It’s finally the most anticipated quarter of the year for gamers around the world. The quarter filled with highly aniticipated releases, and the first one, Spider-man is finally here. Insomniac’s showcase of the game has got everyone hyped, irrespective of the fact whether one is a Spider-man fan or not. But, does it live up to the hype? Let’s find out.
Spider-Man is an upcoming action-adventure game based on the Marvel Comics superhero Spider-Man, developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for PlayStation 4. The game is scheduled to be released worldwide on September 7, 2018.
Story & Narrative
There is a special alluring appeal to Marvel’s Spider-man’s story which can neither be explained without spoiling it for the readers nor can it be explained in a few lines. There is much more to the story apart from Peter’s motive to save the city from the Sinister Six.
The way the game’s story unfolds elevates the whole game. For instance, the first introductory boss battle against Kingpin shows how Peter vehemently looks forward to the encounter with him, to bring an end to a six-year-old rivalry and mark the beginning of a comparatively relaxed period of time for him (and subverts the commonplace narration of Kingpin being the end all villain). But of course, things take a rather unpleasant turn and it leads to a rampage against Norman Osborn by Mr. Li, aka Mr. Negative at first, and the Sinister Six later on in the game.
That’s pretty much the story summed up, without spoiling it for the readers. But, don’t get me wrong, the story has a lot of depth in it and involves a number of climatic sequences, which one will experience as they play through the game.
“Fairly emotional, mostly adventurous and climatic, Spider-man’s story is a complete package for a superhero game”
Insomniac had been emphasizing a lot on how the game is just not about Spider-man but Peter Parker as well, and that is clearly evident in the game. Insomniac delivers the narrative from various perspectives and that makes both the narrative and the gameplay simply outstanding.
Not only that, the predominant emphasis on certain small elements, and the character development in the game, turns out to be the icing on the cake. For instance, while playing as Peter Parker, players see and experience things from the perspective of a person who is in his early 20s, who is struggling to get a job and gets an eviction notice from his landlord. When he suits up, he is a completely different person, emanating an aura filled with confidence and cracking funnily lame quips in even the most tensed of situations.
While playing as a Mary Jane, we get to see things from a perspective of a brave and cynical woman, who is in a complicated relationship with Peter in the game. There are many instances in the game, where subtle details are revealed about the complicated relationship between MJ and Peter, and how they feel about each other.
Apart from that, players also witness the gradual change in the perspective of the people towards Spider-man. The social feed and the newspaper stands, delivers the outside world’s opinions about Spider-man, which ranges from the Superhero of everyone’s dreams to a dangerous superhuman at some point in the story. Moreover, people can also learn more about Peter’s backstory by doing the backpack sidequests, where Peter gives insight about the happenings in his life in the past 8 years.
The truly excellent aspect of the game is the way players are able to experience different roles and characters while playing the game. For instance, you are fighting a number of supervillains as Spider-man at one point, fast forward a few minutes and you are playing as Peter Parker who is working as a scientist, and then playing as Mary Jane who sneakily enters dangerous villain hideouts to expose their plans. There are more things as well, but I’d rather avoid them since this is a spoiler-free review.
The only flaw I did find in the narrative which might not be a flaw for a majority, including me, is that there is little to none in-game backstory of the villains, apart from the main two. This might prove to be a problem for people who are new to the franchise and are not well acquainted with the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I can’t think of a recent game, having an open world which is more immersive than Spider-man.
Insomniac Games have ensured that Spider-man’s pacing is equally good as well. As one progresses through the main campaign, they’ll notice that the missions are laid out in such a way that it doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s not like a series of missions where you are just going to beat a few bad villains and then eventually lead up to the main villain.
Instead, there is an ample variety in the missions with frequent breaks between missions to fulfill the task of being a “friendly neighborhood Spiderman”, i.e., players need to fight a number of thugs in the various procedurally generated crime incidents in the city before progressing to the next mission and to unlock tokens as well. We will speak more about tokens in a bit.
