My initial impression on booting up the highly-anticipated Marvel’s Spider-Man, the new game from
Insomniac was pure glee. The opening moments of the game put you front and center of everything and things start out
faster than I expected, and as credits rolled over a week later during my first
playthrough, I kept thinking back to that opening. If you’re wondering why that
is, well, it’s because Insomniac nailed what they set out to do and filled me
with sheer joy as the credits rolled. I was Spider-Man for a week, and
Insomniac helped me achieve that.
Over the years we’ve had some good but mostly bad Spider-Man
games, often quick cash grabs banking on a summer blockbuster release. The only
games worth mentioned include Spider-Man
2 andUltimate Spider-Man. Everything
else you cannot compare to what we’re getting with Marvel’s Spider-Man because of the amount of respect and admiration
the studio has for the property.
I had moments when playing this game where I was frustrated,
not at the game, but because I thought the controls felt cumbersome. Within an
hour though things finally clicked, and I was zipping around New York like I’d
been there for years. The legacy of Spider-Man has always been hit or miss with
video games, but I feel finally, with trust put into Insomniac, things are
finally coming into focus and allowing the iconic superhero to earn the respect
What caused my frustration was how I overthought the process of web-swinging. It’s absurdly simple: holding R2 allows Spider-Man to throw a line of web out that attaches to the nearest building and from there, you use momentum just like when swinging, to release at the top of a swing. From there, you can either web-zip by pressing X to maintain momentum or using the L2 + R2 to position a web launch that allows you to zip to whatever you’re aiming the circle reticle at. Pressing L3 one puts Spider-Man into a dive from a tall building and builds speed and holding L2 slows time down to plan maneuvers Physics plays a big part of this, as where you time your swing and when you leave your swing points Spider-Man in another direction. I was a bit upset I couldn’t master this from the start but by the end of my playthrough, I was getting across the city with speed and prowess.
That’s not all Spider-Man can do, as you’re running across a
building, you can either press Circle to turn the building, or if you’re
running up a building to the roof, you can press X to boost momentum and leap
over the building and continue swinging, the amount of work Insomniac put into
getting this very important aspect right proves they are the right studio for
this property. Moving around is fast, it’s fluid and most importantly it’s fun
when you understand the basics. Combining all the mechanics allows for cool
maneuvers across rooftops and when you get the rhythm going you’ll find yourself
being brave and trying out new combinations to get where you want to go.
Playing as Spidey also means you’ll be dealing with thugs, soldiers, and super-powered baddies. Combat may take cues from Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham series, but I find vastly improves upon them and even suits Spider-Man better. Like web-swinging, the best practice is to get the rhythm of combat down and start off with simple combos before moving to the advanced combat skills you can do. When battling, Square is your main button for dealing damage, and combos start out simple. Spider-Man is acrobatic and agile, but he can’t counter when an enemy is about to strike, instead of by using Spider-sense, you can dodge out of it and if timed perfectly can web the enemy attacking, opening them up to attack and allowing you to build your combo meter up. Environmental attacks break up crowds effectively and learning to herd enemies to these spots will prove successful if you can knock the scaffolding down or pick up a sewer cover to knock enemies away.
Also, you can use a number of
useful gadgets that prove useful including web bombs, electric webbing,
Spider-drones, trip mines, and more. By leveling up and earning various tokens
spread out throughout the city, you gain access to a multitude of gadgets by
tapping the L1 button and selecting your weapon of choice.
The Focus meter builds up by successfully completing combos,
as you fill the meter you can use it to either regenerate health of finish off
enemies with flashy finishers.
Once you master the basics, it really is up to you to piece
together the epic encounters Spider-Man is known for, by the end of the game
you can chain things together in a way you didn’t know was possible and a lot
of it is left to your imagination.
After learning the basics and playing around with combos, dodging
and gadgets, story beats eventually lead to some fantastic boss battles. With confidence, I can say Insomniac crafted some of
coolest boss encounters, each feeling different, each requiring your attention.
With that in mind, these encounters prepared me for what is the best final boss
battle I’ve had the pleasure of finishing in a video game. The last battle in Marvel’s Spider-Man outshines the
entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I never felt more like a superhero than the last hour of this game, and
I don’t know if I’ll be able to get that feeling again.
By now if you’ve followed the game, you know that you aren’t
only playing as Spider-Man but also Peter Parker who is a scientist in this
game. Most of the time you’re spent solving puzzles to get equipment upgraded,
the puzzles are like the puzzles found in BioShock,
and I thoroughly enjoyed the segments where you aren’t a superhero because they
allow you dive into the lore in new ways.
Mary Jane has her moment to shine as an investigative journalist
who works out of the Daily Bugle. Her sections are as exciting as playing as
Peter, helping push the story forward while gaining insight on many familiar
faces. There’s also one more surprise that you’ll encounter worth discovering
on your own, one that put a massive smile on my face.
Insomniac Games has crafted a satisfying and loving tribute
to one of the most recognizable superheroes
around. From the web-swinging to the slick combat, the attention to detail is delightful,
and the number of power-ups, gadgets and collectibles will keep you busy for a long
time, and the number of Spider-suits to unlock will give you the perfect shot
with photo mode. I kept my expectations at a reasonable level leading up to
release my expectations were blown away for the better. Welcome to New York, The
City That Never Sleeps.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes]