Spider-Man makes his return to video games in this PS4 exclusive. Find out what we thought in our Marvel’s Spider-Man Review!
It’s tough to make a super-hero game. I mean, it probably shouldn’t be but, let’s be honest, there haven’t been many triple-A super-hero titles over the past 20-30 years. It seems like it wasn’t until Batman: Arkham Asylum that people started seeing the potential of super-hero video games and how great they can truly be if given to the right developer. The same has happened with Spider-Man with many decent titles across the past few generations, but nothing that has truly stood out until now with Marvel’s Spider-Man on the PS4 in a game that captures everything the makes Spider-Man such a beloved super-hero with a few too many open-world activities.
One of the biggest aspects of playing as Spider-Man is swinging through New York and Insomniac really nailed the swinging mechanics in this Marvel’s Spider-Man. It’s pretty easy to get right into the swing of things (see what I did there?) and traverse across the city with a great sense of speed and accuracy. I was really impressed with the transitions the most. You can jump into a swing, roll out of a swing, corner a building, quickly use a web zip, and drop into a wall run with very little effort. It all feels so organic and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had just moving around a map in a video game. I spent the first 30 minutes of the game just jumping off buildings and swinging around because of how much fun I was having. I really appreciated how there weren’t many dead zones in the city. There’s always something to sling your web off of which hasn’t always been the case in Spider-Man games from other developers.
New York itself is beautiful to swing around in. There are tons of skyscrapers to perch atop of and sling webs off of. It’s not a complete recreation of the city, but most of the recognizable landmarks are included. There are even things like the Radio City Music Hall and the Avengers Tower which were cool to see and not completely expected. It was amazing to sit on top of a building at sunset and look at the boats going down the river. and see the sun glisten off the water. It’s some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in a video game and I couldn’t have asked for a much better NYC.
As much freedom as you’re given in the outside world, Spider-Man’s indoor locations are equally as fun to play. A lot of the main story missions take place in big interior spaces that give you a lot of freedom to map out how you want to complete them. The general idea of most of them is that they’re stealth missions where you’re trying to take out all the enemies as quietly as possible. I really enjoyed these scenarios as I had the ability to use all of the tools at my disposal in any way I saw fit. Sometimes I’d wrap an enemy up in a web and attach him to a post, other times I’d hit a quick web-strike to take one out. If things went wrong, sometimes I’d even pull a scaffold down on a couple of unsuspecting enemies for a couple quick takedowns. I especially liked the instances where I was able to crawl through vents and pull them back up through the vent and stick them to the ceiling. No matter how many times I did these scenarios, no two were ever completely the same and the different types of enemies like brutes and rocket launching enemies kept me on my toes.
The combat is much more than just a couple moves. You’ll be fighting enemies early and often in Marvel’s Spider-Man and Insomniac has made sure that you have enough moves and gadgets at your disposal to take down even the toughest enemies. The game is a bit slow at developing your skills and I spent the bulk of the first act just hitting and dodging enemies while occasionally webbing them up. I didn’t even use the web that much because it ran out of shots and had to recharge quite quickly before being upgraded. Of course, there ends up being much more to combat than just that.
There are a bunch of gadgets to obtain that help you get rid of those pesky enemies faster and more efficiently. You can upgrade your web-shooters to shoot more times before a recharge and even an impact web that shoots a bigger web that can wrap enemies up on a wall in one shot. I was using trip mines to stick enemies to the wall, a spider drone to provide suppressive fire, and web bombs to web up large groups of enemies (which made open world tasks much more bearable). There is even a concussive blast that knocks enemies away from you and a suspension matrix that suspends them in the air. They’re kind of strange abilities for Spider-Man to have but I can forgive that for the sake of fun. Beyond gadgets, there’s also a skill tree that gives Spider-Man new moves like the ability to take guns away from enemies, throw rockets back at launchers, kick an enemy from the air, and even a ground slam to knock back a bunch of enemies at once to name a few.
If all of that wasn’t enough, there are also a bunch of suits to unlock in Marvel’s Spider-Man and each one comes with a new ability. I’ve always liked more of the traditional spidey suits, so I never care too much about having a bunch of suits but I was impressed with the selection in the game. You have everything from the basic suit to Spider-Man 2099 to a cel-shaded animated Spider-Man which is easily my favourite. That’s not even counting the DLC costumes and the brand-new “Raimi” suit from the mid-2000s Spider-Man movies. The great thing is that all of these suits come with abilities that can be swapped between costumes. If you like one look aesthetically but don’t want the ability, swap it out. Some missions I may want the ability for my combo to not be reset by a hit, other times I may want to be immune to bullet damage for a bit. I’m in control of what works best for me.
The main campaign is about 15 hours long and consists of 3 acts. The first act starts off a bit slow, but things really kick off in the second act. I found that the boss battles weren’t balanced very well with a few in the beginning, a bunch at the end, and nothing really in the middle. I initially thought this was an issue, but after playing the whole game, I’m satisfied. Insomniac paced the game so that you would really understand the dynamic between Spider-Man and a specific villain before you’re thrust into battle. There’s a lot of character development which I appreciate a lot. Playing as Peter ends up being equally as satisfying as being Spider-Man due to the relationships that you develop.
The central relationship is between MJ and Peter in which Peter is constantly navigating between wanting to be in a relationship with MJ and saving the world as Spider-Man. I love the banter between these two between missions, it was some of the best dialogue in the game. They’re trying to figure out what they have together while the rest of the story unfolds. It’s a story within the story. MJ ends up being a pretty central figure in the universe and you even get to play as her in a few stealth missions that broke up the gameplay a little bit. Miles Morales is also in the game and you use him in a few stealth missions as well. I don’t want to spoil anything with him, but his relationship with Peter ends up being a central point of the game as well.
Outside of the main story, there are a lot of open-world activities and a few side-missions to play through. Doing all of these missions and activities will easily take you 15-20 hours and they’re often quite repetitive. Find the backpacks, take photos, take down outposts, stop a crime. It all takes only a few minutes, but when you multiply that by dozens and dozens of times, it gets repetitive. It’s not heroic anymore when you stop a drug deal for the tenth time, maybe NYC just needs more cops? There are some good open-world activities like the Taskmaster combat, stealth, and racing challenges. They’re difficult and if you don’t get the highest rank, you want to play more and more. I also really enjoyed the science-based puzzle challenges that didn’t overstay their welcome. Overall, there’s just so much to do beyond the main campaign that it just becomes tedious no matter how fun the gameplay is. Insomniac would have done well to cut those activities in half and it would have been much more tolerable.
Photo Mode was added in a day one patch and it’s a really nice addition to the game allowing you to get some spectacular pictures if you choose to do so. You can even create comic book panels and covers if you feel inclined to make your own Spidey comic which is a cool touch, especially with the cel-shaded suit.