Ricky Church reviews Spider-Man…
After what has been a very long time, Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man has finally been released. The game is a very welcome entry to superhero video games and takes its place among the very best of them as players step into the wall-crawling shoes of Spider-Man and fights some of his most famous villains in order to save New York. Spider-Man is a fully realized vision of Spidey’s mission by engrossing players in his busy life with a captivating story, fun game mechanics ad some truly breathtaking visuals. Spider-Man stands right up there with the likes of Batman: Arkham City as the standard for superhero gaming.
The story sees Spidey, who has been on the job for eight years, trying to balance his personal, professional and superhero lives as a new villain named Mister Negative arrives on the scene with a vendetta against the city and Mayor Norman Osborn in particular. The game’s story is densely packed and rich in detail with several moving parts, from confronting Mister Negative to Osborn’s shady dealings, Aunt May trying to help the city through a homeless shelter and Peter’s work in a lab. Everything comes together fairly well throughout the game with a meaningful purpose behind it to tell one fluid and ever-changing story that pushes Spider-Man to his (and the players) limits. For all the great game mechanics, Spider-Man‘s strength comes from the focus it puts on its concise story and character work.
Both Peter Parker and Spider-Man are written very well as the game perfectly captures his wit, intelligence and resolve. Yuri Lowenthal gives a great performance as the wall-crawler that rivals some of the live-action performances we’ve previously gotten. He sells the pressure Peter is under in his personal life as well as the quirky sense of humour he has as Spider-Man. His inflections provide the right amount of comedy and emotion to make you buy into his vocal performance as Spidey. The rest of the supporting cast do great jobs as well with Laura Bailey and Stephen Oyoung as notable standouts for Mary Jane Watson and Mister Negative respectively. Bailey has some great chemistry with Lowenthal that gives one of the best interpretations of Peter and MJ’s relationship while giving MJ a more integral part to the story while Oyoung provides a nuanced and complex portrayal of Negative.
The other aspect that makes Spider-Man great is just how fun and addictive the gameplay is. Much like how the Arkham series makes you feel like Batman, so to does this game make you feel like Spidey. Webslinging through New York City is so incredibly pleasing you’ll rarely want to use the fast travel system. The combat system, though, is where a lot of the fun really lies and offers quite an amount of variety in moves from using acrobatic dodges, web tricks or a number of high-tech devices to take enemies down. The combat is very fluid as you change tactics or focus on a different enemy, of which there are many. Whether you’re fighting gangland thugs or armoured troops, Spider-Man always gives you a nice variety of enemies that force you to constantly switch things up and use different moves or tools. With enough practice you’ll know how to take down certain types of enemies or what to do when facing overwhelming odds, but no matter the experience the game still challenges you to put those skills to the test.
One of the game’s best elements is how the boss fights against some of Spidey’s biggest rogues are handled. Each boss encounter is quite fun to play through, but they are also unique. All the enemies have their own way to harm you and keep you on your toes, but they also place you in some unique settings. From a fight in a tight subway car to swinging around the Raft prison, Spider-Man isn’t shy in placing players in different and sometimes crazy settings for the big events. Things get particularly tough later on when some bosses have to be fought together rather than individually, further forcing you to think a little outside the box. The game does miss out on an opportunity to fight a certain groups of villains together all at the same time, instead relegating that to a cutscene (albeit an awesome one), but the fights and the pairings are still fun to play. There are also a few moments throughout the story where the game switches perspectives and places you in the shoes of another character, most often Mary Jane, that requires stealth to be used in the old-fashioned way of sneaking around instead of climbing up walls and zipping across the room above enemies.
Though the main story campaign may take roughly 12 hours to complete, there is plenty more to accomplish in Spider-Man that keeps you busy. In fact, I often found myself holding off on the main story in between missions just so I could further explore New York and do some of the side missions. There is plenty for players to do and see as the game’s depiction of Manhattan is quite large with a lot to do. Spider-Man may not offer the largest open-world concept in a video game, but it is one of the most rich in detail and densely packed maps as well. Though Spider-Man condenses certain neighbourhoods in New York or merges some others together, the scope is still one of the best aspects of the game, allowing you to search for various collectibles, landmarks, side-missions or random acts of crime. The side-missions in particular are plentiful, offering players the chance to use combine their stealth and combat skills in Fisk hideouts or showing off Spidey’s intelligence in science-based missions to clean up New York. There are also a number of challenges that can be unlocked after a certain point in the game where you can hone your combat or stealth skills, race after drones or attempt to defuse bombs laid across the city. It’s a very immersive experience that makes up for its lack of map size with just how much can be done.
A lot was made about the possibility of Spider-Man‘s downgraded graphics, but the game still boasts some beautiful visuals. Manhattan looks awesome with the level of detail in the city, from how landmarks are recreated to the sun hitting windows. The time to render the detail on a far away building or district the closer you get to it is hardly any at all as its a very seamless transition. The one thing that can maybe be said against the game’s New York is that it looks a little too clean and neat compared to the real thing, but it is still very realistically brought to life. The cutscenes themselves look great by taking advantage of the motion-capture technology to truly capture an actor’s expression and the emotions behind their voices. The graphics on the combat sequences are quite smooth, though from time to time when Spidey does a takedown of an enemy, his webbing can look a little too fake, but that’s a fairly small complaint when everything else looks so good.
Spider-Man is a great entry to the superhero game genre that offers fans great takes on the characters, a compelling story with neat twists and some very fun gameplay. It succeeds in making you feel like Spidey and offers a wealth of stuff to see and do throughout the game with some gorgeous visuals to boot. Simply put, Spider-Man is a – no pun intended – amazing experience.