After what feels like an age, the PS4-exclusive Marvel’s Spider-Man has finally swung in to action. Since we got our very first glimpses of this latest video game offering for the much-loved Wall-crawler, anticipation has been ridiculously high at what had the potential to be a simply stunning gaming experience. But is this an outing that really does rank up there as one of Spidey’s finest video games to date, or is this more in the vein of Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – as in we’re all kinds of excited, only to be utterly let down by a disappointment of epic proportions?
For a little background on Insomniac Games, they’re best known for the likes of the Spyro and Ratchet & Clank franchises. Not only is Marvel’s Spider-Man their biggest project in years, it’s also their biggest, most ambitious video game ever. Pulling plentiful inspiration from the Batman: Arkham video games, here we take control of Spider-Man as New York City begins to fall to pieces around him. As was shown in the jaw-dropping trailers for the game, the opening part of the story sees ol’ Web-head finally put the nefarious Kingpin behind bars. But as Fisk is being locked up, he gives Spidey an ominous warning that without him overseeing the city’s criminal affairs, NYC will become unstable and chaotic as others vie to take his place.
That’s the basic starting point for Marvel’s Spider-Man, and from there it’s largely down to yourself how you want to tackle things. There’s a clear campaign mode in play – which sees a slew of famed Spider-foes rearing their heads and bandying together – but the open world part of the game similarly allows you to spend your time completing side missions, helping out everyday New Yorkers, or simply swinging from iconic landmark to iconic landmark (which, seriously, never gets old!). All of this action is assisted by a smooth, slick control system that is easily picked up yet rewarding to master, putting you in full control of Spidey and each and every ability and gadget at his disposal. The end result is never anything less than fun, and that’s before you start to unlock the various Spidey suits (hey, Scarlet Spider!) featured in the game.
Now while the pull of Marvel’s Spider-Man is clearly, err, Spider-Man, one absolutely fantastic part of the game is how it uses Peter Parker. If the prospect of playing as plain old Parker isn’t that appealing to you, get ready to be surprised. The interactions between everyday Peter and certain characters is utterly engaging to the point that it’s as gripping, fun, and heart-pounding as taking control of Spider-Man to battle one of his most sinister foes. By this stage in the game, Peter Parker has been Spider-Man for eight years already, yet he still faces the ever-familiar struggles we associate with the Wall-crawler – and now you get to experience those. So while you’re swinging through the idyllic New York skyline to battle Shocker or Electro, you may well get a phone call about Aunt May’s birthday or a date with Mary Jane, then similarly hear a mugging going on below you. That’s one of the biggest joys – and biggest headaches – of Marvel’s Spider-Man, in that you have the decision to make. Do you carry on ahead to stop the larger-than-life bad guy, do you prioritise the loved ones in your life, or do you do your friendly neighbourhood duties and protect the little people? And most importantly, none of this gets repetitive – which is impressive enough in itself. Then, well then there’s also the consequences. Yes, Marvel’s Spider-Man has some serious, serious consequences as its core narrative plays out.
Over the years, Spider-Man has had some great and some awful video game outings, with the best of the bunch likely being Activision’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro or 2005’s Ultimate Spider-Man, but Marvel’s Spider-Man is simply head, shoulders, and webs above anything that has come before. Visually, this is a game that has few rivals, period. Whatever capabilities you thought the PS4 had before, Marvel’s Spider-Man takes that to a whole other level. From the character designs to the beautiful landscapes, this is something truly special to behold. Then there’s the music, thrusting an all-encompassing cinematic spectacle upon the whole adventure – complete with exceptional voice work from the likes of Yuri Lowenthal, Tara Platt, Laura Bailey, and Nadji Jeter.
Amazing? Spectacular? Superior? All of the above. Never will we mere mortals get a better opportunity to be Spider-Man. Marvel’s Spider-Man lives up to the hype and then some, delivering energetic, nuanced gameplay, an emotional roller coaster ride of a story, and enough nods, winks, and Easter eggs to keep even the most ardent fan of ol’ Web-head busy. As Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Well, Insomniac Games has taken the ball and ran with it, creating a game that is easily one of 2018’s best. Simply mesmerising stuff.
MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN / DEVELOPER: INSOMNIAC GAMES / PUBLISHER: SONY INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT / PLATFORM: PLAYSTATION 4 / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW