Just a good Spiderman game.
17-20 hours (Played it for 50 hours)
Open World Tropes
Might get repetitive to some people
It has been a funny turn of events for me because pre-release, I was biased against the game (For reasons I would rather not talk about right now), but after having played it, you can bet your webby balls that I am biased towards it. I would declare right now, that I am a huge Spiderman fan and after a long, long run of ‘not so stellar’ games (specifically the half arsed movie tie ins) by Activision, Insomniac’s take on Spiderman really hit home for me in both, gameplay and story. Mind you, it has its share of flaws and isn’t a perfect game by any means, but it shines where things matter to me the most and above all, it simply is a fun game to play.
With about 40+ hours of gameplay and 85% completion under my belt, I have to say that it was a game of many firsts for me- this is the first game in which I never used fast travel aside from the time when the game made me use it; this is the first PlayStation game where I used the Photo Mode extensively and it also is the first game wherein I have collected so many collectibles (In most games I just don’t bother going place to place for collecting what are essentially easter eggs or world building). The game is so polished when it comes to the moment to moment gameplay that you can’t help but get distracted while following any map marker.
Heck, if you have been following the game around the internet after release (Not worried about spoilers), I am sure you must have found comments about how people were just collecting bagpacks or unjamming towers for the initial 5-8 hours of the game and I do count as one of such people. I got the game on Friday (Release day) afternoon and I pretty much hadn’t done anything except the intro mission till Saturday morning as far as the story went.
THE GAME MAKES ME “FEEL” LIKE SPIDERMAN
The web-swinging/slinging being the main attraction of the game, is complimented by some really well done animations directly inspired from all 3 iterations of the character in the cinematic landscape (Ignoring the older rope-y version), great music and a sense of speed that doesn’t feel too fast or too slow. Insomniac has done a great job of making the player feel in control of the traversal due to weighty movement, good implementation of the camera, responsive controls and appropriate placement of QTE-ish elements. Exploring New York is accentuated with the addition of moves like wall cornering, point launch etc while being punctuated by side activities that randomly pop up or collectibles which keep unlocking as the story progresses.
Being a superhero game, discernibly, comparisons to the Batman Arkham games are going to be drawn, especially in terms of combat and while both games have similar open world tropes, the only other aspect they share in common is the accuracy of the portrayal of characters. The combat in Spiderman is relatively more open and three dimensional, literally and metaphorically. The player has access to the Z axis, allowing Spiderman to perform aerial combos which can be incredibly satisfying to pull off- zipping from enemy to enemy thwacking them on the head or pulling enemies from the ground towards you when you are airborne to give them some exclusive attention is always satisfying.
The combos are pretty basic, but with the acrobatic fluency of Spiderman or rather his application of Spider-Fu, all the fight scenes are spectacular to look at. From dodging rockets and then sending them in the direction of an enemy to sliding in-between enemies’ legs and kicking them off rooftops, the player’s ability to choreograph an entertaining action scene is where the satisfaction from the combat is derived. This does not at all mean that the game doesn’t offer a challenge when it comes to pushing the player into a corner. Even on the normal difficulty, there can be upwards of 5 or more enemy attacks incoming simultaneously which can be quite intimidating (and dangerous), especially if all of them are red laser beams from snipers all aimed towards one itsy bitsy spider.
Gadgets form another facet of Spiderman’s combat and while the player can complete the game without using them, they certainly make eliminating enemies much more efficiently fun. With the timely use of impact webs, web bombs and trip mines, taking out enemies is a breeze. Additionally, each combat encounter outside the story missions comes packaged with optional challenges such as webbing 5 enemies to walls, kicking 10 enemies off rooftops etc which when completed, reward the player with tokens that can be used for upgrades.
And what would a modern game be without RPG and MOBA elements that include various suits, skill trees, weapon upgrades and the KING PIN of them all XP POINTS/BARS. It is the only chink that I can find in the gameplay loop really and while the skill tree is pretty derivative, it can really be immersion breaking if you hold on a second and think about it. Do the developers really want me to believe that Peter, who has been Spiderman for almost a decade now, has to learn how to yank guns from enemies or that he has to learn how to do a web swing kick. Both these skills can be unlocked fairly early on, but it does create a breakage of continuity for me. Most of the other skills are just your average modern day RPG-elements based attributes like- increase the range, increase the time etc etc.
You need the various types of tokens to unlock suits and gadget upgrades, most of which are gained through completing side objectives such as collecting bagpacks, clearing outposts, completing challenges etc. To top that off, none of the suits offer any passive gameplay advantages (At least none that I noticed anyways); all of them just have a different ultimate attack ranging from electrifying punches to invulnerability. Most suits unlock a new power but, once the suit is unlocked, the ability of that suit can be used with any other suit in the game and it might really pull away at your nerdy/geeky side that the abilities of Iron Spider can be used with Noir Spiderman. The upgrade system is just a few steps away from being a God Of War like system where the suits have “Suit mods” disguised as runes.
