Everyone loves a hero and what better way to feel like a hero than playing Spider-man on your PS4! Come, jump in and you too can climb into the shoes of Peter Parker and swing about New York as the friendly neighbourhood, Spider-man!
In Spider-man you don’t go through his origin story but instead you are a seasoned crime fighter, much in the same vain as it was with the Batman Arkham games. It’s been 8 years since that faithful day a bite from a spider changed his whole world and Peter has fully embraced his powers and responsibilities that come with it. During these 8 years, Peter has been struggling to juggle his dual lifestyle with working as a research assistant and helping Aunt May when he can, while fighting crime and trying to keep his city safe as Spider-man.
You start the game off in Peter’s apartment where he is woken up by his police scanner. We get a quick cut-scene of him racing about his apartment trying to get into his Spidey suit as he jumps out his window. From here we see him swinging through the city of New York as he heads towards his first objective. This is where we first take control of our hero and boy are you in for a treat! The swinging mechanics in the game feel so organic and effortless. With every swing you make Spidey do, you can tell that Insomniac Games put a lot of time an effort into getting the feel of it just right. Swinging is set to the RT button and all you need to do is hold it to make Spidey swing and releasing RT makes him kick his legs out or you can let him do it automatically. At the top of each swing you can kick out higher by pressing the X button, and this opens more acrobatic moves and tricks for Spidey to do. He can also quickly change direction by hitting the X button to web-zip and keep moving without having to stop swinging. Also, when you are running along a building (holding RT), holding the Circle button will let Spidey whip around the corner and keep running.
When running about on buildings, you can also do a vertical wall jump by pressing the X button. This lets you climb up buildings much faster. Once you are back on the ground, you can jump up to a ledge, support beam or rooftop by pressing L2 +R2 together. This can come in handy when you want to zip from one point to another if you are looking to slip by enemies unnoticed or look for that silent takedown. Letting go off all the buttons will let you do some wallcrawling. This is great for slowly moving in on your enemy or sneaking about trying to find some important information on your next mission. For me, I just wanted to feel like a giant spider who stalks his prey
When you take a break from all the running and swinging about New York, if you can stop having fun with it that is. You can walk to most edges of buildings/structures and perch on them. This is easily done by clicking in the L3 stick and look around on what is happening in your city. What I really love about perching, is that you can survey the city and look around to see what crimes need stopping or enjoy the amazing views. Something else to note, is that Insomniac Games have added a very nice touch while you perch. As you move the camera around to check out New York, Spidey moves his head in the same direction. While it may not be ground-breaking, it’s a nice little touch that adds to the overall feel of the game.
In Spider-man, you not only get to play as Spidey through the main story, but you get to play as Mary Jane Watson. Her missions comprise of stealth and distraction and going from point A to point B to achieve her goal. While this may sound a bit mundane, it’s far from it! How it plays out and what you learn, shows it’s not just a throw-in or filler to the game. MJ’s story links in with what Peter/Spidey are up to and both of their stories intertwine as you play through the game. You can tell that a lot of time and effort went into the writing both characters as you learn more about each of them as you near the end of your journey. It’s not just Peter and MJ that get all the attention though. Other characters like Aunt May, Martin Li, Norman Osbourne and even John Johan Jameson has their own story to tell. Each one more interesting the last and gets the same amount of attention and detail. Insomniac Games have gone all out to give each character a rich and intriguing tale that makes you want to find out more about each one.
The combat in Spider-man is just as intuitive as swinging, with strikes, counter moves and the finishers that you can do, which flow seamlessly together. Just what you would come to expect from the back-flipping acrobatic hero. Striking enemies is a matter of pressing the Square button which will see you doing melee attacks, while pressing the Triangle button sees Spidey do some web-based attacks. It’s when you combine both melee and web attacks together, is where we really see what Spider-man is capable of. There is a plethora of moves on offer that it makes the combat stay fresh and new depending how you want to mix it up during combat.
I like to string an off the wall attack with a dodge attack which lets you can jump off the wall and knock down an enemy, while then sliding under and between another’s legs only to knock them out from behind, then finishing the final enemy with a vicious swing kick. Doing moves like this and another other moves together, will fill up your Focus Bar. When this is filled, you get to use that Focus to heal yourself by pressing down on your d-pad. You also get to pull of a cool looking finishing move. These are varied and based off whether Spider-man is standing or if he is in the air at the time you execute it. It can take a little time to get use to, but once you do, you will be flipping, dodging and webbing up criminals like a true Spidey hero.
To aid you in your fight against the crime that litters your streets, you can acquire gadgets and they can also be upgraded. These range from your standard web-shooter and impact webbing to a web Bomb and Trip mine. Each gadget gets unlocked as you progress through your main story and to upgrade your gadgets, you need to collect tokens. These tokens can be collected by completing Crime missions that randomly come through on your scanner, taking pictures of famous landmarks or by defeating Camps or Hideouts.
So, once you have Spidey swinging and fighting around New York, what do you do next? Well the game is broken up into the main story missions, side missions and then you have challenges and hideouts/bases and more to complete. You also get to take photos of some of the famous landmarks that New York is famous for like the Empire States building and Madison Square Garden. If that wasn’t enough, more challenges and side quests get opened as you progress through the main story missions. You can also find backpacks that are scattered about the city. These backpacks have been left there by Peter during his 8 years of being Spider-man and it gives you a quick glimpse into what he got up to during that time. If that wasn’t enough, you will get random crimes coming in through your scanner for you to stop. All these crimes, challenges all give you rewards and XP.
