Insomniac Games has crafted an incredible tale in the Marvel universe. I’ll be the first to admit I was hyped for Marvel’s Spider-Man after initially seeing the game at E3 in 2016. After playing through the entire game and being just three small trophies shy of popping that Platinum, I wasn’t prepared with how blown away I was going to be by the end result.
Title: Marvel’s Spider-Man
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Insomniac Games
Available On: PlayStation 4
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Release Date: September 7, 2018
Game Purchased by Level Down Games for the Purpose of This Review
Marvel’s Spider-Man stars a 23-year-old Peter Parker, several years after he originally received his powers. One of the first things I noticed when firing up the game is that the development team didn’t waste any time on explaining backstory or lore. They went into this assuming you knew who Spider-Man was, and truthfully, it was a brilliant move. Time and time again superhero games waste precious time on the backstory, when those stories can easily be sought after online. There are dozens upon dozens of subtle nods to the comic books and previous movies littered throughout this version of Manhattan, but if you have no experience with Spider-Man, fear not. You’ll still have a blast.
Since I just mentioned the version of Manhattan that Insomniac Games has created, let’s touch on that for a moment. Without question, one of the most beautiful and jaw-dropping renditions of a city I’ve ever experienced. Infamous: Second Son had a brilliant version of Seattle back in 2014, but this absolutely blows it away. So many small details can be found throughout New York City, and if you’re from the area or are a frequent visitor, you’ll recognize everything and be able to navigate around the city with ease. Of course, being set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to an extent, there are buildings and landmarks not currently present in the actual city. Places such as the Avenger’s Tower and Wakanda Embassy are there for you to take pictures of and awe at, but the last time I checked, these weren’t actually present in Manhattan. But it has been a few years since I’ve been there…
Getting around the city feels effortless as you websling from building to building, run along the sides of them, or propel yourself forward. Fast travel exists via the subway systems, but it’s so entertaining to maneuver around the city that I rarely used them. It’s made even better because a lot of the comedic moments happen when Spider-Man is moving from one location to another. The developers have crafted witty banter between Peter, Mary Jane, Yuri, and Miles, and then the short podcast episodes with J. Jonah Jameson complaining about everything you’ve done in the game so far.. it’s really dialogue that shouldn’t be skipped.
Combat feels as if it was heavily inspired by the Batman Arkham trilogy, and that’s not a negative in the slightest. It’s very combo heavy, with Spider-Man being able to dodge incoming attacks with the simple press of a button, and stringing together insane combinations will always make battles more fun and shorter in length. There are also suit powers which can be unlocked and then equipped on any suit of your choosing to give you unique abilities during combat, and the gadgets that can be crafted throughout the game exist to give Peter the upper hand in more difficult situations. As you continue to level up toward max level, which at current time is level 50, you will gain a skill point for each level that can be placed in one of three skill trees to unlock new moves or abilities. By the time you reach level 50, you will have all of them unlocked, and I naturally was able to do this through the course of the game by taking my time and actively participating in a majority of the content.
In order to craft the gadgets and suits, you’ll need tokens. Tokens come from doing a lot of the side content Insomniac has placed into Marvel’s Spider-Man. There are backpacks spread out across the city that award backpack tokens, taking pictures of dedicated landmarks will award landmark tokens, completing enemy bases will award base tokens, doing Taskmaster’s Challenges will award challenge tokens, helping Harry out with his research facilities grant you with research tokens, and finally, stopping the various crimes throughout the city will award crime tokens. All of these tokens are needed to craft the various suits, gadgets, and upgrades that will allow players to customize their experience and play the game the way they want to play it. It’s worth mentioning that you can also skip all of this content, as none of it is required to finish the main campaign missions, and you can theoretically complete the game with just what is unlocked during the story missions.
Doing that will rob you of the excellent side missions and some of the villains in Marvel’s Spider-Man, however. Some of the actual side quests are more enjoyable than the main story missions, such as finding Black Cat’s figurines in an effort to track her down, finally dealing with Tombstone and Taskmaster, and collecting Howard’s pigeons which are scattered about across the many districts. It’s worth doing, and I had a lot of fun exploring all of the optional content that was there to see.
Which will bring me to one of the early complaints I had about the game. At first glance, Marvel’s Spider-Man feels very much like a Ubisoft checkbox style of game. You know the type. Climb a tower to unlock a portion of the map, and then when you do, icons are all over the place and completionists everywhere begin to weep. Insomniac has taken this formula, much like Nintendo did with Breath of the Wild, and made it better. Instead of unlocking everything immediately upon fixing the police towers, collectibles and optional content is introduced gradually as you progress through the main campaign. By the time you reach something being introduced, it’s a good time to take a break from the main missions anyway and knock out the newly introduced thing. After you’re done, you can go back to the campaign, and it’ll be 4, 5, or sometimes even more missions before the next thing is introduced. This made it so that players never truly feel overwhelmed, and it made more sense to the overall narrative to do it this way. While I do still think a better formula exists out there for this style of gameplay, Insomniac managed to at least turn the Ubisoft formula into a positive one.
Random crimes popping up throughout the various districts of Manhattan ended up feeling insanely repetitive when all was said and done. There’s only so many different things that can be done for the crimes, and when you need to 100% complete all of the districts for one of the trophies, and each district has four different enemy factions, each with 5 crimes that you need to stop to get credit for them.. you’ll start to see repeats before you even finish one district in its entirety. This is one negative that I still feel exists in Marvel’s Spider-Man. There was too much focus on random crimes happening while webslinging about the city, and while I understand it’s there to give players something to do from point A to point B, there’s just too many.
Back to some more positive aspects. The stealth elements found in missions starring MJ and Miles Morales were a huge breath of fresh air, and ended up being some of my fondest moments with the plot. I wasn’t expecting an emphasis on stealth to be so prevalent in the game, and when I realized that was going to be a thing, I was shocked and pleasantly surprised. Also, there are puzzle mechanics in many of the main story missions, and once you get the ability to solve currents and molecular patterns in Otto’s Lab, these offer nice breaks from everything else there is to do and see.
If you aren’t convinced, Marvel’s Spider-Man is a masterpiece of a game and Insomniac should feel damn proud for what they were able to achieve. Arguably one of the best, if not the best, superhero and comic book video games to exist, this is an absolute must-have for any PlayStation 4 owner.
10 / 10