The moment Sony announced that an exclusive modern take on Spider-Man was coming to PS4 in 2018 I was already excited and a little nervous for it. With the Arkham series for now at least, finished there have been little comic book games other than the Injustice series who have stepped up to deliver that super-hero experience. But when you have Insomniac Games developing your Spider-Man title the hope and expectations were huge. Happily, and without hesitation I can say that MARVEL’s Spider-Man not only learned valuable lessons from the work of Rocksteady Studios the with Arkham series, but they have delivered for me the close to perfect video game for our friendly neighbourhood wall crawler.
What Insomniac Games has managed to pull off with this game is quite simply outstanding from the gameplay to the story and just every little detail that were clearly and painstakingly worked on to deliver the ultimate Spider-Man experience. It should also be pointed out that this is very much Insomniac’s take on the Spider-Verse and the many characters and villains that Spidey has to interact with. What I really appreciated most was how this is a Spider-Man who has been a superhero for years, he is experienced in what he does and instead of being bogged down by attempting to retell the origin story which every single MARVEL comic book fan knows, we leap right into the action as we see Peter Parker awoken by a police alert on his phone about the raid about to happen to take down The Kingpin Wilson Fisk. By starting out with a quick look at Peter Parker’s normal start is just a great way to introduce players very quickly to his world, as he grabs some toast, picks up his mask that he has been tinkering with right before he puts on the classic Spider-Man suit we all know just as he leaps from his apartment window and starts to web sling towards the Fisk Tower to join the Police raid.
The moment the game so smoothly transitions from the opening cutscene into actual gameplay is just sublime and to have the player take control just as Spidey begins to web sling was just genius as it is perhaps the most iconic thing players are looking to do in the game. What is so impressive about the web slinging is just how immersive it alone is in the game as you fluidly web sling through buildings and famous landmarks in New York and it just instantly makes you feel about as Spider-Man as you can at that point. The sheer feeling of momentum is the real magic behind the web slinging with such speed and you swoop through buildings helped along by fabulous sound effects and music such as the noise of the traffic if you swing low enough to just the musical score when you are swinging above the rooftops and skyscrapers.
In fact, the whole opening thirty minutes of prologue action is perhaps one of the finest tutorial sections to any game in recent years as its so beautiful woven into the story itself that it almost does not feel like a tutorial as all the fundamentals and basics to the gameplay from the combat, to traversing as Spidey to how QTE moments. Throughout the fighting and especially when taking down Fisk down you get a really great insight into Peter Parker and the writing for his dialogue has nailed his witty comebacks and humour throughout the rest of the game. It is such a superb and fun opening to the game that sets the scene for everything else to come.
One of the biggest surprises I felt came in the form of just how much freedom players have right from the very start in terms of just going off and doing your own thing at your own pace. Main story missions are highlighted on the map and on-screen hub but at no time is the player pressured into racing to start it. Instead the whole of New York is open for the player to explore and the city feels like a city as it is a huge playground to be in. The city itself is broken up into different sections and all have their own side objectives to complete throughout the entire story campaign and the side objectives are so well designed as well. Right away after completing the prologue I spent the next six hours completing all the available side objectives such as collecting all Peter’s backpacks that dotted all over New York and helping to stop crimes in progress from muggings and kidnappings to armed robberies. The abundance of side things to do is a great way to learn and discover the city but such attention has been put into the design of the city that it very much the MARVEL’s New York City as you will discover as you complete the landmark photographs activities and start noticing some rather famous MARVEL universe locations within the game. Just as with the story I am choosing not to spoil as little as possible but trust that looking at every item in the backpacks you find and the locations you are asked to photograph will literally blow your mind as a MARVEL Comics fan.
Along with the web-slinging, Spidey’s other powers really come into play so brilliantly with the combat which before I finally got my hands-on release day, was something I was a little uncertain about. The best way to really describe it would be his powers are very much a big and natural part of his combat which is then enhanced further by the web-gadgets which are unlocked and upgraded during campaign progress. We are talking web trip mines which will instantly stick an enemy to a wall or other enemy to impact webbing that can stick an enemy to a wall and web bombs which will web up all enemies in range. The ability to use Spider sense as well to dodge attacks and gunfire just becomes so instinctive and is animated so well that everything you do in combat when being attacked by multiple enemies is thrilling. Combining his web gadgets with his powers never becomes repetitive and though you upgrade gadgets more through out the campaign, no fight will feel too easy as enemies become stronger and tougher as well.
