MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN [Review]: Mister Positive.
Summer of 1995, I’m 9-years old in my room in front of my hand-me-down CRT TV, turning on my Sega Genesis. TLC’s “Waterfalls” is playing on Power 106 and I see the title screen of Spider-Man and Venom: Separation Anxiety appear on the screen. I’m just as pumped playing it for the 100th time as I was for the first first time. Suddenly, I’m lurched forward in time swinging through the streets of Manhattan in a story that feels like then next logical iteration after the 1990’s Animated Series and everything I ever wanted has come true. Even though the webhead’s snark is still in tact, it’s hard for me to be anything but sincere, as above all the polish and stellar production values of Insomniac and Marvel’s Spider-Man for the PS4 is a genuine Peter Parker story with a lot of heart, amazing takes on the characters, and spectacular potential for future entries in the franchise. Did some of the trailers reveal the best surprises in the game? Kinda. Were those “twists” predictable anyway? Definitely. Does it ultimately matter? Not really.
If you weren’t paying attention to the massive hype train that preceded the game’s release, Peter is already eight years into being Spider-Man and, as the game starts out with you taking out the Kingpin in the tutorial, it’s really a perfect jumping off point for the story. With the Kingpin’s absence a vacuum is created in New York’s underground and several gangs seem to want to fill it. All the while, Peter is working for Doctor Octavius — his mentor and hero — having just broken up with Mary Jane all while helping Aunt May at her work helping out the city’s homeless. Much like every PS4 exclusive that has come out since Uncharted 4, the performances and rendering of the characters is top-notch and worthy of prestige television or summer blockbusters. The characters themselves are very well developed and only slightly altered from the shows, comics, and movies in ways that almost far surpass all that previous material. Doc Ock and Mary Jane especially benefit from getting more story time and third dimensions in ways that even Sam Raimi’s classic Spider-Man 2 could ever give them.
It’s hard to pinpoint one true “heart” of the story. As the different plotlines develop separately, and then ultimately come together, Peter’s (of course) spin all these different plates and trying so hard, in equal measures, to help, or figure out, all the different people in his life. The changes to these classic characters also may serve to keep the ball rolling in the story, but they are well justified and in almost every instance, as far as the bigger players go, say something interesting and make the characters better. Couple that with Insomniac nailing Peter Parker and it also makes the side quest storylines and random interactions with other citizens of New York all the more immersive. It may not be the definitive Spider-Man across all mediums for a majority of webheads, but this is a strong and well crafted standalone Spidey universe that destined to have a few more entries down the road. 4.5/5 Web Shooters.
I prayed. I played Arkham. I prayed some more. My prayers were answered, but then delayed. So I waited. Then I bought my ticket to E3 just to find out I had to wait some more. But then boy. Oh, boy. The heavens opened up and I was blessed with this divine nugget of digital entertainment. Marvel’s Spider-Man is absolutely everything you could want in a Spider-Man game. Nothing is lacking, nothing is cheesy, nothing is pointless. In all its perfection, the brightest shining attribute for me is the combat and gadgets.
If you’ve played any of the Batman Arkham games then you are definitely familiar with the fighting engine used for Spider-Man. It’s nothing brand new or original, but it fits so much better in the Spidey Universe than it does in Gotham. Peter Parker’s inherent agility is fully utilized in all the combat of the game. Jumping, sliding, dodging, swinging, bouncing, Spidey does it all, and the enemies hate him for it. The web-slinging is super responsive. I expected a bit more of a delay between pushing the button and the webs responding mid fight or mid jump, but they’re there. Every time, trust AF.
There are even additional gadgets that add to Spidey’s arsenal, some are part of the web slingers and some are powers that come with new suits. I have to admit, I grew up on the afterschool Spider-Man cartoon on FOX. So I was only expecting some basic web-based gadgets yet these get a lot more serious: sound waves, negative energy, and a bunch of nano stuff — nano particle, nano bot, nano fiber; once you start to really level up everything gets nano-fied. What a time to be alive. The new gadgets dont seem too far fetched or unbelievable in relation to the character and they make staying alive much easier when your health gets low. All in all, I haven’t beaten the game yet. After waiting 500 years, I’m trying to pace myself. But at 44% completion and several hours of swinging through the massive city map, I have yet to find anything I don’t like about this game, other than the fact that I wish it had come out sooner. 5/5 Amazing Spider Bibles.
Sorry for the delay, but I just couldn’t put the controller down. Spider-Man PS4 is a true addiction, the best reason to take 2-3 days off from work. Insomniac’s latest is a damn great game, and an even better experience. It’s just a blast. If you asked me on Monday how I felt through my initial 32% playthrough, I would have told you how impressively (web) fluid the combat is, as shifting between melee options, web tosses, and neat gadgets, running, sliding and thwipping around like the maniac was a seemless experience; Spider-Man offers some of the best combat mechanics ever produced in a video game. But ask me now after finishing the game at 94% completion and I can take it a double-webshot further: Spider-Man gets better both as a title and character the more you play, the more you fine tune your combat skills and develop that Web-headed awareness with the sticks (I had some Kingpin and Demon Base battles where mah dude never touches concrete). The game also becomes one hell of an open-world playground to mess around with due to the naturalistic feel of New York City.
Having lived just 215 miles away over in New Bedford — and been to a few NY Comic-Cons — I spent many a day in the NYC and anxious to see if the next 3-month DLC plays out in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Either way, Insomniac does an admirable job capturing the essence of Manhattan and its island surroundings. Although you oddly don’t hear too many Noo Yewwwrk accents, this Big Apple is complete with all the pizza shop/hot dog cart/chai latte hipsters, rooftop pigeons/street rats, bodegas/pawn shops/liquor joints/souvenir stores and sidewalk merches, glamorous midtown galas, Central Park joggers and all that other outer city grime. One night mission has you rapidly web-souping the imbalanced radioactivity of Times Square’s mammoth screens. Swooping down 5th Ave at Velocity speed is super dope, and Harlem is ma’fuckin’ Harlem. I never expected the House that Killa Cam, A$AP Rocky, and Arsenio Hall built (playin’; shout-out to Langston Hughes, Big L and Louis Armstrong) to feel so authentic in its art, feel and culture; the graf is tight, the b-boying is legit. Somewhere, Power Man is smilin’.
I’m fine with the main narrative, and it touched my heartstring at times while also feeling pretty safe and self-contained. So you won’t be seeing any Daredevil, Cap or Wolverine ham it up with their little insect bud, or watch Pete step in the squared circle against anyone outside of his famous Rogues gallery; while that’s likely more disappointing to me than most, it’s understandable with Crystal Dynamics taking on The Avengers Project and the usual goofy movie character politics over at the House That Stan Built. If I had any other minor negatives besides a thing that’s surely out of the hands of the developers, it’s that stealthy side missions featuring both Mary Jane and Miles Morales — while a nice break from all the breakneck action — tended to be too similar, while the Taskmaster Challenges are stingy as hell at rewarding challenge tokens. You’ll have to play these repeatedly to snatch enough credit to get 3-4 new Wall-crawler suits. While these challenges are nowhere as arduous as the Augmented Reality missions from Arkham, there’s other things I’d rather do with my life.
But at the end of the night, Spider-Man is one of the most rewarding game experiences I’ve ever had. I never felt this strong about that E3 demo, or even my initial first 10-12 hours with the game; there’s a lot more density here than meets the eye, including Spidey’s subway escapades. So please do fast travel often, even if you won’t ever feel the need to, I promise these rare moments of tranquilty are everything. Then there’s taking selfies in front of numerous landmarks like MSG, Empire State Building, and Avengers Tower in Photo Mode, a super rich picture-taking option that has taken over my social media and gamer’s accounts nationwide. It’s almost as if New Game+ is already here with Peter’s ability to rock a wide assortment of suits, trick it out with any skill available and snap creative pics all over the city. “Finish this in 20-hours” my ass. With more than a few slices of Lombardi’s pie, Insomniac delivers all their cheeky wit and sky-grabbing charm from Sunset Overdrive to the Spider-Man Universe to create an “Arkham” sequel more fitting for spider than bat. While the game may not change your life it might go down as the best weekend you ever had. 4.5/5 Yankees Sucks.