Every now and again, a game developer offers a marvel (pun intended). Insomniac Games have teased us for so long but finally, Spider-Man has returned to us in this action packed cinematic adventure on PS4. So we wanted to share some of our thoughts on the latest superhero story to hit the console market. Please note that there are minor plot spoilers during this review, however all major ‘events’ have been avoided as best as possible and that all images are taken by myself in photo mode.
I will get around to commenting on the graphics, design and mechanics, but it’s probably best to start off with our cast. Peter Parker, while a smart young man, is not exactly the most punctual. That’s probably because he’s off fighting crime rather than turning up to work or paying his bills on time. It isn’t easy being a superhero. Having said that, he is not one for holding back and throws himself into fights against super villains and gangs to try and keep the people of New York safe. Of course, it’s safe to say that he is a caring person looking out for his employer, Dr Octavius, his Aunt May or MJ (because it wouldn’t be Spider-Man without MJ) along with the citizens of the city. The first thing that I like about this game is that it isn’t an origins story. It’s a continuation of what has come before but encapsulates the familiar stories that the Marvel Universe has created. It focuses on Peter the scientist rather than Peter, that guy who was bitten by a spider and has super powers. Spider-Man is already well established in New York as a result of this narrative which is nice as you swing passed citizens who are excited to see him or get a picture showing his popularity in the city. I personally like this version of Peter Parker. He feels well written and very well performed, maintaining the right balance of humour through his jokes and concern for the city he lives in.
The supporting cast also portray their characters very well. You can tell that they did because I became emotionally engaged in the story, probably more so than with the movies in all honesty. The performances of the cast are great and really help build the story up. To spoil things a little, I loved the fact that you had an opportunity to play MJ and Miles a couple of times throughout the games. It was a nice break from being Spider-Man without leaving you feeling frustrated that you were being forced to play someone else for a spell. I also liked the additional difficultly these sections offered as you had to approach things in a different way.
Without spoiling anything, I really enjoyed the story. As previously mentioned, I think this was mainly down to this not being an origins story as we have had a few Spider-Man movies that covered off those angles and after all, we all know that everyone wants to get stuck in and swing around New York city while beating people up. The story builds on the well-known bad guys that Spider-Man has been involved with offering a fun and interesting narrative to follow as you work your way through the game. It felt well-paced and as a gamer who has limited time to actually sit and play through story driven games due to how many come out at once, the length suited me and was achievable in a weekend of 15-20 hours of play time (I will note that at the time of writing this, I still have side missions and some of the challenges but finished with 86% completion). I really hope people do enjoy the story, appreciating it for what it is and of course, there are more stories to come with the DLC.
So let’s get down to the gameplay. I hear you cry ‘Is it really like the Batman Arkham games?’ and the answer is that in some ways yes, it is similar but it also feels different. I could spend hours upon hours swinging around New York City, beating up bad guys and helping people but also just to capture some amazing images in the photo mode! The swinging mechanic feels smooth as you fire your web to give yourself a boost before doing one long swing resulting in what looks to be an effortless somersault before diving down to build up speed and swinging again. Occasionally I would accidentally run into a wall only for Spider-Man to do a transition or run up the wall without breaking his stride. Sometimes I found that I couldn’t get Spider-Man to do what I wanted, such as landing somewhere specific. It usually ended up with me inadvertently jumping off the roof again and trying to get back to where I wanted to be only to miss and go flying off somewhere. Eventually I found that simply pressing either L2 and R2 at a ledge or L2 and R1 if hovering above a particular spot would get me to where I wanted to be all being well.
The webs also work well in combat and with gadgets to unlock that offer some throwables to aid in times of need. On my play through, I tried to utilise as many as possible meanwhile Kuniku didn’t use many if any during his time playing. They aren’t necessary but at times when the enemies just keep on coming, a well placed gadget can give you enough of a chance to beat up a couple of folks while the others are distracted, electrified or just webbed up. The combat is fun but also challenging at time as a number of enemies attack you at once or shoot at you with various weapons meaning you’ll have to master your dodging skills pretty quickly. Even the first major fight feels hard as you’ve only had a short warm up with the various different bad guys you’ll be putting the hurt on over the course of the game. I liked that I got my butt handed to me a few times and ended up rag dolling as it made me think about the fight rather than just hoping that a well timed dodge would make me invincible. These bad guys take a fair few hits to get knocked down so I took to trying to hit people towards walls or just knock them to the ground so I could web them there and carry on with my day.