The sheer amount of content in the game in and around the main story itself is quite frankly staggering and it is a testament to Insomniac Games that their base game has so much for players to enjoy and sink their teeth into from the main story to side objectives to the collectibles and even the secret stuff. Everything you do is about having the best superhero and Spider-man gaming experience you can have. Even the trophies are designed to reward you for just playing the game and where other games would force players to get perfect scores in challenges which can be infuriating and progression halting but it is very possible to earn the Platinum trophy by the time you finish the main story if you take the time to do everything available as you go along. Now this does not mean trophies are just handed to you and you will have to put some real effort into get them but the sensation that this game just wants you to have the best time you have is why is works so incredibly well.
Just knowing that the plan is to release three more pieces of story content in the form of ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ expansion pass has riles some people but having put over thirty hours into this game already and still finding more secrets to uncover and things to do the base game post platinum trophy and 100% the game has ben returning to it just for fun means any extra content especially content that is being reduced over the next few months is all completely worth it in my eyes and is something look forward too with new missions, costumes and no doubt more secrets to find. Speaking of costumes other than the three pre-order costumes, all others in the game are unlocked via gameplay which is a rare and very old school way of rewarding players for playing the game as well as the serious fan choices in costumes to wear depending on which you prefer. Personally, I love the new look suit with the white Spider but you can have an abundance of choice from costumes taken from the comics to the full range of the current MCU Spider-Man costumes with the Iron Spider from Avengers: Infinity War as well as the Spider-Man: Home Coming suit and even his homemade one from the same film. I cannot stress enough just how satisfying everything about this game is from the point of being a gamer, a MARVEL Comic book and as a Spider-Man nerd.
Now I do feel that there is a need to get the elephant in the room out the way which are the comparisons to the above mentioned Arkham series. Quite frankly for me the Arkham series is the benchmark for all action adventure-based video games based on a comic book character and as it is the benchmark it will be natural to not only compare all other games to the series but also to see its own systems and gameplay inspire similar ones in other games, hell even the Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor/War games based their combat systems on the successful one in Arkham, so when comparing Spider-Man to Arkham, it is not an injustice nor an insult to do so or to comment when indeed MARVEL’s Spider-Man manages to improve on what may feel like a familiar gameplay style or system. But the way in which Insomniac Games has made this their own version of Spider-Man is a credit to their hard work and passion because knowing the Spidey-verse as well as I do, I not only applaud them for what they did so far but knowing what they have planned to come as well as the potential going forward makes so very much excited to see what they can do next and they should be allowed to do everything they feel they can following this game.
MARVEL’s Spider-Man is close to flawless for me in so many ways and it has easily surpassed all expectations I had going into this title. I lost myself in the New York City the game invited me to explore and as a comic book nerd every take on all the characters I know so well from Aunt May to even the Rhino felt new and fresh and not some carbon copy from a comic book story I have read. The way Insomniac Games approached this is so clearly from a place of love and passion for Spider-Man and MARVEL worlds that you come away from a session with the game with that feeling of admiration for what they have accomplished here. The very fact I am still gushing about how good this game is having completed it with Platinum Trophy obtained and I am still returning to spend time as Spider-Man in this game really is a testament of how if you pardon the pun, amazing this Spider-Man game is.
Nostalgia for great Spider-Man games of the past combined with the shadow of the success in the Arkham Series placed a lot of pressure on the game to deliver not to mention the high expectations of fans. This game nails everything fans wanted and did so by giving everything players could want in such a game and even then, still managed to go above and beyond and provide extra things. Superb voice actors bring a new and invigorating take to well known characters in a story that works hard into bringing players into its world that the moments when you switch from Peter Parker to another character never feels like an intrusion.
This truly is the best Spider-Man game for the webslinger and I am already chomping at the bit to see what comes next for it just six days since release. If you are still on the fence about this game, and sales figures and chart places across different countries suggest that is a rare thing right now, but do yourself a favour and buy this game. This year for PlayStation exclusives has just been off the chain with God of War, Ni No Kuni 2 and Yakuza 6 all battling for my own person Game of the Year, Spider-Man has webbed all of them up and truly pipped them right now.
Not even James Jonah Jameson himself could argue against how vital it is to have this friendly neighbourhood hero in your console right now.