Spider-Man is easily one of, if not the most, anticipated titles of the year. Fans the world over collectively held their breath and understandably so; Spider-Man‘s recent history hasn’t exactly been great. Especially when considering the most recent games, they were lackluster at best. So, when Sony announced the new title, it was met with mixed reactions, mostly hopeful. When they finally showed it off though, everyone went nuts. The question is, have they repaired the damage to Spidey’s gaming credit? Oh. Fuck. Yeah.
It’s clear from the start that Spider-Man has been built from the ground up with Spidey’s unique and acrobatic movements as the centrepiece. Movement is so fluid and graceful it’s easy to get from one end of the city to the other never having to touch the ground. I have fond memories of playing Spider-Man 2 on my old Nintendo GameCube, swinging through New York for hours on end, reveling in the simplicity of it and just enjoying flying through the air before catching yourself at the last second to pick up insane speed and carry on.
The web-slinging in Spider-Man is fast, fluid and most importantly, enjoyable. You can lose yourself for hours just exploring the city, challenging yourself to create new routes and ways to traverse areas as quickly as possible. Every movement is choreographed to perfection, transitioning from one swing to another with a somersault or twist looks incredible and captures Spidey’s style. To add a little extra emphasis to your trips around the Manhattan skyline, the soundtrack seems to get louder as you pick up speed.
As you pick up speed and time a jump just right the background music levels come up and add that little sense of triumph, encouraging you to learn to maximize the efficiency of your movements so you can listen to the great soundtrack behind the game. Not to say that the music doesn’t play when you aren’t moving, it just doesn’t seem anywhere near as grand or noticeable. Why walk when you can fly?
And it’s not just the web slinging that’s immaculately well animated, but the combat sequences are simply amazing, the transition between the two is so smooth you hardly notice it and integration is flawless. You often find yourself crossing the distance between your enemies in some overly flashy but impressive dodges incorporating some form of crazy web swing. Stumbling across a crime in progress while swinging around is a perfect example and there’s nothing more satisfying than being a couple hundred meters up then diving into an enemy with a web-strike takedown.
The combat mechanics drew a little flack when revealed with people complaining that it’s just a re-skinned version of the Batman Arkham games system. While not being wrong, they aren’t completely correct and let’s be honest, it never made sense that Batman could fly across the room to punch a guy a millisecond before the dude actually attacked him.
However, Spider-Man‘s spidey sense actually makes that aspect make sense, allowing you to dodge/counter with precision and build up some ridiculous combos for extra damage and “focus”. The takedown sequences requiring said focus are totally worth it, making it easy to dispatch some of the trickier and more annoying enemies as well as providing some stunning visuals, perfect for Spider-Man’s built-in Photo Mode. Chaining together takedowns and combos is incredibly satisfying, only made better by webbing your enemies to any nearby structure that looks vaguely solid.
At first it can be a little challenging and overwhelming when you get surrounded by enemies but understandably so; You can only dodge so many attacks flung at you at once, so jumping away and webbing a guy up or using one of the ridiculously useful and fun gadgets available to dispatch an enemy is always a valid option. The path of progress opens up a whole wealth of options for disposing of bad guys, although I always feel a little bad when kicking a guy clean off a 30-story building, knowing full well that that guy probably just died.
Spider-Man isn’t all web-slinging and beating up bad guys, just as Spider-Man isn’t just a superhero, he’s also Peter Parker, Super Nerd. There are a couple of cool puzzle games where you are tasked with either identifying a material by lining up the right combination of lines in a spectrometer or build a balanced circuit in order to fix or break a device. Not only are these enjoyable but they sound pretty damn accurate too.
For the most part, they are completely optional but completing them rewards resources for building new gadgets and suits as well as XP for new skills. The only other puzzle comes in the form of the surveillance towers mounted on various rooftops around New York. It seems impossible for a free-roaming open world game to not feature some form of tower or viewing platform that unlocks a portion of the map and shows off the area nowadays but that being said there aren’t too many of them to find.
Synchronising the wavelength of the towers can be a little fiddly, making sure to hold both analog sticks in just the right place for long enough but once done you don’t need to worry about them anymore! In some titles these would feel out of place, but here it definitely makes sense, Peter has always been a scientific genius, it wouldn’t be right not to include something that acknowledges that fact.
