Marvel’s Spider-Man Review
You know… It isn’t easy juggling a social life, a job or two, a love interest, all while fighting off multitudes of bad guys who want to take control of Manhattan City. But for your favourite wall-crawling superhero, he seems to get by with a level of suave that completely astounds.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is the latest, and certainly greatest, PlayStation 4 Exclusive to hit the shelves; developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, to treat all kinds of players, long-time Spidey-fans and new Spidey-fans alike. Marvel Entertainment approached Sony wanting them to publish a Marvel game, discussing with Insomniac Games which property to adapt, and both Insomniac Games and SIE agreed upon Spider-Man. I mean, it’s an obvious choice. Even before the news or announcement trailer, I had friends bring up the old Spider-Man 2 game for PlayStation 2, and the Spider-Man games developed by NeverSoft for the PlayStation 1. People have been waiting for another chance to play as our friendly neighbourhood hero for a long time, and as of the 7th of September, everyone who has a PlayStation 4 can, and it doesn’t disappoint!
Webbing Up Crime
When I first launched the game, I was at first taken aback by the Start Menu. Ol’ Spidey simply hanging out on the side of a building, giving you the usual “Press Button to Begin” screen. What followed was a cleverly implemented system to initialise the game the way you’d like it to be played, giving you the chance to change some Accessibility Options before starting to make the experience a bit more comfortable for you depending on your play-style. I thought it was quite considerate. If you have no specific preferences, you can ignore it and continue without it affecting your enjoyment. You then choose your game difficulty, given quite clever terms, and then off you go.
The initial intro sequence was immensely satisfying, starting us off with a cutscene showing us a rough timeline of where we are in the Spidey story (we are not dealing with another origin story, thank goodness, absolutely everybody knows it by now), with Peter in his own apartment, and news paper articles on the Rhino, Shocker, Vulture, Scorpion, and even Electro. Peter, still in bed, then gets a notification on his phone that the Police are about to invade William Fisk’s (aka The Kingpin) Tower to apprehend him, and he quickly gets dressed and has breakfast on the go as he jumps out the window in his classic Spidey suit. Not long after the jump out the window, and a few really amazing acrobatics accompanied with some really feel-good music, we get the chance to take part in the action. The camera sets itself nicely behind Spider-Man, and time slows as instructions appear on the screen to tell us how to swing around the city, on the way to Fisk Tower. When you get to swing for the first time is one of the most memorable parts of the game, and it’s quite literally in the beginning of the game. Insomniac did a brilliant job with allowing us to familiarise ourselves with the setting of the story, without making us wait too long to actually start playing the game.
Eventually we catch up with the police to Fisk’s Tower, where another tutorial comes along to help us combat Fisk’s men, revealing how it is in our best interest to rack up combo hits and not get hit back, because it will then break our combos. Building up combos will fill up a combo bar which will be used, at first, to heal when you’ve been hurt, and later, to activate an “instant takedown” ability which as the name implies, takes down an enemy in a single hit, unless you’re a more durable enemy like a Boss. Even though knocking and dodging like a pro is fun, webbing enemies to the floors and walls is satisfying on a whole different level as well. Combine an air combo with webbing will give the police a tough job later on when needing to lower these criminals down and apprehend them. Progressing further into the story, we’re greeted by William Fisk himself, on a big screen, some quips are exchanged before Spidey manages to recover data that Fisk was trying to have deleted before his escape, yet failure thereof when you break into his office for a Boss fight and some more quick in-game tutorials.
Fisk Pinned Down
After the initial phase of the boss fight, everything comes together in a battle royale between Spidey, Kingpin, and groups of his men, where you need to fight off every last one of the henchmen while dodging attacks from both them and Kingpin, racking up combos to heal and deal out instant takedowns, and give a beatdown to our long-time friend, Kingpin. I’ll be honest, this section to me a while to complete, the beginning stage has quite a bit of trial-and-error getting used to the controls, but once you have it down, you feel unstoppable and have more fun than when you started.
With Fisk apprehended, he leaves us with haunting words that make us wonder whether it was a good idea to have him arrested in the first place, saying his absence will give rise to even bigger threats, which he was keeping down. And so the story continues. There is a brief reprieve from Fisk and his criminal activities, but surely enough, as he foretold, gangs started rising up in attempts to take advantage of his absence.
The city is now open to you to do as you please in this fantastically created open-world setting of Manhattan, providing you with challenges and collectibles to find in every district from the start, but don’t think you can knock off all of these side-interests all at once, because even if you do, more will unlock later as the story progresses, constantly giving us as the player new challenges and things to look forward to. Our first set of optional, yet recommended challenges, is assigned to us by Yuri. We need to restore District Coverage to the Police, as all their towers had been hacked into and their frequencies misaligned. It’s up to Spidey to realign the frequencies, and in doing so, reveals more of the Manhattan map to us, showing us more Points of Interest, which is very handy especially at a later point in the game. I completed all the realignments between the first 3 Main Story Missions, all while fending off Thug Crimes, one of the “spur-of-the-moment” challenges that appear while swinging through the districts, collecting all of Spidey’s past backpacks, and taking photos of Landmarks.
Completing these challenges awards Tokens that you will be spending on unlockables within your Menu. There are a wide assortment of Tokens, and the locations of these challenges get revealed through the district maps that get revealed when you realign the District Towers. There are about 3 per district, and it’s really easy to get them back online, so even though it sounds tedious, it really is not going to hamper your experience of the game, especially because inbetween each tower reactivation, you get some really brilliant dialogue between Spider-Man and Yuri, as Spidey humorously does his own impression of what I could assume to be Batman, except he calls himself “Spider-Cop” and speaks in a hoarse voice. Yuri expresses her frustration, but deep down we know that Yuri finds it an amusing activity that Spidey has decided to take up.
