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Marvel’s Spider-Man

Posted by GG Goblin On September - 19 - 2018

Doing whatever a spider can.

I’m a big fan of superheroes and often feel disappointed by the lack of quality superhero video games. It used to be that every year would see at least a couple of superhero video games, with the majority of them being movie tie-ins, but they were mostly a bit rubbish. Then came along the Batman Arkham series, which seemed to set a new standard for superhero games which resulted in everyone else pretty much giving up. However, there is hope now in the form of everyone’s favourite web-slinger. Sony and Insomniac Games have taken up the challenge by releasing Marvel’s Spider-Man exclusively on PS4. From the very fist teasers, Insomniac’s offering promised a super heroic game to be proud of, and it really doesn’t disappoint.

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To be honest, the original Activision Spider-Man games were not all bad, and the joy of swinging through the city streets was unmatched by any game since. Until now, that is. All other things aside, the web-slinging is perhaps the most anticipated feature of Marvel’s Spider-Man, and it works to perfection. Moving around Manhattan, the glorious open-world setting, is as simple as the player wants it to be. The controls allow players to simply leap from a building, attach a web to any nearby structure and swing through the air with skill. Players are able to get more height by holding the swing for longer, or get more speed with shallow swings and the occasional boost. It is very easy to pick up and a great way to explore the city, although fast travel becomes available later in the game to cut down on the commuting time.

To start with, directing the swings can be a little tricky and players will find themselves heading straight for the side of buildings. This doesn’t matter though, as Spider-Man’s agility and parkour skills will see him seamlessly switch to running up walls or vaulting over obstacles in a very player empowering way. With a bit of practice though, Spider-Man will soon be swinging effortlessly around corner and between small gaps without any collisions, and the player will be feeling like a true superhero.

So, Insomniac has mastered the swing, but they have succeeded in so much more besides. The open-world setting of Manhattan is glorious recreated, looking and feeling like I would assume the real city does, at least from swinging through the air. The developers have done such a great job of creating this spidey playground that players are given the chance to whip out the camera and take pictures of points of interest, just like any standard tourist. For the more observant, there are even little references to other members of the Marvel Universe to find.

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The city feels alive, and is certainly not short of things to do. This is perhaps where the game can be a little disappointing. As with many an Ubisoft game, players will need to activate radio towers, or surveillance towers, in order to open up the map, and then watch as it fills with little icons showing a host of side missions and collectibles. The collecting side of things leads to great rewards and is great fun to start with, but does feel slightly like busywork, making sure that the player is never at a loss for things to do. The side missions are also a bit hit or miss, with some highly enjoyable little mini encounters alongside some really dull run-of-the-mill quests. To begin with, it is a great way to explore the city and get to grips with the various controls, and nothing beats stumbling across a crime in the early part of the game. However, with more time in the game, these activities start to feel stale.

The story is pretty good though. Starting with a face off against crime kingpin Wilson Fisk, Insomniac weave a great tale containing a whole bunch of popular Spider-Man bad guys. I would have to say that while I can appreciate the extended cast of villains, there is perhaps less time spent with them on screen than I would have expected. Most of the encounters in the game will revolve more around henchmen and goons than any super powered adversaries. What I did find interesting though, is the way the game includes Peter Parker in the story as well as his Spider-Man alter ego. Being set slightly later in Peter’s life than most players would recognise, we discover that Peter is single and pretty much friendless. MJ is still around, working as an investigative journalist, Aunt May is working in a homeless shelter, and J Jonah Jameson is shouting a lot on the radio. Oh, and Spider-Man is still the mast of quips, with barely a moment going past without some silly joke or another. Through the course of the story, players will be able to experience the more sedate side of Peter’s life, going to work or helping out at the shelter, and through this the game is able to create very well rounded characters that people will care about.

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But the reality is that, despite spending some time doing the more mundane things, the majority of Spidey’s time will be spent getting into fights. The combat has taken influence from the excellent Arkham series, offering nuanced brawling with added verticality. While some sequences will give the player a chance to exercise their stealth, staying hidden up above and executing stealthy take downs, most encounters will quickly come down to melee and web-based attacks, and plenty of dodging. Spidey has a spider-sense that will alert him to an incoming attack, giving him a chance to dodge with ease, and the obvious verticality of Spider-Man’s movement can quickly get him out of danger. Stringing together attacks will fill a focus meter, which can be partially used to heal Spider-Man during combat, or be used to unleash a special move. Players have a simple web attack to start with and alternatives can be unlocked along the way, such as web bombs, and there are loads of different skills, abilities and gadgets to unlock in order to keep the combat interesting.

And the brawling is great fun, but can be hard work. Some encounters feel like they hang around far too long, and more than once I had to take a break as my thumbs started seizing up from over use. Also, while the combat is easy to pick up and deep enough to spend time mastering, I never felt really empowered as a superhero should. Even the regular good could prove a threat to the unprepared player, and some of the combat encounters felt more like a button mashing grind to success than a day in the park for Spider-Man. It all works, but it is not as super heroic as I would have liked.

Anyone who has watched the trailer will already know how incredible Spider-Man looks, and it really doesn’t disappoint when played. With the stunning city setting, the fluidity of movement and some excellent use of lighting, everything about this game just oozes quality. I can only imagine how awesome the game looks on the PlayStation 4 Pro with a 4K TV. Marvel’s Spider-Man is one of the best looking games available, and is certainly the best looking superhero game.

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Which says it all really. Marvel’s Spider-Man is the best superhero game around. It is not perfect, but it comes pretty close. Pulling the player in from the very beginning and taking them on a roller coaster journey filled with Spidey fun, Marvel’s Spider-Man is a great action game that belongs in the library of every PS4 owner.




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