Review: Marvel’s Spider-Man

Ever since it was first revealed back at E3 2016, Marvel’s Spider-Man has consistently had great showings across different events for little over two years at this point. Fans have had to wait through multiple trailers but with Insomniac Games at the helm, expectations are pretty high. Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank PS4 game is a fantastic game and tech showcase for the console but Spider-Man is a whole other beast (or arachnid) in terms of its scope. Thankfully, outside of one annoyance, Marvel’s Spider-Man is brilliant.

Unlike most reboot or new superhero games, Marvel’s Spider-Man isn’t an origin story or anything. Spider-Man (and Peter Parker) is struggling with adulthood. He has his own things going on with his day job, managing time across various people in his life in addition to fighting crime. This is a sharp contrast to the Arkham games, as it feels more grounded. You get a window into the human side of Peter through the opening moments of the game and his interactions with Mary Jane and Aunt May. When it comes to the story here, there’s a lot to love with tons of surprises and some great cameos. Having J Jonah Jameson peppering in his thoughts and commentary on various situations through the radio that you hear as Spider-Man is an excellent touch. Things start out with you going straight into the action and while you can put the main story on hold for the plethora of side activities available, it never holds back. Without getting into any spoilers, the way the various villains shown off come together and how their motives are revealed is excellent and there are loads of surprises.

While the opening story moments are action packed, I found myself spending far too much time (in a good way) just exploring the city and slinging all over the place. The traversal is that damn good. You eventually unlock a fast travel option but I never used that until nearing the end of the game because the movement feels superb.  You can zip all over the place with your web and boost a few times before losing momentum. There’s always the option to wall-run across the massive skyscrapers in the city. You can even unlock an ability to do tricks to earn a bit of experience. If you’re up to it, you can go all over and unlock the full map. While you can explore as you please, you unlock the map in a similar way to any other recent open world game through towers. Unlocking one of these reveals the area’s map and lets you see the various collectibles and side activities available.

I was a bit concerned about how it would overwhelm with icons but as soon as you unlock a few of the different activities or collectibles, you get an option to tweak the map display as you please so it doesn’t feel like one of those open world games where there are more icons than there were dollars invested in the making of said game. Each collectible helps you unlock more suits and various tools that help you out. Combat draws inspiration from recent Arkham games but the great thing about Spider-Man combat is how dynamic it is. You can take out a whole group of varied enemies by just pulling them up into the air one by one and throwing out combos or you can do the whole thing grounded by using the environment to your advantage. There’s a lot of combat here through the main story missions and even the various activities in the map but it never got boring.

While you start out with a single suit, you slowly get the ability to unlock more and each suit is usually accompanied by a suit power. These range from being able to throw out an area of effect web attack on everyone near you, use the power of punk rock (not joking), and even gain invincibility for a limited time. The best part about Insomniac’s implementation of these suits is that you can use any power with any suit. The actual suit visual is just a cosmetic that appears in every single story moment and cutscene in addition to gameplay. Spider-Man also has loads of gadgets in addition to his web shooter like a drone that helps you out in combat to more powerful impact webshots. As you finish story and side content, levelling up rewards you with a skill point and boost to damage and speed depending on the level. There are three skill trees for you to unlock skills with and this will allow for some interesting combinations when it comes to exploration and combat abilities.

Outside the main story missions, the side quests are very nice and fleshed out. You even end up unlocking some suits and a lot of experience through side quests and activities. Peter has backpacks scattered all over the map and locating these nets you backpack tokens which you can use to unlock suits. Each side activity has its own currency which can be used to unlock more suits and various skills for suits and gadgets.

The one big concern I’ve had about the visuals here is not about resolution or performance but the draw distance and pop-in that might be concerning. Thankfully, I had no issues with either of those in my 30 plus hours spent here. Performance was almost flawless with minor slowdown in one particular scene towards the end. Everything else played and looked great. You will be giving the share button on your controller a workout here for sure. The suits are varied and very detailed. The city looks stunning across different weather conditions and times of the day as well. The big photo mode is coming in the day one update and that will be the perfect excuse for me to come back here.

While there sadly is no Sum 41 music, the use of licensed music here is great. The non licensed aspect isn’t even some generic superhero nonsense but some great compositions across the board. The music that plays when you’re flying across buildings in particular is great. Overall, the audio is pretty damn great when it comes to sound effects for combat and voice acting. Bystanders and pedestrians across the city will often react to you when you’re nearby either praising you or doing things like asking you for an autograph.

The big annoyance for me in my time is definitely the stealth aspect. There are a few stealth missions spread across the main story and while they are important to the actual plot, the stealth implementation is annoying. Instead of being punished for being spotted with a penalty somewhere, you straight up have to replay the segment after a checkpoint. They aren’t difficult but one of them is very vague and basically breaks the otherwise great pacing of the main story. It is almost as bad and out of place as the one stealth mission in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Overall, Marvel’s Spider-Man is yet another fantastic addition to the PS4 library. 2018 has been amazing for PS4 exclusives with God of War, Yakuza 6, Yakuza Kiwami 2, Shadow of the Colossus, and now Spider-Man. While it may not push the boundaries of open world games, Spider-Man gets almost everything right and is a damn fine game that every PS4 owner needs to experience. I can’t wait for the DLC.

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