After having played Spider-Man, I felt that every game created by Insomniac Games (Sunset Overdrive, and even the Ratchet & Clank series as examples), only helped prepare them for the toughest project that any game developer can take on. After all, the web-slinger is the most iconic figure in the Marvel universe. To develop a game on current-generation platforms that does the superhero justice must have been an incredible burden that could have potentially broken the developer. However, Insomniac rose to the challenge the end result was a game that not only does justice to Spidey, but also could very well be the best superhero game to have ever released on any platform.
The developers stated that the game’s story would take approximately 15 hours to complete. However, unlike other single player games where players often just want to rush through the campaign, Spider-Man is completely the opposite. After 10 hours of playthrough, I realised that I had only completely the first main mission. Spider-Man hooks you into web-slinging around the gorgeous city of New York to find hidden collectibles and fight street crime. I’d often find myself traveling to the start of the main mission, only to get distracted because something else is happening in the city that satisfies my curiosity. Half way through the game, there are huge amounts of side quests to carry out around the city – I reckon 50% of game completion is dedicated to just carrying all of this out.
The most important aspect of the game is the web-slinging, and Insomniac have quite simply nailed it. I literally cannot fault the mechanics. The mechanic is easy enough that you can just hold R2 to swing, however you can combine it with quick web zips by pressing X, and diving down to gain speed if you want to swing with a little more skill. I love the fact that the character doesn’t just randomly swing onto an invisible object. If you’re high up in the skies with no tall buildings around, you will not be able to swing. Whenever you do swing, you can actually see the web attaching itself to a building or surrounding object. You can even unlock skills to improve web-zipping and even carry out stunts in the air. By pressing L2, you can even slow down time and find a particular point to zip directly to – it’s a great way to land on an object without over or under-shooting. As this is a PS4 exclusive, I really wish that there was a mode in the game where you could play the game on PS:VR in first-person mode. The city of New York looks so real that web-slinging or jumping off the Empire State Building would have been an incredible use of the VR technology.
The best compliment I can give the developers is that they have created a game that made me feel that I can actually control Spider-Man to carry out the actions that I would expect him to be able to do in real life. Nothing has gone unnoticed. I can web-slingshot myself through the tiniest of gaps. I can crawl through vents and take enemies out stealthily. I can steal enemies’ rocket launchers and beat them up with their own weapons. Spider-Man’s playground isn’t even just outside – his abilities also translate brilliantly when he’s inside. You can tell that Insomniac took a lot of inspiration from the Arkham series, which actually makes a lot more sense in the Spider-Man universe due to the superhero’s spider-sense ability.
Despite having completed the game after 40 hours of action, I never once got bored playing as Spider-Man. This is largely thanks to the large number of suits available to him, with each one giving you additional abilities. To add to this, he also has a large number of gadgets which can easily be accessed by pressing L1. The web bomb was my favourite, which when exploded, will entangle all enemies around you. If they are close to the wall, they will even get stuck to the wall. The spider drone is also an excellent gadget just to buy you some time. For those who like a stealthier approach, there are trip mines that trap enemies directly to surfaces if they activate it. Peter Parker’s abilities as a scientist and his love for technology really translate well into the game.
There are a very large number of suits that can be unlocked as you progress through the story. Even if you did not pre-order the game to get the Iron Spider suit, you will be able to unlock it half way through the game. Some of his other costumes will also be familiar if you watched many of the Spider-Man movies, including his suit from Homecoming and a variation of the suit from the first movie where he takes part in a cage match. My favourite suit is the animated comic-book one! If black is your colour, you’ll be glad to know that there are a lot of very cool black suits too. Each suit will come with a special power that you can unlock and use in combat. The best bit is that the powers are not tied to the suits. If you want, you can unlock a suit, then equip it with a power that belongs to another suit!
