By Shane Ferguson
Marvel’s Spider-Man on the PlayStation 4 is a love letter and spiritual successor to every Spider-Man game that came before it. How do I know? Spider-Man is my favorite character not only in comic books, but in pop culture – period. I’m not sure if it’s his combat ability, cool costume and powers, or maybe because he’s a New Yorker (back rent and all). I grew up on the 90’s animated series and my love for Spidey means I’ve played tons of video games featuring the web-head throughout the years. From the SNES classics all the way on to the more recent entries, I only passed on The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I can still remember getting Spider-Man on the original PlayStation in September, 2000 for my birthday. I remember being elated skimming the manual and reading about the long selection of moves available. I remember being impressed with the story, voice acting, and cast of Marvel characters woven into the tale. It was so ahead of its time that, to this day, that game stands as my definitive superhero game. 18 years and three PlayStation console generations later, Insomniac Games recreates a similar impression.
Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man is a lot like a great pop song. It’s fun and can grab your attention in the beginning. Marvel’s Spider-Man is a homage to every Spider-Man game that came before it as are many pop tunes. It’s a nearly perfect one at that, blending all the best elements of each one into a Spidey-in-his-prime tale. The issue is, if you’re like me, then you’ve seen all these tricks before, some done better, some with animations literally seemingly ripped right from previous titles. I don’t have a problem with this personally, but if you’re old enough to have played other Spider-Man games, you may believe Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man doesn’t pack enough inventive ideas to make it feel like an original experience. On the other hand, if you have never played a Spider-Man game, you’re in for one of the most entertaining action-packed game experiences you have ever had.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is a master class on how to do fast-paced action in a single player title. It’s hard to put the controller down once you start playing. I would expect there to be more varied activities, considering the density of the very detailed New York City map. Unfortunately, I found myself completing the additional tasks and side missions too swiftly. This might also be due to the fact Marvel’s Spider-Man is a fairly easy game. I played my campaign on the Spectacular difficulty and rarely felt challenged. No complaints, as I assume this is due to the game’s intended younger demographic. The combat, while similar to the Batman/Arkham series lacked diversity in combat as well as a real cerebral challenge. Enemies aren’t much of a threat to Spider-Man, so you can choose whether you want your webs or fist to incapacitate them. You have a web first move set, which is how Spider-Man really fights in the comics and other media. With the exception of some of the stealth elements, I’d have to say they hit the nail on the head as far as combat is concerned.
Spider-Man is hands down one of the best looking games I’ve played on the PS4. Even on the standard PS4, I find myself highly impressed. The lighting and textures are stunning along with character animations. The voice and character acting is of movie quality and kept me immersed throughout. I was sincerely astonished when first swinging through New York City. At times, the sunset was effulgent and the open world has an authentic Manhattan vibe to it. Even the windows on the NYC skyscrapers have a depth beyond them and aren’t just 2D images slapped on a digital wall.
The story has great pacing, particularly if you take breaks to do some of the other activities. There are collectibles in the form of book bags scattered across New York City. These book bags were left and forgotten by Peter Parker over the years. Each contains a personal item followed by a description voiced by Peter himself. Insomniac’s Spider-Man universe is a perfect blend of pre and posts Disney Marvel with some classic touches for older fans while not ignoring the current times. It benefits greatly from the Arkham-esce non-canon universe treatment. We haven’t seen an older, experienced Peter Parker in some time.
Everyone you’d come to expect shows up along with a few special appearances. I particularly love the game’s presentation of Dr. Otto Octavius. His character is handled deftly in my opinion. His motivations and relationship to Peter Parker make him a more complex villain than he’s usually portrayed to be. Despite being a genius doctor like some other Marvel characters, we rarely see him stray beyond the Spider-Man universe. So I enjoyed seeing a more developed and realistic depiction of him.
Spider-Man on the PS4 is exactly what I expected it to be. It’s on the easy side, though, and the puzzles felt like busy work. These are all minor complaints however as the game is a quintessential Spider-Man experience. I don’t think it’s too early to say, Insomniac’s Spider-Man is already easily one of my favorite games on the PS4. There are tons of Easter eggs, activities, and costumes with their own special abilities. Random crimes, side missions, and a great story will keep you busy for hours. It’s an excellent title that brought me back to my childhood and I found it hard not to binge the entire game in one session. I look forward to a sequel or anything related to the Insomniac Spider-Man universe.
All images used are screenshots captured from gameplay by writer Shane Ferguson.