Until the launch of the Batman Arkham franchise, superhero games weren’t very successful. Sure, you can argue there was a good X-Men game on the NES and most of the Spider-Man games have had a more than lukewarm response when they launched, but there was nothing that stood out from the crowd to crown the web-slinger as a must-own video game.
Today we have with us Marvel’s Spider-Man, exclusive to Sony’s PlayStation 4 platform. The game is made by a studio that has a reputation of churning out some of the best games in the industry. From Ratchet and Clank to the Resistance series and even Sunset Overdrive, Insomniac games seems to be the perfect studio to bring the wall-crawling hero to life. Have they succeeded?
Marvel’s Spider-Man – The Story
We’ve heard, watched and read the story of young Peter Parker being bitten by an itsy bitsy spider and becoming a hero wayyyy too many times in the past. Revisiting the origin of Spider-Man would have been like removing the scab off an old wound you want to forget about and it looks like Insomniac Games feel the same way. The story of the game is unique, taking inspiration from the comic books, past movies and TV cartoons to bring you an adventure that’s familiar yet new. This isn’t an origin story for the web-slinger. Peter has been Spider-Man for a few years and the opening chapter of the game sees you take on the Kingpin in the classic Spider-Man suit. This chapter not only sets the foundation for the rest of the game’s story but also works as a tutorial bringing you up to speed with Spider-Man’s abilities.
After the Kingpin is captured, certain events are set in motion which see Spider-Man make hard choices not only as the masked hero but as the young man and nephew that he is. This isn’t the Peter Parker that we know, who has been a photographer for the Daily Bugle. He is a scientist trying to make a living, pay rent and save the occasional cats stuck on rooftops. There is little more that we can tell you about the story without ruining it so we’ll tell you this – the story of the game highlights familiar characters with a very unique ‘Insomniac twist’ to it. You will know who they are, but their motivations, origin stories and more will take you by surprise. Just like any Marvel movie, there is a mid-credits and post-credits cutscenes after you finish the main story mission, so you may want to watch out for that.
Overall, the story is the glue that holds this web-slinging world together. Not only is the world filled with a lot of classic Spider-Man enemies through the main story like Kingpin, the Sinister 6, Shocker and Mr. Negative, but there are side missions as well that will introduce you to some other Spiderverse villains.
Since our hero this time around isn’t a noob, his acrobatic skills, combat skills and web shooting trickery are all up there with what we got from Batman: Arkham Asylum (a trained and lethal Batman who knew exactly what needed to be done). The combat in the game can be best described as easy to pick up, but hard to master. You can literally go through the game, if you want, pressing box, triangle and circle on the PS4 controller and you’d still feel like a badass. However, with the number of suits, powerups, special moves and gadgets at your disposal, you will keep discovering moves long after the sun has set on New York City. Even though there are multiple scenarios in the story and side missions that pit you against waves of enemies, the way you tackle them can make each encounter feel fresh. You could start with a set of simple acrobatic kicks and punches, then steal an enemy’s shield and swing it around to clear opponents close to you, shoot a sticky web at one enemy so he sticks to his nearest companion knocking the two out, throw a web bomb to distract a few foes, deploy decoys to distract the tougher enemies while you clear out the rest, and finally pull off a special finisher to take down whoever is left. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the variety that you will see in the combat of the game.
There are stealth sections in the game as well and you can perch on a ledge and perform a web takedown or gadget takedowns to clear the room silently. I’m surprised at how well the stealth gameplay is laid out in terms of enemy detection, takedowns and more. It’s a lot of fun, the same as you’ve felt when you played Arkham Asylum for the first time.
Web swinging through the streets of New York is incredible. From the get-go, the swinging mechanics feel fluid and intuitive. You will use the right trigger to web swing with X to jump and the 2 triggers together to catapult yourself from specific spots around the environment. The mechanics are just brilliant and there are side missions and challenges that will put your web swinging acrobatic skills to the test – the most annoying and fun of them being the missions where you must catch pigeons.
Not all the side quests are about taking out foes. This is the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man we are talking about. He will click a selfie with pedestrians in the street, click pictures of important landmarks, catch birds and even save everyday citizens.
