Readers, if you have followed me for a while then maybe you read my most anticipated games for this year then you would know Marvel’s Spider-Man was my number one. I had wanted a game like this since Spider-Man 2 back in 2004. Now we have the open world Spidey adventure, and it meets the hype level in every way.
Peter Parker/Spider-Man is quite experienced at this point. He has been the web-slinging hero since 2010, a whole eight years. The journey starts off by defeating Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin, his longtime rival that has taken some time to put behind bars. Now that Kingpin is no longer running the streets; a new threat emerges that are not just the typical gangsters, they are terrorists. Spider-Man goes forward with the help of Yuri Watanabe who works in the police department, his ex-girlfriend M.J., and Miles Morales to discover this new threat. The story is charming, funny, heartfelt, compelling, and feels like something straight out of an MCU movie.
In this story, you will face seeing some of the most iconic and obscure characters in Peter’s world. His beloved Aunt May is working at a homeless shelter, M.J. making it big time in at the Daily Bugle, and J. Jonah Jameson has his radio show all have a role in Peter’s life in some way. It is not just people supporting Peter/Spider-Man, except for Jameson, but Peter has plenty of villains to face. His most iconic baddies are here from Kingpin, Rhino, Electro, and many more. There are plenty of more obscure characters that casual fans won’t recognize, but the game does a beautiful job of introducing such as Mister Negative. Confusion about a character can happen especially with more obscure characters; you can go into bios of anyone on the menu to give background on everyone in the game. Each character is well developed with some great arcs. The writing has a lot of heart and a wide variety of tones that are well executed. A few jokes fall flat, but most put a smile on my face or more rarely get me to actually laugh.
Out of any game made about the beloved web-swinger, I have never seen a story like this. Insomniac takes the heart and soul of both Peter and his superhero life, unlike any other video game. Spider-Man feels like an MCU movie that was teamed up with Insomniac by their mix of humor, drama, epic action, and even the soundtrack. Yes, they also have an after credit scene.
Insomniac is known for fluid combat, movement, and a wide variety of fun weapons and gadgets to utilize on the journey. This reputation from their Ratchet and Clank series and Xbox exclusive Sunset Overdrive is visible in Marvel’s Spider-Man. The combat is similar to many action games such as the Batman Arkham series. Basic combos, use of gadgets, similar parrying and dodging mechanics make it feel like an Arkham game with so much more. The fighting and movement are unlike anything that I have played since Sunset Overdrive. Spidey can scan around to see nearby enemies or interactable objects to use as a weapon. Action and traversing build up focus which is used to heal or finish enemies with one hit. Beating on bad guys is full of variety and lets you be as creative in how you tackle threats from the use of gizmos to stealth. Whichever way you tackle gangsters, terrorists, or supervillains, it always feels perfect.
The most significant aspect besides beating down criminals is moving around this giant open world. Web-swinging feels organic enough for me to feel like I am Spider-Man who has been active for eight years. The difficulty comes in slightly for people who want to go faster or be more precise with how they traverse around Manhattan. Traversal is a beautiful mix of ease and some talent for players with different levels of skill.
The gameplay is continually evolving by adding new mechanics in or building upon older ones. Various mini-games such as hacking or finding out about new chemicals are easy enough to do but hard enough to let you think for a few minutes. Every research activity done helps capture Peter’s brilliant mind in the world of science and technology, unlike any other game we have seen with his character.
The open world is full of typical activities such as side missions, randomly occurring crimes, collectibles, challenges, enemy bases, and towers that will unlock the map. While these activities are in every other open world such as the towers to unlock the map are similar to Far Cry, and the collectibles are in every game imaginable, we get something more rewarding. Every challenge, minigame, collectible, base, and crime give you tokens. Redeeming tokens for upgrades, new suits, suit modifications, and more to make Spider-Man stronger. Each activity provides a specific token. If a new suit requires X amount of challenges, crime, and research tokens, then you must complete challenges, crimes, and research minigames to unlock that costume. Collectibles in the game are fun to collect and are rewarding by giving some background on the world along with their tokens. The backpacks specifically are some of my favorite collectibles in any game since you see an item in that backpack that Peter will give some commentary on what you have found. You see some fantastic easter eggs from other Marvel characters or explanations about what has happened in the last eight years during Peter’s time as a superhero.
