As one pop culture’s biggest franchises Spider-Man includes countless comic books, tv shows, blockbuster films, and video games, with the latest addition to Spider-Man’s ongoing legacy being Marvel’s Spider-Man, developed by Insomniac Games.
Being the latest in a long line of Spider-Man games, many of which have been great (and admittedly many haven’t), means there is a lot to learn from, but also a lot to go up against. Thankfully Marvel’s Spider-Man makes being the best Spider-Man video game look easy, and thanks to a number of unique factors and features is by far the most in depth, developed, and immersive Spider-Man video game there is.
Web Swinging, Free Running, and Traversal:
The heart of any Spider-Man game is always going to come down to the how Spidey gets around the city, and with so many Spider-Man games having already done it, it making the system feel new was always going to be a struggle. That is until this latest Spider-Man game proved all of the other games had it wrong (or at least didn’t have the technical capabilities to get it right).
The traversal system in Marvel’s Spider-Man combines some incredible web swinging (that has every web the player throws stick to something), intricate free running and some clever zip line moves, totalling to an ingenious system that manages to feel so organic and immersive that you start to take it for granted almost straight away.
It’s a travelling system that doesn’t just look and feel great, it’s practical as well, having Spider-Man whip around the city at speed allows him to chase down cars and drones, defuse timed bombs, and swing in and out of combat instantaneously. You can really tell that getting the traversal system right is where Insomniac started with Marvel’s Spider-Man, building everything else around it as a solid foundation.
Lots (and Lots) of Collectibles and Easter Eggs:
Another hallmark of Spider-Man games (and open world exploration games in general) is collectibles, and as we’ve seen with other great superhero games like the Arkham franchise, they provide the perfect place to build out a version of an established superhero world.
And no one could argue that Spider-Man doesn’t have enough collectibles, there are Backpacks which hold pieces of Peter’s past adventures, explaining more of his past eight years as a superhero, Photo Landmarks which have Peter take some snapshots of both real world and Marvel comics locations, Daily Bugle Covers, which detail the headlines of the main story events as the game progresses, and Black Cat Stakeouts leading to tracking down Black Cat herself (which leads into the games upcoming DLC).
What makes the collectibles in Marvel’s Spider-Man that much more impressive is that although there loads, at no point does it feel overwhelming, instead each new set is slowly unlocked over the course of the game and with each new one Marvel’s Spider-Man does something very rare in making you actually want to go out and collect them all (without it ever feeling like a drag).
On top of the collectibles there are countless references to the wider Marvel Universe, with a Wakandan Embassy, Avengers Tower, Alias Investigations, and Nelson and Mudoch Attorneys at Law being just a few. The Marvel world that Insomniac have started to show off is one of the most impressive, and detailed there is.
The City is Alive:
With the ever increasing firepower in each generation of consoles, newer games can do a lot more with open worlds than they could even a few years ago, and Marvel’s Spider-Man is the perfect showcase of what a modern open world game can look and feel like. Not only is the city filled with a great traversal system, lots of collectibles and plenty of detailed buildings, there is a fully fledged traffic system with thousands of cars enjoying the painstaking reality of driving in New York, alongs with numerous citizens strolling the streets.
Spider-Man doesn’t take the Arkham route and give a story based reason as to why the city needs to be evacuated, and thus having only small groups of enemies and people dotted around the map, instead the ground level is constantly populated by cars and people, all of whom can interact and react to Spider-Man. The cars stop and beep their horn if Spider-Man runs in front of or lands of them, the npc’s wave at Spider-Man, shout to him, high five him, and can even ask him for selfies. In short, this version of New York really does fell alive, making it that much more immersive and fun to be in.
Just The Facts With J. Jonah Jameson:
J. Jonah Jameson, traditionally the editor in chief of the Daily Bugle, plays a key role in a number of Spider-Man stories, ranging form Peter’s employer whilst working at the Bugle, to being vocally against the ‘menace’ of Spider-Man.
