|Dev: Insomniac Games|
|Release: September 7, 2018|
|Players: 1 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Drug Reference, Language, Violence|
by Jenni Lada
Superhero games tend to get a bad rap. Very few licensed games can be considered “good.” It is even rarer to find one that could be called “great.” Insomniac Games’ Marvel’s Spider-Man is an outlier. It certainly is not a perfect experience, as there are some difficulty issues and a few mission-types that feel more repetitive than productive, but it will quite likely be the best Spider-Man people will ever play.
Insomniac Games decided to take a risk with Marvel’s Spider-Man and give us a game in an established world, rather than attempt to reboot everything and show us an ingénue hero only just coming to terms with his powers. This Peter Parker knows how to fight crime. He has been Spider-Man since he was a teenager and is coming to the end of his college career. He is attempting to live on his own, make a difference in the world by aiding his professor mentor with prosthetics research, and sort out his relationship with MJ. I feel like it is a decision that pays off, as it makes it more plausible that this version of Spider-Man has access to the gadgets, skills, suits, abilities, and network that he does in the game. Even though we are learning things as we go along, he is established, which gives us more opportunities to do things in the world.
I really loved how Marvel’s Spider-Man incorporates the different sorts of arcs you would expect to see in a cartoon or comic book. While Spider-Man knows what he is doing, we do get to see an origin story play out. There are comedic storylines. Dramatic segments ensue. You could even consider the sidequests or a few expository segments used to explain the acquisition of new gadget plans filler episodes. Though everything is happening over a rather short period of time, the organization and narrative decisions almost made me feel like I had gone through 15 or 20 issues of a series during my adventures.
A lot is happening in Marvel’s Spider-Man. Manhattan is in a bad way. Wilson “The Kingpin” Fisk is being sent to prison as the game begins, though he does make an attempt to avoid his fate. His absence results in a bit of a breakdown in the city. A new group of enemies, called Demons, are hitting Fisk’s former strongholds. Meanwhile, Parker is attempting to make time for his family and loved ones, maintain a normal job, and also take on other projects around the city that apparently only he can do.
Spider-Man wears many hats in Marvel’s Spider-Man. The typical role is as crime-fighter. The actual story missions tend to be rather diverse. In the opening mission, for example, he traverses an office building filled with Fisk’s minions. He has to fight his way through, help rescue innocent employees trapped in areas that are on fire, sneak into an area filled with enemies, prevent data deletion, and apprehend Fisk. Other missions have him chasing cars or villains through the city streets via masterful web slinging, taking out enemies without being seen, investigating hideouts to discover secret rooms, handling bosses, and beating up waves of enemies.
All of the mission diversity is nice, which makes the situations where Spider-Man is overwhelmed by enemies rather unfortunate. These tend to be an issue when handling base missions and in story missions. They can involve multiple waves of foes, which tend to increase in difficulty, and stealth can sometimes not be an option to address the problem. All of the foes swarm you at once, and I felt these attacks could be tedious, overwhelming, and disappointing compared to the many story segments and boss fights that involved actual strategy and thought. Especially since being defeated during one of these sections with waves of enemies would result in Spider-Man respawning in the midst of all of these foes a the beginning of a wave.
I felt like Marvel’s Spider-Man difficulty levels were a bit unbalanced. I started out on Amazing, which is the game’s version of normal. It seemed a bit overwhelming, with bullets doing a lot of damage, Focus not regenerating fast enough to heal, and enemy AI being a little too aware and smart (in a bad way). It was manageable and all, but made situations where six waves of enemies were barreling down rather irritating. When I switched to Friendly, things did not seem much different. In both situations, any quest involving waves of enemies felt like uncomfortable hurdles blocking my way to the more enjoyable other missions. To the game’s credit, Parker does get stronger as levels increase and acquiring skills can provide more defensive options, but the difficulty spikes with certain mob situations were shocking.
Fortunately, Marvel’s Spider-Man shines with every other sort of mission type. Especially the sidequests. There are so many extracurricular activities in the game. To unlock areas of the map and different kinds of missions, you need to activate police towers. If Parker heads to the lab where he is interning, he can play Pipe Dream-like minigames where he needs to place parts to get an electric current to go from one point to another. When he was younger, he scattered backpacks with RFID chips around the city. Those can be found again. Harry has Oscorp labs around the city to activate, each with a mission tied to it. Parker has a camera he can use to take pictures of landmarks like Avengers Tower or Rockefeller Center. Random crimes can be stopped areas around the city. There are hidden toys to find, glimpsed through telescopes in certain locations. This is on top of Benchmarks you achieve by performing certain actions specific numbers of times.
It feels like Marvel’s Spider-Man always wants you to be doing something. People call Parker as he travels the city, updating him on the current happenings. Once the towers are up, you constantly hear police reports and maybe even stumble into crimes in progress. Between story missions, the game will flat out tell you to take a break and explore the city. Making new suits requires tokens from various sidequests, with some costumes only unlocking after completing all sidequests of a certain type. Even so, the game never really feels hectic or demanding. It is more that these objectives are there, in case you do feel compelled to do absolutely everything.
Which is something you might want to do. I’ll be frank. I reactivated all of the towers and collected all of the backpacks before I really headed into the bulk of Marvel’s Spider-Man’s story missions. The second I could start taking pictures of landmarks, everything else was put on hold so I could. This is because traveling around the city is probably my favorite part of Marvel’s Spider-Man. Just call him Peter Parkour, because he is amazing at careening and soaring through the skies. Zipping around from place to place is absolutely effortless and acquiring a skill that enables mid-air tricks makes it even better. All of these extra activities are scattered around in a way that encourages you to keep roaming the city. Even though fast travel does become available, I always preferred swinging around.
When I played Marvel’s Spider-Man, one thing was clear: Insomniac Games did its homework. The lore is spot on and the pacing makes it feel like someone is going through Spider-Man comics brought to life. The missions show how amazing Spider-Man is at beating up groups of enemies, stealthily managing situations, investigating, inventing, and besting bosses. The sidequests give you excuses to explore the city and swing through the skies. I do wish that the differences between difficulty levels was a little more obvious, as I felt the Friendly difficulty level might not have been amiable enough to allow less skilled or younger players to enjoy the adventure. Overall, Marvel’s Spider-Man does the hero justice.