Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Gaming

Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review

Insomniac has given us a near-perfect web-slinging experience. The game features a refreshing plot, fluid combat and beautiful concrete jungle to explore

Reviewed on PS4

Spider-Man is one of the most iconic super-heroes of all time and was my favourite character growing up; as a fan, I’ve played every game since Spider-Man 2 releasing way back in 2004.

Unfortunately, the recent few outings of our favourite web-slinger weren’t all that spectacular and when Sony’s new exclusive made waves upon release, it really made me wonder if the game will just be another product of hype and turn out to be overrated. I’ve finally got the chance to play it myself two years later and I’ve got to say, it has never felt so good to be wrong. Here’s our spoiler-free retrospective review.

Story

Think about the best Spider-Man comic, movie and video game you know. Now add them all up, and that’s how good the story is this time around. 

Since his debut in 1962, Spider-Man has become a recognizable character whose story is well-known universally. Insomniac Games’ refreshing take skips on what we already know but at the same time, doesn’t make the same mistake as the recent movie reboot of erasing all the trials and tribulations that make Peter Parker Spider-Man. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review

Peter is no longer a high-schooler, rather a twenty-something youngster living on his own and has a real job. He’s a veteran who’s been at this Spider-Man gimmick for quite some time now and he’s gotten hang of it. However, what he doesn’t have the hang of is paying rent on time and his relationship with Mary Jane. And this awkwardness of him trying to figure out adulthood is even more entertaining than his adolescent days.

The vision Insomniac had while reimagining the character is perfectly brought to life with the stellar voice acting performance by Yuri Lowenthal, making this one of the best portrayals of Spidey, second only to Tobey Maguire in the Sam Raimi trilogy. The writing is intentionally awkward and quirky, rendering the script as absolutely perfect. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review

The story boasts an ensemble cast of super-villains and the game does do a particularly good job in introducing some of the lesser-known villains to audiences, as well as representing the more well-known ones in a perfect fashion. While omitting the web-slinger’s origin story, the game takes the opportunity to tell us the stories of these villains and the supporting characters like Mary Jane, Miles Morales and Norman Osborn; this pays off in the long run as players feel for them deeply by the time the main story ends.

The story also has more depth, and many at times you see the characters facing moral dilemmas; nothing is as simple as black or white. This leads to some interesting character moments and truly bombastic boss battles, although we wish that the boss battles were more evenly spaced out during the course of the main story.

We strongly encourage players to check out the side missions and activities as they are interesting, tie-in well with the main story and are well worth your time. It also contains a hidden-gem in terms of one of the best boss-battles the game has to offer.

With all the risks Insomniac took trying to make Spider-Man’s story their own, the result is not just one of the best Spider-Man stories in a video game, but perhaps the best Spider-Man story ever told period.

Gameplay

Gameplay usually becomes the deciding factor for super-hero video games, and it’s undeniable how much influence Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham trilogy has had on them in the past decade. Noticeably, most of the good ones tend to play it safe by closely emulating Batman Arkham’s combat; that’s not exactly the case for Marvel’s Spider-Man.

While Insomniac has openly admitted that they’ve taken a lot of inspiration from the former, Spider-Man’s combat has much more depth and hence players need to use much tact while tackling different situations and enemy types. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review

The action is fast-paced, combat is fun and fluid, and Peter Parker’s acrobatic fighting style aids him in making swift moments to dodge enemy attacks with finesse.

However, the game does have a learning curve as it gets straight into action from the very beginning and doesn’t introduce and explain its gameplay systems very well. Things get really interesting once he launches enemies into the air, and the game encourages players to take this route as certain enemy types can only be defeated in this manner.

Air combat becomes a vital tool for Spidey as he can die after taking just a few hits, encouraging the player to use tact and change up strategies by accessing each different situation. The camera during air combat becomes problematic and you usually end up falling down the building you were fighting on due to your sight being blocked by an object. The focus you gain during combat can be used to execute badass finishing moves or to regenerate health by healing.