As a big fan of Marvel superheroes, I was equally excited as well as a bit skeptical when I saw the first gameplay footage of Spider-man at E3 2017. Excited, because it’s been quite a while since we got a Spider-man game and it was being developed by Insomniac Games, the same developer who made Ratchet and Clank. And, skeptical because the gameplay footage felt really scripted, and it seemed like player’s had very little control over the game’s mechanics. Fast forward to the day I got access to the full game, and my perspective about the latter part changed. Completely.
Ever since the first gameplay demo of Spider-man at E3, the game’s combat mechanics’ inspiration from Arkham games have been a point of discussion. Unlike the Arkham games, Spider-man’s combat sequences are much more fast-paced and fluid, and players can weaponize the environment, i.e, throw various objects at the enemies.
In short, Spider-man combat feels like Spiderman combat
Not only that, the way finishers work are different too. In Arkham knight games, finishers can only be delivered by cranking up the meter by building a combo streak, and if the streak ends you can no longer deliver a takedown. On the contrary, Spider-man uses a rather old-school focus meter. Smacking people, webbing them, and dodging attacks fill up your three-part focus meter, and once one part is full, you can perform a finisher. The focus meter doesn’t deplete in any circumstance, and the focus meter itself is used as the only source of healing the character in the game.
It surely is inspired by Arkham games, but that inspiration is what was required in the combat system of a Spider-man game. Spider-man’s combat just uses the core combat mechanics of Arkham games, while the combat style along with the other features, make it similar yet distinct from Arkham games. In short, Spider-man combat feels like Spiderman combat.
There is a rewarding appeal to the combat sequences in Spider-man’s games. The AI is not that big of a challenge, but it is designed well enough to make each and every combat sequence a pretty enthralling experience.
There is pretty good variety in the enemies too. At one point you are fighting some normal thugs with guns, then some heavily armored soldiers with jetpacks, then some of Mister Negative’s superhuman army, and so on. That’s not it, each of these men are differently armed which influences the way in which one can encounter them.
For instance, shielded enemies block head-on melee combat moves and one needs to make them vulnerable by sliding beneath them and attacking from behind, and certain enemies block aerial attacks while certain enemies block web attacks. The different varieties of enemies present together in tach combat sequence, ensures that the game doesn’t crumble to one of the flaws which mars most games, i.e., making the combat sequences a mere button masher.
Players need to be equally vigil to incorporate the right strategy against each kind of enemy and smashing the attack button doesn’t work here, at all. The combat in the game does get a bit repetitive eventually, but the combat system is so versatile that players can get over that as well by being a bit creative and exploring various ways to undertake a combat sequence.
It surely is inspired by Arkham games, but that inspiration is what was required in the combat system of a Spider-man game
World traversal is one of the key aspects which can make or break a good open world game. There are different ways how developers make world traversal enticing. Some developers, mutate the traversal mechanics to make them impressive, while some developers make the world more interactive, thereby making the game more immersive. Spider-man hits the sweet spot between both.
The world traversal mechanics in the game, i.e, the web swinging is simply flawless. The amount of work Insomniac has put in the web-swinging mechanics alone is clearly evident. So, what makes the web swinging so praiseworthy? It’s the visual fidelity, and the player’s ability to improvise. The basic swing for instance, is not just a tapping sequence to traverse through the world, but instead, the player’s have full control over the web swinging. The drop-off point of the swing decides whether the character will gain elevation, or get more horizontal distance.
This is not something new, and is somewhat similar to what we had in Amazing Spider-man 2, but, the visual fidelity the web-swinging mechanics of Spider-man offers, makes it stand apart from the previous Spiderman games. Then there is the web zip which adds a bit of momentum in the desired direction while swinging, the perch zip with the help of which players can zip to a perching position and then take-off if they jump at the right time to maintain their flow, and finally the dive which is pretty incremental in gaining momentum for a swing. Overall, the web swinging mechanics as a whole, offers a really immersive experience, and is devoid of any flaws of such.
“The best part of the side activities/missions are that some of them link back to characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe”
Coming to the side activities and the world exploration, it’s pretty much good if not great. There are a number of activities which rewards us with specific tokens with the help of which players can unlock suits, upgrade their gadgets and unlock some suit mods.