Not long after Spidey does what he does best, after a few main story missions, things really go wrong as a mysterious group attacks the Fisk Estate, where we find Mary Jane snooping around, and we find out about her job at the Daily Bugle, and about her and Pete’s unfortunate “split”. Even so, their encounter with each other is loaded with the two’s chemistry, and despite my initial doubts about this MJ, I’ve found myself warming up to her. She then tells us why she is there, and we’re given to chance to play as MJ for a change of roles. I don’t believe a Spidey game has done this before, and I’ll admit that I am impressed because despite her not having any special abilities, the mechanics for playing with MJ has a very similar vibe to that of a certain female heroine that likes to raid tombs… without all the acrobatics, of course. She sneaks around looking for clues on something called “Devil’s Breath”, but lo and behold, another frightening gang seems to be looking for the same thing, and these guys wear masks and bear weapons of the supernatural type…
It is here where we see the story develop further into one filled with many twists, revealing the strange alternate origins of Mister Negative, and his influence on the people of the city, including other villians whom Spidey has had to grapple with. Many more characters will be coming into play, like Doctor Octavius before he becomes Doctor Octopus, who Peter is working with, Norman Osborn, who likes to put snags into dear ol’ Octavius’s work, and is now Mayor of Manhattan, oddly enough. Even Miles Morales appears in this game, as well as a certain familiar and brilliant cameo appearance, which I’ll let you experience first-hand, if you haven’t seen it yet. Later on you’ll get called by Black Cat, who gives you more challenges to complete for a new suit, and even Taskmaster contacts you, having you complete Challenges around the city so that he can study you and fight you. This guy is probably one of the more, if not most, difficult bosses in the game, so you’ll need to refine your combat skills as you play. Tombstone even drops by in this game, and man, even though his fight was chaos, it was a lot of fun.
Like I mentioned before, the Tokens you earn in the game will allow you to gain certain unlockables, which the game also helps you understand. These Tokens are in essence currency used to unlock Suits, Suit Upgrades, Gadgets, and Gadget Upgrades. The Suits you get will give you a blast of nostalgia if you’re a long time Spider-Man fan, seeing all the suits from all of Spider-Man’s previous adventures, including the new Iron Spider suit from the Avengers movie, and the “Stark” Spider-Man suit from the Captain America and Spider-Man Homecoming movie. My current favourites are between the Dark Suit you get from Black Cat and the suit that is currenlty being worn by Spider-Man in the comics. Unlocking Suits will also unlock a special ability that the Suit contains, and can be activated by pressing both Joystick buttons down simultaneously. There are a variety of abilities, for example, you get the Iron Spider limbs from unlocking the Iron Spider suit. The abilities are also interchangeable once unlocked, so you could have the Negative Suit combined with the limbs from the Iron Spider suit.
Gadgets are special ammunition for you web shooter that can be used in combat, which includes the Impact Web, which knocks back enemies while completely engulfing them in webs, the Spider Drone, which is equipped with its own weaponry to assist you in a fight, Shock Webs, that do exactly as the name implies, and one of my favourites, the Web Bomb, which does what the Impact Web does, but on a larger scale to multiple enemies in a specific radius. I have another favourite, but won’t spoil the surprise when you encounter it. (It’s called the Web Trap)
You can then get upgrades for these Gadgets as well, which includes either the refills ocurring faster, adding another slot for more ammunition of the gadgets, radius increase, effectiveness, etc. This will encourage you to complete the challenges around the city, as these upgrades ask for a fair amount of tokens.
Lastly, Spider-Man has his own Skill tree! Meaning that Spidey can gain experience from Missions and Combat, and Level Up. It’s almost effortless to level up though. In all honesty, I barely ever payed attention to how much experience I was gaining, and how many Skill Points I was racking up. At one point I even forget and had 5 Skill Points ready to be spent in the Skill Tree. The skills you get are incredibly useful though, for example, being able to do Perch or Web Takedowns during Stealth from a higher altitude, which means less risk of being discovered by enemies. Another is being able to Web Zip twice without losing altitude without swinging, or even being able to pull an enemy that’s on the ground towards you while busy with an Air-Combo attack. It’s quite fun being able to web up enemies and spin them around constantly, knocking down enemies trying to run towards Spidey.
To be fair, there is too much to try to cover for Spider-Man. This game is filled with so much, it’s understandable why it took so long for it to be released after the news about it hit. Admittedly, I’ve had many frustrations on occasion, for example, where Spidey doesn’t swing when I’m pressing the appropriate buttons, but it’s been rare, and a patch has been released addressing other minor bugs. The voice acting is done amazingly well, giving us the right impressions on the characters during the cutscenes. The graphics, despite being better at E3 than at launch, is still impressive, with an amazing music score! Character-wise; Mary Jane initially had me concerned, but like I mentioned earlier, I warmed up to her. She is a very strong and fearless female character, has a quirky yet oddly attractive appearance, and a feisty personality which you grow to love more and more as you see her and Peter’s relationship develop. The storyline is one that is completely different to the usual Spider-Man lore, but is does not ruin it in any way. I have in fact been enjoying this version of the stories. The odd QTE’s even keep you on your toes! Without further adieu, I encourage you to get this amazing game. Become the Ultimate Spider-Man, and purchase this game from BTGames for R915.00.