I first played Marvel's Spider-Man at Insomnia 63, a few weeks before its release. It was one of the few games in recent memory that I was actually excited about. Spiderman 2 for the PS2 encapsulated my childhood, undeniably one of the best iterations of the web slinger in the medium of video games. However, 14 years after its release and many, many games later, I was a bit more apprehensive about the new Spiderman title, and for good reason. Too many times we hear of promising games being overly disappointing, would Marvel's Spider-Man finally be the game to break the stereotype and prove itself?
So, I played a 20 minute demo of the game at Insomnia 63, with a 15 minute free-roam section finished off with a boss fight against Electro. Graphics-wise, the game looked beautiful. Being played on the PS4 Pro in 4K with HDR enabled, the game was vibrant and vivid, truly seeming to use the PS4 Pro's potential fully to visualize an absolutely beautiful and breathtaking webslinging, crime fighting experience. Let's talk first about the free roam section, seeing as this will be your bread and butter, so to speak, of your time in the game.
New York is always a popular location in games, movies and the sort, but I think Marvel's Spider-Man hits the nail right on the head. The city feels impressively vast when you're perched on a rooftop, but vividly alive when you're down on the ground. Traffic and pedestrians come in droves, and the interactions with the men and women on the street make you feel less immortal superhero and more human, a character trait that fully embodies what Peter Parker has always been known for. Random events often occur within the city, from petty crime to street robberies, car chases and more. From what I experienced, the street robberies are fairly tame affairs as they should be. Save the victim, beat up some bad guys, swing away feeling good about yourself. The car chases are a bit more intense though, as you throw yourself through the streets of New York to catch up to a vehicle full of bad men with big guns. Stopping the chase no longer simply stops the car as it did in Spiderman 2, but instead now creates a spectacle of this relatively small event by forcing Spiderman to stop the runaway car through sheer strength and a few handy bits of webbing. There are undoubtedly more random events available to see, and if the aforementioned are anything to go by, they'll be impressive indeed.
How about the combat? I'll go ahead now and say the combat feels good. The inspiration from the Arkham games is very obvious, but with a focus on evasion and target prioritization. I love the Arkham games, but I always felt there came a point where countering strikes just felt too easy. Instead, Spidey now slips the strikes and can either counter attack from the evasion, or prioritize a target that might be aiming a weapon at you. Many spider suits exist in the game, all with different abilities to augment the webslinger. You won't be forced to use a suit if you prefer the ability though, as you can mix and match the suit to your chosen ability, the perfect compromise in my opinion. There is also a lot of environmental interaction, something that feels well grounded and makes perfect sense in the game world.
The boss fight with Electro was quite surprising. We'll be avoiding any meme phrasing like "The Dark Souls of X", but it was challenging indeed. The boss went through various phases and switched mechanics a few times, though never too drastically where you couldn't transfer what you learned in the last phase to augment it for the current one. The boss fight was impressive to say the least, I wasn't quite expecting the level of challenge and competence Electro presented, but it was undeniably both fun and rewarding.
Finally, let's talk about the webslinging. The absolute core mechanic in traversing the city, its come a long way from the early days. Spiderman on the PS1 had you swinging from webs that were attached to nowhere in particular, most often directly above your head. Spiderman 2 on the PS2 bettered this by tethering your rope to buildings, making fluid motion and cornering a lot easier. Spiderman on the PS4 does even better with a physics based tether system that allows you to leisurely swing at your own pace or control your own speed through weight manipulation and travel trhough the streets at breakneck pace. This combined with various other movement abilities like wall running, web zips and more make this one of the most comfortable and intuitive movement systems ever conceived in any game, let alone a superhero game.
So in conclusion, how would I rate my time playing Marvel's Spider-Man? I'd rate it very highly indeed. The game is visually stunning, and mechanically feels solid, with combat and movement systems both being outstandingly fluid. Peter Parker's personality stands out greatly, turning Spiderman from a faceless, wise-cracking superhero to the normal geeky dude that Peter Parker truly is, whilst still retaining the feeling of being a powerful and agile superhero. Marvel's Spider-Man seems to have broken the trend of great looking games being not so great, and I'd definitely recommend a purchase if you're unsure.