Marvel’s Spider-Man has perhaps been one of this year’s most highly anticipated AAA title releases, having been as anticipated as other AAA giants such as sequels for Call of Duty, Fallout and Red Dead Redemption, and may even be among some of the best PS4 open-world games like Grand Theft Auto V, Infamous: Second Son and Tom Clancy’s The Division, as well as being compared to and lauded as the new Batman: Arkham series.
Developed by Insomniac Games (Spyro, Ratchet & Clank, Resistance) and self-published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, it appears that the game has not disappointed from a sales point of view; Marvel’s Spider-Man has actually surpassed (selling double) the number of first-week sales of PlayStation 4’s best-selling, and other self-published 2018 hit title God of War. The game has also become the fastest-selling Marvel game to date  since launching on September 07, 2018.
However various websites are reporting mixed reviews which are mostly positive and in favor of the game’s excellent and unique story, combat, visuals, audio design and Spider-Man’s implementation but stating that the game world itself, a re-creation of New York City, leaves a lot to be desired, feeling a little empty and lackluster because of a lack of interaction, with some even suggesting that Marvel’s Spider-Man is a rehash and integration of ideas from other successful games of similar genres.
Upon beginning your adventure as the (in)famous web-slinger, you will realize that this is a truly current-gen title. The visuals are extremely well polished and are jaw-dropping for lucky PlayStation 4 Pro owners with a 4K capable display, but they aren’t that great for regular PS4 owners running the game at 720 or 1080. Please watch the graphics comparison video below (courtesy of IGN) for more understanding.
Perhaps because of the original PS4’s lack of required power, the sheer amount of textures having to be loaded or a poor API implementation, texture LOD’s (level of detail) are sometimes a little poor when viewing over distance, not something you necessarily want considering the potential of the satisfying vistas a city like New York can offer.
In addition, for standard PS4, current generation rendering effects such as depth of field are missing along with some noticeable “jaggies” from low anti-aliasing when viewing buildings from afar, which sometimes seems to be intentionally obfuscated by the implementation and over-use of motion blur.
Basically, if graphics are your concern, to get the impressive image quality offered in this game then a PlayStation 4 Pro is essential, for which the visual quality cannot be denied.
That being said, Insomniac Games has done a great job utilizing the original PlayStation 4, but it just doesn’t do the game’s visuals any justice to run it on the inferior machine. However, the audio implementation is excellent on either.
As the game’s presentation sequence begins you will immediately be reminded that this is a Spider-Man title. The music is extremely reminiscent of the melancholic yet forebodingly and ominously optimistic tracks from previous Spider-Man movies (which seem to infuse a sense of the paradoxically dualist personality of Peter Parker vs. Spiderman or awkwardness vs. competence) over the past almost 20 years; from Sam Raimi’s three excellent pictures which starred Toby Maguire as the web-crawler, to the ambitious yet cinematically underdeveloped Andrew Garfield versions of the superhero and then to the more recent movie, Spider-Man Homecoming, which served as part of the currently unfolding Marvel Cinematic Universe with Tom Holland on lead.
The score continues throughout the game as well. The enigmatic yet heroic tone sits low in the background as you make your way around the city and then seemingly comes to life in an uplifting fanfare of cinema-worthy orchestral score when any action kicks in, making combat in even small battles with lowly punks feel worth the effort as you implement the game’s extremely intuitive control system to take down enemies.
From the opening (typically Peter Parker funny) cut-scene where-after Parker dressed as Spidey leaps straight out of his bedroom window en-route to Fisk Tower following a Police scanner alert, you are given complete control of the character almost immediately, whereupon it becomes instantly apparent that Marvel’s Spider-Man is far detached from both all previous movies including the Marvel Cinematic Universe and traditional Spider-Man comic books, yet exceedingly, wholesomely and satisfyingly familiar as a Spider-Man title with its own splendor to offer.
Holding ‘R2′ to automatically latch a web-cable for swinging and then releasing the same button at the right time in order to continue the momentum of Spidey’s movement is deliciously satisfying (as Spider-Man graciously glides through the air performing speed and momentum-sensitive acrobatic moves naturally as if you were watching any Spider-Man movie) and implemented in such a way that the complexity of the game’s physics is immediately apparent; something which Insomniac Games has been proficient with in the past, citing the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance series’ of games as great examples.
While web-swinging you can use ‘CROSS’ to jump in any direction or to perform a web-zip in order to gain speed and maintain movement and altitude, but also watch in amazement as Spidey leaps, bounds and runs across and over obstacles such as walls and office building windows, and water towers and air conditioning units with ease, making it possible to perform continuous swinging and running action so very evocatively nostalgic of Spider-Man in all his forms that you will want to do it forever – it is that much fun to both do, and to watch.
However, it wouldn’t be much of a superhero game without some superhero action to go with it.