The customization is light but satisfying. At any point, you can switch out which costume to wear along with its upgrades. Almost every suit comes with an ability that will enhance you for a limited time during battle or perform a super move to eliminate nearby enemies. With the swapping of skills in and out leaves for anyone to use their favorite costumes along with their preferred abilities. Each outfit is fantastic and got me excited to see what the next costume will be once unlocked. Fan favorite costumes such as his classic suit, Stark suit from Homecoming, and Iron Spider suit from Infinity War are present along with some that are more obscure. Some of the most unusual costumes are the Spider 2099 and Noir suit. I enjoyed every outfit that I would wear one for a while then switch to another. I felt almost overwhelmed with how many I could choose from in the best way possible.
Everything you do gives you experience points, like just about most other games. You have three skill trees: innovator, defender, and web-slinger. Each will provide you with new abilities to fight, move around the city, or give you a bonus of strength or health. The leveling up system is fun and easy with all of the basics you will find anywhere else.
Manhattan is a massive part of New York you will be able to swing around in and fight crime while feeling like a real city that is being impacted by unnatural people. Instead of hopping from rooftop to rooftop, you can just walk the streets. Civilians will react in a variety of ways. Some may want a high five or to say hello. Others might be hateful towards Spider-Man. Everyone has a different opinion which helps flesh out the world. As you progress in the game, the world changes organically. Due to Spidey and his villains causing issues throughout the city, Jameson’s radio show will pop up briefly in crucial moments in the story that will provide a hilarious insight to how the city is being impacted. His banter about how Spider-Man is the cause of every issue is funny throughout the game but makes for a believable world that has this web-slinging hero as its protector. Later in the story, enemies will be more robust as they gather better weapons and introduce new enemy types. Enemy types and which faction they belong to will determine your strategy. All the way till the final act in the game new mechanics and enemies will demonstrate how the city is affected by the actions of the superbeings within it. The lively city that changes make for one of the most enjoyable open world games that I have played in years.
The game has a unique style to its graphics and animations. Insomniac has blended a realistic approach with a comic book style. Colors pop just like comics or any superhero movie in the MCU would. Details such as facial animations are wonderfully done for the game to have a look of realism. Animations are continually entertaining by how many variations there are. Spider-Man will do a variety of moves as he swings around the city depending on the objects he is maneuvering on. During combat, his movement is changing throughout the fight depending on how he is jumping or what objects he is using to his advantage. New York is filled with enough grit for a realistic look, while still maintaining enough color for a vibrant and interesting looking game.
Photo mode is something no game can go without anymore, especially with how beautiful games can look with the advancement of technology. All the essential functions are available such as filters, frames, emotes, and camera angles. One angle that can be used is a selfie mode, who doesn’t take a good selfie when they can? Those of you who are talented with photo modes then this will be game you cannot pass up.
The issues I have are few and quite small. Dialog repeats way too often. Spidey will have a quip after defeating criminals or as he arrives but tends to replay the same joke every time. If he is at a base, then he will have a set joke for that, or if he is doing a stealth challenge, then there is the witty remark for that situation. Hearing the same wisecracking can be annoying after playing the same missions over and over. The dialog can be easily interrupted, some of which I missed was important, but mostly it was Jameson going on about Spider-Man. If you miss an episode of Jameson, you can go to the menu and listen to it, which is no big deal. Loosing on meaningful dialog during a story mission is more difficult than missing out on Jameson’s banter. Progressing through a mission before a character finishes speaking will go on to a new set of dialog. While the boss battles are fun, sometimes it felt anti-climatic at times. The final critique is that many of the activities are a bit repetitive. What makes this a small criticism to me is the satisfyingly fun gameplay along with how the game progresses allows for new enemy types to change things up. The changes that Manhattan goes through makes the repetitive side activities much more bearable along with the rewards that come after completion.
Superhero games are mostly underwhelming with some that are beloved. Marvel’s Spider-Man will join the cherished crowd of masked heroes whose games have been successful. The game is has a beautiful aesthetic, brilliant voice acting and writing to make for an incredibly Spider-Man/Peter Parker story, fluid gameplay, and immersive open world. The game is smooth as can be with its fantastic traversal and gratifying combat. For the most part, the game leans on an easier difficulty. Puzzles might take a minute to think but are apparent for the most part. Missions as M.J. are stealth missions that require not a ton of skill. The combat is accessible especially with the move list in the menu to help you. I played on medium difficulty and felt it was too easy for the most part. If you want a challenge, then play on medium or hard difficulty. Fans of the web-slinger must play this game. Not only do we have the best game we have seen with the iconic hero, but this is the best superhero game of all time. With its slight flaws, it manages to pick itself up as you progress through its charming story. The game is full of unoriginal ideas with its side activities and certain gameplay elements but manages to refine those aspects into something fresh and enjoyable. Anyone looking for a more heartfelt game with more satisfying gameplay will have a tough time because it is going to be hard to beat Insomniac’s masterpiece.
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