There have been quite a number of video games released in the past that use the Spider-Man license. Though much like the films many of them have been quite hit or miss. With many of the more recent games falling into the later category. But now Marvel Games have trusted the Spider-Man license to the talented and quirky folks over at Insomniac games. And boy hasn’t it paid off. This game will be remembered for being one of the best ‘superhero’ games ever and likely the best Spider-Man game (well at least until we get the largely hinted sequel to this game).
Marvel’s Spider-Man wastes no time getting you into the action. Teaching you the basics of it’s fantastic web swinging mechanic right of the bat and training you on the ins and outs of combat with a great opening mission that concludes with a boss battle sequence.
In this game’s timeline Peter has been Spider-Man for 8 years. There’s no origin story here, no uncle Ben, no baby steps learning to be Spider-Man. From the first minute of the game you feel like you are an experienced Spider-Man. One that has existing history in this city and a pre-established rogues gallery.
As I briefly mentioned swinging around the city feels great. And in a Spider-Man game that’s something you’ve really got to nail. The city of Manhattan feels busy and full of life. Even if you rarely see what’s going on because you’re too busy traversing the city from the tops of skylines most of the time.
I didn’t use the game’s fast travel system because the open world traversal just feels so great and there are generally plenty of collectables you’ll find along the path to the next main objective. You’ll never be short of something to do in this world.
My only problem with the game’s movement came when I was trying to precisely land on a specific part of a wall or object. Because the movement system is focused around being super fluent and allowing you to traverse the city without the sense of ever slowing down I found that when I needed to be precise about something, such as collecting a backpack from the side of a building, I would often be unable to stick and crawl to the right part of the wall. I would get stuck in a fast paced wall run and end up zipping right past the item I was trying to collect resulting in having to try and loop back around or jump off the building and zip back to it, hoping I landed in a better spot for collection.
It didn’t stop me being able to collect all of the scattered collectables in the city but did happen quite often when trying to do smaller, more precise movements in the world.
The game’s story is really well written, has numerous plot twists and is packed full of emotion at times. The performance of Yuri Lowenthal as Peter Parker is fantastic. He portrayed Peter’s lighthearted joking side perfectly but also delivers believable emotion packed screams and passion in the game’s heartbreaking scenes.
The 3 act structure of the main narrative is predictable at times but I fully expected it to be as there’s only so far you can push the envelope when developing a story inside a universe with over 50 years of pre-established lore, TV series’ and numerous films. I did predict certain plot points and even the true enemy of the game pretty early on but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the game’s story and the interesting way in which it was told. I do however wish that Insomniac had held the featured key villains of the game a little closer to the chest. I feel like too many of them were revealed pre-release and had the Sinister Six breakout sequence been a surprise left for the final game it would have had a much bigger story impact.
But this is more than just a Spider-Man story. It’s a story told by incorporating the perspectives of numerous characters, each fuelled by their own method of wanting to change the world. This is as much a story about Peter and his struggles when the mask is off as it is abut facing off against the numerous villains that have been making his life hell for the past 8 years. Segments of the game are also playable as the sleuthy reporter Mary Jane and these sections are integral to the games story, are combat free, relying more on stealth and offer alternate perspectives to those viewed by Spider-Man in the same scenes.
The missions where you play as Peter Parker or Mary Jane offer a great break from the fast paced superhero action you’ll be performing as Spider-Man and are quite often the scenes that forward the plot in the next big direction. These moments are combat free and instead focus more on sneakily gathering more intel or solving on screen puzzles.
This large number of varied mission types keeps the story and gameplay fresh. Stealth, scientific mix and match mini games, chase sequences, beat em ups, airborne fetch quests, bomb disarmings and there’s still plenty I haven’t mentioned. And of course I can’t forget to mention the boss battles. The bosses in the game are fought in mostly self contained areas of the open world and require you to use the various skills and gadgets in Spider-Man’s arsenal as well as the environment to take down the foes in some highly cinematic fight scenes that blend gameplay, cutscenes and quick time events really well.
One of Marvel’s Spider-Man’s strengths is that there are tons of collectables to find that will keep you entertained for hours after you’ve finished the main story. This is critical for me in an open world game. There’s nothing worse than having this large open world available but nothing to do in it after the main missions are done and dusted. The main story lasts around 12-15 hours but due to how fun traversing the world is and how easily you can become sidetracked by the side quests it can easily take you a lot longer.
Upon completing the story there are still new skills to unlock, gadgets to upgrade and of course the thing every Spidey fan loves the most, unlocking all of the available costumes. Being able to upgrade and unlock the new items is directly tied into the rewards granted from the collectables and side missions scattered around the city. Want to unlock the next cool suit? Well you might need to locate another 3 backpacks and clear out a Fisk hideout to do so. The side missions are already fun on their own but by providing further rewards to the player for beating them gave me more of an incentive to complete them all.
I’ve played a lot of Spider-Man games in the past. I’m a massive fan of the series. And I can honestly say that the love and care Insomniac Games have put into creating this game and how respectfully they have used the Spider-Man license has resulted in what I consider the best Spider-Man game to date. Yes it has some minor flaws in it’s story and movement system when trying to do something precisely but the overall experience is fantastic. Insomniac have delivered an experience that isn’t just all about Spider-Man but also incorporates the lives of Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson and Aunt May in ways that are integral to the plot. And have also presented a large scale open world that feels alive and is absolutely packed with things to do.
Based on the ending it certainly seems like there will be more Spider-Man stories coming out of Insomniac Games and I’m super excited to see where they take the Spider-Man universe next.
A PS4 review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.