Amazing? Spectacular? Even Superior? The answer is none of the above. Before you close this article, I did really enjoy this game. There are just a few things that hold it back that are substantial. Firstly, this is a fun game. Since playing Spider-Man 2 over a decade ago, I’ve craved another game that provides the arachnid hero’s feel of mobility. Insomniac has done a tremendous job here of make traversal as Spider-Man, the highlight of the game. Swinging around New York is an absolute blast. Even when I had a way marker on the screen, rather than going the direct and quickest route, I would be frolicking all the way there. They nailed what it’s like to be Spider-Man.
But before I get ahead of myself, I should set the scene and talk about the story itself. So in Spider-Man on the PS4, you play as Wolverine. No wait that’s the wrong hero isn’t it? Obviously you play as the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man and Spider-Man doesn’t need to be explained, we all know his powers and who he is. Also, I’m getting sick of typing Spider-Man and when the main character is the titular title it becomes extra annoying so from now on, when I refer to Spider-Man himself it’s SM! SM is the main character, with a few occasions the player takes control of Peter’s ex Mary Jane and newcomer in Peter’s life, Miles. Without giving away too many story beats, I was really surprised by the narrative. It’s not a video game classic but the story is well told and full of nuance. There is a good story here and quite a mature one at that. It’s a classic, good vs evil story but there’s a lot of different threads which weave nicely into a cohesive, well told tale.
Not only does the cutscenes and dialogue fill us in on SM’s life but the oodles of side content help to characterise our hero. It weaves a world that feels lived in by SM/Peter Parker. This isn’t an origin story, in fact SM has been Spider-Man-ing for over half a decade. And through side content and collectables, a life of a web slinger is fleshed out. here is a plethora of backpacks, photo opportunities, combat scenarios and my favourite…….pigeon chases. Seriously a group of side missions have you yanking a pigeon out of the sky. Me thinks using a pigeon’s body weight as an anchor or pulling the pigeon to yourself at high speed would pulverise the winged critter but apparently they’re built to last in New York. Also, just to annoy you, try to get the Hanna Barbera song Stop the Pigeon out of your head next time you go for one of those bad boys in Spider-Man.
New York itself is a character and Insomniac has done a great job of creating a large playground. I would have liked there to be more unique buildings for fun traversal but what they’ve created is a very good emulation of the big apple. Which, brings me to the web swinging. I like the fighting of this game, I love the swinging. The way SM moves and flows through the air is something else. I don’t get bored with how it feels. Leaping of a web swing right at it’s highest point or dive bombing from a skyscraper just looks and feels the business. There’s fast travel in this game and I don’t think I’ll ever use it. The swinging is the best part of the game and it amplifies my enjoyment of the rest of the game. There is a ton of side content in this game and actually getting to that content is so much fun. A bit more variety in the side missions would be appreciated but the swinging saves the tedium. In other games I could barely care about finding a backpack or repetitive side missions where I swing through smoggy areas for samples. But most of the side missions involve more opportunities to sling webs and I want to indulge in that. Going to a funeral isn’t fun but if you got to drive a monster truck there then that’s a different thing. The combat is fantastic. It took me a while to get used to it as well as I did with Batman Arkham Asylum but once you get used to the controls it flows really well. It’s very similar to the Batman games but with Spider-Man charm. It’s a delight to watch SM’s acrobatic moves when dispatching thugs and the array or gadgets and suits keep the combat from getting stale. As a quick mention, the different suits in the games are a great addition and look amazing. The fact that most of them come with a unique power as well, it’s these little additions that show that Insomniac know how to make a character fun to play.
Which, brings me to which characters aren’t fun to play. And one of the main things that holds this game back for me. The Mary Jane and Miles missions. Not all of them. There’s 1 Miles mission I liked and I think 1 Mary Jane mission but that was because it involved SM and had a nice gimmick to it. But the other times, you have to play as these characters skulking around, looking for information or just trying to evade capture from enemies. They are just not that fun and I don’t oppose to playing as side characters in games. It gives instances to show unique gameplay or story. But the scenarios they’re in and the tools at our disposal need to be interesting or fun. Most of the MJ or Miles parts can be summed up as *wait for guard to look in opposite direction before moving* or *make a noise to draw attention to a spot and then move towards objective*. It’s a flow breaker after playing as a fast, capable character. You feel stilted and robbed of more SM time. I wouldn’t mind as much if it was one or two in a 15+ story but it seemed to be every 2-3 hours a slow mission reared its head. To the point where when dialogue started leading to a ‘I wonder what predicament Mary Jane has got herself into this time’, I would start mentally asking the game to just show me a cutscene of what happened to her. Please game, take the control from me and show a brief scene that gives me the exposition! I was never bored when playing as Peter Parker because they were brief and interesting. Hell I would play as one of the pigeons! That’d be a great introduction to that side mission. Getting chased through Central Park by a man in red and blue spandex.
The game also doesn’t have enough ‘WOW that’s what it’s like to be a hero’ missions early on. The last 4 hours or so of the game are so so good. They have SM, a super hero, doing super hero level things. Saving citizens and stopping robberies is hero stuff but I feel like the grand scale missions were all mostly on the back end. It made for a great few hours but now I’m thinking on my new game plus that those first few hours are going to seem like a bit mundane in comparison. Like I said, the swinging and combat are both excellent so I’m sure it won’t be an issue but a few great missions with bigger scope peppered throughout the early hours would have been appreciated. Instead of the aforementioned Mary Jane and Miles missions. When all is said and done though, Spider-Man is a well crafted, fun game. It has a great story, looks beautiful, the music score is on point and overall it is a fun game. I would very much recommend this one and I just hope that Insomniac rethinks some of their mission choices for the sequel. A fantastic game let down by a few missteps but a fantastic game nevertheless.