Reviews// Marvel's Spider-Man

Posted 17 Sep 2018 16:20 by
The problems that face many super heroes usually include creating a formula that can stop a deadly virus or deciding how to block that volcano which threatens to wipe out a small country or which fist to punch a giant world-destroying robot with. Most cape-wearing godlike beings aren't too concerned about how to scrape together next month's rent or considering why they can't balance their hero lifestyle and keep a girlfriend. You don't often see Superman struggling with sleep deprivation and failing a chemistry exam. These are just the sorts of situations that appear regularly in Marvel's Spider-Man and Peter Parker's (aka The Amazing Spider-Man) humanity and real world issues are the exact reasons I personally love the character and why he has remained a favourite for many comic fans for the last sixty-five years.

For fans of videogames however, the quality of Spider-Man themed titles has varied wildly over the years. With over thirty games released since the Seventies, this is hardly a surprise but with a character as entertaining as Spidey, you have to wonder why they would find it so difficult to at least make some of these games fun.

For many, it was the release of Spider-Man on the PlayStation back in 2000 that first gave us a glimpse of what it would feel like to actually zip-line and swing across a city like the titular protagonist. 2004's sequel on the PlayStation 2 solidified those ideas, giving us a flowing, dynamic traversal system that makes the game still stand out a decade later. Marvel's Spider-Man (to give it the full title) has clearly listened to those adoring acolytes of Activision's title and taken up the challenge to improve upon the already great web-swinging from this beloved game and to give us a robust combat system to match.

Thankfully the consideration has paid off. The ability to swing like Tarzan across a beautifully realised Manhattan skyline feels perfect. Though the difficulty curve is a little sharp to begin, after an hour or so I found myself flowing through this urban jungle like a greased-piggy on a water-slide. Swinging is just one of the options available to the webbed-wonder. You can catapult yourself forwards with a different button-tap, springboard off structures and perform tricks la Tony Hawk - which earns you a little experience as you go. Fast-Travel points open up on the map a few hours into the campaign but the fun of performing a little aerial ballet instead was far too strong and I found myself using them only a handful of times throughout the entire campaign.

Talking of the campaign, without getting into spoiler territory, it's safe to say that the main story is a blast. Perfectly acted with great performance capture, this tale could have been told in the classic era of Spidey's comic run. It certainly had all the ingredients; Peter's money problems, his anxiety over loved-ones getting caught up in his super-shenanigans, deranged villain who usually has a little pathos in the mix... it's all there and more besides. The little touches and character beats that show up from time-to-time work as fan-service and seems to suggest that the developer Insomniac really cares about the product.

At around 20 hours the campaign itself may seem slight by the standards of some big release games. However, adding the additional hours spent doing side-missions the playtime is easily doubled. You really ought to work through the side-missions and quests because, unlike many open-world games, they're also great fun. They never feel too repetitive or pointless and often add a little more character development along the way.

Combat plays a big part in the game, as you'd probably expect - Spidey doesn't often get a chance to solve the problems he encounters with a bunch of flowers and a box of Fererro Rocher - and I can confirm that this is great fun too. The list of moves is extensive and I found myself often playing for style rather than efficiency, because it just felt good. Why simply punch gangsters in the face when you can leap over them, webbing their head up as you pass before gluing another antagonist to a wall, then zip-lining across the battlefield to sock a third guy in the face so hard that he flies into the air, n continuing to punch him a few more times before he has a chance to hit the floor? It's fluid and complex - easy to use but difficult to master.

Occasionally stealth plays a factor and there are plenty of options here too. Yanking convicts off their feet and hanging them from a lamppost is certainly one approach. Equally you can elect to sneak up behind foes, take them out with a quick flying kick or employ a whole plethora of gadgets to spice things up. Trip-Mines and mini drones can quickly thin the herd of villains and if things go loud, then you can switch to electricity-based webs or any number of suit-powers that Tony Stark might have added to give you the upper hand.

From start to end this feels like a quality product. Another great exclusive for Sony to add to its growing roster and a worthy celebration of the enduring character. There are criticisms of course - the music while traversing the city never changes and, given how much time you'll spend doing just that, you might be reaching for Spotify or the 'settings' options after a few hours. The campaign length is a little short and feels light on villains. The main antagonist in this adventure is an unknown created especially for the game, so you might be 'Kraven' some more familiar names by the time the end credits roll (see what I did there?) A few more story strands including some additional classic menaces would have been very welcome.

Overall the experience of swooping through the familiar New York City skyscrapers keeps you coming back. Even after beating the game, exploring this world to find all its secrets and to perfect your score on the challenge missions is more than enough to warrant a purchase. This is a title worthy of its name and hopefully it's not the last time we see this talented team of developers holding the reigns of the franchise.

Pros:
+ Superb traversal engine makes you feel so much like Spidey that you can smell the latex
+ Plenty of variation in missions
+ Great storytelling which compelling characters

Cons:
- Short campaign length may leave you wanting more
- Lack of variation on many of the foes encountered
- That background music

SPOnG Score: 8/10

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