Spider-Man is an immensely popular character. Even if you didn't know anything about him, just the sheer amount of games he's had over the years is proof of that. Especially given the fact that some other popular heroes would probably be translated into games a lot easier. The character had a few great games as well as a couple of mediocre ones made by various developers. After that, the license landed in the capable hands of Insomniac games who are known for producing high-quality games loved by the community.
I can immediately tell you that Spider-Man is no different and can guarantee you that if you are either a fan of Spider-Man, superheroes or superpowers in an open world setting – you'll absolutely love this game.
Marvel's Spider-Man is available for purchase on the PlayStation Store.
The story of Insomniac's Spider-Man is in many ways a coming-of-age one. For both Peter and some of the supporting cast. While we get experienced, fully realized Spider-Man who has been fighting crime for 8 years, Peter Parker, on the other hand, is in many ways just starting his adult life as he's about to graduate from college. Where many other Spider-Man games focused mainly on his Spider antics, Insomniac truly gets that in order to tell a good Spidey story, you need to understand Peter Parker first and foremost.
He's not some billionaire philanthropist who can afford to have his identity publicly known but is instead just a kid from New York trying to do the right thing while balancing his dual life. This is why you spend a lot of time in the game with Peter doing meaningful stuff as the story walks you through his lab internship and his attempts to make things work with Mary Jane all while navigating through the complexities of having a prominent villain hide in plain sight, presenting an immediate threat to his loved ones.
Most of the characters are built on an existing comic or movie foundation but given an interesting personality or occupational spin to keep things both familiar and fresh. Some story beats are visible from a mile away if you know your Spider-Man but sure enough, there were a few big surprises I didn't see coming as well.
The supporting characters like Mary Jane, Aunt May and Miles Morales as well as the main villains are just as strong and fleshed out as Peter, some even featuring small playable segments, giving further context to the story and providing the emotional attachment for when the stakes get high. The story of a much older Spider-Man makes each villain encounter impactful as they all give a sense of a turbulent history with the webhead. Overall, it's all excellently paced, allowing for calmer story moments only to have them quickly escalate to ever growing heights through many impressive set pieces and interesting locations the game takes you.
Spider-Man is a much tougher hero to get right than Batman. His web swinging, high mobility, speed, and acrobatics are the staple of the character when it comes to gameplay. His playground is different and needs to be much larger in order to stay true to the character and Insomniac nailed it out of the park in that regard.
The main traversal option – web swinging is made to feel both familiar if you played previous Spider-Man games but also fresh with many nuances that make it feel like the best system yet. It's fast, smooth and seamlessly blends with acrobatics, ledge jumps, web zips and wall running to make for a system so satisfying that it will make you web swing around New York just for the sake of web swinging. There is a fast travel system if you feel really lazy but I used it only once during my substantial time with the game. That's how good the web swinging is.
The other part of the equation is the combat and things here are highly similar to Arkham series with Spider-Man's own acrobatic, web shooting spin. It combines attacks, air launches, timed dodges, web shooting, and gadgets for a stupid fun experience. Each segment can be upgraded with skill points as you level up but also by collecting tokens by doing activities around the city. These come in the form of stopping random crimes, collecting Peter's old backpacks, photographing landmarks, completing research and doing challenges.
You can use these to craft gadgets and a crazy amount of different suits with different powers that can even be equipped with different mods to really customize your experience. After just a few hours in the game, the number of combat options really opens up to the point I even forgot about having some of them but the escalating difficulty and tougher enemies quickly reminded me to vary my approach a bit and often even rely on the interactive environment to save my skin. That's another thing about the game. Spider-Man goes down after just a few hits, even on the standard difficulty and you'll have to use everything at your disposal to defeat the ever-growing number of enemies the game throws at you.
These come in a few different varieties – unarmed, armed, heavily shielded, and the ones with special abilities. By throwing all of them at you, the game will make sure you can't just relax and one button everyone. There's even the option of a stealth approach plucked right out of Batman games with Spider-Man perched on a ledge, silently webbing enemies. This segment provides little challenge as Spider-Man can use his VR vision to see enemies behind walls as well as if it's safe to web them up without being noticed. It's clearly not as developed as the regular combat, but its inclusion is appreciated and somewhat fun.
Bosses, although plentiful are, on the other hand, really cookie cutter in terms of how you defeat them. They do feature some impressive set pieces with awesome visuals but the combat portion required to take them down is too easy or even delegated to a one button press when you meet certain conditions.
The aforementioned random crimes are fun when you do them a first dozen times but do get repetitive as you go through the game. They come in the form of robberies, muggings, car chases or enemy faction conflicts. These are not nearly varied enough to keep you interested for the presumed 30+ hour playtime.
Luckily, there is a suitable number of other activities to break the monotony of these crimes and it's evident that Insomniac put a lot of effort into having plenty of things to do outside the main story. It's also great that these activities all tie into the upgrade and crafting system, making them really worthwhile and not just there to keep you busy.
Also worth mentioning are the segments where you take control of Peter Parker and supporting characters. While Peter is controlled during story moments, he can also be controlled throughout the game to complete certain tasks in his lab and other locations that will net him a small amount of experience. While these are often mundane tasks, they offer a fair amount of foreshadowing and integrate well into the story. Other characters are strictly delegated to key story moments and their contribution is heavy spoiler territory so I won't go into much detail.
VISUALS AND AUDIO
Visually, Spider-Man is one of the best PlayStation 4 games out there, standing beside other exclusives like Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War. What makes Spider-Man more appealing to the eye, however, is the smoothness of the experience that is frankly needed for a "fast-paced web-swinging through an open world" type of game. The lock is indeed heavy on the 30 FPS framerate, meaning that despite an impressive draw distance and dense New York, you won't experience hiccups or any sort of slowdowns.
Excellent texture work is only further emphasized by the highly atmospheric lighting engine, weather effects, and reflections on certain surfaces and water. Small problems do arise due to the open world nature of the game where certain objects or areas have a bit lower res texture to them when compared to the rest of the world. Animations are generally excellent, from web-swinging to combat and they perfectly contribute to the awesome feeling of being this highly acrobatic and agile hero. There were a few rare instances where Spider-Man did not transition well from vertical to a horizontal surface or from a floor to a slim fence, not detecting that he should stop wall crawling or running like he's on a flat, wide surface.
Audio-wise, this is another area where the game excels. Music features a dozen standout tracks that I'd best describe as heroic. Some of them even reminded me of tracks from the cartoons or movies, creating a sort of blend that fits the webhead perfectly. It's awesome how appropriate music slowly fades in depending on if you are web swinging, fighting random thugs or during key story moments.
Voice acting is also excellent with the main characters really conveying genuine emotions that will have you greatly invested, similar to what God of War did with its excellent voice acting. Sure couple of villains can be somewhat cheesy but I felt like that's in line with their original or previous incarnations.
Insomniac's Spider-Man is the best Spider-Man game to date. It's also one of the best superhero games that stands up there together with Rocksteady's Arkham series. The developers have shown a true understanding of what it means to be both Peter Parker and Spider-Man and translated that expertly to a game that despite small issues is fun throughout. It's another hit exclusive for the PlayStation library where you'll definitely want to 100% the game, and then probably do it all over again.
|+ Traversal, combat and controls||– Non-varied and repetitive side activities|
|+ Enjoyable story with fleshed out main characters||– Uninspired boss battles|
|+ Stunning open world||– Minor animation issues|
|+ Lots of worthwhile unlockables and collectibles|