Review: Marvel’s Spider-Man

As cinemas are filled with superhero films every year, the gaming industry has their own bevy of hard hitters too. This time, Marvel’s Spider-Man is swinging around driven by the talented developers at Insomniac Games. Having a rocky video game history like the thrilling Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (2010) or the clunky The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), Insomniac must make use of their power to fulfil such daring responsibility.

Retelling Of An Old Tale

Set-in present-day New York City, Peter Parker gave up his camera to be a research assistant. At the same time, he has an on and off relationship with Mary Jane who turned from aspiring star to investigative journalist. In terms of his superhero duty, he is a veteran who has defeated numerous villains like Vulture, Rhino and Electro while establishing friendly partnership with the city’s police.

As you get acquainted to this modern version of everyone, the game gets an explosive start by pitting you against a crime lord. Almost immediately after that, the whole city is yours to explore. The game is good at capturing the magnificent concrete jungle and you can learn more about the geography by swinging from one building to another. There is very little learning curve when it comes to his web-slinging as the developers managed to compress the complexity of such movement to one button. Furthermore, this simple approach does not dilute the exhilarating experience you get when traversing the cityscape.

What’s important here is how fulfilling it is to see and even feel as if you’re Spider-Man acrobatically propelling to different parts of the city thanks to the satisfying rhythm. If and when you mess up, the game doesn’t punish you but only to see the web crawler losing momentum. Even if you smack against a building, the game will start a wall-running sequence to keep to the pace going.

Two-sides Of The Same Coin

Moving on to the game’s objectives, it tackles a lot of Parker’s duality of trying to be a regular person as well as a superhero. This is crucial as the game finally lets you play as Parker to perform daily tasks compared to the exciting life as Spider-Man. It paints a different picture of the hero you are used to and that helps build the main character even more. What’s so good about this is you realising that he is relatable despite his confident alter ego and it adds another layer to the person you know as Peter Parker.

Yet, the icing on the cake isn’t perfect. As the story picks up and begins taking shape, the game devotes less time to his personal stuff in favour of the superhero duties. It’s not wrong for them to do so as there is an urgency to the way the game was crafted. However, part of the charm is seeing Parker’s mundane life from being late for appointments to doing his best as a research assistant. Thankfully, the story gets better especially late in the game when you are pulled in every direction creating a dilemma that fuels the emotional turmoil you’ll soon experience.

Branching away from the harsher implications of the main story are the side objectives. It doesn’t have the same energy level as the focal plotline and that makes it less compelling. There are also other optional activities that will put your fighting, traversal and covert skills to the test. A few examples are fighting waves of enemies, taking picture of important landscapes, collecting your forgotten bags and helping out research stations.

Progressing With Repetition

While many of them are part of being the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, they can be repetitive. What’s motivating you to do all of that is progression. Each activity is tied to different tokens that can be used to purchase new suits, gadgets and upgrades.

Another definitive mechanic about Marvel’s Spider-Man is the combat. It feels familiar yet fresh thanks to how agile the hero is. Expect a lot of dodging and aerial manoeuvres as that is where Spider-Man shines the most. From hard punching to flinging environmental rubbles, there is a certain joy to just how fluid the fighting feels. The switch from one fighting technique to another is so seamless that it should have been called an art. Every move – big or small – connects and each time you hit some thugs feels like a victory.

Complementing it further is the vast number of gadgets you can unlock as well as the suit’s power. At first you start out with just his usual webbings but with the introduction of new items like Impact Webbing, Electric Webs and Web Bombs, it helps vary the fighting styles. By pairing this up, you’ll see how much his webs affect the battlefield: enemies stuck on walls, hanging upside down on lampposts and dangling at the edge of a building. The dramatic journey to the boss is also a worthwhile experience like climbing up the elevator shafts while enemies drop bombs or stopping a giant crane from crashing into the city.

Stealth plays a big part too but it stumbles into simplistic gameplay. At times, the game forces you to do some sneaking in the form of playing as Mary Jane or another civilian. Even Spider-Man’s stealth takedowns get dull after a while.

Big Boss Fun

Another area where the game misses the mark is the boss fights. You’ll find yourself repeating almost the same pattern for each boss. Web them up or stumble them by flinging stuff all over the map, close the distance, beat them up and then dodge their attacks until the same opportunity presents itself again. The lack of challenge makes these battles very forgettable.

Then, there is the grand cutscenes that can be a double-edged sword. The animation is a masterpiece as you get to reap the results of your fight in one sweeping motion. Yet, instead of being a participant, you are just a viewer. It is easy to appreciate the spectacle, but it would have been much better if you are part of such heroic moments without resorting to quick-time sequences.

Taking a step back and looking at Marvel’s Spider-Man as a whole, you can tell that the game integrates old-school open world with incredible combat. One may look at it and say it is a safe game with not many bold or innovative changes. That is true. But you can also see Insomniac Games putting a lot of effort into it with Spider-Man happily quipping away with his jokes while hammering down on tough foes. For this generation, this is the quintessential Spider-Man game as minor shortcomings won’t detract the authenticity of a beloved superhero.

(Text by: CeeKay)

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