When Ben Parker used the significant quote “with great power comes great responsibility” he unknowingly foreshadowed the weight that his nephew would carry on his shoulders as both the heroic protector of New York City and friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. In a metaphorical sense, when Insomniac Games took on the enormous responsibility of creating Marvel’s Spider-Man, they felt a great deal of pressure to deliver a fantastic experience despite having already created two outstanding titles in Sunset Overdrive and Ratchet & Clank.
After completing the game this past week, I can confidently say that Insomniac Games didn’t just knock their concept of the character out of the ballpark, but they have successfully created the best Spider-Man game currently on the market. Here are more of my in-depth thoughts on why Spidey’s latest adventure may or may not be worth your hard-earned money.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is a single-player third-person action-adventure game with a brand new storyline not tied to any previously released film or video game. Players step into the shoes of a 23-year old Peter Parker juggling his everyday responsibilities as Spider-Man while also interning at a nearby laboratory and helping out his Aunt May at the F.E.A.S.T. homeless shelter where she works. After growing into a veteran superhero of eight years, Peter’s life is instantly turned upside down when The Kingpin’s arrest leads to several new adversaries in the form of Mister Negative, Electro, Rhino, and others emerging from the shadows to take over the city and endanger the lives of his loved ones.
One of the main reasons why this is without a doubt the best storyline in any Spider-Man video game is because of the intense focus on Peter Parker’s love of science and how its used to solve problems throughout the game. The addition of circuit construction puzzles and spectrograph substance pattern matching projects don’t just present alternative ways to play the game but also successfully cast the character in a new light by showcasing his intelligence and critical thinking outside of his superhero abilities.
Furthermore, the talented writing team of Jon Paquette, Christos Cage, Ben Arfmann, and Dan Slott have crafted an incredible narrative full of surprises that will truly captivate the hearts of any and every Spider-Man fan out there. Many compelling subjects take center stage, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a full-fledged sequel in the future outside of the previously announced DLC planned over the next few months. In short, avoid spoilers if you can as this is one story that you need to experience for yourself to fully appreciate how special it is.
One point of emphasis that was an overblown topic last week consisted of people calling the game’s graphical quality into question after comparing gameplay footage and screenshots from both older and more recent trailers. I played through Spidey’s entire adventure on a standard PS4 and was personally blown away just by how visually stunning the game looked from start to finish. The level of detail put into creating notable characters, and New York City along with several famous landmarks is nothing short of impressive and made the worldly experience feel more immersive to me. If you do happen to own a PS4 Pro and a 4K TV, then I can only imagine that this title will look even better and leave you glowing with satisfaction.
As I mentioned in my hands-on preview of Marvel’s Spider-Man during E3 2018, web-swinging and combat are essentially the bread and butter of this engaging gameplay experience. Swinging across the New York Skyline and wallcrawling skyscrapers feels very natural and satisfying which in many ways shows that Insomniac did their research in making the character a perfect representation of how he appears in other forms of media. When developing combat, it’s evident that the Batman Arkham games inspired them but their system is more dynamic and challenging thanks to aerial moves, web-shooting, quick-time event prompts and the ability to hurl environmental objects at enemies from midair. After earning a certain amount of XP from completing story missions and beating enemies, you’ll automatically level up and receive skill points that can be used to purchase up to 34 additional combat skills. Given your level up number status, you also may gain extra perks like increased health, melee damage, and faster swinging.
As you navigate throughout the city, you’ll be tasked with decoding signals on police towers to increase your coverage and unlock several opportunities, collectibles, hideouts, and landmarks within each separate district on the map. The presentation includes several color-coded icons that appear around the designated area as coverage expands. In many ways, this is comparable to Assassin’s Creed games and how the protagonist unlocks other regions on the map after reaching the top of different buildings. I don’t think this is a bad thing as it perfectly suits the context of this game and making the icons colorful was a smart way to make these points stand out even more.