There are plenty of cinematic action set-pieces that rely heavily on quick-time-events, and these are actually a bane as they build tense moments during exciting fights.

Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review

Of course, for those who don’t prefer going head-in always have the choice to go the silent route. Players can choose to distract and single out to silently take down enemies or use the help of an arsenal of gadgets to cut out their work for them. Gadgets become a game-changer and they usually came in aid whenever I was in a pickle. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review

The game showcases one of the best suit selections ever in a Spider-Man game, and even though the new white spider suit looks absolutely gorgeous, I found myself usually using the iconic Sam Raimi suit to live out my nostalgic fantasies. Since each suit has an associated suit power, the option to use a particular suit power with any suit you like once purchased is a total blessing. Additionally, you can also purchase suit mods that best compliment your fighting style.

Of course what we’re all here for ultimately is for the web-slinging and the Spider-Man experience, and they do deliver a near-perfect experience on a level previously unmatched by any game. The game’s skill-tree progression system dedicates a separate skill-tree named ‘Webslinger’ solely to enhance this further.

The game also features multiple-playable characters such as Mary Jane and Miles Morales. Their stealth sequences always keep you on edge and every action is purposeful. This is a cliché at this point but, we never expected to enjoy playing as Peter Parker so much, but the dualism is played out nicely, we felt the same amount of satisfaction while correcting the voltage fluctuation of faulty lab equipment before a big presentation as we did when stopping a truck full of armed criminals.

These puzzles are excellently made and with side activities like Taskmaster’s challenges and Oscorp research missions, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer gameplay variety and have plenty to do after you complete the main story.

Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Visuals

Spider-Man’s visuals look absolutely remarkable, even on a base PS4. The environments are richly detailed, the character models look fantastic, although a few of them do look a bit cartoonish, and the motion capture is impeccable. The draw distances are impressive even when you’re soaring the skies at high speeds. Rarely do you ever encounter issues that take away from the experience. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review

The visuals look especially stunning during cutscenes and the camera has a really Hollywood sort of feel to it. The lighting beautifully reflects off clothes and objects and the silhouettes created by shadows is as close to real-life as possible. 

It could’ve easily been argued that since players will spend most of their time in the air the details at the ground level don’t matter, but they’ve gone the extra mile and their efforts has fared a fruitful result. The world feels alive and lived-in, and we get the most true-to-life depiction of New York City in a video game yet. For more on Marvel’s Spider-Man, check out the five things that Insomniac gets right about New York City by clicking here

We still did notice Spider-Man walking through a wall once and a few objects disappearing during combat, but this was just one isolated situation and hence not worth mentioning. What really irked us is this weird bug that reverts Spider-Man’s suit to the white spider during the few climatic cutscenes regardless of which one you were wearing before it began. Its puzzling how this was overlooked during the final tests. Marvel’s Spider-Man is still one of the most-optimized games on the PS4 and one of the best-looking games of this generation. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Audio & Music

The audio and sound design of Marvel’s Spider-Man shines during all the high notes and the low ones. The audio team at Insomniac has produced some of the most satisfying web sound effects that are gratifying to hear whether the spider’s web is attaching to one of the tallest buildings in the city as Spider-Man traverses through it or when he webs up a baddie to the wall. 

The orchestral score composed by John Paesano signifies every victory and big moment of the game in epic fashion and sets the tone of the game right from the beginning cutscene. When you start web-slinging, the music would slowly build up and increase the tempo, and as Spider-Man lands, the music would transition into a finishing note instead of a screeching halt. Sometimes, it’s just the little things. 

Voice actor Yuri Lowenthal’s efforts are truly commendable as Spider-Man talking as he web-slings feels authentic to one who talks while performing under physical strain in contrast to the more relaxed tone while he isn’t. 

The one area they could’ve improved upon is the music during the puzzles. It’s not that the background score is bad, but sometimes when you’ve been stuck at a puzzle for about five to ten minutes, the repetitive nature of it gets really annoying and I found myself muting the audio during those segments just to allow myself space to think.

