The game I have been super stoked for ever since I started working at an office with a big-time Marvel fan as a coworker. Granted, I was already excited for this game, but him and I talking about it got me even more stoked. This license has unfortunately been abused by so many people. The number of bad games vastly outnumbers the good ones. But when I saw Insomniac putting out a gameplay demo, I could see that they had learned so much. Sure, parts of it looked like they were riffing on the Arkham games, but whatever. It’s still Spider-Man at it’s core. After all that waiting, does the final title live up to the hype? Let’s talk about it.
The plot goes that it has been eight years since Peter Parker started to do his thing as Spider-Man. He’s firmly established, and has put away a decent amount of his rogue’s gallery. After all these years of doing his thing, he’s not too far from where he started. He’s poor as fuck (because he’s an idiot and keeps turning down money for ethical reasons. Dude, you can’t do your best as a super-hero without a decent bankroll? Ask Tony Stark how that works for him), but doing his best to improve humanity as much as he can. The game begins with him putting away one of the biggest of his baddies – Wilson Fisk. Just when you’d think things would calm down with Fisk behind bars, a new baddie is on the scene, ready to make things even worse.
I have so much to talk about with this game. Let’s start with how it plays. Everything about making this a fun game hinges on how well it plays. And this is where I get to tell you – this game is buttery smooth! While I’m sure the size of the world is not to scale with actual New York, it is a huge playground, and everything about getting around it is great. This game’s web-swinging is all about getting and maintaining momentum. The developers knew that if that aspect sucks, the rest is going to be tedious. Getting around New York is so much fun! You unlock fast-traveling pretty early on, but I never found myself using it. Jetting around the city as the Spider is just too much fun not to.
Combat in this game is similarly about maintaining movement. Spider-Man isn’t the toughest dude, so you have to be able to move. Using your webs, dodges, and gadgets, you keep the flow of battle going. As time goes on, there is a diverse amount of villains, though that does eventually tie in to one of my criticisms. But we’ll get there when we do. My favorite way to play is stealthy, and it’s kind of a bummer there aren’t more levels that let me do that. Even the areas where you have to clear out enemy bases, they don’t let you clean the whole thing out stealthily. I wish they did, because it’s the most fun part.
However, another thing that all of the fun in this game hinges on is the boss fights, and holy shit did they get that right! The only complaint I have about how fun these boss fights are is how few of them there are. Each of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery that you get to right has a unique way to fight them, and there isn’t a single one that I wasn’t at least a little wowed by. There is a new villain brought into the game who hasn’t been seen outside the comics – Mister Negative. And this dude is no slouch! Not only is he a cool character with a neat narrative to tell, but he is not fucking around.
In addition to getting to play as the web-head, you also get to play as MJ and Miles Morales. Oh no! Getting to play as a woman and a black young man! How will I identify with them if I don’t share a gender or skin color with them?! That’s what idiots in the social justice sphere think when I see things like that. But you know what, I think of my favorite part of the game was getting to play as MJ. There is a bit where you have to use her to give directions to Spidey in order to stealthily save a ton of hostages. That mission was tight! You are almost entirely through MJ’s perspective, seeing the Spider do his thing from her point of view. Kind of gives me some sympathy for being one of his villains. Chasing this guy must suck. But Miles’ bits were fun too. A part where he is sneaking past two of the Sinister Six made my nerves go haywire. Since neither him nor MJ has Spider-Man’s abilities, you have to play their bits as stealth missions, and every one of them is fun.
Oh, and I can’t talk about this game unless I sing the praises of the visuals. This game looks unbelievably good! I mean holy shit! The environments are phenomenal, and it looks so good as you’re blazing through it. Each time of day brings a nice perspective, though night and rain aren’t the prettiest. Still, it’s a great-looking game. Every environment is brought to life with incredible attention to detail. Especially with the titular character. Whether it be the Iron Spider suit from Avengers: Infinity War, or my favorite suit, the Dark Spider, each of them looks fantastic. And you get them almost all the way through. None of that cutting to the suit that appears to be the mainstay of the Spider in this game.
But with all the good things, there are some negatives. First, the side-missions are not especially interesting. There is the intro of Black Cat, but I’m only stoked for that because of the DLC with her that I cannot wait for. I wish I could get to actually go after her in one of those games. People think that everyone ships her and Spider-Man together just as a fanfiction thing, but there is an actual bit on the comics where he outright does the deed with her. There is a panel where you see both of their clothes, and him saying it was a good decision. Spider-Man has a habit of getting with almost all of his fangirls. His sexual resume is actually really impressive, when you think about the fact that he is such a dork in his alter-ego. There was a digression.
The side-missions in the game are almost all either tedious or not especially interesting. For example – you go around taking pictures of all the various landmarks in New York, in addition to the Avengers Tower, the Sanctum Sanctorum, and the Wakandan Embassy. You know what would have been nice – something to go with that. A kind of journal entry or something. A little blurb on Parker’s experience or knowledge of these places. He talks about knowing King T’challa when you take a pic of the Wakandan Embassy so why not give us something about that? It’s a weird thing to not include. Would have made me more excited to get this pictures if I could have had me a little NYC Wikipedia in the game. Have some comic book perspective, which is especially prescient since there are plenty of things you take pictures of that are only in the comics. Should give the people who aren’t super initiated some context. Just seemed like a missed opportunity.
Also, the enemy bases that you take out got REALLY repetitious after a while. Especially as it becomes just new varieties of enemies that have bases you have to take out. It would have been nice if there were bases where you could only use stealth, or at least could take out every enemy with stealth and have that be the end. Instead, no matter how quiet you are, the game eventually forces you to right waves of enemies, and especially with the Sable bases, it gets tedious really fast.
Another thing that I thought about – if you are going to riff on the Arkham games, which I have no problem with because they made it their own, why are their no character models? The character trophies in the aforementioned game series let you take a look at the characters after you take them out. I kinda would have liked that. Especially since so many of them have a very unique look. The game has a cool photo mode, so why not that as well? Just putting it out there, it’s a missed opportunity. While I’m at it, you let me choose so many different suits for Spidey, why not some outfits for Peter Parker? Always seeing him in flannel gave me hipster flashbacks.
Lastly, why is there no New Game Plus mode? Another easy piece of missed opportunity. The Dark Suit is my favorite, and I kinda wanted to go through the game with it the whole time. Maybe this is just me nit-picking, but it seems like an obvious bit to have.
Overall, this game is very, very fun. I am liking it a lot. But it’s not perfect. The side-stuff can get a little old, and the enemy variety does grow stale after a while if you work diligently to get through all the character stuff. But this is definitely a Spider-Man game in a class of its own. It’s a perfect template to build off of if there are any sequels. Hopefully we get at least one. Norman Osborn being in there means that Green Goblin has to make an appearance at some point. Guess I spoiled there that he doesn’t in this game, but it isn’t that bad. He is still a central character, and you can see that when it gets there, it is going to be insane. With three pieces of DLC that the devs have promised are going to be big story enhancements, we’ll see what it becomes.
8 out of 10