Image from Sony
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Spider-Man is arguably one of the most covered and coveted comic-book heroes in pop culture. On the big screen, the millennial generation has gone through two of his trilogies and are witnessing yet another reboot. And on the smaller screen, every single one of us has at one point seen an episode of his animated series.
It’s the same case with Spider-Man on our consoles and PCs. We’ve held Spider-Man with our controllers and keyboards since the 1980s. To be more specific, Spider-Man has appeared in thirty-seven games, across fifteen consoles.
A history in mainstream media that’s this long and this rich has definitely given Spidey some ups and downs in terms of popularity or notoriety. I remember being a huge fan of Tobey Maguire’s first shot at Spider-Man and then falling off the hype train for the rest of the Spider-Man movies until the arrival of Tom Holland. (Sorry, Andrew Garfield fans!)
The same could be said about the Spider-Man games. Not every Spider-Man game has been received just as well as The Ultimate Spider-Man or Spider-Man 2 from the PlayStation 2 era. Truth be told, ever since those two games, there’s been a growing clamor for another great Spider-Man title.
And after spending a good few hours playing Insomniac Games’ take on Spider-Man, it’s safe to say that we’re looking at the glorious return of the amazing Spider-Man. Oh yes, Mr. Stark. I’m feeling really good about this.
There are a lot of things to look forward to about this Spider-Man game. Perhaps the most fun of all of these would be just getting to swing around Manhattan freely. Manhattan looks absolutely gorgeous in this game and to be able to roam freely and just explore the different areas is a marvelous experience in and of itself.
Based on the previous Marvel’s Spider-Man appearances since E3 2016, swinging from one building to another seemed daunting for the uninitiated. Turns out, the minute Spider-Man shoots that first web, and his feet lifts up from the concrete, you’re swinging like you’ve been made to do this your entire life.
Image from Sony
It all feels intuitive, easy, fluid, and even graceful. There’s not a moment of stuttering or awkwardness moving through the city. That being said, the easy threshold doesn’t mean there’s no challenge to be had in navigating through the buildings of Manhattan. The more you play and the more experience you get, the more you get to create complex moves with the new acrobatic tricks you’ll discover.
And these acrobatic moves are not limited to large open environments. Insomniac Games has done an excellent job in creating a variety of spaces to play with Spider-Man’s tricks. And while yes, it’s still easy moving around, and punching and kicking the bad guys in these areas, they still present their own challenges, forcing you to get creative with the way you move and fight.
For instance, fighting in a museum requires a completely different strategy versus fighting at a construction site. Sure, both arenas have bars from which Spider-Man can perch on, but then you have to decide whether or not you want to stay high up on the air for longer or weigh the efficiency of webbing them up on the bars. There’s also the kind of move set you want to unleash depending on who your enemies are and where they’re coming from.
Image from Sony
To put it simply, it’s easy to look cool in this game, but it takes more than rapidly pressing the same buttons in order to gain full potential of Spider-Man. And that should make it easily accessible for gamers of all skill level.
If you feel unconfident about your skill though, don’t worry. There’s plenty of opportunities to practice. The minute you head out to your first task, you’ll already be exposed to the day-to-day crimes happening in Manhattan. They won’t be obvious at first, but if you are observant enough and take the time to go around the area, you’ll find that there is a wealth of bad guys to test your Spidey skills on.
And what’s striking about all these open world activities, is that how they’re designed won’t make the game feel rigid or chore-like. The city feels very much alive and organic. The entirety of Manhattan, which is quite a sizeable map, is accessible to you immediately. And you can be witness to crimes at any moment even if you haven’t activated towers a la most of Ubisoft’s triple-A titles.
And you get to choose whether or not you want to pursue small-time criminals, or find relics of the past like backpacks hidden around the city, or other open-world activities. But the main reason why going through the open-world activities of Marvel’s Spider-Man doesn't feel like a chore, is that the rewards to pursuing these side-missions are actually worth it. Itmeans you get to unlock Spider-Man’s cool gadgets.
Now there’s a wealth of gadgets and suits that could be picked from, but these are definitely lifted from the Spider-Man comics, a feature that a lot of comic-book fans will appreciate, and a lot of newly minted fans can learn from.
Yet another element that comic-book veterans and new fans would appreciate is the narrative of Marvel’s Spider-Man. There’s a lot of potential in this story from the first few hours that I’ve played. Without spoiling, this particular story of Spider-Man veers away from origin stories and or story arcs that played throughout the more recent iterations of Spider-Man on the big screen or in video games, giving players a fresh perspective.
Image from Sony
James Stevenson, Community Director of Insomniac Games, describes the story as a “coming of age” one. Gamers get to play as a 23-year old Spider-Man, a more experienced fighter who still struggles to juggle real life with his superhero persona. This is shown by allowing players to also gain control of Spider-Man when he just goes as Peter Parker.
In the game, Peter is a scientist who still struggles to pay his rent while helping out his aunt at the local charity. There’s a certain twist in the story that you have to watch out for that just adds to how compelling this iteration of Spider-Man could be.
If you’re looking for a unique twist to Marvel’s Spider-Man. It should also be noted that Insomniac Games decided to not go for an existing arc at all, opting instead to pull from different elements of the comics while staying true to what they feel is the core character of Spider-Man.
And from my brief experience with the game, they actually do manage to keep the spirit of Spider-Man alive. He’s fun, he cracks jokes that don’t always land right, he’s enthusiastic and is just filled with a desire to help others. Seems like college didn’t break the young hero at all. Insomniac Games attributes this to their belief that among all the superheroes in Marvel’s universe, Spider-Man was closest to who they are as a company.
Stevenson quickly explained that they were approached by Marvel and Sony and were told to choose any superhero they would like from the Marvel universe, and while a few other popular names were put up to contention, a strong majority of Insomniac Games felt that Spider-Man was the right hero for them to recreate into a game.
All in all, Marvel’s Spider-Man definitely shows a lot of promise, and from the looks of it the expectations that fans have for this game could be met with flying colors. If the rest of the game stays this fun, fast-paced, and compelling, we could be looking at one of the best titles made for both the Spider-Man franchise and for 2018. – Rappler.com
Disclosure: Sony sponsored the trip to Malaysia, site of the media preview for the game.