Upon arrival to your first objective at Fisk Tower, the game transitions to a blockbuster cut-scene which plays seamlessly in and then out for Spidey and ultimately you to regain control and instantly enter into combat mode, which is almost identical to the context and time-sensitive crowd-combat system perfected by Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham series, which has you dodging incoming attacks with ‘CIRCLE’ and then countering the attacks using ‘SQUARE’, with various other strikes including environmental attacks (‘L1/R1’) which you can use to grab and then fling (with webs) specific items lying around. Needless to say, this looks spectacular when strung together with the many other attack patterns available.
Combat looks and feels authentically Spider-Man. Using web attacks you can literally stick a guy to the wall while simultaneously dodging his comrade’s incoming bullets, and then proceeding to strike the armed assailant, bounce off of him and then perform various combo strikes upon him and any other enemies within the combat area of range, all of which lead to bigger and better combat set-pieces …and this is before you have even upgraded any of Spider-Man’s moves and abilities.
Given that the story takes place long after Peter Parker has already become known as everyone’s favorite “Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man“, the “Web-Crawler” already has quite a few moves under his belt. However, there is always more even a veteran superhero can learn.
The character upgrade system has specific sets of skills organized into “Innovator“, “Defender” and “Webslinger“, and they allow you to upgrade existing skills or learn completely new ones.
- Innovator Skills; performance skills centered around context-sensitive actions for environmental and enemy combat applied to a wider degree such as upgrading “Web-Strike” to knock-back enemies, having thrown objects damage all nearby enemies instead of just the one or using webs to snatch guns away from the hands of henchmen.
- Defender Skills; these are situation-sensitive skills for better safeguarding or resistance during combat with some crucial life-saving abilities. These include “Last Stand” which allows Spidey to focus and slow downtime in order to dodge a fatal blow, “Payback” which performs an instant take-down and “Vengeance” which will accrue ‘Focus’ quicker when health is below 50%.
- Webslinger Skills; powerful abilities that serve to highlight the finesse with which Spider-Man can move and fight. These skills include “Swing Kick” which you can use to have Spider-Man kick and knock over enemies while swinging, “Air Tricks” which you can use to perform acrobatic maneuvers in order to gain ‘Focus’ and “Long Strike” which improves the strength and distance of a “Web Strike”.
All of these learned skills and abilities can be combined and mastered to create a powerful hero. Over time some upgrades become necessary as enemies predictably become more difficult to defeat when you see the introduction of “Brute” style bosses, armored foes and multiple armed enemies.
However, if you take the time to learn each upgraded skill and use them to their potential then you can make short work of most enemy types and skills and abilities are retained no matter which Spider-Man costume you have equipped.
Gamerbraves.com has written an excellent Marvel’s Spider-Man skill guide here. WARNING: May contain spoilers.
In total there are a confirmed 27 Spider-Man costumes for you to unlock ranging from the classic, the nostalgic and the brand new styles from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and suits designed specifically for the game. Here are some examples. Click to enlarge…
Most of the costumes come with specific abilities that further enhance the power of Spider-Man but as an added benefit unlike other games in this genre, these abilities are retained upon donning another outfit once unlocked.
There are many amazing features that come with some ultra-cool outfits however at the risk of generating spoilers I have chosen not to include specifics here.
Screenrant.com has a great article covering all 27 outfits including screenshots, information and ability lists which you can view here. WARNING: May contain spoilers.
Some of the abilities available (for example) via a specific costume are;
- “Spider-Bro” AI Spider from Spider-Man Homecoming
- Increased Stealth
Spider-Man outfits are unlocked by either completing a specific objective, achieving a particular level, using tokens (base, landmark, research, backpack, crime, challenge) or a combination all of these which are unlocked from various actions throughout the game.
- Challenge Tokens; stealth, combat, drone and bomb challenges.
- Landmark Tokens; take photographs of various landmarks.
- Base Tokens; clear enemy bases.
- Research Tokens; complete research stations, circuit projects and catch pigeons.
- Backpack Tokens; collect backpacks from locations around the city.
- Crime Tokens; assist with/solve random crimes around the city.
Some suits may also contain different passive abilities or unlock new abilities, plus they also come with varying degrees of defense, offense, stealth and traversal quotients, so changing suits at some points in order to achieve an objective may become necessary, for example, if you are having trouble completing a task or a particular combat situation, and in some cases getting out some new gadgets will help you immensely.
Speaking of gadgets, Marvel’s Spider-Man hasn’t skimped. Building upon the more recent movies where we see a technology geek Peter Parker, the game allows you to further improve Spidey’s abilities in combat with a mix of tech improvements to the suit with weapons and upgrade gadgets which include proximity mines (concussion of course), upgraded web-shooters and more, all of which can themselves be further upgraded.
Making the best use of these gadgets will give you an undoubted edge in combat and can be the difference between fighting great or being a great fighter as well as performing some of the iconic and stylized fighting we have become used to seeing from Spider-Man.
NOTE: Some of the suits aren’t available until completing the game’s main story and Insomniac Games has confirmed that more outfits will be included with upcoming downloadable content.
