There was a time not all that long ago when superhero video games were as ubiquitous as superhero films are now. It wouldn’t be unusual to have a dozen cape-happy titles released each year, including X-Men, Spider-Man, The Punisher and Hulk tie-ins. Some of these titles were fantastic, many of them were crap, but they flowed out into the sweaty paws of gamers in a near-constant stream. Somewhere along the way this stopped, possibly around the time Marvel Studios got their shit together and began (Avengers) assembling their cinematic universe, and the situation reversed. Now we have a jaw-dropping number of superhero movies, many of them excellent, but video games have been on the decline.
Marvel’s Spider-Man from Insomniac Games is here to try and buck that trend, bringing everyone’s favourite web-slinger into the homes of PS4 owners.
Spider-Man gives us a more seasoned Spidey than the recent Spider-Man: Homecoming movie. The game’s Peter Parker is older, a little wiser, and has decked a few supervillains in his time. This is a good decision from a gaming perspective because it means there are more baddies to draw upon when the time is right, plus the introduction of Mister Negative – the major villain of this title.
Practically you’ll be swinging around a semi-open world New York city, completing main missions, side quests and fun little weird activities like catching pigeons and stopping street crime. Starting with a negative it needs to be said that there is little innovation in the open world space here. Collecting stuff, chasing icons, punching groups of thugs – it’s very much business as usual in a Batman: Arkham City meets Infamous kinda way. That being said, Spider-Man absolutely nails the movement mechanic and is easily the best web-slinging simulator since Spider-Man 2 back in 2004.
Honestly, it’s hard to overstate how good web-slinging feels. The sheer rush of gravity as you plummet past buildings, the giddy joy as you swing upwards, scraping the tops of cabs and pedestrians, yorping in primal glee. It never gets old. The combat, also, is fast and snappy, featuring upgradable skills and movesets that are fantastic at keeping the fights fresh and fun. The addition of numerous outfits with modular skills and supers frequently leads to clever approaches to the old kicky punchy, and it just feels right. And the story, while not exactly spectacular, is certainly engaging, although it suffers from odd pacing and a couple of not-terribly-interesting perspective shifts.
Ultimately your enjoyment of Spider-Man will come from your ability to look past the game’s mild shortcomings of imagination. If you don’t feel burnt out on Arkham-style gameplay, if you can still thrill to chasing icons around an open world, then you’re likely to have a grand old time, albeit one that falls slightly short of being amazing. And hey, if you’re a PS4 owner who is even casually interested in being a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, well, you know what to do.