It’s been an entire month since Insomniac released Marvel’s Spider-Man on the PlayStation 4. I’ve struggled with exactly how I wanted to write about the game. I felt it best to give it some time. Let it really sink in, and not be too caught up in the moment. And, I can undoubtedly say Spider-Man PS4 hits the mark! Insomniac combines a deep story with an emotional toll leaving players in a wake of tears and laughter.
Let’s start with the basics. Swinging. The mechanics for Spider-Man’s main mode of travel lead to some of the best moments you’ll have in the game. After a bit of a learning curve, it becomes your only way of “transportation” throughout Manhattan (sure fast travel is available but where’s the fun in that). It feels so right to go from swinging to moonsaulting to web zipping, and back to swinging again. Traversing is one of the game's most immersive mechanics. Plus, with each Spider stunt (Spider-roll, moonsault) you perform the player gains a little bit of XP to boot. One could get lost in hours of merely swinging around Times Square to Avengers Tower.
Spider-Man PS4’s combat style has been compared to the Batman Arkham series numerous times as the game continued to be previewed over the years. While at first glance it’s easy to make that comparison, as you level up those comparisons stop. We all know Spider-Man relies on his speed and nimble abilities to take down his opponents. Luckily, the game stays true to the Spider-Fu. The main way to banish evil-doers is to get them in the air and landing copious kicks and punches. Leveling up delivers different abilities to dispatch bad guys more efficiently. The best way is popping enemies into the air laying down a wicked combo, and web-zipping another baddie right up to you. Then, laying the smackdown onto a thug with a cool-looking finisher. It’s a masterpiece of a Spidey beat down.
The best part about traversing and combat is the ability to snap a Spider-Selfie whilst in the middle of all the action. Insomniac uploaded a Day 1 patch on the release date introducing arguably the best Photo Mode (most of these shots in this review are from my play-through) we’ve ever seen in a video game. Photo mode has allowed players to capture some of the coolest portions of the game. Whether that’s a cool selfie in front of the Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum or a beautiful shot in front of the New York skyline, there isn’t a shortage of amazing shots floating around the interwebs. If you haven’t seen any, make sure you get out there and find some, but beware of spoilers.
At the end of the day, this game is more than fighting, cool gadgets, and sweet photo ops. This game does something no other Spider-Man game in the past has; it expands the lore of Spider-Man. This game, while at times was predictable, wasn’t going to be content sitting back and letting older Spider-Man stories control its narrative. No! The game developers at the studio wanted to change the narrative up a little and not be complacent in their story-telling. Sure, Peter Parker is the main protagonist, but he isn’t alone in this story, nor is he the only playable character. We are graced with spending some time as Mary Jane Watson and Miles Morales. While neither of the characters throws hands, that doesn’t stop them from getting right in the middle of the action. Their stealth missions have their own bit of stress added to them: one wrong move and you're busted. Both characters play their part in advancing the story and in one scene, as MJ, you get to help Spidey take down some bad guys.
It’s not only the side characters Insomniac wanted to tinker with for the game. When we first meet Peter, he’s 8 years into the Spider-Gig. The city is fully aware of Spider-Man and his accomplishments such as thwarting off several supervillains like Vulture, Electro, Mr. Negative, and many more. Kudos to the devs for having the strength to not overload the game with all these enemies. They could have easily dumped tons of villains into the game for the sake of it. I think the more impressive part is the script allowing us to have a decent relationship with the central villains. It allows the player plenty of time to start an emotional bond with the characters, including a powerful scene towards the end of the game.
Lastly, that’s what this game is truly about, the powerful moments and relationships that keep us coming back for more. It’s quite spectacular to see how these relationships were woven into the storyline. They weren’t shoved in our faces and didn’t feel forced. Every conversation Peter had with a different character felt earned. Peter’s story with Miles is about mentorship and care for one’s family. The moments they share with one another always brought a smile to my face. It felt like a big brother guiding his little brother through the trials of life. Every moment they had I found myself wiping a happy tear away. Then, there’s the relationship with MJ. Over the past years, the different mediums of MJ depict her as “damsel in distress”. This game takes that and flips it on its head. She can be just as tough as Peter and maybe has more courage. Making their relationship a little different than normal, however, the best part about it is what we love between the classic characters. The banter between the two characters, (as portrayed by Yuri Lowenthal and Laura Bailey) could possibly be the best part of the script. The chemistry between the two even set up a text message conversation, which low-key is the best/saddest part of the game. I don’t think I’ve ever loved these two more than I do now.
Overall, Spider-Man PS4 has it all. The fun combat system, meaningful side missions, and heart-tugging storytelling. If you’re in the mood to go from jaw-dropping to crying to laughing all in a matter of 25 minutes, then I recommend swinging over to your PS4 and getting tangled up in Marvel’s Spider-Man