Insomniac Games presents Marvel’s Spider-Man on PS4 for review as a new high-flying, web spinning, and bad guy busting Spider-Man game with a modern 4K look. We all know our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, but how well do we know the man behind the mask? Marvel’s Spider-Man is as much a Peter Parker story as it is a Spider-Man one. This game challenges the player to find a balance between his alter egos which is an aspect left hugely unexplored by previous Spider-Man titles.
The game is set in a third-person point of view which focuses on the player’s combat and movement skills. For most of the time, you’ll be donning the mask and traversing across Manhattan as Spider-Man, but, sometimes, you’ll have to play as Peter Parker, his love interest Mary Jane, or his friend Miles Morales. You can swing around the city, climb walls, communicate with others, take on missions and unlock new features as the game progresses. These new features include gadgets and exoskeletons that grant you special abilities like electric webbings, electromagnetic pulse and concussive blasts and also enhance your stealth, strength, ground and aerial combat abilities. Besides the primary campaign, there are many inbuilt minigames that you can play to prolong your adventure and achieve tokens to unlock various cosmetic items.
Insomniac games did a fantastic job at highlighting the emotional burdens of having to carry dual identities as Peter Parker and Spider-Man, which I feel makes this game so special. The game opens with a shot across Peter’s untidy apartment, and among the enormous pile of clutter we could see a rent overdue notice slipped underneath his door.
Superpowers aside, classic Peter Parker is just a down-to-earth average guy and the game captures this side of him to a great extent. Peter is a superhero, but he’s also one of the working class people scraping through life. He is as much troubled as you and me to find an equilibrium between his career and personal life.
The narrative of this game is a delight for any Spider-Man fans. That said, the storyline doesn’t always stay loyal to its source material. That added to the experience, however, and made this game an even more enjoyable ride.
The biggest change this game made in terms of narrative is showing our titular hero as an aspiring scientist who is a research assistant to Dr. Otto Octavius. Daily Bugle, the newspaper for which Peter works in comics, still occupies an important role in the game as Mary Jane works there as a reporter. Aunt May works for a non-profit organization named F.E.A.S.T. (Food, Emergency, Aid, Shelter and Training) where Peter and Miles Morales also volunteer.
If you don’t know, Miles Morales is known as the Ultimate Spider-Man and currently shares the Spider-Man mantle with Peter Parker in Marvel’s ongoing Earth-616 canon. I’m not going to share a lot of details on Miles’ role here, however, as he is important to the plot in various ways. I’ll just say that his character has been well crafted, and his inclusion brought significant nuance to the game.
The part I’d love to talk about is Mary Jane and Peter Parker’s impeccable chemistry. Yes, it’s all said and done before, but Marvel’s Spider-Man manages to reinvent their relationship in a whole new light mostly due to the outstanding voice performances put in by Yuri Lowenthal and Laura Bailey. Peter and MJ share a lot of history together, and now they try to untangle the knots that keep the nature of their relationship a mystery. The way this game navigates the connection between the two is remarkably deep with a juxtaposition of uplift and agony.
The game juggles a handful of A-lister Spider-Man villains but made sure it doesn’t feel like overkill. Kingpin and Mr. Negative are the villains we get to deal with in the earlier stages before the likes of Dr. Octopus, Shocker, Scorpion and even the Sinister Six pop up. The developers took their time to integrate each of these characters into the story, elucidated their purpose and gave them the amount of screen time the plot demanded.
The portrayal of Peter’s relationship with Dr. Otto Octavius is a prime example of the game’s profound brilliance in developing character arcs. The bare mention of the name “Otto Octavius” got my spider senses tingling, knowing this guy is going to become one of the greatest foes Spider-Man ever faced during his crime-fighting career at some point in the future. Nevertheless, I cared for the guy as the story continued to progress. We get to see the bond that grows between Peter and Otto as they buckle down to achieve a common goal. We get to see the human side of a diabolical villain that makes us sympathize with him. Eventually, a lab accident finishes the inevitable and transforms him into the notorious tentacled menace, but how can Peter confront the man he idolizes and respects from the core of his heart?
No Spider-Man story feels like a Spider-Man story without the constant bickering of J. Jonah Jameson. The media mogul has retired from Daily Bugle after establishing it as one of the most influential media outlets in the country and winning two Pulitzers for his exceptional achievements in the field of journalism. Now he has his own podcast where he continues to spread his anti-Spidey conspiracy theories to the public. You have the option to unsubscribe if his persistent antics feel annoying to you, but I found his rants quite hilarious and loved to listen to them as I swung from one corner of the city to the other.
