Spider-Man is a game that feels like it needs no introduction. After years of being bogged down by Activision's money greedy "new game every year" mantra, the rights to Spiderman games were finally released a few years ago and Insomniac Games along with Sony jumped at the chance to create a new Spiderman title in the open world style of Spiderman 2 or Insomniac's previous title for the Xbox One, Sunset Overdrive. The first trailer for the Playstation Exclusive Spider-Man was released to much critical and fan acclaim and the hype only built from there. To say Insomniac had a lot to live up to is an understatement. The first true open world Spiderman game in years had to get everything right; web swinging, combat, story, side missions, character appearance and representation. It was a huge task. The question remains then, did Insomniac pull it off? Does Marvel's Spider-Man soar across the skies of New York or does it come crashing down like the spider you smacked out of its web in your kitchen?
The good news; Spider-Man is an incredible game filled with great characters, incredible graphics, and a solid story. The bad news; its not always the best at presenting all it has to offer.
What I mean is that Spider-Man can have you laughing with delight at one moment and then wanting to throw your controller through your television the next moment. It's an odd balance that never is really struck quite right, but leaves a lot of little things to improve on for the inevitable sequel.
Thank god we're not getting another Spiderman origin story here. This time around, you play as Spiderman 8 years into his web-swinging journey. This allows the story and characters to have a bit of a "worn" feeling to them. Peter is struggling to balance Spiderman and real life like never before, so much so that it appears that Mary Jane and he have had a bit of a falling out, Aunt May is as headstrong and steadfast as ever, leading the charge for a homeless shelter in the area, and various villains all have this familiarity with both Spiderman and you the player that makes for great dialogue and great engagements throughout the game. The story overall is very well done and while it was somewhat predictable as to where it would go in certain places, other times I found myself pleasantly surprised at what was happening. It delivers a nice balance and keeps things that are familiar to even the casual fan feeling refreshed.
Putting the story aside, a Spiderman game is supposed to do two things well; web swinging and combat. Thankfully Insomniac realized this early on and its clear when you're playing that they spent a massive amount of time making sure both of these details were just right. Web swinging feels better than it has in any other Spiderman game, with the ability to zip and swing pretty much everywhere your heart desires. You can swing high or low and there are cool combo moves to pull off while swinging that either give you style points and experience or that give you more speed to get somewhere faster. It all just feels natural and from the first moment I started swinging, I felt like I was 14 again playing Spiderman 2 on my Gamecube.
The combat blew me away with how deep and rich the system truly is. There are a bunch of different upgrade paths you can take yourself down to truly hone the combat style to the way you want to play. The worries from some of it being an "Arkham Clone" are heard, but thankfully demolished. The Arkham games were all about Batman being in the center of the action, fighting his way out with gadgets and pure brute force. Spider-Man on the other hand is more resourceful, hes got various moves he can perform that allow you to take out enemies with objects around you AND your abilities at the same time. Spider-Man prefers to be more aerial and singular with the combat, which is a refreshing change of pace from the beat-em-up's we've seen recently.
So the game plays great, the story and characters are solid, but how does it look, you ask? In a word: Stunning. I'm not sure what kind of magicians the team over at Insomniac has, but no matter what PS4 platform you play this on, it looks absolutely incredible. It pushes boundaries of what a console game should be, and that's a good "problem" to have when a game looks as good as it does. Climbing up to one of the taller buildings in New York and then jumping off to dive down near the streets into a web swing has never looked and felt so good. The attention to detail in almost every graphical aspect is incredible, down to certain you being able to see into building windows with these little "scenes" such as an office space or living room. It's a nice touch that gives the whole world a truly lived in feel. The only time I noticed any issues graphically are when I was trying to view something a bit beyond the regular view distance and everything just looked frozen in place, characters, cars, weather, you name it. It just looked like it was frozen in time. I understand why they did it that way -to reduce system load- but it was pretty jarring the few times it happened.
The music is also absolutely on point; it FEELS like "Spiderman Music" with sweeping orchestral tracks that picks up at just the right moment during a battle or when you're web swinging. It's a true highlight of the game even if its not something most people pay a lot of attention to.
My only true complaint with the game is it's pacing outside of the story missions and the side missions where you're forced to play as Mary Jane or Miles Morales. While its great that they're here and you can play as them, their missions tend to be a bit on the boring side. Sneak around, if you get caught by whatever you're not supposed to get caught by its game over and you're back to square one. Ugh. Why did they put these in here? The side missions, while varied in type, do get a bit repetitive after a while as well. You can only save the old woman's purse from the bandits so many times before you feel like things are starting to get a little stale. It would have been nice to see a bit more variety there.