“With great power comes great responsibility.” Not only does this phrase serve as the core tenet for everyone’s favorite web-slinging super hero, it also applies to the developers at Insomniac Games, who were tasked with the challenge of bringing Spider-Man to life.
And having completed “Marvel’s Spider-Man,” I can safely say that Insomniac has done right by the beloved character and his fans. Indeed, Uncle Ben would be proud.
“Spider-Man” skips the well-tread origin story and instead introduces players to a wall-crawler who has already proven himself a capable hero. Peter Parker spends his days struggling to make ends meet working as a lab assistant while still finding time to help Aunt May at the local shelter. Once he slips into his Spider Suit, he patrols New York City stopping low-level street thugs and rescuing civilians in peril. Peter’s world is soon turned upside down when a new villain emerges to threaten the city and everyone Peter loves.
The focus on Peter Parker’s life outside his costume is my favorite part of “Spider-Man.” Spidey has always been one of Marvel’s most relatable heroes because of his vulnerability, and that is on full display here. “Spider-Man” is every bit as much Peter’s story as it is Spider-Man’s. The writers did an excellent job capturing the human side of Peter, from his relationship struggles with Mary Jane Watson to his devotion to his mentor. The story is strong from start to finish, thanks in large part to an excellent script and terrific voice acting. There is no shortage of dramatic moments in “Spider-Man” and each is handled with a level of tenderness and earnest emotion not generally seen in games of this genre.
That’s not to imply that “Spider-Man,” with its familiar open-world design, is lacking in the action department. This is the most fun I’ve had pretending to be Spider-Man since I ran around the house in my Underoos as a kid. Whether it was swinging through the cavernous streets of New York City pursuing runaway pigeons or scaling skyscrapers in search of forgotten backpacks, Insomniac perfectly captured the speed, finesse and athleticism of Spider-Man. The same holds true for the time you spend on the ground, with Spidey able to parkour his way through the environment with the press of a button.
The combat mechanics in “Spider-Man” are clearly influenced by another excellent super hero game, Rocksteady’s “Batman: Arkham” franchise. Battles typically feature Spider-Man against a large group of enemies, where counterattacks and crowd control are key to success. And like the Caped Crusader, Spider-Man has a host of gadgets that can be deployed during the heat of battle. I relied on web bombs and the standard web shooters most of all, but the trip wires that quietly wrap up unsuspecting bad guys came in handy during stealth missions. Combat opportunities are plentiful and there can be a learning curve, especially when new enemy types are introduced. However I actually found myself enjoying the combat in “Spider-Man” more than I did in “Batman,” which is quite a compliment.
Visually, “Spider-Man” looks, well, amazing. Save for the rare instance of textures taking longer than usual to load, I found the game stunning, even on my standard PS4. The animations are great, especially the facial expressions during cutscenes. Spidey’s combat moves are fluid, and even when the action gets heated, the frame rate held steady with no signs of slowdown. If I have one complaint, it would be the abundance of loading screens — or perhaps I’ve just been spoiled by “God of War.”
“Marvel’s Spider-Man” is a beautifully crafted love letter to not only one of the most iconic super heroes of all time, but the universe — and city — he inhabits. Insomniac has created an incredibly detailed world filled with memorable characters and enough content to keep players coming back long after the credits roll. I can’t wait to see what they have in story for Spider-Man next.
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Available for: PlayStation 4 ($59.99)
Rating: T for teen