Marvel’s Spiderman has released to marvellous acclaim this week on PS4. It’s easy to see why, it looks fantastic, plays smoothly and ticks all the boxes for any avid fan of the web-slinger. Unfortunately, to a more critical eye, there are a few gripes with the game.
Firstly this is not a hatchet job on the game. It has many great elements and is a more than worthy purchase for anyone looking for a superhero game. The traversal and web swinging alone is more than worth a try as it is incredibly realistic. When the game begins you are thrust into the world basically hundreds of feet up and in mid-swing. Then it is up to you to get used to the physics and momentum based swinging. You actually feel pulled towards your screen as you dive from high towards the pavement before throwing up a web rope and swinging. It is something that is as good for the mistakes you make as it is for the sweeping swings. There is just enough assistance to make you feel amazing but enough free reign to make you slam head first into a building or the pavement. Once you get the hang of it you can swing around large skyscrapers down low streets before detaching and swinging again. It is an elegant evolution of the swinging seen in older games and for me is the standout element of the whole game.
The Graphics and Photo Mode
The look of this game is simply amazing, from the sense of speed to the vibrant colour it comes off the screen like a well-inked comic book. Despite the furore over the lack of reflective puddles compared to the E3 reveal, it is a warmer palette and a stark contrast to many of the dark serious games out there. The crescendo of all this is the photo mode. Usually, with a photo mode, you play about with it for a few days or snap into it when something cool happens. Because of the implementation of the photo mode in Spiderman looks fantastic even without any tinkering. Simply change the pose to selfie and Spiderman throws up a pose and the camera moves accordingly. Already you can get stunning vistas of the ferry going around Manhattan Island or stop for a selfie after hitting an enemy with a manhole cover.
The Peter Parker Elements
It can be easy to forget that there is a man behind the mask. Peter Parker science student is portrayed brilliantly here and is at least on a par with Tom Holland in the latest movies. He is constantly quipping as he swings about town and making remarks on the brilliant collectables dotted around the city. Every time he finds one of his old backpacks there is a nice piece of nostalgia inside. The real joy in the Peter Parker sections is found in the mini-games which have you talking on increasingly complex challenges to help with Dr Octopus’ experiments. These are a real time sink and give you a break from the rest of the gameplay on offer.
The story in Spiderman is better than a decent comic-book arc for the character. It is easily better than most of the Spiderman films we have been treated to as well. Without spoilers, it is enough to keep you through the game even if it doesn’t always head in the direction you want, or the actors don’t look like they do in your mind.’
Here is where things start to get a little negative. Borrowing a lot from the Batman Arkham series Spiderman punches, kicks, dodges and counters while surrounded by large groups. The basic combat and moves in Spiderman are fantastic. The variety that you unlock and the freedom it gives is brilliant. From air juggling opponents to sticking them to walls and tying them to overhead beams. The game also keeps a non-kill factor going by auto saving enemies you kick off a roof. It’s a nice touch and again makes this game a bit brighter than most in the genre. The issue I have is with the enemy types and behaviour. You are sure to find heavy enemies, gun enemies and shield enemies in almost every group, yet their attack patterns are all the same. While challenging, the combat can get repetitive and despite the variety on offer, you tend to go to the easiest way of dispatching enemies rather than toying with them like you should be allowed to. Even with the aggressiveness of the common thugs, there are still standout moments, that you will want to capture in photo mode.
The Open World
Here is my biggest problem with the game. Assassins Creed was slated for years for having the tower system that revealed other areas on the map. Here Spiderman does this in an almost carbon copy, yet where has the criticism been for this. When you unlock a policy tower, activities are opened up in the world and you are then free to go and complete them as you want. The landmark photo markers are a nice touch but the rest seem to be quite derivative of Ubisoft games. Luckily I like games like this that allow you to slowly check off a long list of things on the map. My only issue is the lack of critique on this compared to what Ubisoft games get. I think the IP has blinded a few people’s eyes to some of the issues with the game.
Spiderman is an excellent game on PS4. It is well worth trying even if you have no love for superhero games. Despite this, it will be compared to the other big Playstation game this year. God Of War. Unfortunately like many games, when compared to the instant classic it falls short. However, there is no shame in being the second best PS4 exclusive this year.