In my last review of God Of War, I waxed lyrical how it was a perfect masterpiece of a game, and proceeded to score it a 10/10. Spider-Man isn’t as perfect a game as that, but my god I enjoyed playing it a whole lot more. You see, nearly every moment of Spider-Man is just spectacular fun!
There are two things that Rebellion have done here. Firstly the swinging and traversal of New York is just superb. Fast travel is available but why use it when the speed and momentum of Spidey’s swing feels so good. Travelling from Battery Park at the south of Manhattan to Harlem in the North is a fair distance, but can be done here in a matter of minutes. At no point during my playthrough did I feel that the travel to my next objective was a chore, but instead a real pleasure, but if and when you do fast travel the cutscenes are well worth it! The second thing is that the game is filled with so much fan service. This Spider-Man is Peter Parker who has been inhabiting the suit for many years, and is comfortable with his abilities and responsibilities. Familiar supporting characters are all here, from Norman Osborn to Aunt May, with a few surprises along the way, and a cameo from a Marvel Cinematic Universe regular, and all are handled with the same care and love as our hero is. The recent Spider-Man Homecoming did a great job in relaunching the character to film, and this game has further piqued my interest in a character that previously wasn’t a favourite of mine.
I was lucky enough to visit New York a few years ago and this version of the city is a very close representation of the actual city, with every landmark in it’s actual place on the map. I was surprised to see smaller landmarks also present, such as the Highline walkway, which really show how much care and attention has been put into this game. Look hard and you may also find a very historic fire station! New York is filled with so many things to do besides from the main story. Each district of Manhattan has a number of towers to unlock (a la Assassins Creed) which then gives you all the locations of backpacks, locations and Fisk hideouts, all which must be collected or completed in order to 100% the game. All the collectibles add so much to the back story of the character especially when accompanied by a soundbite from our hero. As the story progresses more activities and collectibles are opened up to you as well. The great thing about these are the variedness of each activity. Take for example the Research stations. Each mission you are given is different, from analysing toxic emissions to removing barrels from the Hudson River. This template is replicated across the majority of activities, with new styles and types being introduced as you progress, which never gives you the feeling that you are replicating a previous task.
The main story is also handled extremely well. The big action set-pieces such as the prison scene showed at E3 are fun and exhilarating, and made me gasp with excitement on many occasions. There are a wide range of supporting characters that you would already be aware of, like Electro, Rhino and Mr Negative, along with some that were not shown or teased ahead of the games release, which I won’t be revealing here for fear of spoiling, but as soon as certain characters are introduced then a basic understanding of the franchise will lead to a massive sense of excitement about what’s incoming. Whoever wrote the script for these characters should have a job for life at Marvel, as they nailed Spider-Man and Peter Parker’s dialogue, especially the wisecracking part of his personality. Every combat sequence, interaction with other characters and during traversal are filled with witty comments, the majority of which made me smile. There are some great scenes, such as “Did you leave your clothes on the Kitchen floor?” which provide wonderful comic relief. Huge praise should also be given to all the voice actors for their incredible work in bringing the characters to life, especially the amazing Yuri Lowenthal who nailed Spider-Man, and also to William Salyers who brings menace and despair to one of the villains.
If you have played any of the recent Batman games then the combat system here will be very familiar. It’s quite tricky for newcomers at the start, but within a few minutes you’ll start to get into a flow, and before long you’ll be dodging and hitting like a pro. Taking out the wave based areas like the Fisk construction sites is where you will hone your combat skills as you take on the many enemies, and as well as your fists you also have your gadgets on offer. These are great and can be advantageous in your fights. Most are web based and can see you setting trip mines, web bombs and electric webs, to name but three, and these are brilliant fun. The dodge mechanic is cleverly designed as your Spidey-sense and a visual cue will appear over our hero’s head when there is incoming danger. All of the gadgets are upgradeable along with the suits and suit skills. There are multiple suits available to purchase and all – again – will provide those hardcore fans with real glee when they see some of the designs. Skill points are also on offer and are used to give Spidey some extra skills in traversal and combat, my own favourite being a take-down after a perfect dodge, which is hugely beneficial when some of the later base levels become unlocked.
There are a few small issues which stops this being my second 10/ 10 of the year. Firstly, although the traversal is handled brilliantly, it struggles a bit when some finesse is needed, especially on some of the bomb defusal activities, and I found myself overshooting objectives and therefore not earning the full quota of rewards. There are also times when I have clipped edges of buildings which resulted in a severe loss of momentum, but that is probably more down to my lack of skill. There are also a few moments in combat where the camera didn’t quite keep up and I found myself overwhelmed by unseen enemies. On some of the street battles I have witnessed some enemies who were firing at me through vehicles which was frustrating. None of these are serious issues, but were enough to affect my enjoyment on certain tasks. I also thought that the Taskmaster activities were also really tough, and as you require these to unlock suits they are essential to be completed which does make it a bit of a slog. There are also puzzle mini-games – which I liked – and occasions where you play as other characters, which were either great (Grand Central) or felt a bit forced.
However, none of these issues fail to take away from the fact that Spider-Man is just tonnes of fun to play. All of the small touches are the things that make it rise above being just a great action adventure game. For example, when you start a swing through the city the awesome hero theme tune will start playing. The J. Jonah Jameson podcast that reacts to your on-screen exploits. The MCU Cameo. Spideys wisecracks. The suits that nod to popular comic series. Photo mode. These all just show the love and care that Insomniac have put into this game, but I need to repeat my first point from this review. The traversal around the city is just perfect. It might feel that it’s a bit of a trick but when you really look into it you will see that every swing requires your web to be anchored to a surface in order for it to work. It’s no trick but an absolute achievement in game design. The story is one of my favourite campaigns of the last few years and the fact that I prioritised mopping up the collectibles instead of started Red Dead Redemption 2 shows you just how highly I rate it. It may lose out on GOTY to the other two big AAA titles but make no mistakes, this is a truly great game, and hopefully its success means we will be playing the sequel in a few years time!