One final thing that I want to touch on regarding gameplay is that players will finally be allowed to play as Mary Jane Watson a few times throughout the campaign. As an Investigative Journalist for The Daily Bugle, her stealth missions are very brief and straightforward but play an essential role in how the storyline unfolds. Interesting enough, MJ isn’t the only one who serves a higher purpose in this story and fans will be amazed once they see Insomniac’s original take on other characters within that universe. It’s a very refreshing sight for the developers to dive further into the people in Peter Parker and Spider-Man’s life as it firmly gives them additional avenues to explore down the road.
When composing the soundtrack for Marvel’s Spider-Man, John Paesano has proven to be an excellent choice by the creative team. Having already written the soundtrack for Markus in Detroit: Become Human, he succeeds in capturing both the emotional highs and lows that Peter, his allies, and enemies experience throughout their collective journeys. The voice acting and environmental sounds you hear while traversing through the city or throwing nearby objects at rivals is also spot on and pulls you deeper into each setting.
Marvel’s Spider-Man took me roughly 18-20 hours to complete the story mode on the standard difficulty setting. This time will vary for those who decide to play on the most comfortable difficulty setting (friendly) or hardest setting referred to as spectacular. It’s also worth noting that there are nine districts to explore full of enemy outposts, Taskmaster challenges, Black Cat Stakeouts, research stations, iconic city landmarks, and collectibles in the form of suit material resources, backpacks, and newspapers. In addition to all this, there are also 27 Spidey suits, 27 different suit mods, eight gadgets, and the 34 total skills I mentioned above that you’ll still be able to purchase during or after the campaign has concluded. Lastly, Insomniac recently announced that a New Game Plus mode and Ultimate difficulty setting is coming at a later time while a Photo mode is expected right around the launch.
Regarding value, Marvel’s Spider-Man offers players a ton of content in the base game at $59.99, but there is one point worth making. Those who are interested in picking up the post-launch DLC titled Marvel’s Spider-Man: The City That Never Sleeps will have to either purchase the Digital Deluxe Edition of the game for $79.99 or buy the DLC separately as a bundle for $24.99 or individually for $9.99. If your someone who wants the DLC but might not be able to afford it right now, then you could always wait until Black Friday or closer to the end of the year as Sony usually has deals on their titles during the holiday season. Either way, I can tell you that given how fantastic the story is that you definitely may want this content but it is entirely up to you as to when or if you decide to buy it.
With so many positives stated above, there are at least two nitpicky criticisms that I do have regarding Marvel’s Spider-Man. The first stems from the fact that some of the cinematic sequences that I played through had slight glitches with artwork clipping and could have used some additional polish. There were specific instances where I would be watching a dialogue sequence between several characters and some of the animated artwork within that cinematic scene would disappear briefly before reappearing. These issues weren’t widespread and shouldn’t disrupt your own playthrough experience, but it is worth noting that Insomniac are fully aware of these glitches and will continue to release patch updates to ensure fans have the best version of the game possible.
My other minor point of criticism lies within the fact that some missions, tasks, and enemy encounters do start to feel a little repetitive towards the end. Insomniac does do a great job of changing up the types of enemy groups that you encounter, but the process of defeating them remains the same when it comes to doing stakeouts, liberating outposts, and participating in random shootouts showdowns, and car chases. The only exception to this rule is the supervillain battles which will test your limits and are an absolute blast to get through. In short, if you’re a completionist at heart and love the thrill of finishing 100% of the game, then you definitely won’t mind the repetition as it’s still a very overall fun and fulfilling experience.
Minor gripes aside, Marvel’s Spider-Man is a swinging success filled with brutally satisfying combat, extraordinary characters, an engrossing storyline, and an immersive world. It is without a doubt Insomniac Games’ best title to date and a remarkable representation of the iconic Marvel superhero that we all know and love. If you’re a fan of Marvel or Spider-Man in general, then you owe it to yourself to play this game as soon as humanly possible.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Marvel’s Spider-Man for the PlayStation 4 provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.