The stealth missions (Not to be confused with the Spiderman stealth parts which are decent) are arguably the weakest part of the gameplay. They are the extremely shallow, same old “HAW! I heard a sound, I should examine the spot for 5 minutes” missions and would have better been omitted or shown in cut scenes. It just doesn’t feel immersive when the systems are worse than barebones and checkpoints are placed at every 10 steps.. Heck the puzzle mini games that are in Peter’s segment (Mostly) are more fun and can be skipped, which should have been the case with these missions as well (Or just show them through cut scenes). The museum mission with MJ was decent though.
THE STORY FEELS RIGHT AT HOME (Real spoilery part)
I am going to spoil some parts.
Leaving everything aside, I am really, really satisfied with everything that the story does. Yes, it does create a new universe with a story that’s different (Structurally) from most of the commonly known Spiderman stories, existing in a world where Peter hasn’t ever encountered 2 (And maybe 3, if the end credit scenes contain tentacles) of his most renowned adversaries in his 8 years of being the wall crawler- Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus which does open up a lot of possibilities for character revisions in interesting ways. If anything, this game is an origin story of Doctor Octopus and a pretty good one at that. Mr. Negative, who had been shown to be the main antagonist in the trailers just seems to be one of the gears of the story. Most of the conflicts trace back to Norman Osborn who is the mayor of NYC and has been running some really shady stuff in the background. This leaves so much opportunity to make Spiderman learn some important lessons when his villains have pushed
It does follow some story beats from Spiderman 2, the movie (My personal favorite superhero movie ever) by portraying a mentor-disciple relationship between Peter and Dr.Otto. This version of Otto might not be as poetic as the movie version, but their (From the movie and the game, both) admiration for Peter’s scientific and ethical approach to life is mutual. The game definitely has a really big advantage over the movies here though, by giving Otto and Peter more screen time, allowing the player to understand many of Otto’s motivations and reasons for his scientific pursuits. As the game progresses, we get to experience first hand, the twisted downhill spiral of Dr. Otto’s life, as his personal and professional life crumble.
Oh and what would Peter and Spiderman be without the omnipresence of JOHN JONAH JAMESON. Now, Darin De Paul has done a phenomenal job and I totally was into his small little tidbits about how Spiderman is on the thin line between being a menace, a threat, a menacing threat and a threatening menace, BUT, he simply isn’t JK Simmons who set the bar wayyyyy too high. It could be that Peter has grown old, moved out of Bugle (So has JJJ in this game) which results in a lack of direct confrontations of these two widely separated characters. Since comedy lies in contradiction, it’s never not funny when JJJ tries to foil everyone’s appreciation for Spiderman. And in spite of all of this, we keep continuing to fight bad guys and address Aunt May’s definition of being a hero:
While the game does take more references for animations from the recent movies, the narrative is definitely inspired from Raimi’s trilogy. Remember that scene in Spiderman where Norman and Peter have an awkward time at the table on Thanksgiving in front of May or the time in Spiderman 2 when Otto and Peter share a coffee together? Well, this game is chock full of moments like that. I could write an essay about how the Spiderman trilogy and Spiderman PS4 have similar themes and try to convey a lot of the same points but that’s an article for later.
The reason I (And many others) personally love Spiderman is because of Peter Parker and his struggles as a high schooler having that awkward social demeanor. In this game, Peter has grown up, graduated from college and is doing his dream job of working with Dr. Otto but not everything is all well and dandy since his problems have grown with him. He has to pay rent for which his job doesn’t pay enough and he has recently broken up with Mary Jane and is in a complicated relationship. This doesn’t feel like a huge departure from the Peter we have come to know and love over the past few decades. Tobey’s Spidey wasn’t perfect, but what made him a good superhero was Peter Parker and that was why I was invested so in him. This game though, it nailed both Spiderman and Peter Parker. The whole action & consequence of choices is represented very well from the beginning of the game, and I simply keep on loving it more as I keep writing about it.
NEW YORK FEELS LIKE A REPETITIVE PLAYGROUND
New York looks extremely pretty regardless of the time of the day and swinging around is as fun it is for me right now as it was for me when I started the game, but that does not discount the barebones mission structure and open world design that the game comes with. Basically, all the side activities like car chases and bomb defusals (Or in many cases throw) have been picked directly from The Amazing Spiderman 2 (The game). The only addition (Not a good one) here are the outposts, and unlike most games that have one name for all outposts, here we have one for each faction- Fisk, Demons, Prisoners and Sables, all with extremely minor changes to the same objective. Completing main missions just keeps shoving these activities on the map and before long, the map starts feeling like any of the other gazillion open world games inspired by Ubisoft’s template.
The music assists the gameplay rather magnificently. The composition by John Paesano doesn’t have the build ups like Danny Elfman’s work in the first 2 Spiderman movies, but it sure does have that melodic orchestral tone that made the Raimi films special.
I want to talk about how this game subtly tackles a lot of what made Spiderman 2 (And the comics) such a great Spiderman story, but I don’t want to get into 10,000 word articles, so I am going make them into many articles. In the meantime, if you haven’t picked up Spiderman, pick it up. (And since I hope to end it in a typical Spidey fashion, I’ll put an end credits sequence that fits.)