The combat is again, faultless. Anyone who has played the Arkham series will be familiar with the combat, however I felt that Insomniac actually steps it up a notch. You’ll often fight more enemies than you can deal with, but with your gadgets, you can keep some of them busy by tying them up. Usually in every fight, there are dozens of objects that you can throw at enemies by holding L1+R1. Once you have enough skills unlocked, you can even throw enemies at each other! I eventually learned that I could just keep myself in the air and pull enemies up to me to kill them one by one. The moment I would unlock a finisher, I would execute that on someone on the floor and then repeat the process. If you play the game on the hardest difficulty, you’ll want to take out as many enemies as possible in a stealthy manner. Snipers in particular will dish out a lot of damage.
The story mode also has its large share of boss battles with each one providing a unique challenge. You do go through a period where you don’t face any bosses, and then suddenly you have many to compete with. However taking on the likes of Rhino and Scorpion at the same time was incredibly satisfying, as you’d need to take advantage of both of their weaknesses that are different. I wish there were a few more noticeable villains in the game, but the last 5-6 missions makes up for the lack of bosses in the first half.
Spider-Man is best appreciated on a PS4 Pro. I ran the same game on my normal PS4 and there were very clear visual differences. The buildings were less shiny on a regular PS4 and the gameplay wasn’t as smooth. There are still some minor visual problems. For those who have explored the citizens who are on boats, for some reason they showed up as boxed cardboard-like heads! Nonetheless, 99% of the time, the facial animations are spot on. All of the main characters are incredibly-well rendered and their expressions are very realistic.
It was clear that Marvel gave Insomniac the seal of approval to create a story that translates well into a video game. Whilst the story itself isn’t innovative, it is designed to get the best out of not just Spider-Man, but Peter Parker. It also helps humanize some of the key villains of the game. Peter’s relationship with his aunt and Mary Jane is also given some attention. In particular, a lot of the issues that Peter has with MJ are relatable with what an ordinary couple would go through. The campaign itself focuses on Spider-Man trying to uncover the mystery behind one of the game’s villains, Mr. Negative. This leads him down a path where he discovers the existence of a new poisonous toxin that the key villains in the game are about to spread. It takes a while for the story to unfold, but it is totally worth it for the cinematic experience you’ll get towards the end. Throughout the campaign, you also get to play as other characters and engage in stealth missions. Whilst this was a nice surprise at first, I was just looking forward to playing as Spider-Man. I didn’t like the game taking away my ability to web-sling!
The best aspect of the campaign was how it was just as much a story about Peter Parker as it was about Spider-Man. In fact, Spider-Man often takes a back seat, as Peter’s personality always shines through even during the tensest situations. His relationship with Otto Octavius is particularly special and his conversations with Yuri in the police department were always delightful as I swung through the city.
There are a lot of bonus quests outside of the main campaign too. There are plenty of enemy bases that you need to reclaim. There are Taskmaster challenges that require you to chase drones, stealthily take out groups of enemies and even engage in much tougher combat all within a certain time frame. There are research stations set up by Harry Osborne scattered around the city that allow you to engage in mental puzzle-based activities. Completing any of these will unlock special tokens that are used to upgrade gear or unlock new suits. Sometimes, the puzzles do get repetitive and boring, but they are quite simple and don’t take long to complete.
The game also has one of the best photo modes to exist on any game, thanks to a day-one patch. This patch allows you to instantly go into photo mode and shoot photos of Spider-Man with all of his surroundings under any circumstance. You can even carry out poses to make your photo look more like a selfie. Games like God of War and Assassins Creed Origins also had great photo modes. Spider-Man is right up there with the best. I spent a huge amount of time trying to dive off a building and capture the perfect shot as he’s pulling off an acrobatic stunt.
Spider-Man is very clearly a GOTY contender. It’s a shame that the game has come out in the same year as God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2. If these three games came out in separate years, they would all win the GOTY. The fact that Spider-Man has to compete with such an incredible year of games is actually a shame as it deserves every accolade it is nominated for. Spider-Man is just another example of why the PS4 has had its most impressive year to date. It has surpassed the Arkham series as the best superhero game and I desperately hope that Marvel recognizes Insomniac’s work by allowing them to work on additional superhero titles. Spider-Man is a prime example of why every modern-day gamer should own a PS4 Pro.