To say that I’ve been anticipating this new Spider-Man game would be an understatement. Spider-Man has been my favorite superhero since I was a kid, so learning that a studio as talented as Insomniac Games was making it was like a dream come true for me. And I’m pleased to report that Spider-Man’s latest adventure is truly spectacular. Not only is it the best Spider-Man game, but the best superhero game ever made.
The game starts by thrusting you straight into the action, swinging through New York City as Spidey. Immediately I was struck by just how fantastic it feels to swing through the city. Insomniac nailed traversal: swinging feels great, wall-running is fluid, and zipping from roof top to roof top is easy. Not only does it feel good to do but visually is simply a joy to watch. Spider-Man moves with such finesse that you find yourself really feeling like a badass as you make your way around the city.
This was something Insomniac had to get right — swinging through NY is so important to what makes Spider-Man, Spider-Man — and Insomniac absolutely nailed it. By the time I was nearing the end of the game, I felt like I had complete and total control over my movement through the city. Simply put, I truly felt like Spider-Man.
This kind of control extends to combat as well. Spider-Man features some of the most satisfying combat I’ve played in a video game to date. It’s similar to the Arkham series, yet different in enough ways that it feels its own. Square is still to used to attack, while circle is used to dodge, unlike the Arkham games where you have to counter enemies. The dodge feels especially satisfying as Spider-Man will do awesome acrobatic stunts to avoid being hit.
You also have tons of web shooter gadgets that let you tackle combat scenarios in a few different ways. These include web bombs that work well against large groups, electric webs that can leave enemies paralyzed, and even web mines that grab enemies when they walk past. You don’t start off with many of these, but as you unlock them, you start to feel like a real threat in combat. When you get into a flow, it feels satisfying much like the web swinging, and it just looks so cool. It feels incredible to only watch a sweet Spider-Man action scene, but to actually play it. Throughout my 25 hour playthrough, I never got bored with the combat once — and now I’m just thinking about how I want to do it more.
Spider-Man is an open world game, with a similar structure to a lot of Ubisoft open worlds. Radio towers are spread around Manhattan, and when you complete them you unlock some of the map, showing all the collectibles and activities to do in an area. It isn’t anything revolutionary, to be fair; getting collectibles and doing such things as clearing out outposts are pretty par for the course in these open world games. With that said, though, the excellent combat and fantastic traversal makes these otherwise standard tasks way more fun and engaging. Why would I go around getting collectibles? Because swinging around the city is an absolute blast.
The game also features two more types of missions: side quests and research stations. These feature the more fleshed-out side content in the open world. Side quests include actual small stories to play through, which often make for memorable mini-adventures. Research stations on the other hand mostly challenge you with unique ways of trying to have fun with the game’s mechanics. Ultimately, though, these stations feature some of the most mundane missions in the game, with only a few actually being fun. Stuff like swinging through clouds of gas or spraying stuff on fish doesn’t strike me as particularly interesting.
There are also challenges you can do that are engaging and test your skills with most of the core mechanics of the game while giving you score on based on how well you perform. These challenges and most of the side content are somewhat uninspired, and can start to feel pretty samey throughout the course of the game. Again, though, the core mechanics of Spider-Man are just so great that it’s hard not to enjoy doing the otherwise simple side content.
Also, doing doing these extra things rewards you with tokens that you can spend on new costumes and gadget upgrades, so it never really feels like a waste of time. There are a lot of great costumes to buy in the game, and thankfully, you can earn the currency needed for them all within the game. This is refreshing, considering how easily it would have been for them to charge for some of the more creative ones. Earning them is a rewarding progression, and it’s not only cosmetic. Each suit comes with a power up or “super move” of its own that can really help in combat, and each is pretty unique, too. It’s a joy to try them out and find the one that best suits you.
While the side content is relatively standard, the same can’t be said for the main story, which isn’t just good… but incredible! You play as Peter Parker, of course, but this time he’s a much older and more experienced Spider-Man. Having been at it for eight years, he’s pretty good at being Spider-Man, and we get to jump in right in the middle of this already alive world. This is perfect because we know Spider-Man’s origins and his story; now we just get to see him be him. Relationships are already built up, the city is already familiar with him, and he is already comfortable with being Spider-Man.
The relationships are believable, with Mary Jane and Dr. Octavias being standouts. Aunt May isn’t in it much, but she is played perfectly. Each character feels real and their motivations feel believable. Most importantly, they absolutely nail Peter Parker’s character. This is possibly the best characterization of Spider-Man in any media since the comics. He’s thoughtful, nerdy, overworked, selfless, and all the things that Spider-Man is supposed to be. He quips a lot and it’s done perfectly. I cannot stress just how well they nailed Spider-Man in this game, along with all the other iconic characters that come with him. The voice acting is done beautifully too, bringing each character to life even more.
The story can go in a few predictable directions. but for the most part is done extremely well. Compelling villains with good motivations make the story genuinely interesting. As the credits rolled, I sat back and thought to myself: “I just played an amazing Spider-Man game, with a story on par with that of a movie.” Hell, if this game was a movie, its not a stretch to say this would be my favorite superhero movie.
Set pieces, exhilarating boss fights, fantastic level design, and a unexpected but welcome number of puzzles are scattered throughout the 15-20 hour main story. There’s a breathtaking amount of action, yet there are constantly slow moments mixed in. They give you time to breath; it all feels very well-paced. While some stealth-focused sections with MJ and Miles can feel tedious, they don’t hamper the overall experience. All and all, the story is truly special, and should not be missed.
“A truly spectacular game”
Spider-Man isn’t a perfect game, but its evident that the folks at Insomniac are true fans of the webhead. This game feels like a love letter to the fans with so much care and love put into every detail. Spider-Man is a fantastic game in its own right, but for a Spider-Man fan like me, its a masterpiece. This game gets Spider-Man — it shows in the swinging, in the combat, in the story, and in the characters. This is the definitive Spider-Man experience, and I cannot wait for a sequel.