When you start out, you are decently powered up in the game. However, to unlock new suits, gadgets, abilities and upgrades you will need to succumb to the in-game currency. Skill points are earned by increasing XP which can be earned by playing story missions, side missions and performing stunts while swinging. Tokens can be earned by finding Peter’s old backpacks throughout the city, clicking pictures of famous landmarks and completing side quests, each of which will give you the ability to unlock special movies, gadgets and suits.
A great thing about the 20+ Spider-Man suits in the game is that each of the wardrobe changes come with their own unique power-up that can be married to any suit you want to wear aesthetically. You also have three ability slots which you can customise to suit your playstyle. There are a bunch of abilities to unlock and I wish I could equip more than just three at a time.
The variety of side missions you encounter in the game may get repetitive, but the beauty lies in the way you tackle them. I took out three of the Kingpin’s hideouts using the same combat techniques before I decided to check out some of the other abilities. It’s then that I realised that there is depth to the combat and it will reveal itself to those that aren’t afraid to take risks and experiment with the combat abilities at their disposal.
Overall, the gameplay is fun and challenging at higher difficulties and if you mix and match the story and side missions, you may end up avoiding the repetitive nature of some of the side quests.
Vibrant and beautiful is the first thing that comes to mind when you look at the game. From the busy bustling city of New York to dark corners of the Raft prison, the game looks like it has jumped out of a comic book. From the camera angle getting up close and personal during takedowns, to the freefall dive that you take before web swinging, the graphics of the game will draw you in immediately. No need to worry about the size of puddles. You won’t even notice them in the larger scheme of things.
There are no load screens throughout the city unless you are about to begin a mission. The map isn’t the biggest that we have seen in an open world and it isn’t meant to be. It is a city with pedestrians walking, the commotion of everyday traffic, and crime. It’s amazing how alive the city is.
Spider-Man himself is detailed and when he perches on the ledge of a building to unlock a map (Assassins Creed style) you can take in the draw distance, architecture and points of interest in the game. There is no day-night cycle in the game, which I think is okay. However, there are missions that take place during the day, night and in the evening. If you have a 4K HDR TV, then the night missions will put the HDR capabilities of your TV to the test. Otherwise, you are better off tackling optional missions during the day to take in the vibrant colourful city.
The only downside to the graphics of the game is that sometimes some character models feel off and this is usually during the cutscenes. Aunt May may look a little cockeyed at times and Peter Parker puts on a constipated expression when he is trying to be serious. But these are all nitpicks when you look at how pretty the game looks overall. The framerate is consistent too and I didn’t see any drops at all. I did encounter a black screen a couple of times, but this was mostly before a loading screen.
Overall, the world of Spider-Man isn’t as detailed as what we’ve seen in God of War. But it is comparable to Horizon Zero Dawn and that is saying something.
Spider-Man’s greatest strength is his wit. His ability to taunt an enemy, make uncomfortable jokes when the situation is serious and try to get away with cheeky humour when he saves the day. Insomniac Games has nailed the voice of Spider-Man perfectly to reflect these qualities. Be it a quibble in the middle of a heated fight or a jab taken at a supervillain, the voice acting of Peter Parker and his alter ego is entertaining.
The rest of the voice actors too get their roles right. From sweet old Aunt May to the J Jonah Jameson, the supervillains and even the supporting cast, all do a good job. A special mention to the voice actors who don the role of Norman Osborn and the 6th unrevealed member of the Sinister Six, as these two definitely bring an emotional touch to the game.
The rest of the sound from the background score to the sound of Peter shooting his webs and even the thuds of combat all blend in well to give you an immersive experience. If you are one that has a home theatre I suggest you play the game using it. It will help engulf you in the sounds of a living, breathing city.
Verdict – Marvel’s Spider-Man
Apart from the repetitive nature of some of the side missions, Marvel’s Spider-Man is a fun, engaging and entertaining game. The game looks beautiful, the action is fast paced and the story takes familiar characters to spin a new tale for them. If you love action-adventure games, Marvel’s Spider-Man will keep you hooked for a good 50 hours, story and side missions combined.
|Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Price: Rs. 3,999
Be the first to leave a review.
Sameer "Psycho Mantis" Mitha
I live for gaming and technology is my muse. When I am not busy playing with gadgets or video games I delve into the world of fantasy novels.