It has taken me a while to review Marvel’s Spider-Man, and during this period, I have spent a good amount of my time with the game. I am working my way towards getting the platinum trophy after finishing the story mode, and with the DLC coming up next week, I thought it would be a good time to share my review of Marvel’s Spider-Man.
As a game that carried a lot of hype at launch, it sure felt like a great Spider-Man game. Indeed, it is worthy of being labeled as one, but there are just too many glaring flaws with it that hold it back from being placed among the greatest superhero games of all time. Yes, I am talking about the Superman game released on the Nintendo 64 (Not really!).
The game that I am talking about is Batman Arkham Asylum that truly showed how to create a great superhero video game and took it a step further with Arkham City, which remains one of my fondest gaming memory from the last generation. Marvel’s Spider-Man has derived much inspiration from the Batman Arkham series, from the way it approaches stealth to a significant focus on the story; there is a compelling case of following the formula established by Rocksteady.
The story is an important focus in Marvel’s Spider-Man with gorgeously animated cut scenes that advance the plot. The clever writing makes it easier to connect with the side characters. There is a good amount of emphasis on character development, but it comes at the cost of disturbing the flow of the game. Peter Parker is not the only playable character, and you will also see the story through the eyes of Mary Jane Watson and Miles Morales. Both of these have many playable sections during the course of the main campaign full of gameplay limitations and forced stealth segments. In fact, they are the prime reason the story starts to feel like a drag because of how often the game tries to tell the narrative from their perspective.
As far as the plot goes, the game sidesteps any introduction for Peter Parker’s superpowers and instead begins precisely in the middle of his high school life. This is a brand-new story crafted by Insomniac Games; one that brings attention to characters like Mary Jane Watson and Miles Morales, while giving fans the opportunity to experience some of the classic Spider-Man villains including the Sinister Six. There are many well-detailed cut scenes with beautiful animation, all giving the feeling of a big budget production.
The open world in Spider-Man is beautiful to navigate, but it is full of repetitive, boring quests and collectibles. It is not easy to create an open world where everything serves a purpose, but here, the side-missions lack any shred of imagination aside from a select few that involve a major villain or side character. In other words, most of the time you are doing the same monotonous tasks that involve around stopping a robbery, sable agents or prisoners. There are variations to the mission and collectibles but it all boils down to the same task repeating ad infinitum.
Despite my disappointment with the open world, the combat is near perfect. The way Spider-Man performs the combat moves and uses various gadgets to trap or confuse his enemies is absolute genius. There is some similarity to the rhythmic nature of the combat system from the Arkham series but it is a lot more dynamic by mixing regular attacks, skill moves, and gadgets together. All of these combine together to create an engaging, thoughtful combat system and keeps the player on their toes. It won’t be effortless to grasp it at first, especially dodging out of enemy attacks with Spider-Reflexes, but practice makes perfect as they say.
Stealth with Spider-Man is almost taken step by step from Batman. Just imagine Batman running around tagging enemies and then suddenly grabbing them from some vantage point. This is what you will do with stealth most of the time, however, you have the extra abilities and cool gadgets of Spider-Man to approach it differently. Spider-Man even goes into vents in first-person like Batman and sneaks around using them. It all feels just too similar to ignore drawing a comparison here.
Speaking of the Stealth again, the playable sections of Mary Jane and Miles Morales need forced stealth. If you get caught, it abruptly ends with a terrible game over screen. They feel cut from an altogether different game because of terrible and dated design. During certain story moments, you will experience flashbacks from their perspective and get to control them, except you have no choice but to run around silently avoiding any enemies along the way. Most of the interactivity boils down to distracting the enemies e.g. pushing objects as Mary Jane or hacking electronics as Miles Morales. The only good thing that comes out of it is in two specific story scenarios; one of them taking place during a significant terrorist attack while the other deals with a bank heist as you see Spider-Man taking down the thugs from Mary Jane’s perspective.
Even though Marvel’s Spider-Man has a full open city for you to explore, there are no dynamic day and night cycle. This is more likely a technical limitation in place, but it still feels weird to see the time of day suddenly change when taking a story or side mission. Fast travel gets unlocked once you make a little progress and its execution is pretty comical since Spider-Man travels like an ordinary human in the subway. There are random scenes that play out during such moments that add to the hilarity.
The gadgets for Spider-Man are clever and even though most of them are a variety of simple web moves, utilizing them cleverly on a large crowd provides a deep sense of satisfaction. I don’t think the combat would have worked as effectively if there were no gadgets. Additionally, it is possible to mod them and increase their effectiveness. The same thing applies to the suits that you have to craft by first doing the boring side missions to receive different tokens and then crafting the suits using them. Each of the suits offers a special move and has a slot to equip for mods. The suits themselves are utterly gorgeous, and this is definitely the most extensive support for suits in a Spider-Man game. Any upcoming DLC will reportedly add more to Spider-Man’s wardrobe which can only be a good thing.
The main story missions will take you roughly 15 hours depending on how much time you will spend on the optional content like the side missions. Getting the platinum trophy is not that hard but will increase the play time to roughly 40 hours give and take. The game starts becoming brutally challenging as you progress further in the story due to the increase in criminal activity with the prisoners, sable agents, and gangs that roam the world. Overall, the campaign and story’s quality takes a nosedive near the end after a great start and satisfying intermission. It all builds up quickly to a final showdown with the Sinister Six, which itself is disappointing because of the terrible boss fights.
Marvel’s Spider-Man Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Marvel's Spider-Man, or simply Spider-Man, is an action-adventure game developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4, based on the Marvel Comics superhero Spider-Man. Released worldwide on September 7, 2018, it is the first licensed game developed by Insomniac.
Final Score - 8/10
Marvel's Spider-Man is undoubtedly one of the most impressive superhero games this generation that also has many visible flaws. The open world content feels bloated and artificially padded, stealth segments are inconsistent and forced, while the boss fights are a letdown.