That brings me to the web slinging part; it does have a minute learning curve to it but it feels surreal to swing around once you get the hang of it. Remember how beautifully Sam Raimi caught the web slinging scenes on camera in his Spider-Man trilogy? This game gave me a similar vibe as I was slinging across the city. The swinging felt so good I often found myself aimlessly gliding past the towering constructs of New York.
As I swung through the city I discovered how to manipulate the momentum to give me that extra push to propel myself further and reach greater elevation. You can let go of the web and land on a wall to start running along it. The player can move around any obstacle with utmost ease, which made me feel like I was actually Spider-Man.
Spider-Man’s New York City is not a like-to-like recreation, but it’s spectacular to say the least. There are some hiccups description-wise, like the absence of the Staten Island Ferry terminal, Ellis Island being a bit too close to the Statue of Liberty than it actually is, and a smaller Battery Park. Despite the subtle inaccuracies, the Manhattan appearing in the game is vibrant, majestic and bustling with life. The game does justice to illustrate the paradigmatic Manhattan skyline to its full glory. You can savor the sites as you swing from the Rockefeller center over Central Park towards Wall Street, or start from the West Side Highway to reach FDR Drive. You will also notice some fictional landmarks as you roam the city, like the Avengers Tower and the Wakandan embassy. The breathtaking visuals combined with the sublime use of lighting effects made the experience even more worthwhile.
The combat definitely has a Batman: Arkham Asylum feel to it, but it has been seamlessly choreographed to stamp a seal of ingenuity on it. The framework does seem to throw a lot at the player at once, but that also makes for the perfect setting to exploit Spider-Man’s acrobatic prowess. Despite his superpowers, Spider-Man is as fragile to bullets as a normal person. So, you need to come up with the right strategy and pick the right accessories before you engage a situation.
You’d need to synchronize your fighting skills to tip the balance of a fight to your favor. Leaping, punching, web shooting and swinging are all combined in your fighting style to overcome the perils you face throughout the game. The game’s stealth mechanics allows you to sneak up on your adversaries and take them down quietly. You can grab things from your surrounding and throw it towards the enemy. While punching, you can hold down the square button and knock your targets airborne. When they get off the ground, you can jump upwards and beat them repeatedly outside the reach of their partners. You can also try holding down the triangle button to pull the target towards you with your webbing and hit him.
If fighting minions starts to feel a bit repetitive and monotonous to you, the boss battles will sweep all your boredom straight away. These fights are severely erratic and require idiosyncratic takedown methods to nullify the villain. Your rival continues to hit you relentlessly, so you need to be alert every second by lunging and moving around to wait for an opportunity to present itself. This dynamic has long been associated with the character and plays a successful part in punctuating these moments.
Peter Parker is no Tony Stark, but he’s an innovator, too. The impressive array of gadgets that you get to unlock throughout the game can come in handy surviving frantic scenarios. Besides the default web shooters, you can use web bombs, trip mines, suspension matrix, concussive blasts, spider drones, impact webbings and electric webbings. These devices give you an edge while running into a huge group of enemies or even in boss encounters.
There are 40 unlockable suits in Marvel’s Spider-Man and its three DLCs. All of these costumes have been taken from the character’s five-decade-long history and pays homage to various incarnations of the wall crawler. Apart from the aesthetics and nostalgic appeal, each of these suits possess certain inherent powers that aid Peter in tackling various threats.
The side quests lack the plot strength of the main story, so there won’t be that emotional drive to invest your time in these campaigns. Some of these are as simplistic as tracking down bird flu carrier pigeons or performing some special set of skills. These tasks don’t have much to offer other than the allure of XPs and tokens which would, by the way, help you go a long way in the original storyline.
Marvel’s Spider Man isn’t an entirely flawless creation, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Insomniac games succeeded to deliver a robust depiction of one of the most beloved characters in the world. The game mechanics successfully made me feel that I embody Spider-Man and I’m capable of using his amazing powers to fight for justice. Spider-Man is no stranger to the world of video games, but no other titles managed to encapsulate this many facets of the Spider-Man lore before. This is a fantastic Spider-Man game that will leave you yearning for more web slinging adventures across the boroughs of Manhattan.
- Phenomenal swing physics.
- The combat mechanics are as fluid as they come. The Batman: Arkham Asylum inspired framework makes the best out of Spider-Man’s agility to take on a group of villains at the same time.
- A wide range of costumes with individual attributes.
- No microtransactions. All special features are unlockable within the game.
- Compelling storyline with distinctive patience in developing character arcs.
- The side missions are bland. None of them have much to offer and seems overly repetitive.
- The forced stealth missions involving Mary Jane and Miles Morales disrupt the pace of the game. Staking out at various establishments with no special abilities is boring and uneventful.
- Some of the boss fights are overly QTE reliant.