However, this is just a minor grievance and they’ve done an overall great job producing the sounds and recreating the essence of Spider-Man and New York authentically, and that’s what matters.

Web-Slinging Simulator 2018

We’ve all wondered at some point of our lives about what is really stopping us from pursuing a successful career in pizza delivery, and chances are that all of us arrive at the same exact conclusion: city traffic. Man, I bet I could up my pizza delivery game and become the kingpin at it if I had access to some form of aerial transport more economical than an aircraft. That’s why we all envy Spider-Man, amongst other things. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review

All jokes aside, the web-slinging is Spider-Man’s most unique and iconic characteristic that makes him different from other traditional superheroes. Numerous attempts have been made trying to capture the same feeling of adrenalin rush and the gush of wind splashing against his masked face in video games before, but the only noteworthy one until now is Treyarch’s attempt with Spiderman 2 back in 2004. 

Insomniac has given us a near-perfect web-slinging experience. Like seriously, the web-slinging in this game is so good that it’s worth buying it for just that alone. It isn’t too stiff like Beenox’s Amazing Spider-Man games and it isn’t too mobile to the point that you get motion-sickness by just looking at it.

They have struck the perfect balance between the two, and add to that the web-zip and air tricks and you truly feel like you can do “everything a spider can”. And the webs actually have to attach to something this time around.

The one and only issue that stops it from attaining perfection is that, the web slinging is restricted to only the right trigger button. After playing Spider-Man games for so many years it just feels natural to alternate between the two trigger buttons and this restriction spoils the rhythmic flow of traversing through the city.

Since this is the only issue, it seems like a quick fix that can be easily incorporated into future releases as the core web-slinging mechanic itself isn’t broken and works majestically. 

But First, Let Me Take a Selfie

The game has one of the best photo modes in a video game to date and even though we initially didn’t plan to, we ended up spending more time playing around with it than we’d like to admit. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review

There are tons of filters, frames and poses to choose from that really adds to the charm of the whole thing. When taking pictures on top of the tallest buildings in the city get too banal, you can always spend time with your fans posing for selfies, they’d be forever grateful to you for blessing their Instagram feeds.

Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review

What’s also interesting is that, you can also enter photo mode during combat sequences, as well as during cutscenes, and it’s not just restricted to when you’re playing as Spider-Man. This results in the player being able to create some comical snaps such as this:

Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review

And some absolutely badass ones like this:

Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review
Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Retrospective Review

It’s really just a blank canvas that lets you express your creativity without any limits. The fact that they spent so much time and effort into perfecting such an unimportant element of the game shows their dedication towards it and these efforts are truly commendable.

Verdict

Insomniac has given us such a near-perfect web-slinging experience that it’s worth buying the game for just it alone, but luckily for us, the game also features a refreshing plot, fluid combat and beautiful concrete jungle to explore.

Not only was the game was even better than some of the most anticipated titles that came out this year like Detroit: Become Human and God of War, which were also fantastic games, it also dethrones the Batman Arkham series as the best superhero video game of all time. This is the best time to be a PlayStation 4 owner, and this might just be Sony’s best exclusive yet. 

At AED 69, the Game of The Year edition of Spider-Man includes all the DLCs and is the perfect package. For more retrospective reviews, click here.

Bonus

Here are the top 10 funniest lines from Marvel’s Spider-Man:

9.6

Marvel's Spider-Man

Insomniac has given us a near-perfect web-slinging experience. The game features a refreshing plot, fluid combat and beautiful concrete jungle to explore. It dethrones the Batman Arkham series as the best superhero video game of all time and might just be Sony’s best exclusive yet.

THE GOOD
  • Fluid combat
  • Refreshing plot
  • Multiple playable characters
  • Near-perfect web-slinging
  • Lived-in open world
  • Replayability
THE BAD
  • Problematic combat camera
  • Uni-directional web-slinging
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