As someone who has grown up with the various iterations of Spider-Man, I’ve never really disliked any of them as they all did a great job of honoring a certain era for the character. The Raimi films did their best to homage the classic 1960’s Steve Ditko Spider-Man, the TASM series was trying to adapt the Ultimate Spider-Man books of the 2000’s and Spider-Man Homecoming was something in between that. As for Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man on the Playstation 4, I think it does a marvelous (pun intended) job of celebrating the entire legacy of everyone’s favorite wise-cracking webslinger and is one of the greatest superhero games since 2007’s Batman: Arkham Asylum.
I think what sets Spider-Man apart from a lot of the other big blockbuster AAA titles that have come out this year is that the Insomniac developers didn’t just design it as a game. A lot of the things that players can do has some form of cinematic flair to it, whether we are talking about the combat or the cutting-edge visuals from the cutscenes. A good example of this is that whenever an enemy fires at you and you dodge at the last minute, it automatically activates a slow motion version of the dodge and it captures the varied, but thrilling pace that this game creates which is very much akin to what Rocksteady was able to do for Batman with the Batman Arkham series.
Spider-Man’s combat is a real treat and challenge. It utilizes the “free-flow” combat mechanic that gamers should have gotten a great feel of from Batman Arkham, which works even better for Spider-Man as it fits the more fluid style of movement that has generally been associated with the character while Batman is often associated with a more aggressive and clunkier style of fighting. Spider-Man is able to utilize his “spidey sense” in combat which shows blue waves wiggling over his head that indicates when an enemy NPC is about to attack him, which really adds to the suspense of combat. You have the opportunity to dodge bullets and rocket fire at any moment and if you’re too late then the camera will slow down for you to be able to do what is called a “perfect dodge.” Other times will slow the camera down slightly and give you a chance to intercept the rocket fire and maybe fling it right back at your opponents to deal some real damage. In other words, it does a perfect job of emulating what Rocksteady did years ago in great form while making some of their own creative innovations by integrating some room for Spider-Man to utilize his own wheel of gadgets and webbing to subdue his foes. The more creative players get with how they subdue their enemies, the higher the XP rewards and chances of them leveling up get.
The leveling system in this game is well-thought out and gives players plenty of room to have fun with the game as they earn XP and level up to earn upgrades, new suits, and so on. The game has a variety of side-missions, crimes-in-progress, stealth missions, and so much more that you can occupy yourself with besides the game’s 20 hour long story. You can swing through Midtown for a couple of minutes before you hear a police radio broadcast about a local grocery store robbery, which you of course are going to want to stop because that’s what being a friendly neighborhood superhero is all about. Once you’ve roughed up the would-be robbers you’ll receive special tokens called “crime tokens” that you can use to upgrade your abilities and purchase new suits. Additional tokens can be acquired by performing certain feats within the “crime-in-progress” such as hitting a combo of 65 or higher, which is pretty neat if you’re up for that challenge. “Crime tokens” aren’t the only tokens that you can acquire in the game. You can obtain challenge tokens which can be acquired if you carry out certain tasks for Taskmaster, research tokens if you help out Harry Osborn, and base tokens if you are up for some stealth gameplay. Some of them can be really repetitive, but the rewards that you can reap make them worthwhile and adds so much more longevity in your play-time.
As for the story, I’d argue it’s one of the best Spider-Man stories I have been able to experience since watching Spider-Man 2. Comic book fans might feel a little irked by some of the creative liberties that Insomniac chose to take with a story that features a Spider-Man with 8 years of crime-fighting under his belt but as I said earlier I think it’s overall intentions were to just celebrate Spider-Man instead of telling a particular tale from the Marvel vault. Some good examples of this are that Peter has left the Daily Planet some time before the events of the game to work for his all-time favorite hero, Doctor Otto Octavius and he’s currently in a very complicated relationship with long-time flame Mary-Jane Watson who is more than just a damsel in distress. She’s a resourceful ace reporter akin to DC Comics’ Lois Lane, which is a neat little twist compared to how the character is usually handled in my opinion. Spider-Man also sees the character take an increased partnership with the New York Police Department, specifically Detective Yuri Watanabe who provides a lot of great and often humorous dialogue that I’ve found myself laughing at quite a bit. She may not be the biggest Spider-Cop fan like the rest of us, but like Spider-Man says in the game, I think she will “come around” eventually. Peter isn’t the only one who isn’t working at the Bugle, either. Iconic Spider-Man critic J. Jonah Jameson has also left the Bugle at some point before the game kicks off and is running a radio show a la Alex Jones where he gets to deride our hero for every thing that’s going wrong in the city from rescuing pigeons to stopping water pollution. You naturally are tuning in for his show every time you go out for a swing, but you don’t have to. You can just unsubscribe if you’d like.
Another aspect of this game that’s really great is the music and sound effects which are all very top notch. Composer John Paesano of Daredevil fame was able to craft a musical atmosphere that has players fully immersed into Marvel’s New York City to the point that it doesn’t just feel like they are playing as Spider-Man. They are Spider-Man. Little things like that and the game being able to perfectly replicate the classic “thwip” sound of Spidey’s web-shooters mean a lot to those who have grown up with Spider-Man and hold him very near and dear to their hearts.
Overall, I’d say that Insomniac Games has struck a gold mine with this game and created the ultimate Spidey experience. There’s so much to do here that you won’t even have it all done by the time you finish the story and I do not think you’ll want to. You’ll just want to keep on playing for the little character interactions, the music, and the creative challenges that the game hurls at you at every rooftop and the best part about this though is that the game’s story isn’t even done. We still have the DLC coming out next month on October 23rd, which means that we’ll just have some more Spidey to enjoy.
What did you think of this review? Are you enjoying Spider-Man PS4? Let us know in the comments below!