In Marvel’s Spider-Man Jameson has been fired from the Daily Bugle at some point during Peter’s first eight years as Spider-Man, but not one to stay quite for long Jameson now hosts a podcast ‘Just The Facts With J. Jonah Jameson’, which is one the best parts of the game.
Snippets from episodes start automatically playing through Spider-Man’s mask as he swings around the city, and we get to hear more of Jameson’s rants on Spider-Man, including him taking calls from listeners and in variably trying to argue with them about why Spider-Man didn’t really help them or save their life, and in fact caused the danger in the first place.
But what really makes Just the Facts stand out is how diverse and detailed the system really is. At first it seems like a fun but somewhat generic system of random episodes playing at certain points, with people praising the various actions and exploits of Spider-Man, but where it really shines is how it adapts to what the player actually does.
If you decide to ignore one of the various Crime in Progress around the city, shortly after a caller to Jameson’s show will mention how they saw you ignoring a crime. Small details like this turn an already fun addition to the game into one of it’s more in depth and detailed flourishes.
Marvel’s Spider-Man almost has two photo modes, the first is in game, and sees Peter taking photos of crimes in missions as well as landmarks all over the city as Peter decides to get back into photography. It’s a neat and simple system that provides an extra dynamic to some otherwise simple missions, and also shows off a number of the games best easter eggs.
The other photo mode is actually called ‘Photo Mode’ and like many other games of this generation allows you to hit pause, and enter a fully mobile image capturing mode that lets you pan around the area, pose and frame the shot, add filters and stickers, and even lets Peter take selfies, totalling to a pretty advanced extra mode that adds a lot of fun to the game.
With twenty eight unlockable suits (a full of guide of which, along with their origins and how to get them, you can find Here) each with their own unique look, powers, and origins, the in-game suits are a key mechanic of how you play the game.
Along with various looks for Spider-Man (that include suits form the comics, MCU, and some completely unique designs) the suit powers that come with most suits allow for a special move to unleash on the bad guys once the focus meter is filled. These powers ranges from the Iron Spider Arms which pop out and help Spider-Man take out the bad guys, to moves like ‘Web Blossom’ which sees Spider-Man jump up into the air, spin around and fire a series of web projectiles at any surrounding bad guys.
The variation in powers really provides an extra dynamic to the gameplay, massively altering how you deal with bigger groups and stealth situations. There is also some more fun powers like ‘Equaliser’ which means both enemies and Spider-Man go down in one hit, and ‘Quips’ which lets Spidey unleash some of his best jokes on the various thugs of New York (with no actual damage done).
A Whole New (and Yet Familiar) World:
On top of all of a load of impressive features what pushes Marvel’s Spider-Man into the realms of being a truly great game is how it balance the old and the new perfectly.
It’s a Spider-Man eight years into his career, and a number of expected elements like Uncle Ben’s death, a troubled romance with MJ, Peter having worked at the Daily Bugle, and even enemies like Kingpin, Electro, Rhino, Scorpion, and Vulture are all in there, and yet other key parts of Spider-Man’s story are still unfolding.
The game starts out with Peter Working for a not yet super villain Doctor Octavius, Norman Osborn is New York’s Mayor and although he’s definitely up to something, he isn’t the Green Goblin (yet), there is also no sign of Venom (although there are definitely hints to both Eddie Brock and the Symbiote), and so some massive parts of Spider-Man’s story are still to come.
And yet Marvel’s Spider-Man does a great job of balancing this new take with just enough familiar elements to make feel accessible but fresh. Not only is the game a great entry point to this corner of the Spider-verse, but a great introduction to this adaptation of the Marvel universe, which will hopefully have many more games to come.
For more of our Marvel’s Spider-Man coverage, check out the full review Here, the Top 25 Easter Eggs, Cameos and References Here, a full explanation of the twenty eight suits, and how to get them Here, and The Top 20 Marvel Universe Locations to Visit Here.