While the developer hasn’t confirmed the definitive amount of DLC packs that are scheduled for release, they have confirmed the first will be “The City That Never Sleeps” which is coming in three parts.
- Part I: The Heist; October
- Part II: Turf Wars; November
- Part III: Silver Lining; December
The three parts to The City That Never Sleeps are confirmed to be adding new enemies and missions while each chapter will be centered around a character involved with Peter Parker/Spider-Man. The City that Never Sleeps will be available as a single, fixed price download or each chapter can be purchased separately.
There are no details on chapter’s II and III from The City that Never Sleeps, however, some confirmed details surrounding Part I: The Heist is that it is centered around jewel thief extraordinaire “Black Cat”/Felicia Hardy, the third love interest for Spider-Man next to Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy.
The relationship between Spider-Man and Black Cat can be compared to that of Batman and Cat Woman, with Felicia Hardy being more of an anti-hero rather than an out and out villain.
Forming part of the main story and side-quests there are numerous well-known Spider-Man antagonists to handle including Vulture, Shocker and Rhino, however, the main story is centered around Mr.Negative (Martin Li) and The Inner Demons who at first appear to be trying to take over the city for themselves after attacking Fisk Tower, a holding of Wilson Fisk, a.k.a “Kingpin” a fan favorite who also features in the game. Click to enlarge…
Rather than a city full of rampaging villains already on the loose, a main story feature sees the strongest villains having been released from “The Raft” by an out of control Dr. Octopus, which serves as the main plot point for Spider-Man; having to track down each super-villain and needless to say, return them to protective custody by any means necessary.
The combat required for taking down villains is varied and each villain has their own super-moves and combat style, to which you will find yourself having to adjust your own. However, the boss fights, while challenging, aren’t too difficult and are excellently balanced in such a way that you will have a satisfying showdown without much frustration. This is one of the game’s greatest positive features, as you will end the fight both pleased with yourself and wishing you could do it again in a better way with the techniques you just learned during the combat.
Spider-Man’s enemies aren’t the only familiar and interactable characters in the game.
Supporting characters in the game are interactable and in some parts of the story, controllable. You can play as Peter Parker and Mary Jane in some instances during fact-finding missions and stealth missions, and these chapters do provide some substance to the story as well as allowing you to take a breather from being a web-slinging hero. However, the missions for playing as these characters are a far cry from the excellent game-play as Spider-Man.
The stealth missions playable as Mary Jane, for example, have you creeping around somewhere, and are pretty much the same as any other stealth-based game, but the fact that you can only be spotted once and then the mission is over, with you having to start again, can be both frustrating and infuriating, and this completely detracts from the immense fun being had as Spidey.
These missions as alternate characters should have been developed as optional side-missions for unlocking extras rather than being included as part of the main story and forcing you to perform them.
That being said, the way these missions are included makes them a necessary part of the story with some great narrative which will make you feel closer to the character, something that we are seeing implemented in large AAA title developments these days, especially from Sony Interactive Entertainment.
Don’t Miss Out on One of the Best Games of 2018
From the humorous opening sequence which lets you dive straight in as Spider-Man, you will love this game. Making your way through New York City has never been more fun since the angry driving of Niko Bellic in Grand Theft Auto IV.
The complex context-sensitive animations performed by Spidey when swinging, hitting an object, or gliding through the air are a wonder to participate in and are worthy of your memories of both the Spider-Man comic books you grew up with and the recent movies you have seen. I personally love previous Spider-Man games, they have all been well-made, but this is a Spider-Man game exactly the way it should be done.
Web swinging and acrobatics aside, the combat feels authentically Spidey. Long kicks, high jumps and sticking multiple goons to walls, all in a fluid and dynamic crowd-fighting mechanic is genuinely pleasing and the game rewards variety in combat with more and more exotic moves, so you will want to mix it up just so you can see the acrobatic and skillful moves Spidey will pull off.
Making your way through the game’s main story mode feels very smooth and the main narrative allows you to depart and then pick up where you left off when you choose, leaving you some time to explore the city and complete side quests in order to unlock some of the amazing extras in the game, some of which are sure to blow the minds of the more enthusiastic Spider-Man fans.
From some poorly implemented mechanics such as clumsy wall climbing when performing stealth to forced story missions that don’t involve you playing as Spidey, Marvel’s Spider-Man is not a perfect game, however, you can forgive it’s a very small amount of shortcomings because although not perfect, it’s as close as any game of 2018 has gotten, and until Rocksteady’s next rumored DLC title comes around, Marvel’s Spider-Man is guaranteed to very well scratch that superhero itch.
This is just my opinion but I would love to hear what you guys think down below in the comments section as I’m sure this will be a controversial game.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is available now exclusively for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro.
- “Spider-Man is the Fastest Selling Game of the Year So Far“. Eurogamer. Retrieved 12/09/2018.
- “Spider-Man’s First DLC Arrives in October, Followed by Two More Later This Year“. Gamespot. Retrieved 12/09/2018.
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