I’ve been aboard the hype train for Marvel’s Spider-Man since the day it was announced at E3 2016. Now it’s finally here and I’m so glad to say that it lives up to the hype. Marvel’s Spider-Man is a super fun dive into the Spider-verse and certainly one of the finest to date. To be honest, Spider-Man is so captivating that a lot of the time I kept putting off writing this review to play more Spider-Man in the name of “research”. From the spectacular cityscapes to the amazing rush of web-swinging down to the superior combat–Marvel’s Spider-Man has it all. Couple wonderful gameplay with a wrenching and original story set to an epic score straight out of a MCU film, then you’ve got one of the finest games of the year.
This Spider-Man tale is as good–in some cases better–as an MCU film. With it being an original storyline there are quite a few liberties taken, giving it a fresher take on Peter Parker and company than we may normally be used to. This version of Peter Parker is in his mid-twenties and has been active as Spider-Man for almost a decade. Although it may hit some predictable story beats, the story made me sympathize for Peter Parker in a way that few Spider-Man stories have. The juxtaposition of Spider-Man’s light-hearted and freewheeling attitude and Peter Parker’s disheveled mess of a life truly show how heavily being Spider-Man weighs on Peter. Because Spider-Man’s choices almost immediately impact Peter Parker’s daily life in a negative fashion, the Peter Parker elements of the game feel just as crucial as the parts where you’re Spider-Man but they just don’t feel as good. Yet to be fair, few things feel as good as being Spider-Man in this game.
Despite pre-launch chatter the game looks absolutely beautiful. Though the game’s map may only be confined to Manhattan, there are a plethora of locations to explore and they’re all a visual delight. Not only are there New York staples to see like Radio City Music Hall or the Guggenheim but there are iconic Marvel locations to find like Avengers Tower, the Wakandan Embassy, and Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. All of the character models are gorgeous especially when it comes to Spider-Man’s gallery of enemies. The game’s villains all get decked out in very cool new gear that trumps any of their comic book counterparts. Spidey gets fresh new duds for his new adventure as well and I’ve gotta say the costume for this game is undoubtedly one of Spidey’s best looks. The folks at Insomniac perfectly nailed the world of Peter Parker. You’ll really realize the level of polish and detail during the game’s cutscenes which all seamlessly shift into gameplay whether it be going into a story mission or following the completion of one. Marvel’s Spider-Man goes full-throttle at every moment the game hit me with several QTEs that caught me off guard. The scenes are so marvelously rendered that I caught myself watching the action unfold instead of staying on my toes.
Swinging through the city as Spider-Man is truly when the game is at its peak. Spidey effortlessly sails through the air with grace matched only by the MCU Spider-Man. R2 is all you need to swing, mastering the timing and release will send you soaring to exhilarating height. Swinging through the city feels so great that even after Fast Travel was unlocked I only used it twice in the game. Web zipping from point to point is as easy as hitting both triggers. Without a doubt, Spider-Man is one of the most fluid gaming protagonist in recent memory. Nothing gets in his way once he starts swinging, if Spidey bumps into a wall while swinging he’ll run along the wall. If there is a fire escape, Spidey nimbly navigates through the opening. It hasn’t felt this good to move around a game without a vehicle, ever. However, the wall-running mechanics can a bit wonky. The game is at its best when there’s open air for Spidey to swing. The last game to even come close to this range of motion is Sunset Overdrive, another game from Insomniac.
Combat in Spider-Man is obviously inspired by the legendary Batman Arkham system but modified and enhanced for Spider-Man. Enemies are varied enough that each fight requires a thorough assessment. Combat feels as effortless as swinging through the city thanks to a tight set of controls. Square handles attacks while triangle launches a webline used for web-throwing and yanking. Circle is dodge — the most important button in the game. It is so easy to take a large amount of damage especially during the early going of the game. You don’t want to be button mashing when a brute takes a swing at you. The combat isn’t all about beating your opponent into submission, trying to do so will likely lead to a ton of retries on the mission. The key to combat is enemy management, even with Spidey’s agility and dexterity he can still be overpowered and overrun. Ensnaring enemies in a web guarantees that enemy won’t return to battle. Spidey also has access to a large array of gadgets that makes combat even deeper. Gadgets like the Web Bomb and Spider Drone are helpful in keeping the large swarms of enemies in check. Some gadgets are even handier when used in conjunction with others, try using the web bomb followed by the concussive blast and thank me later.
Spider-Man has a skill tree that continually improves the already impressive gameplay. Spidey gains access to a veritable treasure trove of skills simply from leveling up which occurs quite often. Suits play an integral role in the game as almost every suit in the game comes with a special ability that can be assigned to any suit after it has been unlocked. Upgrades aren’t only a result of combat and XP gain, in order to purchase new suits and gadgets Spidey has to accrue different kinds of tokens from varying challenges. These challenges are marked all over your map and are easy to pinpoint in the game with a simple press of R3. This upgrade system promotes exploration and and skill rather than sheer force. If this were any other game, tasks like collecting backpacks and taking pictures of monuments would seem like chores but the world of Spider-Man is so fun to explore and filled with so many references to the greater Marvel universe that exploring, collecting, and upgrading are equally as satisfying as the web-slinging and combat.
. The game isn’t all swinging around and webbing up bad guys, the game makes Pete (and the player by extension) flex their brain muscle with a series of puzzles throughout the game. The brain games aren’t the game’s biggest focus–and they shouldn’t be–but they add an extra element of fun to the game. The side missions in the game vary widely from fun, tech based puzzles to catching pigeons. This game is the ultimate (pun intended) Spider-Man experience, every facet of being Spider-Man is covered down to his “friendly neighborhood” demeanor–pressing square around civilians will let Spider-Man interact with his adoring public.
There are times where Spider-Man has to operate stealthily for a mission but rarely is your adherence to stealth truly a factor, most of the time it breaks out into a huge brawl anyway. Only during the stealth side missions are you ever penalized for taking the brawler route. Spider-Man also features missions as Peter Parker which are often more for XP farming and plot development than anything.
It’s obvious that Sony, Marvel, and especially Insomniac put their heart and soul into crafting the most gratifying Spider-Man experience possible. From top to bottom Marvel’s Spider-Man is a love letter to the fans. With a plethora of Marvel easter eggs to discover and an expansive map to explore there’s you truly feel like you’re a part of Spider-Man’s world. Marvel’s Spider-Man has an excellent narrative that knows how to manage and leverage the duality of Spider-Man and Peter Parker, using the life of Peter Parker to directly impact the events of the game. This is one of those titles that I just can’t seem to put down. Even as I type this sentence I have the game paused. Though there have been plenty of Spider-Man games preceding this one, this one takes the cake. In previous games you’ve played as Spider-Man but with so much to do and see this time you really feel like you are the webhead.