With A Great Game, Comes Great Possibilities. A review of Insomniac’s Spider-Man on Playstation 4.
I grew up with superheroes being a big part of my life, much like most children I would assume. My earliest memories of Spider-Man are the 90’s series which along with X-Men also of the ’90s shaped the beginning of my love for Marvel. Along with that came the side-scrolling Spider-Man game for the SNES. It may not seem like much now but those of us who played it definitely remember the thrill of being tasked with the “great responsibility” of being Spider-Man even if it was in a video game. Fast forward to the year 2000 and the web-slinger had broken out of his side-scrolling saving the world duties and had busted out into an open-world sandbox video game with Spider-Man on Playstation 1. This game also based on the 90’s series The Amazing Spider-Man and powered by the Tony Hawk Pro Skater kicked open the door for how AMAZING Spider-Man was to me. This game also led to one of my favorite Spider-Man entries with Spider-Man: Mysterio’s Menace on the Gameboy Advance. Now, in 2018 Insomniac games brought us their take on Spider-Man. I will say that in my opinion, it felt like the inspiration for the formula of the gameplay was definitely the Playstation 1 entry. At the same time, it doesn’t seem like it would make sense to make a Spider-Man game in any other way. In this entry we find Spider-Man dealing with hardship both as Spider-Man and Peter Parker. Obviously, there is never a shortage of crime and villains in New York City, and as he gracefully accepts the responsibility of protecting his city it does cause Peter Parker’s life to become unbalanced. We see this in his rocky relationship with Mary Jane Watson, his financial troubles and disconnection with loved ones(Aunt May) & his work. The one great thing Insomniac did was just how honest of an approach they gave Peter. He approached his issues just how you’d expect Spider-Man to, by use of sarcasm, humor, and relentless inner broodiness. Plot It wouldn’t be a Spider-Man game if he wasn’t facing multiple enemies at once. This time we find Spider-Man revolving around the slow descent of Dr. Otto Octavius into his alter ego Dr. Octopus. They are working tirelessly to bring new technology that will help many and with a troubling relationship with Norman Osbourne(OF COURSE) due to some history among the two characters there are roadblocks, to say the least, and well any web-head can tell you what this story leads to. This is one of many chapters you get to experience in this game. The main plot of course revolves around Mister Negative’s attempt to control the city with the help of his Demons. I am sure by now many people have played this game but for the sake of the one person who hasn’t had the chance to play this game, I will keep this spoiler-free and just say this. This game captures the personalities of these characters phenomenally well. It has one of the best scripts I have ever seen in a video game, worthy of a feature film. The plot itself takes many twists and turns, partly due to the side stories but also because it takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions. I repeat a rollercoaster of EMOTIONS. It will give you the fun, fast-paced, light-hearted Spider-Man we love and it also delves into an usually dark and pretty heavy plotline that was shocking and impactful. Gameplay The gameplay is a key element in how enjoyable the game is as a whole. Let’s begin with the city. Insomniac does a wonderful job of designing NYC with a blend of city landmarks combined with landmarks from the Marvel Universe. The steep rooftops, the NYC traffic, and all the New Yorkers, which you can interact with at a minimal level all bring together the aesthetic that is Spider-Man’s neighborhood. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Spider-Man game without some web-swinging and although it’s pretty simple mechanics, Insomniac does give you a few things to play around with such as shooting a web forward to lunge yourself forward and even some controls for in air stuns(backflip, etc.) When your feet manage to touch the ground you have the option of running at what feels like the super speed at times which can sometimes be a nuisance with small spaces or Spider-Man lunging into a wall because you couldn’t stop in time. I will take my fair share of the blame that some of those instances were user errors. You can wall crawl of course as well as perch yourself on edges of the building, hang upside down, if you have seen Spider-Man do it before then you most likely will be able to do it in this game and the best part is it plays a role in your combat style which I will talk about below. Combat in this game can be fun, but it can also be unforgiving. Insomniac gives us literally dozens of gadgets, abilities compiled with an almost RPG-style upgrade system that gives you the ability to customize your fighting style to what works for you. You like stealth? You can get by with that in most situations. You like chaos? There’s an option for that too. I myself am chaos. I learned early on that I would not be able to jump into any situation and start flinging trash cans with my webbing and circus kicking my way into any fight. It took some planning or at least understanding of all your abilities and gadgets made available to you to be able to react appropriately to the situation or the game would humble you. This worked rather well for the longevity of the game to be honest. Not being able to steamroll through any enemy and rather observing them and their patrol patterns to see who would be your first victim made the combat more time-consuming but also more fulfilling. Once the web hit the fan and it was time to hurt some thugs there’s a very familiar acrobatic fighting style to Spider-Man. Insomniac also added a counter feature in which if you pressed a button at the right time you could counter “most” moves and after a few upgrades in your skill tree would even lead to knocking out your enemy. Those of you who have played Shadows of Mordor/War will be familiar with this combat feature and the animation attached to the counters are amazing. Another feature similar to SOM & SOW is the “execution” feature. Obviously, we can’t have Spider-Man decapitating bank robbers so this is a friendlier approach where you perform finishing moves to apprehend your enemy that is suitable for your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Verdict Whether you’re a Marvel fan, Spider-Man fan, open-world gaming fan, or just a human being with a heart I can guarantee you will enjoy this game. It brings the heart of Spider-Man to our console with sarcasm and wit along with fast-paced combat that will hook you. It’s not a perfect game but it’s pretty close. The combat may frustrate some but trust me if you take some time and tailor the abilities and gadgets to your needs you will come out on top of any fight.