On top of that, there is the skill tree which in which we can unlock certain skills with the help of points which we gain while leveling up, and there is one unique ability which unlocks with each suit and can be used with other suits as well.
There are around 15 side missions in the game, and around 6 different tokens which are gained by carrying out the specific activities, i.e, Crime, Challenge, Base, Research, Backpack, and Landmark.
Crime tokens are gained by fighting various procedurally generated crime scenes in the city, and is probable the most enjoyable of all the side activities in the game since it offers much more variety than the rest of the activities. Crime scenes range from head-on encounters between the police and thugs to car chases between them.
Challenge tokens are gained finding ticking bombs which are set off by the Taskmaster and muting their detonation within a limited time frame. Base, landmark, and backpack tokens are gained by infiltrating enemy bases, taking pictures of landmark sites, and finding Peter’s lost bags respectively.
Finally, there is the Research Token which are gained by completing various mini games which involve completing circuits by using computer chips. Initially, these are very easy, but as the game progresses, these get harder as one has to make sure the voltage is right as well before completing the circuit.
The landmark and crime activities provide a great opportunity to explore the world and is an ideal “friendly-neighborhood spiderman” respectively, and is a really good experience.
“…unlike most games, the sidequests aren’t there just for the sake of filling up the world with things to do”
All of these activities are unlocked by synchronising various surveillance towers in the game with Peter’s phone, similar to the synchronization points in Assassins Creed games, the only difference being that this involves a pretty small and easy mini-game. There is a Spectrograph mini game in the game as well which involves identifying the substance by matching slides with various lines of a given slide to identify the substance. This might sound a bit weird, but they do not feel like a chore, and are really well designed as well.
The best part of the side activities/missions are that some of them link back to characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and, unlike most games, the sidequests aren’t there just for the sake of filling up the world with things to do. Some activities might get a bit boring, but then again, the majority of the good ones overshadow the not so good ones.
Summing up, Insomniac Games have done a really great job in the gameplay department of Spider-man. The gameplay, in my opinion, is really close to being flawless, if we ignore a few of the boring side activities in the game. The combat, the various playable characters and roles, a majority of the sidequests, and finally the main campaign itself ensures that the game delivers some top-notch performance in the gameplay department.
Graphics & Sound
Finally coming to the most heated topic in social media about Spider-man in the past few days, the graphics of the game. We played the game on a regular PS4, and the game looks as flawless as it looked in the earlier E3 reveals.
Swinging across the exemplary New York city is pure bliss, and the lively world is the cherry on the top. Having an open world is like a necessity in modern Single player games, but, I can’t think of a recent game, having an open world which is more immersive than Spider-man.
Insomniac’s emphasis on subtle details in the game places it on a pedestal which will definitely set a bar for upcoming games. For instance, when one is playing as Spider-man and traversing through the world on foot, people around you will exclaim at the sight of Spider-man and ask for selfies, interviews and what not; Spidey, on the other hand, will of course reply with his infamous quips.
While I didn’t see any visual downgrade as such, the graphics do look slightly inferior at certain times of the day, and during certain weather conditions, but that is pretty insignificant unless you are someone who is affected by the lack of puddles.
the graphics do look slightly inferior at certain times of the day, and during certain weather conditions, but that is pretty insignificant unless you are someone who is affected by the lack of puddles
The audio which plays in the game is pretty good and its tone changes depending upon the various situations you encounter in the game. The voice acting is pretty good as well, and not to forget the funnily-lame quips spoken by Spidey during his encounters. Then there is the radio which is hosted by Jameson in a pretty rad voice, often criticizing Spider-man, which is also really fun to listen to as well. Overall, the audio design is pretty good, and the music too contains the adventurous touches, customary to a superhero game.
Spider-man has everything you would expect from a superhero game, a game, and is a masterpiece in its own right. Whether you are a fan of superheroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Spiderman in particular, or not, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t try out this game. A great story filled with climatic and emotional points, absolutely stellar gameplay, and stunning visuals, Spider-man has all of them.