Review – Spider-Man
If you’re looking for a good Marvel game and don’t want it to be a LEGO title, it’s been slim pickings for arguably a full decade, but the wait comes to an end today with the release of Spider-Man on PS4.
Gamers and comic book fans alike will be delighted to find this is no origin story, you start the game with a full-powered Spider-Man with access to the bulk of your end-of-game webswinging and combat abilities. Combat plays out much like Rocksteady’s Arkham series of Batman games, with a visible warning when you’re targeted by an attack so you can dodge out of the way or use your freaky ability to zip around the battlefield to counterattack in kind.
While this style of combat makes much more sense for the ever-agile Spider-Man, it falls into the same trap Arkham’s fisticuffs did – after a little while it can start to feel repetitive and I wanted to see a lot more depth than there ended up being. Just like in the Arkham games the camera doesn’t always do what you’d like, especially when fighting in enclosed spaces, and this can be extremely frustrating. This is more of a problem in random encounter combat and some of the missions, it doesn’t crop up as an issue during boss fights.
Fortunately for long-suffering Spider-Man fans, Insomniac nailed the webswinging, with a great traversal system that incorporates flips and other acrobatic flairs as Spidey moves seamlessly – mostly – around the cityscape. Even when you screw up and should slam flat into a wall, it’s transitioned into a crawl or run that makes it look like you meant to do exactly that. There are some hitches here and there, particularly his perpetually odd-looking jogging motion, but the overall smooth and varied animations make even just moving around the city a very engaging and fun experience.
And you’ll need to have fun moving around, because the game asks you to explore quite a bit of the sprawling metropolis if you want to gather in all the collectibles. This collect-a-thon stuff feels like a holdover from older games, and it’s really one of the things I liked the least. It’s a pretty basic concept – nobody wants to be Spider-man to go catch pigeons, they want to bust criminals. They also don’t want to play a Spider-Man game to be Mary Jane, especially in forced stealth missions, but that’s also in here.
The story is decent, but not really anything comic fans haven’t seen before. The voice actors do a great job with the lines, which goes a long way towards making an ok plot more palatable. A good selection of villains moves the plot forward, but there are some odd omissions here – especially for long-time Spider-Man fans. Black Cat, for example, is largely absent from the game but will be appearing in downloadable content next month. The game does feature random encounters on and above the city streets, but they all play out in very similar ways and get repetitive quickly.