Who it’s for: Anyone who enjoys open world adventure games and Spidey.
There’s something hopeful about “Marvel’s Spider-Man,” the new PS4-exclusive game featuring everyone’s favorite wall-crawler. Whereas Batman’s dark and gritty Gotham City seemingly sucks the happiness out of the air, “Spider-Man’s” New York feels brighter, even in the face of a criminal epidemic.
From the opening moments of the game, you learn New York is a dangerous place, beset by Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime. After waiting for years, Spidey finally takes down Fisk and sets into motion a massive crime wave of thugs, minions and masterminds who either want the Kingpin’s empire to live on or to replace it with their own.
The setup works perfectly to introduce players to Spidey’s basic movement and fighting abilities, and from the early beats, you’ll know whether or not “Spider-Man” works for you (spoiler alert: It probably will).
Developer Insomniac Games (“Ratchet and Clank,” “Sunset Overdrive”) outdid itself bringing Peter Parker and his alter ego to life.
Swinging around the masterfully rendered version of Marvel’s New York City feels unbelievably smooth. Players will get the hang of spinning webs, running up buildings and leaping into gut-tingling freefalls in a matter of minutes.
The whole city is open from the start, just begging for exploration. From Chinatown to the Upper East Side, the Financial District to Central Park, the city just feels real, vibrant and alive.
Random crimes pop up frequently, begging for a quick detour to tie up some baddies, even when your mission feels pressing.
The main storyline plays like a cross between the comic series and a Marvel movie. Well-written, expertly acted and perfectly paced, the main campaign strikes just the right tone for the characters.
The game follows many open-world tropes players will be instantly familiar with, like the need to unlock surveillance towers to expose sections of the city map. You’ll also find quite a few collectibles scattered around and pictures of landmarks to photograph, giving you plenty to do outside of the story.
Every time you complete one of these tasks, you’ll receive a token (different for each type of task) that can be used to unlock new suites, upgrades and gadgets.
You’ll also get experience for nearly everything you do, making Webhead stronger and giving you skill points to unlock new abilities, customizing the hero as you’d like.
Rewards are doled out at a steady pace, so there is always something to achieve right within your grasp. It’s a finely tuned system that works perfectly.
Particularly nice are the various suits you’ll unlock. Most have powers associated with them. However, you are free to choose the suit you like and put any unlocked power or mod on that suit. It gives players wonderful freedom to look how they want without sacrificing any functionality.
If you’ve played the “Batman: Arkham” games, much of “Spider-Man.” will feel familiar, particularly when it comes to fighting. Don’t take this as a bad thing, because Rocksteady’s series showed superhero games could be good.
The variety of enemies keeps fights fresh. You’ll have to mix up your moves to counter theirs if you want to stay alive.
The same holds true for boss fights, each one providing a unique challenge demanding a unique response.
Like swinging around the city, fighting flows naturally. As long as you can figure out when to dodge and when to press the attack, you should be able to figure out how to survive on the streets.
The game looks and plays great on a standard PS4, but on the PS4 Pro, not only were the 4K visuals and HDR fantastic, I never saw the framerate stutter once. It’s hard to imagine games looking much better than this.
Any quibbles here — an occasional repetitive mission, the odd thug that fights cheap — are lost in the overall quality of the game.
Fans of the character will feel like they’ve slipped on the spandex and taken to the air, and those familiar with the Marvel Universe will love all of the easter eggs that hint at possibilities to come.
“Marvel’s Spider-Man” stands as one of the best games of the year and holds a place with the “Arkham” series as one of the best comic book-based games of all time.