One of the greatest challenges is being more than just a license. Batman’s Arkham series showed us it’s possible, but most games fall apart due to hype. This is the core issue with Marvel’s Spider-Man. With a proven developer, solid graphics and impressive gameplay, it’s hard not to be excited. However, even though Spider-Man has these things going for it, will it achieve everything fans are hoping for or will it go down as the biggest flop of the year?
Spider-Man starts by making the wise decision to start eight years after Peter learns about his power and ultimately becomes Spider-Man. This allows the story to focus on important things, leaving players with about two main plots and three subplots. That being said, Insomniac Games does a fantastic job of addressing issues commonly seen prequels.
Since players already know where these stories will inevitably lead, there is no need for exposition and they can slowly work their way there. This, unfortunately, makes the story bottom heavy, but the eventual payoff is more than worth the wait.
In addition to having a fantastic story, Spider-Man manages to capture what it means to be Web Slinger himself. First and foremost, Spider-Man has a fantastic array of moves that makes even the simplest actions look impressive. Instead of simply dodging to a side or jumping back, Spider-Man will leap over or under an aggressor or if you dodge at the right time, something you can tell by the spectacular use of spider-sense, launch a counterattack web to disorient them.
Over time Spider-Man will gain the ability to grab weapons, throw, launch and use a wide array of web based attacks. What stands out isn’t his ability to fight, as much as the importance of finishing enemies without beating them up. Surprisingly, the best way to beat foes is to either web them and then throw them at an object or do so immediately after. Those looking for a bit more flash can use well placed attacks to quickly defeat foes.
Traps can defeat two foes if placed correctly and I’ve defeated a whole room of enemies by shooting a bomb in the middle and using the air blast to shoot them at a wall. These clever mechanics make the experience so much more than an endless stream of melee attacks and dodges.
Best of all, certain enemies counter specific tactics, forcing players to think outside the box. For instance, large enemies are hard to beat up, so I would cover them in web and then throw them at a wall. If I missed, simply shoot them with another web and that should defeat them. With flying, shields, melee and all kinds of ranged weapons, you’ll need a wide array of tactics to survive.
Outside of combat is a large world to explore. This is best done through web-slinging, which is remarkably intuitive and well thought out. Players can either choose to release or allow it to do it automatically, with your trajectory changing based off where your web lands. So if you hit a building on the far right, you’ll have to deal with the physics associated with your web being there. In addition to swinging, Spider-Man can also launch himself, allowing players to maintain momentum, height or just control things. To further this, any spot with a white circle can be launched to, with the ability to immediately leap off of, leading to one of the most fluid and delightful experiences you could expect.
Throughout the city there is also a wide array of things to find. These range from pigeons to black cats, forcing players to accomplish a variety of challenges. Black cats ask players to find the location Black Cat just hit, pigeons are races, research labs utilize different mechanics to better the world and Taskmaster has plenty of challenges to force you to get better. All these items are, for better or worst, located on the map, so the only issue is figuring out how to do them.
Your reward for completing these tasks are tokens, which can be redeemed for enhanced web attacks, new costumes and costume abilities. Web attacks range from new moves to simply adding another charge before running out. It makes it easier to survive or dominate foes, without changing much. Costumes have unique abilities, which become customizable after unlocking, with a good number of designs. As for costume abilities, these will enhance a number of mechanics, ranging from less damage from bullets to more focus energy. Having the right build is essential to making it out alive.
Part of what makes Spider-Man such a thrilling experience is the cinematic feel. Players don’t simply stop a car, they jump on it, perform a QTE and then have to stop it. Similar things can be said for a wide variety of things, all of which look stunning. From blasts to the actual design of the city, it’s clear a lot of thought went into the world and it makes for an experience well worth exploring. Even small aspects, such as webs or landmarks, look detailed enough to be wowed.
Marvel’s Spider-Man isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t stop it from being a fantastic experience. The story takes a while to get going but the end is more than worth the wait. Add in a fun, fluid and flashy combat system and it makes for a delightful journey. Sure, at times it drags, like during the forced stealth sections, but these are not enough to ruin the experience. Between all these things, fantastic graphics, a good selection of costumes and more, I can not suggest Marvel’s Spider-Man enough. Even if you’re like me and not the biggest Spider-Man fan, it’s a good enough experience to make it worth your time.
[Editor’s Note: Marvel’s Spider-Man was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]