With the recent edition of Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this was the perfect time to bring Spidey back into the video game realm. Fourteen years ago, we got the fantastic Amazing Spider-Man 2, but since then the Web-Slinger’s games have been inconsistent. This time around, Insomniac got the opportunity to revitalize Spider-Man video games, and bring them back to their former glory. So how did the game turn out? Well, for one thing, the combat feels incredibly reminiscent of the Batman: Arkham franchise but on cocaine. And that’s a good thing. Beating up baddies never felt so fluid and satisfying. The story though felt lacking. The big surprise villain was no surprise at all, and the game ended so abruptly it felt like it was missing a whole final act. There is plenty of opportunity for a sequel, though.
It’s highly likely that Insomniac had the phrase, “easy to learn, hard to master,” on their minds when designing the combat. The addition of Spidey’s web shooters and incredible agility added a layer of depth to the action. Being able to leap off of one enemy to knock out another, and then webbing a third enemy to a wall is fun as all hell. As the game progresses, you can unlock more abilities and gadgets to take down goons with, only adding to the possibilities.
Insomniac nailed stealth combat as well. There’s something about being able to crawl around on walls, or slingshotting to a vantage point, and then scooping up an unsuspecting enemy, then slamming their head into a metal girder with a heavy thunk that is so satisfying.
One thing that should be noted is how Insomniac handles watchtowers, a mechanic that has become common in open world games. They fill out the world map with the locations of points of interest, side missions, collectibles, etc. In the Assassins Creed series, you have to spend a few boring minutes scaling the side of a building. Generally, you’ll have to do some repetitive, mundane task that feels like a waste of time. In Marvel’s Spider-Man though, you zip right up to them, (usually located on the roof of a building,) match a radio frequency using the joysticks, and boom, you’re done. The sweeping view of New York City is even skippable. It helps that swinging around is so much fun, so unlocking these watchtowers doesn’t feel like a chore, and is somewhat enjoyable.
Now even though everything about the gameplay feels great, the story feels like it fell short. Spider-Man has such a rich history and an incredibly diverse cast of villains. There were tons of options that weren’t Green Goblin or Doc Ock, and are far more iconic than the main villain Insomniac used. Hardcore Spidey fans will spot him from the very beginning of the game. Even casual fans won’t have a hard time figuring out who the big bad is early on, and the game treats the reveal of their identity like it’s some huge surprise.
The worst part of the game is by far the ending. The final boss fight was laughably easy, being nothing more than a glorified quick time event. The main story ended so abruptly it was confusing as to whether or not it was over.
Insomniac knows how to make a game fun to play, that was never in question. No matter what you’re doing it feels great. It’s a shame though that the story is so lacking. Does Marvel’s Spider-Man surpass Amazing Spider-Man 2 as the best Spidey game of all time? It depends on whether or not the player holds more stock in gameplay or story. One thing is for sure though, the showdown with Doc Ock at the end of AS2 blows this last boss fight out of the water. That’s not to say this game is bad by any means. It’s still a blast to play. It just could have been so much more.
Excellent Combat: It is crucial to make the combat feel good in a game when that’s what you’ll be doing 75% of the time. Insomniac has always been good at it, and this game is no different. Fights feel fluid and kinetic, and most importantly, satisfying. Spidey’s speed and agility along with his gadgets allow enough diversity to approach an encounter in a multitude of ways, and more choices is never a bad thing.
The Movement: When you’re not beating down thugs, chances are you’ll be swinging around New York City. Making sure that it was fun is arguably more important than the combat because using his webs to traverse Manhattan is what makes Spider-Man unique as a hero. Luckily,Insomniac did just as good of a job on this as they did for the combat.
The Story: While not particularly awful, the predictable story and jarring ending subtract from what is an almost flawless game mechanically.
Is Marvel’s Spider-Man a revelation in Superhero video games? No. But it’s still a damn good time. And that’s fine. Not every game has to be a cinematic masterpiece. Hopefully, the inevitable sequel will have a better plot. If not, chances are it will still be a great game thanks to the magnificent combat and movement.