“Marvel’s Spider-Man” Swings Above the Competition: Review


Alex Jowanovitz

SWINGING ABOUT TOWN. Spider-Man snaps a selfie during his daily web-swinging antics. This was created through the game’s photo mode, which can be used to take amazing screenshots on the Playstation 4. The mode has a variety of features like borders and stickers, and it seems that both fans and critics, including IGN’s Jonathon Dornbush, are having a lot of fun with the feature. “Insomniac Games has taken the mode to a delightful new level,” Dornbush said.

Nine years ago, video game developer Rocksteady delivered a new kind of superhero game.  “Batman: Arkham Asylum” was universally praised for immersing the player in the world of the popular DC superhero.

The aim of that game was to make the player feel like they were Batman in every way possible, from the combat to the incorporation of the Caped Crusader’s detective skills.

Now, developer Insomniac Games aims to do something similar with a certain web-slinger from the Marvel comics universe, with the recently released “Marvel’s Spider-Man” on Sony’s PlayStation 4.

My initial fear with the game was not that it was not going to be good, it was that it would be too similar to the previously mentioned “Arkham” games.  For the most part, the two games are thankfully vastly different, but they do share some common elements.

The combat system in “Spider-Man” is very heavily influenced by the “Arkham” games.  The combat is fluid, sharp, and satisfying like its counterpart, but with a lot more web-based attacks and gadgets.

Insomniac really strived to give Spider-Man an authentic feel, and they absolutely delivered.  The wall-crawler controls and handles beautifully, and is much more immersive than what Rocksteady ever did with Batman.

The web-swinging is perhaps the highlight of the game.  Taking cues from the revolutionary web-swinging mechanic from the “Spider-Man 2” video game, swinging through a realistic New York City is absolutely exhilarating.

Spider-Man is able to wall crawl, swing from, and acrobat his way through every surface in the game.  It really does feel like you can do anything a spider can.

What makes the web-swinging stand out is how intricate it really is.  Spider-Man has several different animations for when he swings, which makes every trip around the city a new and unique experience.

While the physics of the web-swinging is not as realistic as those in the “Spider-Man 2” game, it is something I tend to overlook because they do not need to be. Because they are not as realistic, I truly feel like a superhero.

I could talk about the web-swinging all day, but I really want to get into the biggest surprise for me and what really sets this game apart from the “Arkham” games: the story.

Instead of focusing on high school aged Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) like the most recent movies do, the story deals with Parker as an adult, having already been Spider-Man for eight years.

This is a great change of pace from other Spider-Man media, especially the video games, where Parker would have to worry about going to school.  The player is given complete freedom of what Spider-Man does and when he does it.

After taking down the villain Kingpin, a new threat emerges in the form of Mister Negative and his army of demons.  It is up to Spider-Man and his friends to save the day.

While the plot on paper seems very standard for a superhero game, Insomniac uses this template to tell a gripping and action-packed narrative that is as much about Peter Parker as it is about Spider-Man.

There are several sections where you get to play as Parker, interacting with characters that he gets to have real relationships with, as opposed to a professional one.

This is a brilliant move because we normally do not get to see this side of the superhero in these types of games.  It allows to connect with the hero on a personal level, and feel for them when something happens to them.

I was thoroughly invested with this portrayal of Parker and Spider-Man. Actor Yuri Lowenthal is perfectly cast and might be my favorite actor to play the famous superhero in any media.

The supporting cast was also phenomenal. Mary Jane Watson and Miles Morales made excellent companions, and you can actually play as them at certain points, too.

The villains were also a huge standout.  I do not want to get into spoiler territory, but we actually get to see one of the villains start as a friend to Parker and evolves into the menacing baddie.

There are several supporting villains too, including classic Spider-Man rogues Vulture, Rhino, and Electro. These allow for some fun boss battles later on in the game.

In the “Batman Arkham” games, while players do get to fully immerse themselves as Batman, they are not given an insight into the man behind the mask.  We never delve into the psyche of Bruce Wayne.

There are a lot of villains in these games too, but most are overshadowed by Joker’s heavy presence.  Other classic villains like Poison Ivy and Riddler feel underused.

“Marvel’s Spider-Man” fixes both of these problems by immersing the player as both Spider-Man and Peter Parker, and giving each of the villains present their own time to shine.

While the heavy “Arkham” influence is there, especially in the combat, I feel that there is way too much of a difference between the two that they stand apart from each other.

“Marvel’s Spider-Man” provides the quintessential Spider-Man experience. Taking the best elements from the comics, movies, and previous games, Insomniac has delivered in giving fans what they were hoping for and more.

An incredible story, top-notch performances, and extremely fun web-swinging gameplay push the “Arkham” games off the top as the superhero game to beat.  Like Spider-Man, it is truly amazing.