Wow is this game fun.
Much like the Spider-Man games that came before it, Insomniac Games’ version of everyone’s favorite wall-crawler is at its most fun and relaxing when you’re controlling the titular superhero and just traversing the streets of Manhattan via webs. The controls are easy to grasp, and the animation is surprisingly fluid and responsive to your commands. So much so that when you inevitably make mistakes (go the wrong way, zig when you should have zagged, etc.) you are acutely aware they are your mistakes — this isn’t the game screwing with you.
The combat in the game takes massive inspiration from Rocksteady’s series of Batman-themed “Arkham” games. That is, lots of swift, easy to handle combos controlled by a few button presses. Press the square button on the controller once for a simple attack, twice for another attack type, three times for another. Press a button quickly followed by another button for unique moves. And so on. But this isn’t your arcade fighter controls, mind you, everything is simple and based more on patterns and timing than your dual-handed finger dexterity. It works very well.
The game world (most of Manhattan’s island, but not all of it) is vast and riddled with things to do. There are, of course, your primary objectives to progress the story, but also a plethora of side quests you can run for citizens and police alike; you can take down gang hideouts where multiple waves of a particular enemy type will try to stop you; you can simply traverse various city landmarks and photograph them. All of these activities and more will earn you various in-game “tokens” that you utilize to unlock different suits for Spidey and different gadgets to use in combat. As you progress through the game you earn experience which translates into skill points that can be exchanged for various new abilities.
The graphics are very well done. As mentioned, the animations and reactions are very fluid and seamless, and the cityscape is well done. Granted, if you take time to look into highrise windows while swinging around, you’ll notice numerous duplicated rooms — not just between buildings, but in a single building. Likewise the average citizens milling about town are repeated often. These are forgivable, I think, given that you can swing endlessly through the streets of the city without loading screens. The game is enhanced for PlayStation 4 Pro, with 4K resolution and HDR color.
I will avoid discussing the plot of the main story. If you want to know it, play the game. Suffice to say several versions of famous Spider-Man nemeses show up to wreak havoc, and you have to stop them. It is a superhero game after all.
Not that everything is perfect. I’ve had at least two crashes of the game on my PlayStation 4 Pro system. Spider-Man’s quips, while numerous, get pretty repetitive, as do the remarks by the various unnamed baddies. Combat missions offer bonuses for completing certain moves or actions during the fight, but I suspect this was done to try to mitigate the fact that the combat missions are all essentially the same. Boss fights are fun, but often get relegated to quick-time events (although you can turn these off in the game’s Accessibility menu, which is a nice touch). There are several missions that you run as other characters (for example, Mary Jane Watson), which for me ruined my immersion into the story a bit. I came here to be Spider-Man, not anyone else, and these other character missions (all part of the main plot line) take a bit away from that.
Thankfully though, the good outweighs the bad. If you are a Spider-Man fan, this is a must buy. If you enjoy superhero games, particularly the Batman “Arkham” series, you will most likely really enjoy this game. Its fun, easy to pick up, hard to master, and gorgeous to look at.