Insomniac Games’ Spider-man may be my favorite piece of Spider-man content in recent memory. I enjoyed it more than the movies and any other game featuring the web crawler. That’s how good the main story thread was. That’s how good it felt to swing, fight, and be the amazing Spider-man in this game.
Spider-man was my superhero of choice while growing up. I watched a lot of the Spider-man: Animated Series. I genuinely enjoyed the game of the same name, Spider-man and Venom: Maximum Carnage, and the Dreamcast release of Spider-man by Neversoft. Since then I mostly stayed away from Spider-man games; I barely touched that much lauded Spider-man 2 with its awesome swing mechanics. In fact, the most Spidey action I experienced since the Dreamcast days came by way of the Marvel vs Capcom games.
This game may not be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but Marvel’s influence and touch was all over it. Spider-man was extremely polished from top to bottom with audio and presentation cues inspired by Marvel’s movies – a notable cameo from those movies even makes it in. Spider-man’s various suits were incredibly detailed and well rendered. I found myself admiring them until the very end of the game.
By virtue of advancing tech and talent, Spider-man seamlessly transitioned from one acrobatic move to another without missing a gameplay beat. I cannot stress how good Spider-man feels to control. Thanks to the smooth framerate delivery, responsive controls, and stellar motion blur, I forgot that it’s a 30 FPS game.
Insomniac Games’ created a relatively frictionless experience with Spider-man. The main story thread propelled me forward with ebbs and flows of drama and action. I found their depictions of iconic Spidey characters such as Peter, Mary Jane, and Aunt May to be top notch. Doctor Octavius and Norman Osborn filled their roles well giving them modern updates that gave them depth. In fact, I felt a lot of the Spider-man staples were superbly re-imagined in this game. I have no idea how much of that was lifted from the comics but I felt Insomniac Games made all pieces fit.
I was glad to see them enter Peter Parker’s life as a young adult trying to navigate life on his own. His origin story is known to everyone by now so there’s no need to revisit it. By the end of the story, Peter grew a bit as a person and learned to trust and respect Mary Jane as a partner and person. I loved how they handled Doctor Octavius and Peter’s relationship. Peter had an admiration, respect, and sympathy for the struggling scientist. It’s a relationship that I’ve never seen depicted before but one that paid off handsomely.
Analogs to Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham games’ combat were apparent, but I would argue that style of combat suits Spider-man better. I never understood why Batman was dashing between enemies so much whereas it makes perfect sense for the agile Spider-man to do so. Spidey had speed, agility, and web shooters to keep him afloat in combat.
I chose a slightly higher difficulty which packed more punch in behind firearms and melee attacks, but the true challenge in the game came down to numbers. Not even one-on-one boss battles with Spidey’s foes like the Scorpion, Electro, or Shocker were as tough as being outnumbered. The only way to take me down was to just send a torrent of enemies from all sides, at different ranges, with an array of weapons and weaknesses to exploit. Overwhelming me was the only way to take me down. Fortunately, those who are not keen on the combat can thin out enemies with stealth takedowns akin to those that the Dark Knight employed in his adventures.
Breaking up the action were stealth and exploration segments involving Peter, Mary Jane or Miles Morales. I enjoyed seeing where Peter worked and life on ground level. Some the stealth segments with Mary Jane were stretching it but I was able to work my way through them with relative ease.
It’s tough to make a city matter when means of travel encourages me to ignore huge swathes of it. I didn’t even realize I could read newspaper headlines until halfway through. There was almost never a reason to set foot on the ground unless I was addressing a crime.
Filling New York City with meaningful content is tough. Even with giant open world games like Grand Theft Auto, it’s tough use that space effectively. Insomniac Games’ facsimile of Manhattan was convincing enough for a foreigner like myself. Central Park and the Avengers tower were my reference points as I slowly familiarized myself with the city. But like I said, it’s tough to care where I was when all the side activities didn’t reflect the districts I picked them up in or were drowned out by the noise of all the busy work. They really should have focused on quality over quantity here.
I didn’t see how the developer of Resistance, Ratchet & Clank, and Sunset Overdrive were going to Marvel’s Spider-man justice. I thought Sucker Punch would have been the natural fit considering their pedigree but I gave Insomniac Games the benefit of the doubt and they rewarded my optimism and created the definitive Spider-man experience. There was so much love and care given to every aspect of the web slinger’s life. Not all of it landed
I loved it