The Marvel and DC craze has been sweeping the world for the last decade or so, with no signs of slowing down. From movies to TV shows, it’s hard to avoid comic book super heroes everywhere you look. Now video games are their next target. But gaming is a different beast altogether- you can’t just create a poorly made, rushed game and expect gamers to love it, even if it is based on something so popular. So does the highly anticipated Spider-Man for the PS4 live up to the hype we see with the other mediums? Let’s find out!
Spider-Man isn’t based on any of the movies; it is its own story, but still uses the same characters from its universe.
As Spider-Man, you must investigate, uncover and stop the devious plans of a gang known as ‘The Demons’. I won’t go too far into the villains involved to avoid spoilers, but there are a decent amount of well-known characters here to keep fans happy. But because most of them are introduced in the later stages, they never had the time to be fully-fleshed out, as I knew nothing about them.
Maybe actual hardcore Spider-Man fans know them inside out, but I didn’t get a chance to love or hate them, or get to know their past and backstories. It’s almost like most of them were put there just for the sake of it.
The story is split up into 3 Acts, and the end of each act is exciting and dramatic, and sets up the next act very well. For me, these were the best parts of the story, but it is a shame that level of excitement doesn’t really carry throughout the majority of the acts.
The storytelling of Spider-Man is a little too scattered and doesn’t do a great job of building up the story. One mission you’re uncovering more of the villain’s sinister plot, then the next mission you’re doing something that feels completely unrelated. There’s not a whole lot of natural flow that’s needed to build up a story like this.
You spend most of the story investigating, rather than having exciting, set-piece moments happening like in any good superhero movie. But like I mentioned before, all the best parts happen at the end of each act, just not throughout.
Because of this, I never felt fully engaged in the story because of its wonky storytelling, even though the storyline itself was good, not great, but not bad either. I think just some more urgency was needed.
Another problem were the bland mission objectives, usually requiring you to make your way to an enemy base, take them all out, watch a cutscene, then move on to the next mission. If this game came out 4-5 years ago, it might be fine, but I’d prefer just a little more thought and originality put into the mission design.
There are some missions that surprised me though at least. There were also missions involving you play as other characters such as MJ, which were all stealth-based missions, since they can’t fight. I enjoyed these, even though they weren’t exactly Metal Gear Solid calibre, they were a nice change of pace.
Without giving away any spoilers, I wish the events at the end of the second act happened at the start of the game! That way, your goal is clearly set and the scale of the problem is felt early on, giving you more motivation and making you care about what’s going on. It just would have engaged me from start to finish, rather than only at certain points for a small amount of time.
But there are other areas of the game that really stood out, mainly how you traverse the city. As we all know, Spider-Man has the ability to swing around the city using his spider powers, and it’s replicated perfectly in this game. I don’t think there’s a better, more satisfying feeling than swinging around the city. It’s smooth, seamless, thrilling and fun regardless of how long you’ve been playing the game.
Spider-Man’s momentum is never stalled, as he’ll just continue running across or up buildings if they get in the way. The game never lagged or anything, no matter how fast I was going. I also love how the music would start up as you start swinging, just to add a bit of drama to your movements.
Another area of the game that was fun was the combat. It isn’t perfect, but still enjoyable nonetheless. The combat is fast-paced as it should be. There are a decent variety of enemies which require different tactics to take down, which kept combat fresh and varied.
There’s also plenty of moves and abilities to master, and these just add more variety to combat and each player will most likely do things their own way.
As for the things that aren’t so great, the camera is definitely one of them. At times it helped when there was maybe one more enemy and it swung around to show me, but then when you’ve got so many enemies around you, it really needed to pan out more to help you out. I just felt myself fighting with the camera to get it to be useful most of the time. I do wish for the ability to lock onto enemies which would have helped a lot.
Whenever Spider-Man is about to get attacked, his Spidey-Senses are shown emanating from his head to let you know you’re about to be attacked. The problem is, you don’t always know which enemy it’s referring to! Plus sometimes you’ll have swarms of enemies attacking you at once, making it quite frustrating when you’re trying to focus on defeating one enemy at a time.
I just wish it showed which enemy was about to attack you so you could respond to that particular enemy, rather than just blindly rolling around. It made it less strategic and less about skill and more about button-mashing.
Spider-Man is an open-world game, a very popular genre in modern gaming. Because of this, there’s plenty to do, some of it fun, but some of it is a bit of a chore. There are many activities that we’ve all done plenty of times before, such as clearing out enemy bases, gathering collectables, and activating towers to reveal parts of the world map.
Of course I rolled my eyes at this, as I wonder when developers of open-world games will try to surprise us. We’ve done these things all before, and are really starting to get tiring. Luckily there are a few activities I enjoyed. I loved searching for the little black cats that Black Cat herself hides, and really enjoyed the two mini-games you can do in Dr Octavius’ Lab. They were just that little bit of originality I wanted to see.
Other mentions I wanted to make were the game’s lighter tone and humour. It really helped give this game some personality, as I chuckled every now and then at Spider-Man’s wit. The way he narrates his own actions and tries to annoy his friend Yuri was hilarious.
Another amusing, and quite brilliant, addition was JJJ’s commentary. The radio host has a very negative view of Spider-Man and responds to so many things you do, whether it’s the main mission or side missions, he’ll refer to your actions accordingly but in a negative light. I always enjoyed his ranting and would usually stop to make sure I listened to it all.
Now it might seem like I’ve been quite harsh with this game, but know that I really did enjoy it. It is fun, even though there are quite a few flaws. I did notice a lot of critics and fans absolutely loved this game and maybe reviewed it better than it deserved.
Not being a massive Spider-Man (or comic book hero) fan myself, I wasn’t wearing any fanboy or fangirl goggles that may have impaired my view of the game. I’m reviewing it strictly as a game because with the entire superhero craze still happening, it’s easy for many people to be influenced. I may have people strongly disagree with me there, but it is what I think.
Yes, it is still a very fun game, but if you were to take away the Spider-Man flavour (like all the characters and the Spider-Man abilities like swinging around), what would you be left with? For the most part, it would be just an average open-world game. Of course the whole Spider-Man shtick does help elevate it, but I felt it needed more from a gameplay point of view, and better storytelling, for it to be considered a masterpiece, like many people have claimed.
The developers Insomniac I felt played it too safe, but considering the amount of gamers and Spider-Man fans that were going to gravitate to this game, it doesn’t surprise me in the least.