Mechanically Spider-Man is incredibly intuitive and fun, the combat and movement systems compliment each other perfectly, something which is echoed beautifully in the aesthetics and visuals of the game. Quite simply, this game is gorgeous! It may not be boasting the highest definition graphics of all time, but they’re pretty freaking close. The character models are incredible, especially their facial features and design. All of the game’s cutscenes run in engine, often transitioning straight into gameplay seamlessly.
These cutscene interactions are spectacular and have amazing attention to detail. All this hard work lends itself brilliantly to the Photo Mode that can be used at any moment to capture either something ridiculous or captivating, even in aforementioned cutscenes. Players’ social media accounts have been lighting up with their captures from the game, some hilarious, others impressive, but almost everyone has Spidey taking a selfie at the top of the Empire State and I mean… why wouldn’t you? When the game looks as good as it does, why wouldn’t you show off your photography skills? You are Peter Parker after all!
Man, Jameson must be having a field day on Twitter right now…
Spider-Man has had a pretty eventful past within the comic book universe, he was a clone, then he wasn’t a clone, then Gwen Stacey was a clone but not a clone and other crazy super-powered shenanigans. Thankfully the story writing behind the game is nowhere near that… challenging? I mean to say it’s actually pretty well written and the scripting has clearly been written by huge fans who have managed to capture the heart and soul of all the characters involved. Spidey’s quips are as brilliantly awful as they always were, Mary Jane is the fiery redhead we all know and love and Aunt May is forever the fountain of love and compassion.
What I wasn’t ready for was getting hit by the freight train of emotion at certain points in the story. I’m not one for crying, but parts of the story had me fighting back that one manly tear threatening to leak out. Every story element is written and timed to maximize impact, with the jovial and light-hearted stuff creating a light at the end of the tunnel. Spider-Cop is just ridiculous though. Introduction of Miles Morales feels a little forced at first, coming in out of nowhere, but he eases into the cast pretty easily and opens up the potential for future additions to the title.
As fast and fluid as the movement is in Spider-Man, you can’t be everywhere at once and so there are a couple of missions where you get to stretch your legs as MJ and Miles, tackling different things that Spidey hasn’t got time for or can’t do. These sections involve sneaking through various areas in order to collect intel or items important to the story/investigation of Mr. Negative and his Demon cronies among other things. At first, it felt a little weird switching to them and sneaking felt a little out of place, but I actually came to enjoy these missions when they popped up.
MJ’s investigative journalist skills come in handy and the change of pace is really quite refreshing. Not saying it gets boring swinging around New York but switching gears and sneaking through a level looking for clues and info is pretty enjoyable. Both MJ and Miles leave plenty of room for expansion upon the title and hopefully we’ll see more of them in the future.
We all know Spider-Man has been around for a while and has undergone many a costume change along the years. There’s a pretty impressive range of suit options available which all come with a unique suit power that can be used to give an edge in combat. These range from some classic designs to some of the newer ones and the more popular. Most become available by process of leveling up but require resources to craft and build, meaning you have to embark on some of the many many different activities sweeping the City.
It’s so easy to get distracted while swinging from place to place, a number of times I’ve set out to focus solely on doing story missions, only to be distracted en route and end up stopping car chases or destroying a Demon stronghold in New York. The new costume designs are a nice motivator but often it’s unnecessary, you’re Spider-Man, you see a crime and you stop it. That’s kind of your thing. Hitting all these different activities will undoubtedly keep you entertained for hours and gives the nice reward of some slick new threads afterward. Not to mention the plethora of different suit modifiers that can be used to enhance your combat strategies and abilities. Although you’re able to cross Manhattan at quite some speed, the map feels far from small and there is always something to do or discover on your journey!
As I said above, Spider-Man has been one of the most eagerly awaited titles of this year and it’s easy to see why. Flinging yourself through the city has never been easier or more enjoyable, backed with some amazing combat and all-around gameplay as well as an interesting and gripping storyline. It would be foolish to think that there won’t be a whole bunch of updates to the game introducing new missions or storylines to follow, and if the powers that be at Sony decide not to then they’re really shooting themselves in the foot.
Spider-Man isn’t just the game we’ve all been waiting for, it’s the game we all needed to restore our faith in the franchise’s games. If you’re a fan of the comics then you probably have this game on your list somewhere already, if you’re not then you should pick this up simply because it’s an amazing game, regardless of your thoughts about spandex wearing superhumans.