Review: Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4)

Review: Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Marvel’s Spider-Man
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (49.92 GB)
Release Date: September 7, 2018
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Insomniac Games
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US), £54.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 589 of the podcast at 76:39.
Episode 589 - Your Friendly Neighborhood Podcast

After years of subpar outings, Spider-Man is finally getting the full-fledged Triple-A treatment courtesy of Sony and Insomniac Games.

I’ve been a fan of Spider-Man since I was a child, from the comic books to the excellent animated series. When it came to video games though, I never felt like Spider-Man got his due. The original games based on the Sam Raimi films were good, but they could never truly capture the whole Spidey experience. The same can be said for Activision’s run of games that, while they played well, never told a captivating story.

Now Marvel’s Spider-Man on the other hand nails both the gameplay and the story.

In Marvel’s Spider-Man, we find everyone’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man already established as a hero. Peter Parker is 23 years old and has been Spider-Man for eight years. Taking a cue from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Insomniac Games has chosen to forgo the origin story and accept that everyone knows who Spidey is, and for this I am thankful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Uncle Ben die and I’m glad I didn’t have to see it again in video game form.

Review: Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4) Review: Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4)

The choice for an older Peter Parker allows the story to work at a slightly different angle. Peter isn’t trying to come to grips with loss or with his powers, he’s a mature young adult. He’s still struggling with trying to balance being Spider-Man with his relationships and work but he’s starting to see things clicking. Peter has found a potential dream job and as Spider-Man he’s fully confident in his abilities.

It isn’t until a gang called the Demons begin wreaking havoc on the city that his life spirals out of control. Luckily he has a decent support system with Aunt May and Mary Jane. The relationship between Mary Jane and Spider-Man is strained, but they’re still friends. She works at the Daily Bugle while Peter interns at a science lab.

Honestly, there’s a lot to unpack with the story and there are tons of cool moments that involve spoilers, but I wouldn’t want to take any of these moments away from anyone.

Like most Spider-Man stories, it’s about Peter Parker and his balance of wanting to be there for everyone at the cost of his own personal feelings. It’s a wonderful story with plenty of twists that are darker than I expected, but not out of line with the common themes associated with the character. It feels like it was pulled from a comic book, but cleaned up to be more cinematic like an MCU entry.

Insomniac seems to have been given the full run of the Marvel universe, as they drop character names with confidence. They hint at an established universe filled with heroes and villains. It honestly felt like I was coming across an Easter Egg around every corner. The amount of hints and nods to a larger universe really gives me hope that this game can spark their own MCU for games.

Review: Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4) Review: Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4)

Gameplay:
The most important aspect of any Spider-Man game is that swing. Marvel’s Spider-Man has that swing.

Using a more realistic approach to web swinging, the webs need to attach to a building to function with momentum being the key to really moving around. The mechanics are simple – R2 will grab onto the nearest building and you swing for momentum and dive to build up speed for your next swing.

It’s hard to explain how well the developers nailed the look and feel of web swinging. My first time climbing the Empire State building, jumping off, and waiting until I was a few feet from the ground to swing was thrilling. The sense of speed and adrenaline was hitting on all cylinders in that moment.

The combat has a foundation similar to Batman Arkham Asylum in terms of feel and mechanics. Hand to hand combat and the stealth feel very similar, just with a Spidey-twist.

Combat is smooth and Spidey easily hops between enemies as you pound on the attack button. The fighting doesn’t truly shine until you start unlocking various gadgets. It’s an Insomniac game, therefore we do have a weapon wheel with a decent arsenal of gadgets.

Review: Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4) Review: Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4)

Most gadgets are web based and slow enemies down for Spider-Man to do his thing while some more technological ones will do the same but in a different manner. As the game progresses, you’ll come across enemies with different abilities making those gadgets vital for success as well as building interesting combos.

