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Does Whatever a Spider can - Marvel's Spider-Man

October 18, 2018


        I know what you’re thinking, this game came out last month, why are you reviewing it now? Simple, otherwise I can’t use it as a tax write off. What? No one sends me free copies. Mild Spoilers to follow, however almost none of them will come as a surprise if you’re moderately familiar with Spider-Man lore.

 

        Marvel’s Spider-Man, Spider-Man from here-on-in, is an action game developed by Insomniac Games, best known for Ratchet & Clank. Spider-Man has a long history of video-games, which I won’t go into here, but they range from awful to excellent. The last Spider-Man game I played was Shattered Dimensions, which came out in 2010. This game is excellent, period. It’s definitely the best Spider-Man game that I’ve ever played, and it's probably the best superhero game up to this point. The story and the gameplay are both pulled from a variety of sources, and while the game doesn’t really do anything new, it does everything so well that it doesn’t matter.

        Spider-Man is set in its own continuity, completely separate from anything else, which allows the Devs to tell their own take on the wall-crawler. I think this was a smart move, as it releases them from the baggage that comes with anything already established. Story wise, I’d say it pulls from various versions of the character in broad strokes. He got his powers when he was 15 from a radioactive spider-bite, just like the mainstream comics. Granted, him being 15 is a retcon as originally, he was either 16 or 17, but I digress. Mary Jane has been his best friend since childhood and is a reporter for the Daily Bugle. At the beginning of the game, they broke up six months prior and aren’t on speaking terms. This seems to be drawn from Ultimate Spider-Man, where Peter and MJ are childhood friends who start dating in high school. In the mainstream continuity, they didn’t meet until college. I have mixed feelings on making MJ a reporter. It’s not a bad development, and it gives players something to do since you play as her in a few sections. But it almost feels like she was turned into Lois Lane, and she’s not. They’re two very different characters. That said, she resembled her comic book counterpart in most of her interactions with Peter. So, I’m willing to give it a pass.

        One of the best character pieces in this game is J. Jonah Jameson. He never actually appears in the game properly, but he periodically comes over the radio, ranting about conspiracies that he always relates back to Spider-Man. Making Jameson this universe’s equivalent of Alex Jones is absolutely hilarious, and a lot of the funniest moments in the game came from Jonah’s show. However, when things get really, REALLY bad near the end game, Jameson is doing everything he can to help people stay calm and safe, and that impressed me. The thing about Jameson is that he’s not just a jerk, he’s a jerk with a heart of gold. Yes, he’s a pompous blowhard who often comes off as a jackass, but when the chips are down, he will always do the right thing. A lot of writers miss that aspect of the character, and I was really glad to see it incorporated here.

        The main villain you face-off against is underworld crime boss Martin Li, aka Mr. Negative. This is a character that I admittedly am not very familiar with, as he was introduced after I’d stopped reading the comics. He’s got some weird energy powers that allows him to “corrupt” people. Basically, he forces them to do his bidding. He can also shoot some kind of shockwave from his hands. A decent mix of Spidey’s usual rogues also show up, you’ll have to play to find out who.

        The gameplay also feels inspired from various other games. In terms of the world design and web-slinging, it feels a lot like Spider-Man 2. You can swing through Manhattan and participate in various activities along the way, usually stopping some type of crime. However, the web-slinging is a lot more fluid and getting around the city plays better. You no longer crash into a building if you swing into it, instead Spidey keeps moving, running up or along the sides. In this game Peter has been Spider-Man for eight years, and it FEELS like it. He’s not an amateur, you play as a superhero at the height of their prowess, and it’s awesome.

        The combat is getting a lot of comparisons to the Arkham games since it relies on combos, retaliation and knockouts. I’d argue the combat is actually better, as Spider-Man moves faster, and can instantly swap between punches, kicks and webbing. You can pin enemies to walls, to each other, even spin bad guys around in a circle before throwing them. You also have the ability to level up certain combat abilities, making you feel more powerful as you play. For example, at the start of the game your spider-sense allows you to dodge bullets. By the end you can dodge a bullet, web up the gun and then knock out the shooter, all with two buttons and in a matter of seconds. The stealth gameplay reminded me a lot of the Spider-Man Noir sections of Shattered Dimensions, except executed way better. There’s nothing as satisfying as silently webbing up an enemy to a lamp or a building and continuing to pick bad guys off one-by-one. I’ve joked before about how terrible I am at stealth sections, but even I had no trouble with this. It’s that good.

        Now for the negatives, which granted are a lot more like nitpicks, since none were bad enough to distract from the game. Combat is difficult at the start, and the tutorial can be a bit of a struggle. I wish the Devs had eased into it instead of going all in against the Kingpin and all his cronies. Web throwing could use a bit of improvement. Webbing someone up and then swinging them around is a great way to take out enemies, as well as a lot of fun, but there’s no real way to aim. If you’re lucky Spidey will let go in the direction he’s facing. Giving players a way to aim would make throwing baddies off rooftops or against walls a lot easier. I also felt there were a few times when someone should have been knocked out and they weren’t. For example, I threw a mook about 30 feet and he crashed into a wooden structure head first and upside down before being stopped by a concrete wall. That didn’t knock him out, and I really think it should have. Lastly, bugs. The game runs great most of the time, but there were a couple of times where a jetpack enemy got stuck underneath a tent canopy and I couldn’t knock him out. In one instance I had to reload, but that’s an easy enough fix with a patch. Hopefully it’s something they take care of in the next update.

        This is a great game. The combat is fluid, the web-slinging is a ton of fun, the story is engaging, the trophy list is great, and there’s a ton of Easter eggs for longtime Spider-Man fans. I loved the alternate suits that you could acquire throughout the game. It even had the “last stand suit,” which I only remember appearing twice when I was reading the comics, so that’s a bit more obscure. I confess I was disappointed that the black suit wasn’t included in the game, as it’s my favorite Spidey costume. I’m hoping the reason it didn’t appear is because they’re saving it for either DLC or a sequel. Like Venom wasn’t in this game, which is good, because he’s not a character you want as a side boss. He needs to be one of, if not the, main antagonist. So maybe it will appear in the sequel if Venom is in it. And I think a sequel is a safe bet since this is the PS4s fastest selling game, beating the record set by God of War earlier this year. Or it could be in the upcoming DLC, which seems to focus on the Black Cat, who gave Peter a cloth version of the costume in the comics.

        In conclusion, you need to buy this game if you have a PS4, but that should come as no surprise as most of the PS4 exclusives have been utterly fantastic. In fact, I don’t usually buy season passes if they aren’t on sale, but I am going to grab the Season Pass for this and I’ll review the DLC as it comes out. Till next time true believers. Excelsior!

 

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