There are a lot of opportunities to get used to the combat mechanics as you’ll get to try and stop crimes all over the city when you are in proximity. Whether it’s stopping stolen cars, a robbery, a mugging or a drug deal, you’ll have the chance to beat up thugs and save the day while trying to complete some additional objectives for bonus tokens. Speaking of tokens, there’s a fair amount of stuff to keep you occupied as Spider-Man. Not only the crimes, but there will be other challenges, side missions, research stations to complete along with landmarks to photograph and trusty forgotten backpacks to grab. While a lot of side quests can feel like a chore for trophies or just 100% completion, I felt that there was the right amount of stuff to do. I didn’t feel overwhelmed or too pressured to complete everything before finishing the story except in cases when I wanted to unlock a particular thing (which I will come back to) and in a way, you didn’t feel like you couldn’t finish everything. Crimes do occasionally get a touch frustrating as you finish one and swing off towards another objective only for another crime to be going on which takes you off your path. Luckily, these encounters don’t tend to last long but as a good citizen, I did feel obligated to try and do every one that popped up. At the time of writing I still have some challenges and bases outstanding which I aim to finish at some point in the near future as a way of making the game last longer and give me more reason to go back especially with the upcoming DLC stories and the news that the devs are working on a New Game Plus mode. The bases are the toughest of the challenges in my opinion, these feature waves of enemies that come at you from all sides and unleash a barrage of beat down on you. I found it hard at times and would end up dead which would seem to always happen during the last wave meaning you would have to start again. I do enjoy them though as it really can test your combat skills.
Now I have mentioned gadgets, but I haven’t said much about the suit… and by that I mean suits. The game offers a variety of cool and also fun suits which you can unlock and switch between equipping a couple of upgrades and a suit power that will help you out on your excursions. Not only do the suits provide great photo mode opportunities but some of the powers are fun and a little crazy. As healing and your suit power rely on you building up Spider-Man’s combat focus, I would highly recommend equipping your suit with things that help you build focus in order to keep yourself topped up. While you can unlock tricks that you can perform to build up focus in a pinch, you have to bail on a fight momentarily to catch your breath. So it’s worth investing some resources to unlock and equip the items that will help keep that focus for when all Hell’s Kitchen breaks loose. The suits unlock when you finish particular story lines or when you hit a particular level. You’ll usually need tokens to unlock these for use which you will get by completing the side missions across the map. I wouldn’t say it’s essential to unlock everything straight away so I ended up picking which suit I wanted to aim to unlock and would go out and do the things I needed to do to get it. I do want to go back and unlock them all though because I want those trophies and the cool suits.
Graphically, the game is pretty stunning. New York looks incredible and the attention to detail of where things are in the real world but also fitting in aspects of the Marvel Universe is just great and a real treat for players. I would say that the motion capture of the cast is also impressive and the cut scenes really do give that cinematic feel that draws you into the story. Occasionally an NPC would bug out a bit which would be a touch distracting but I expect that the citizens of the city wouldn’t be 100% as it’s unlikely you’ll spend more than a few moments on the ground before you’re swinging around again. The added touch of photographing landmarks was a great addition as it not only encouraged you to have some fun with it, but for those of us who are a sucker for a photo mode, it offers up some incredible opportunities for unique and stunning images to share with the community. Now I’ve finished the story, I fully intend on going back just to take more time enjoying photo mode and try and take on the likes of my friends who take incredible images in these photo modes. I also loved the way the music would change when you were airborne as it felt heroic and exciting as you headed off on and it also acts as a great soundtrack as you delightfully squeal ‘weeeeeeeeeeeee’ or ‘yeeeeeehaaaaaa’ while you swing around. It’s such a great detail to include and made me appreciate the thought and care taken in making this game the best it can be. Other than encountering a couple of buggy NPCs, the graphics and music are spot on. Another aspect that was simple and not in the way of the stunning graphics was the HUD which looks to have been streamlined as much as possible offering a map, your gadget status and your health/focus bars. These are unobtrusive and well designed to suit the Spidey-Suit style HUD we would have come to expect from the most recent films in which Spider-Man features.
At this stage, I don’t feel like I can really say much more except if you are a Marvel fan and have a PS4 then you definitely need this game. Insomniac Games really have created a great title here and I can see many people going back just to swing around and have some fun even when all of the story is said and done. It’s an engaging story and encapsulates so many Marvel memories that are bound to give you smiles. For those of you without a PS4, the titles on offer this year have been amazing and Spider-Man is certainly one to consider as your main reason to pick the console up… plus the Spider-Man PS4 Pro is pretty and boy do I wish I could have had one! The City That Never Sleeps DLC will be coming soon and I hope to jump back into the action soon so I can get some more photos like the ones I have featured in this review.