not going for completion then this won’t affect you much, but if you are then the side activities can start to feel like a chore after a while. It isn’t nearly as big of a problem as it is in other open-world games where icons litter the in-game map, but it definitely could have used a little bit of trimming here too. I think that biggest perpetrator of this problem is the random crimes that pop up on the map. If you’re going for completion, then you’ll have to complete about 10-20 random crimes in each of the game’s 9 districts (so, you do the math), and this winds up getting really old after a while. I think that if they limited it to even about 5-10 crimes per district, it would have been a lot easier to digest all of the game’s side content. In a game that’s otherwise really fun, the side stuff can drag down the experience a bit.
As for the rest of the game…well, it’s great. The game looks beautiful, with the Spider-Man characters looking as realistic as they ever have in a video game. The game runs pretty well, with the entire map being loaded up without any kind of real slow-down. In terms of performance, the only problems I really ran into were falling through the map a few times, but this only happened two or three times in my entire time of playing.
The game also sounds fantastic. The title theme swells up as soon as you start the game, and it immediately gets you in the mood. The rest of the soundtrack doesn’t disappoint either, with some really memorable and atmospheric music. It was the kind of soundtrack that I thought was so good that I listened to it outside of the game. The voice acting also impressed, as it breathed new life into characters that I’ve been familiar with my whole life and gave some emotional heft to the story.
A big question people always wind up asking is how many hours you’re going to get out of the game. This is typically a complicated question because it depends what you want out of the game. If you just want to play the story, you’re looking at about a 10-15 hour game, depending on your play style. I went for 100% completion and got the platinum, so for me I got just over 30 hours from the game. If you’re looking for a 100 hour game then you won’t find it here, but I don’t think that would have been good for a game like this anyway. I personally think some of the side stuff should have been cut, so 30 hours was cutting it close for me with what I wanted from the game’s length. Aside from if you want to play through the game again or play the DLC, I don’t necessarily see any reason to keep playing the game after you beat it, but I certainly enjoyed my time with Marvel’s Spider-Man.
It can be very difficult to nail a licensed property in a video game, but Insomniac definitely delivered with their Spider-Man game here. This is a property that’s near and dear to my heart, and so I’ve always hoped for a video game that could do the character justice like the Arkham series did for Batman. It took many years, but Marvel’s Spider-Man is definitely that game. It may have a few problems that could be polished out in a sequel, but this is the best Spider-Man game I’ve seen in years. I definitely recommend this to any Spider-Man fan, but it’s a good game for people that just want a good action game in general.
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