By Ronan Jennings
Spider-man, Spider-Man, does whatever a bat can. Doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it?
But in the case of Marvel’s Spider-Man on PS4, it’s true all the same. Insomniac have created a game that takes the best parts of older Spidey games and splices them with Batman’s Arkham series. The result is excellent.
For the most part, this is a game of two pieces. The first is the webslinging, or how Spidey gets around. Insomniac have absolutely nailed traversal in this game, which was by far their biggest challenge.
Controlling Spider-Man as he zips from building to building is never short of thrilling and, eventually, becomes relaxing enough that you’ll boot up the game just to fly through the streets and chill out.
Webslinging isn’t blind luck, either. You’re always in full control, from building up speed by diving to the ground before swinging onwards at the last second, to pulling Spidey forwards towards edges and treetops to keep his momentum going, to running on the surface of buildings and using the corners to slingshot. It’s like no other game before it - and it feels exactly like Spiderman should.
The second piece of the game is combat. Here is where Insomniac have taken a leaf from the Arkham games and, arguably, gone one better. Spidey will mostly face off against waves of enemies, with a choice of taking them out by stealth or by brute force.
The stealth is hugely fun, webbing up enemies and hanging them from pillars and rafters, but the brute force option is where Marvel’s Spider-Man really shines.
It’s an incredibly fast system based on counter-attacks and combos, with Spidey darting from foe to foe, building ‘focus’ as he goes to unleash a variety of finishers and abilities.
When you get into a rhythm in combat, Spider-Man becomes a blur of red and blue, sticking enemies to walls, launching them into the air for combos, back-flipping away from rockets before zipping to the assailant and darting under his legs to attack from behind.
At every stage, you feel fully in control. It’s a beautiful experience for any Spider-Man fan — and for most gamers, full stop.
So Marvel’s Spider-Man does a superb job of the two most important parts of a Spider-Man game, in webslinging and combat.
Thankfully, it also does a great job of story and acting. Peter Parker and the supporting cast are extremely likable, well-written and acted. Parker himself is full of the quips and anxiety that has made Spidey beloved the world over.
The plot is exciting and full of impetus. It’s great.
Where Marvel’s Spider-Man falls short, however, is New York itself. Insomniac pad the game out tremendously with typical open-world fetch-quests, like finding backpacks littered around the city, unlocking radio towers, clearing bases, finding research tokens and more.
Each of these activities are fun, but never feel like more than padding. The resulting ‘tokens’ act as the game’s currency, allowing you to unlock more powers and suits, but these activities feel like busy work from the very first scene.
The city itself is nothing more than a backdrop, with cardboard cutout citizens and the graphical fidelity of a PS3 game at best.There is zero reason to explore or enjoy the Big Apple, aside from the aforementioned busy work and, of course, the amazing webslinging.
So, it’s best to consider Marvel’s Spider-Man not a modern open-world game, but instead a superb Spider-Man game that uses a city backdrop to tell a great Spidey story with fantastic webslinging and combat. If that sounds good to you, then you’re in for an absolute treat.
On the other hand, if you prefer dragons to spiders, then you might want to check out Dragon Quest XI, which released yesterday on PS4 and PC.
This is the latest game in one of Japan’s most venerable series. The last proper single-player Dragon Quest released way back in 2004.
Dragon Quest is a role-playing fairytale at its simplest, with colourful characters in a story of good versus evil. Just be wary of the time commitment involved — Dragon Quest XI is said to take anywhere between 70-100 hours to complete.
Check back in for our review in the coming weeks.