In the lead up to this game there were a lot of comparisons between it and the ‘Arkham’ trilogy of Batman games. As a lover of the character and those games, I thought to myself ‘if they can make a Spider-Man game half as good it would be cracking’.
Insomiac haven’t done that. They’ve made a better game.
This game makes you feel like Spider-Man. From the traversal of a stunning NYC, to the quips, to the struggles of Peter’s life, it’s all there. I couldn’t tell you how many times I was swinging towards a story objective when a police chase would kick off nearby. Off I swung, taking longer to do the objective than planned. Classic Peter Parker! A lot of love has been poured into this game and it shines.
You could say the same for the Arkham games, and I do. There’s not much that beats calling the Batmobile to underneath you as you glide through the streets of Gotham. However, Spider-Man gets ahead on account of its story.
‘Asylum’ was a fantastic game in a great contained environment, with a terrible ending. ‘City’ was convoluted, with a gut-wrenchingly brave ending. ‘Knight’ was a mess story-wise, poorly planting obvious seeds for reveals which weren’t surprising at all. Spider-Man starts strong, builds characters up, makes you feel for them and want to know more, and then occasionally kicks you in the nuts. It does all this whilst building a world that is ripe for further exploration yet doesn’t need more.
The story deserves to be discovered naturally, so I’ll go no further.
After two weeks I’m 100% complete on the main story and major collectibles, this being one of the rare games that reawakens my ‘cheev hunter’ instincts. I’m happy being Spider-Man, whether that’s fighting giant Man/Rhinos or collecting lost pigeons. It’s all there, it all feels right, and I get joy from it.
A lot of that joy stems from how Spidey gets about. The controls are simple, intuitive, and make you look and feel cool with minimal effort. I could swing, run and jump around Manhattan for hours without really doing anything else. Anyone who remembers the older games will remember climbing to the top of the Empire State Building and taking a swan dive. You can do that here too, with the extra realism and draw distance adding a sprinkle of magic. From the shift in his weight as he swings, to the way he can run along a building, this is a near perfect interpretation of moving like Spider-Man.
You could argue that it’s similarity to other games is a negative. Arkham, Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry…they all use progressive systems of using towers to view the map, and upgrade/skill trees. No it’s not new, but Spider-Man uses them well enough that it doesn’t matter. A sequel would do well to push on from here and do something different, building off these solid foundations.
The only times I found myself a little bored were when I was forced into stealth sections with secondary characters. There’s no denying it gave me some insight, but I think the story being told was strong enough to not need these parts.
The tag line for Spider-Man is ‘Be Greater’. Fitting, as the game borrows mechanics from other games and elevates their use. If you don’t own a PS4 it’s worth borrowing one. If you want to feel like Spider-Man, this is the closest you’ll get this side of being bitten by a radioactive spider.