Marvel´s Spider-Man Review – Spidey is Back
Platform: PS4 (reviewed)
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release: 7th September 2018
Superhero video games were some of the worst things you could buy for a long time, mainly due to the dozens of horrible movie adaptions. However, with Rocksteady´s Batman Arkham series and alike, they slowly started to regain some trust, since it seemed like you could actually make some great games with these IPs. The latest culmination is Sony´s and Insomniac´s appropriately titled Marvel´s Spider-Man, a perfect blend between Ubisoft and Batman.
This time we´re not confronted with a Peter Parker on his way to becoming Spider-Man but rather who already overcame the first major obstacles like uncle Ben´s death and embraced his superhero identity. He already was in a relationship with MJ, that ended 6 months ago and learned from it. So, the next big chapter begins when he captures supervillain Fink and unleashes a giant force of criminals on the city, mysteriously wearing masks and led by mister negative.
On the one hand, I really like this concept of having a Peter Parker who´s more mature and experienced than many other interpretations, at least for his standards. However, it´s still a superhero story, a classic one at that. Even though the setting could´ve been used to tell a darker, more conflicted side of Spider-Man, nothing really stands out or is unpredictable. The identity of mister negative and the second big, new supervillain can be found out in the first hour of the game, without knowing much except clichés. It has many passages where it tries to showcase the conflicts between being a superhero and a normal guy but doesn´t do much new.
Rather, Insomniac´s execution was the key to my enjoyment. While they remain in the safe side, they´re always aware of this, never holding “twists” back longer than needed, hence never creating points where any of the cast members seem stupid for not figuring it out. Combine it with a humour fitting perfectly into the niche between embarrassing and funny, the whole thing is an incredibly well-written, re-heated cliché, that surely won´t bring much new to the table but is able to fill its 15-20 hours with enough stuff. After all, there´s pretty much everything you could ask for as a fan of classic stories. Only Peter Parker´s and Miles’ relationship seems more needed for a sequel than for the actual game you´re playing. Still, was entertained throughout the whole thing and even caught off guard by one twist.
Speaking of entertaining, Marvel´s Spider-Man can be summarized quite well like this, since there´s nothing really new here, it´s just perfectly executed. The combat system, for example, takes the classic Free Flow system from Batman Arkham and transforms it into something more fitting for this superhero. Instead of countering his enemies and never wildly jumping around, Spider-Man is agile, fast but also fragile. As a result, attacks have to be evaded, punches deal a whole lot more damage but we can also jump on walls, throw big objects around, shoot a wide array of different webs and move way faster than anywhere else. It´s simply fun to throw around enemies or stuff with the webs, especially when it looks so stylish.
Another big part is the stealth system, which unsurprisingly is very similar to Batman´s as well. From time to time, some levels will feature a huge array of snipers, armed enemies and alike, way too difficult to take head-on. Even though the added agility took away a huge thread of weapons, effectively allowing Spider-Man to dodge them with a decent timing, Snipers and more heavy armed soldiers are all the harder. So, to a certain extent, stealth is still a very valuable thing here. Instead of gargoyles, we use the environment in a way more coherent manner, jumping from walls, water tanks and ceilings to ambush them silently. Naturally, it´s faster and doesn´t require such lengths as in Arkham but doesn´t reinvent the formula in any way.
On the another hand, Marvel´s Spider-Man´s biggest part is its open world, biggest problem and source of enjoyment at the same time. In short, the whole thing is nearly indistinguishable from a Ubisoft one, littered with icons, little collectables and what-not. There are five currencies used to upgrade your gadgets and buy new suits, each only obtainable through collecting stuff. While the side missions are actually pretty good most of the time, offering well-done little excursions away from the usual tray, the rest isn´t. It´s so much Ubisoft, it´s even more Ubisoft than Ubisoft with its unlockable towers and alike.
In exchange for going to all these places, we´re rewarded with the game´s highlight though: The web swinging. Honestly, I can´t complain about anything here, since Marvel´s Spider-Man absolutely nails the feeling of swinging through the city, free from roads and anything alike. Mainly due to the smooth transition between being ground-bound and airborne and the almost perfect feel of speed generated through the gained momentum. I´m still impressed with how they were able to allow the player to swing centimetres above the cars, without ever feeling “like a game”. Additionally, even crashing into walls and other accidents are never punished since Spider-Man can easily wall-run, climb and everything else to ensure a super smooth flow of animations. It´s the first game that lets me truly feel like this iconic superhero.
Particularly because Insomniac Games’ delivered a great looking game in every regard. It strikes such a perfect balance between being beautiful in screenshots while allowing for the fast-paced speed of the whole game without suffering from frame drops. Thanks to smart tricks, New York even looks really lively in the short glimpses you get from it, with all its moving cars, illuminated (but not quite real) office spaces and more. Combine that with some impressive camera work, which can pull off some simply gorgeous looking action scenes off with the right lighting and you got a game maybe lacking a few puddles but with more than enough bite in every other way.
All in all, Marvel´s Spider-Man isn´t a masterpiece nor a super innovative game. Instead, Insomniac put additional layers of polish over already known features and topped it off with the amazing webswinging. As a result, it´s still a super fun action game, able to entertain any fan over its long campaign.
[A Review Copy was provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe]