Everything you need to know about Spider-Man is in his name and theme song: he can spin a web of any size to catch crooks like they are flies, and he’s strong because of his radioactive blood. He also has a lot of video games under his name. And I mean a “lot” a lot.
Since the dawn of time (1982 to be exact), developers have marveled (see what I did there? Heh) around the fact that Spidey is the perfect candidate for a superhero game franchise. However, only a handful of them stood out from the others, with 2004’s Spider-Man 2 being one, if not, the best. Until this year, when Insomniac Games released their take on our iconic creepy crawler.
When Spider-Man’s trailer was released way back in E3 2016, I was hyped. The last few games in the franchise were mediocre at best, but the dramatic tone of the new entry’s preview pulled me in, along with everybody else. Come E3 2017, I got a bit disappointed. Spider-Man’s gameplay trailer revealed great similarities to the Batman Arkham series in terms of combat. Little do I know, that even with the lingering Arkham scent, I’d still be blown away.
Marvel’s Spider-Man respects the players’ time. It introduces three difficulties, with names mirroring past Spider-Man titles: friendly (great for those who only want to breeze through the story), amazing (balanced gameplay), and spectacular (for veteran spidey fans). Changing the difficulty is also fairly easy. You can even save manually, any time. But these are pretty common in today’s gaming standard, right?
What’s amazing about Insomniac’s take on the title is how the whole experience is filled with action. As you roam New York, criminals randomly attack areas, distracting Spider-Man from getting to the next main mission. Side missions are also abundant, which means 100%-ing the game takes time. No worries, though, since most of these side missions are pretty easy.
Anyway, it’s a good thing the whole map is available from the moment you start a new game. Sure the map is still covered unless explored, but you can roam around the whole place still. The first thing I did was go sight-seeing. There are a lot of Marvel easter eggs to be found: from Dr. Strange’s building to an Inhuman-related statue on the south part of the state. Heck, even most of the collectibles are nods to Peter Parker’s past. After all, this is his game.
The open-world also introduces familiar mechanics, like searching for a tower to unlock a region of the map. Revealing with it some waypoints to side objectives and in-game real-time criminal activities, which Spider-Man will arrive at the exact time, or not – this really just depends on you, the player.
Spider-Man is already a strong character what with his inhumane strength and web shooters and tingling spidey senses. Sometimes his main powers could get a little boring to use. Good thing Insomniac introduces spidey gadgets, aimed to make Spider-Man even more overpowered than he already is. Given the developers’ experience with wacky but effective devices *ahem Ratchet and Clank ahem*, Spidey’s utilities are actually very Spider-Man-like. Bored of the regular Spidey powers? Mix and match your strategy with the superhero’s gadget wheel.
Don’t over abuse your knick-knacks though, since using them depletes their corresponding bars. You’d have to knock out enemies to refill them. Spidey’s regular web shooters, on the other hand, refills over time. So no biggie on going all out with them equipped.
Aside from the regular HP bar on the heads-up display, Spider-Man also has a focus bar. He can charge the bar by doing spidey things, like attacking enemies or dodging them, or even as simple as doing a flip while web-swinging. Once full, he can unleash a power only Spider-Man can. Think of this as his ultimate move.
Spider-Man’s ultimate moves are unlockables from his spider suits. As you level up in the game, a set of spidey clothes become available for you to purchase, anytime, anywhere. Suit powers range from the ever helpful focus-bar recharge to the cool-looking spider limbs as seen on Avengers: Infinity War. It’s a good thing this game doesn’t come with microtransactions.
Even more convenient, the suit powers can be equipped regardless of the spidey clothes worn. Meaning, you can let the neighborhood superhero wear your most favorite SM (Spider-Man, not Sadomasochism) suit, while also having your preferred suit power.
Spider-Man’s overpowered-ness feels a lot like Batman in the Arkham games. Since Peter Parker is already 23 years old in this version, he already has eight years of experience fighting crime, and it shows in his ripped, muscular body. #nohomo
Insomniac has woven a very good story here. Just when you think what happens next is predictable, Insomniac punches you in the gut to say nuh-uh, this isn’t the Spider-Man story your childhood self-knows. Sure, the common Parker tale we all love is still present: dead uncle, old Aunt May, broke Peter (because who is Peter Parker if he ain’t broke, right?), and a couple of other things, but I swear everything else beyond that is new, making the journey through the narrative relatively fresh.
It was a really wise decision to start with Pete as a young adult. This way, no back stories are needed for the side characters, since most of us know them anyway, and the other villains Peter faces are heavily implied to have been defeated before. This paves a better tale to be told on a whole new perspective – adulting.
Remember when Pete was younger, he was a photographer? Well, Spider-Man has two modes for this. After all, what is a modern game without photo mode, right? The first photo mode is for capturing moments to share on your social media timelines and whatnot. The second mode is for in-game tasks and side-missions. Seriously though, the selfie mode is fun. I’ve honestly spent the first three hours mainly on photo mode. The reason I went sight-seeing before going on the first main quest? Photo mode. There’s a lot of pausing mid-fight just so I could snap a cool punch or a selfie. I’m pretty sure my neighbors are annoyed by the random action sounds stopping suddenly for a good ten minutes, just so I could get the perfect angle, shoot, then having resumed the game mid-explosion.
Seriously. There’s photo mode in the game, go and abuse it.
There are details that you don’t need Peter’s camera to see. Heck, you don’t even see them unless you look for them, but they’re right in front of you.
For example, since Spidey is our “friendly” neighbor, to avoid random citizen-punching, the attack button automatically becomes gun-fingers when pressed in front of civilians. Also, when throwing an enemy off the roof, they don’t really fall down, they stick to walls using Spidey’s web. However, the best little detail I’ve noticed is Peter Parker’s voice and how it changes when he’s talking while walking on the ground, or while web-swinging through the skyscrapers.
It’s really the little things that count.
As stated in earlier paragraphs, playing through the game feels like Insomniac has borrowed a lot from the Batman Arkham Series in terms of combat. But technically, it was the Arkham who borrowed from older Spider-Man games, only molding it to perfection. Spider-Man 2018 then borrows the mechanics and added new things only our Spidey can do. Makes me think about the relationship between Uncharted and the new Tomb Raider games.
The in-game world also feels a lot like Infamous Second Son’s, especially during the third act. Why? Well, if I tell you now, you’d be spoiled, right? So best play the game on your own. But for those who have finished the game and also played Second Son, wouldn’t you agree that the Sable Soldiers in the third act being hostile to Spider-Man feels a lot like the Militia in Second Son attacking Delsin? I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just that the whole act is a copycat.
Marvel’s Spider-Man should be renamed to Arkham: Second Spider. Joking aside, here’s a serious question to Insomniac Games – sequel when?
Disclosure: This review is based on a review code provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Read our review policy to know how we go with our game reviews.