While the combat isn’t starting any revolutions, it’s fun and it works the way you’d want it to work. I tend to dislike stealth in games, but the stealth mechanics here are fantastic and I found myself spending more time than I expected approaching missions that way. Spider-Man’s powers and gadgets just lend themselves to a better more approachable experience.

Mission structures have a decent variety and the main story missions go to cool places while the side missions are addicting. There’s a lot to do, from stopping random crimes to taking down enemy bases or even simple minigames for Peter’s research work. Most importantly I felt motivated and rewarded to complete all of them.

You level up for completing side missions along with getting new gear, and more importantly they add story and universe building content. I didn’t ever feel like they were a waste of time because there was always a payoff, be it getting to know the lore’s history more or meeting an unexpected character along the way.

I couldn’t put the game down and I had to get one hundred percent completion and I don’t usually play games that way. I cannot praise this game enough for how much satisfaction I got from the core gameplay mechanics and the universe being built.

Review: Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4) Review: Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4)

Visuals:
Puddles be damned! Marvel’s Spider-Man is a good looking game that runs smoothly on the PS4 Pro. I rarely ran into any hitches in framerate and for the most part it was smooth sailing.

Insomniac’s version of New York is a lively recreation with all the real life landmarks you would expect plus a couple Marvel-centric ones too. The street population isn’t as dense as I would have hoped it would be, but I spent more of my time swinging between buildings than on the ground interacting with pedestrians.

Speaking of that swing, I cannot praise the look and feel of the swinging enough. Zipping through the city at high speeds looks phenomenal and you get a real sense of speed from the visuals.

There isn’t a real dynamic day/night cycle or weather system unfortunately since that is dictated by the story. When it is night or raining, the world looks impressive. Buildings are well lit at night and look amazing though sometimes in the day you might notice a building from time to time where the textures look a little muddy. What truly impressed me was the sense of scale and the nice draw distance when looking across the city.

Character designs, particularly those of Spider-Man and the villains, are fantastic. The white spider design is a sharp looking costume that can be iconic if this franchise gets more entries. Some of the villains look unique while still maintaining their iconic comic integrity. Some of the faces of the secondary characters can look a little flat or lackluster, but it’s only a small caveat.

Insomniac clearly had fun recreating and remixing some of these classic characters and there’s a lot of attention to detail present.

Review: Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4) Review: Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4)

Audio:
Everything comes down to the web slinging, even the audio presentation. The score by John Paesano perfectly captures the feel and sound of swinging around New York. Every time you lift off and begin swinging, the music kicks in and adds to the experience of being Spider-Man, making every moment feel like it has the potential for an epic experience.

The music is reminiscent of the MCU’s style with a bombastic and uplifting vibe. From the opening song to the individual character themes, it’s a wonderful score that adds to the cinematic feel of the overall presentation.

Voice acting is excellent, with every main character delivering a great performance. Yuri Lowenthal’s take on Peter Parker/Spider-Man strikes the difficult balance of giving life to both sides of the character.

It can be a challenge to portray Peter and Spider-Man since despite being the same person, they act and present themselves in vastly different ways. Peter Parker is more humble and a little reserved while Spider-Man is confident and a charming smartass. I feel that Lowenthal nails this dynamic and his is only one of many excellent performances in the game, some of which I won’t elaborate on to avoid spoilers.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Review: Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4) Review: Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4)

Conclusion:
Insomniac nailed their version of Spider-Man. From the story to the world, a lot of care is noticeable and appreciated. This is one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had in 2018.

Marvel’s Spider-Man is able to capture both the gameplay and story elements and the hints at the future of this franchise are beyond intriguing. The story kept me interested as it moved to darker than expected places and it really wraps up in a satisfying way.

As a lifelong Spider-Man fan, I can’t be happier with how this game turned out. Playing as Spider-Man is exhilarating. From swinging through New York to battling thugs and villains, it’s an absolute blast and a must play for comic fans and PS4 owners.

Oh, and make sure you watch the post-credits scenes.

Score:
10

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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