I was at around the 20 percent mark in “Marvel’s Spider-Man” for the PS4 when an emotional moment suddenly caught me off guard. It was here when I realized that this game has managed to achieve a unique balance of flawless combat and incredible graphics while also managing to have nuanced characters that I actually cared about more than I thought I would.
In less capable hands, a game that gives you the amount of freedom that Insomniac Games delivers here, a truly breathtaking open world playground, an entire recreation of New York City that you can explore to your hearts content, would end up frustrating you with story driven moments that break up the game, leaving you rolling your eyes at moments where you are “forced” to play as Peter Parker visiting Aunt May at work or as MJ as she investigates a lead.
But the strong motion captured performances and excellent voice acting makes all these characters refreshing, and I was just as engaged playing as Peter Parker as he works in the lab, pioneering breakthroughs in prosthetics for wounded soldiers for example, as I was swinging through the city looking for new missions to complete.
And oh is that web slinging gameplay engaging. The utter joy I experienced at running up the side of a building, somersaulting off the top and swinging away toward the horizon was palpable. The game nails this experience. I was a huge fan of 2004’s “Spider-Man 2” and I wish I could go back and show myself that a game like this would someday be possible!
I quickly became obsessed with making Spidey look as cool and effortless in his abilities as I could. It wasn’t enough to jump on to a rooftop and start punching a bunch of would-be armed robbers, you had to do this intervention in style. Swing in doing a backflip, unleash web bombs as you land that send the bad guys flying, stick to the nearest brick wall or scaffolding as you roundhouse kick the last guy — pausing only to take a selfie.
The combat that made Rocksteady’s Arkham games such an addictive and combo-tastic experience works just as well here. I think I actually enjoy the stealth approach more. Picking off each assailant one by one, tying them up in webbing and leaving them for the police to find never gets old!
Where the game suffers so far is inherent in the very nature of this type of game, the core of the open-world experience is something you’ve just played before. These tropes are decades old now and the cracks show. As great as the game is, you can’t help but notice the amount of “collect 80 backpacks” or “how many dozen transmitters can you turn on?” missions that will come at you.
Your mileage will vary depending on how big a Spiderman fan you are, but if you even remotely find him entertaining, I think the immersion and atmosphere absolutely sticks the landing and it will be a long time before you tire of web slinging.
But if you are burnt out on open-world games, this will do nothing to change that with old trends and repetitive patterns in otherwise engrossing boss fights and enemy encounters that all start to feel familiar. Happily for me, this is broken up by the thrill of moments where you really feel like a super hero, swinging toward Aunt May’s house for dinner I hear on the police scanner that there is an armed robbery, suspects have stolen a vehicle and police are in pursuit, changing course and intercepting these guys was exhilarating and the game is full of little moments like this that make it a classic!