Making a video game about Marvel Comics’ most beloved web-swinging hero, Spider-Man, may seem like an easy task, but it really isn’t. There’s so much that goes into creating a game that rewards fans and makes them feel like they are having a new experience with Spider-Man. Choosing the right villains, storyline inspirations, costumes, and gadgets are just some of the ingredients needed to make a fresh experience for one of the world’s most popular heroes.
It’s clear that Insomniac Games, creators of Ratchet and Clank and Spyro the Dragon, understood these aspects completely as their Spider-Man game harnesses just about everything needed to make a great superhero game. Fans of the iconic hero will feel like they are right in the friendly neighborhood hero’s right from the first web swing. Sprinting up buildings or skipping off rooftops after an incredibly powerful swing really emphasize how fun it is to move around New York City.
The Big Apple is not just a location setting this time around either as Insomniac has done everything in their power to create a truly living world. Citizens will stop and want high-fives and selfies, side missions and activities you do bleed into the main story, even J. Jonah Jameson will chime in through his podcast to call you a menace because of something you did to help the city. Missions feel much less like missions and players will feel like they are actually making a difference in the world and that their presence is noticed.
There is also tremendous detail taken into recreating NYC in a pretty full scope. Building windows are no longer just black screen that players can’t see through. Rather there are actual rooms and even a solid variety of different looking people. Players might even catch a couple people wearing very familiar looking sports jerseys. Not to mention that exploring the city during the day or a night feel unique.
But when players have to go into the depths of the criminal underworld, they want to know that they have the tools to take down even the toughest criminals. Thankfully, Insomniac’s Spider-Man feels incredible in combat as his smooth fighting style and awesome gadgets will make players feel truly amazing.
Insomniac has found a way to make players feel powerful even when completely outnumbered. From taking enemies out by webbing them to walls to whacking them up into the air for some air combos, there’s plenty of ways to play. Not to mention, that these abilities are only enhanced when going into stealth section, which ended up being some of my favorite parts of the games.
Players can also enhance their web-crawler just by changing his costume as each outfit comes with its own powers and special skills. Many long-time fans will see some classic costume be in their arsenal and with players having the ability to mix and match different abilities and costumes, they can create a web-slinger of their own.
For players to get these costumes, though, they have to traverse through a variety a side-missions that explore more miscellaneous villains and misadventures of Spider-Man. A lot of these side-missions can feel like just getting collectibles, though, so it can feel a little nebulous to complete them at times. Some missions do delve into some Marvel villains that do not often get the spotlight, but there are some that just have players help NYC locals and while doing community service felt cool, it constantly felt like missed opportunities to tease other enemies in Spider-Man’s rouge’s gallery and push the story forward.
With the main campaign, players will probably find themselves to feel both a little confused and right at home all at the same time. Even though it focuses much more on an older Peter Parker after being Spider-Man for eight years, it still feels like the same old Peter we’ve seen before. This can end up being both a blessing and a curse as on one hand Peter comes equipped with his lovable personality and enjoyable quips. On the other, it’s a little off putting to have him feel as if he hasn’t learned much from his eight year stint thus far and still feels extremely gullible.
His maturity seemed to have gone to Mary Jane this time around as she feels stronger than ever. Having Miles Morales introduced felt right and he brought a nice energy to the story. Even having more stealth oriented sections where you play as these two felt great, however, they also tanked the pace of the game at times. This was especially true towards the end of the game.
Peter and MJ’s relationship also feels incredibly annoying this time around as it hit the same beats as other stories. I really wished they had done something less predictable. The eight year gap also didn’t seem to hit any of the side characters either as there isn’t much context given to what happened during this time and it relies heavily on players having existing knowledge on them.
The main villains Peter faces were also lacking much context and are often generalized or very trope heavy. The game contains very few surprises surrounding the villains so players going into the story expecting much different will be disappointed. Even the ones that are there basically contain typical comic book tropes and are often brought down with a lack of relationship with Peter and being very predictable.
But even with these missed story opportunities, to say that Insomniac didn’t create an evolutionary Spider-Man experience would be just plain criminal. The team clearly took the important material and implemented the iconic phrase “With great power, comes great responsibility” and applied it to every aspect of their work. The seeds for another game, which they’ll undoubtedly get, are there and as long they try something a little different next time around, it has the potential to be truly legendary. The best thing to say after playing is that if you weren’t a fan of the web-crawler before, Insomniac’s Spider-Man will make anyone a true-believer.
Review Score 8 out of 10