With the XP that you earn from these missions and the challenges, you get to level up Spidey and earn skill points. These skills are broken down into three categories, Innovator, Defender and Webslinger. Each category has its own set of skills and you are free to pick and choose the ones you want, provided you have the skills points to acquire them. These skills or abilities range from swinging through the air and kicking your enemies to yanking guns and melee weapons out of their hands.
One thing that everyone was going crazy about Spider-man on PS4 was the graphics. I played it on the PS4 PRO and I can honestly say that the game looks amazing! To see the city of New York in all its glory, albeit a slightly fictious version of it. It’s still a sight to behold, from leaping off the Chrysler building to swinging through Central Park and running up buildings in Times Square. The developers have put in so much detail into each part of the city that you almost feel like you are swinging through it. There are some fictional buildings that you will see as you travel through the city, buildings like Oscorp building, Fisk Constructions and of course the massive Avengers Tower with that amazing view, plus a few more scattered about. Another point to note is that you are confined to the island of Manhattan as you can’t travel across Manhattan bridge or travel across the East River on the ferry. I was looking forward to visiting the other islands and even climb The Statue of Liberty. Maybe this could happen in future DLC that Insomniac may surprise us with.
When you perch on the side of buildings and scan around you, you can see there is a lot of detail in the world around you. Especially with the setting sun in the background, everything seems to be shown beautifully with the sun behind you. From the cars and people bustling beneath you to the birds and planes flying overhead. It even goes as far as seeing smoke/steam bellowing out of some of the manholes and drains. On certain streets as the sun shines through a row of buildings, you can see reflections bounce of the ground of a yellow New York taxi or from Time Squares neon lights. I know there was a lot of talk about downgrading and lack of graphical enhancements and while there is some level of graphical tweaking, it’s more in terms of how the lighting has been altered and the added details in certain cut-scenes and action set-pieces. The overall game has not been affected in any such way.
Spider-man himself looks amazing in the close-up shots that show off the level of detail that are in his suits. From his mask and eye goggles, with their little intricate weavings and stitching to his web shooters. So much thought, attention and care to replicate each of the 25 suits on offer is astounding! Speaking about Spidey and his suits, nearly every suit has a Suit Power that give you an extra abilities or perk while fighting. Thankfully these Suit Powers can be switched between the suits, for instance, The Stark suit from the movie Homecoming has the Spider-bro drone that can aid you in combat. Each suit also comes with 3 mod slots that adds more perks to your array of abilities. Again, these can be anything from taking less melee or bullet damage to taking longer for the enemy to discover you while in stealth mode.
Insomniac deserve a lot of praise in how accurately they have portrayed Spidey in all his glory. However, it doesn’t just stop there with his suits, as through-out the story we get to see Peter in his civilian clothes. Peter along with MJ, Aunt May and Norman Osbourne, each of them have received the same level of attention to get them just right and fit perfectly in the Marvel world that Insomniac has created. Every emotion on their face, whether its fear, sadness, angry or love, it’s all replicated beautifully. While it may sound perfect and to be fair, it normally is, it does suffer from the odd lip sync issue that some games tend to have these days have. Some of the dialogue that is spoken don’t always match the characters lips and looks more like they are wincing in pain than trying to convey any other emotion. Like I said, its only on the odd occasion and you may notice it, if at all.
With regards to the dialogue and sound in Spider-man, Insomniac’s attention to detail goes that bit further. From the sounds of the webbing as Spidey shoots out a web to attach itself to a building or ledge as he glides through the air effortlessly to the sound of him landing on rooftops, walls or even the large glass windows of the Freedom Tower. Then there’s the comments that Spidey makes are short one-liners to the people he meets or the villains he faces. It’s like a throwback to the old comics or cartoon TV shows you use to watch as a kid. The ever-present joker, while trying to maintain some level of professionalism, that never seems to come off right for him. There is one scene where he is investigating a location and makes a “I know what you did last summer” reference! Another time he pretends to be “Spider-Cop, fighting crime in his city” and puts on a typical deep voice-over as if he is narrating his own TV show. It’s these little quips and remarks that he comes out with that’s just the icing on the cake and it adds to the overall aesthetic look and feel of the game as you play. What I also love about the voice acting in Spider-man is how Peter sounds calm and steady when he is perched or walking across rooftops looking over his city. It’s when starts swinging through New York and running over buildings, you can hear his voice strain. Especially when he gets a call from MJ or Aunt May and he tries talking while swinging at the same time. You really get a sense of the force and effort he puts into each swing.
The environment around you is a living, breathing city with people going about their daily lives. Traffic scuttles along the roads and highways, while the trains whizz through the city and the subway. Citizens shouting at one another and as you swing by you can pick up some chatter from them and some of them will even call out to you for pictures or autographs. You can even see the East River ferries making their crossings toward Manhattan.
From the very start until the end, Insomniac Games takes you on a ride of emotions and experiences that you would normally find in a Hollywood blockbuster movie. I feel that the Spider-man franchise is safe in the hands of Insomniac Games as they seem to have the love and dedication that Spidey and his fans deserve. With so many fascinating story arcs and twists, that really surprised me, it’s hard not to share so many of these magic moments with you!
I feel that Insomniac Games has hit all the right notes in terms of gameplay, experience and the immersion of swinging about New York city as the web-slinging crime fighter. While the game does have some issues, these small niggles won’t ruin your enjoyment. There is no other game that comes close to the true feeling of being a superhero than Spider-man on PS4 and should delight fans of Marvels arachnid hero!
GoG Rating: 9.5/10