The fragile, bustling city of New York has had an arachnid-based protector for about eight years now. Spider-Man has taken the mantle as the city’s guardian and will stop at nothing to ensure that the citizens, and his loved ones, are safe from harm. However, our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man must take on his biggest challenge yet – his personal life.
Insomniac’s vision for Spider-Man takes an incredibly bold direction from any other Spider-Man release, as it hones in on the human nature of Peter Parker and the characters around him.
Peter has had a full eight years of being the webhead, and would appear that he just can’t grasp the concept of being a functioning member of society. Spider-Man removes itself from the traditional narrative of a Spider-Man game that established its name in the first place. Instead, developer Insomniac has chosen to tell a more personal story, emphasizing Peter’s difficult life choices, keeping his secret safe, and concentrating on the chemistry between Peter and his loved ones.
While the story doesn’t shy away from the action associated with the web-crawler, the narrative pays more attention to the various characters’ arcs throughout the game. Peter Parker is constantly thrown into situations in which he has to walk a moral tightrope, balancing choices between enriching his personal life, or protecting the city. This beautifully told narrative reflects on his relationship with others, as it is depicted in an accurate, yet wonderfully imagined, true-to-life manner, leaving you with tugged heartstrings through almost every encounter. Leaving a mission and swinging around the city often leaves you with food for thought, and sometimes, smiling at just how heart-warming some interactions can be. No matter how many action sequences I went through, I often found myself in awe of just how humanized the characters were, and how beautifully they came across in their personalities. There is not a single character throughout the game that I couldn’t relate to, and every relationship felt just as important as the others. Insomniac did a wonderful job at developing the side characters throughout the game, leaving you caring for them just as much as you would for Peter Parker.
There is not a single character throughout the game that I couldn’t relate to, and every relationship felt just as important as the others.
When it comes to New York, Insomniac doesn’t do anything to reinvent the wheel with regards to the open-world layout. However, the map is immaculately designed to deliver the one aspect of Spider-Man that turned me into a borderline addict through this entire experience – the web swinging.
Spider-Man’s gravity-defying traversal method has always been an enigma in previous games, being only closely perfected by Treyarch’s Spider-Man 2. Well, the title that Treyarch has held for all these years has to go to the new kid on the block. Marvel’s Spider-Man encapsulates speed and momentum to an almost mind-bending degree. Sometimes, I found myself forgetful of the missions simply because I wanted to summit the tallest building and gracefully see how quickly I could fall before web-swinging to safety.
The momentum and all-out fun from the web-swinging trickles its way down to the combat, and boy does it feel good. The combat is time-based, requiring you to dodge and weave your way through your opponents in an almost theatrical manner, and evolves as you progress throughout the game. The gadgets on offer – and there are many – do a good job of breaking the monotony of enemy waves, allowing you to mix-up combos and control the battlefield in a way that constantly disorientates the opponents. Through three various skill trees, you can unlock abilities that cater to your play style. However, you will be able to unlock all abilities by the end of your play-through, so Spider-Man never feels underpowered.
Insomniac kept me on my toes by peppering in special enemies as I progressed through the story. Enemies with guns, stun rods, laser-whips, and body-building behemoths have to all be dealt with in specific ways. Before just engaging in combat, I would constantly need to assess threats and try to handle the situations like Spider-Man would (emphasis on the “try”). I’m not a master of stealth, so more often than not, I found myself bringing the hammer down on enemies in an all-out brawl. The combat really feels fluid, and even after 20 hours in, I never felt fatigued when fighting the great variety of enemies.
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I walked into every situation feeling like I could always overcome the odds, and that confidence-inspiring aspect was highly addictive. What Spider-Man makes up for in its combat, it lacks heavily in its boss battles. Once you have figured a boss’ pattern, the fights felt way too easy and lacked any sort of challenge. Keep in mind that my play-through was done on the recommended difficulty. That being said, only two incredible boss fights stood out throughout the entire game and that left me wanting more.
The combat really feels fluid, and even after 20 hours in, I never felt fatigued when fighting the great variety of enemies.
This may be heavily influenced by the fact that we have seen a lot more of the game before launch than we desired, but the repetitive nature of certain boss fights left me underwhelmed. This isn’t helped by the fact that the story in itself is quite short and side missions don’t live up to the bar set by the wonderfully told narrative. Despite these shortcomings, though, the narrative is masterfully written and does more than enough to allow Spider-Man to shine through these setbacks.
Not to make waves out of puddles, but Insomniac Games has created a visually striking Spider-Man game. It really comes to life when played on a PS4 Pro, as the visuals on the higher resolution breathe life into the city and truly showcases the staggering attention to detail. The attention to detail by Insomniac is phenomenal. When crawling alongside a building, the inner rooms are procedurally generated, creating an almost living world for Spidey to swing through. With citizens constantly having places to be, and crimes are procedurally generated, the city never felt like it was stagnating; giving meaning to the phrase “the city that never sleeps”. That being said, the game is extremely well polished and ran at a consistent 30fps, but the minor improvements on the Pro added a greater sense of immersion.
It really comes to life when played on a PS4 Pro, as the visuals on the higher resolution breathe life into the city and truly showcases the staggering attention to detail.
The sound design and soundtrack is immaculate, from the way your webbing sounds as you glide through the air, to the minor details of people talking on rooftop buildings. The background music takes a few notes from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and that idea is further influenced by the Easter eggs left throughout the game. You can clearly hear that composer John Paesano was influenced heavily by Danny Elfman when composing the score for Spider-Man.
The voice acting really makes a lot of the heart-warming scenes believable and deserves its fair share of praise. Voice actor Yuri Lowenthal manages to go from a quippy, brimming with confidence Spider-man to a vulnerable, disorientated Peter Parker in a matter of seconds, while Laura Bailey drives home the impact of Spider-Man’s duties on her and Peter’s relationship as Mary Jane.
Spider-Man has really taken strides to put it above any other Spider-Man game that has come before it. While some boss fights are underwhelming, Insomniac Games does a wonderful job of throwing you into Peter Parker’s world. Spider-Man takes you on a journey that shows you the importance of being a hero, while humanizing Peter Parker to constantly tug at your heart-strings. It’s a Spider-Man experience like nothing we have seen in the movies and games that have come before, with a Peter Parker that spins a web to your heart.
Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4)
Marvel’s Spider-Man is reimagined in a wonderful manner, emphasizing more on the life and story of Peter Parker, while quenching your need for amazing Spider-Man action.