Marvel’s Spider-Man makes itself friendly to all, with well refined mechanics creating an amazing flow, and lets those who put in the extra effort to be spectacular.
Swinging Through Manhattan
Insomniac cuts right to the chase, throwing you right into the action. You learn the games mechanics on the go, starting with web-swinging (of course), and see them in practice right away. I was skeptical when watching gameplay trailers, but web-swinging was intuitive and easy to get a hold of. For a mechanic seemingly so complex, it is extremely well refined. I don’t remember blaming the game at any point (or at least not very often) for weird behaviour while travelling; I could always attribute awkward traversal to my own mistakes. It’s a mechanic that proved easy to learn, but took some effort to master, and felt rewarding doing so. I found myself avoiding fast travel just so I could swing around more and interact with the city, since it allowed for some good pace if done well. The core movement mechanic has such a great flow and feel, which blends well with other aspects of the game to make for an enjoyable experience all throughout. Coming into combat was a seamless transition, and it was still possible to maneuver the environment well without stepping away from the battle. And coming from a complete stop, it was very easy to get back in the swing of things.
Vigilante at Work
Combat is fun and variated. Mechanics were straight forward, but allowed for fun, interesting, and creative combos. Again, it’s a skill that’s easy to learn, but rewards players who do a little extra. Spider-Man’s arsenal of gadgets each become useful in their own scenarios, and you will for sure run into a handful of them, so there’s no need to worry about missing your chance. I sometimes found myself sticking to the same routine during combat, using the same attacks and gadgets, because it seems you can make anything work if you play it right. However, I would see again soon after, or even during the same fight, that variety in my approach kept things interesting and was much more beneficial all around. Among Spider-Man’s tools are his enemies, and the environment itself, which can be combined and used just as easily as the rest. Together with his tech, thinking just a little outside the box of hand-on-hand combat lets you make quick work of your foes.
Stealth combat, just like it’s counterpart, also had a great flow and pace that fit in with the rest of the game. It could easily be taken in a traditional manner, with a slow pace and patience, but after a few encounters and some practice it could be handled quickly, quietly, and elegantly. Spider-Man’s tech isn’t forgotten, still having some use while you’re perched up above, and can have a significant impact. Stealth combat really felt like a separate part of the game that one could easily learn, and spend time mastering it’s techniques, yet again. I tried taking on most encounters with stealth whenever there was the option, just to have more opportunities to hone my skills. A challenge found later on is speed running stealth sections, which I enjoyed the most, and show you what can be expected of a practiced player. There are also a number of useful ways to get up close and personal in case things go south, demonstrating how different aspects of the game blend so well together.
Before the fighting happens, there’s Spider-Man’s skill tree to take into account, as well as his suit modifications and ability. The skill tree is about as basic as it gets, simply getting a point to invest every time you level up. Just about everything there was to offer was useful, and through regular play you should be able to unlock most, if not all, the skills. Suit modifications and abilities were slightly harder to come by, since you needed to collect resources to craft them just like some of the gadgets and their upgrades. I found some resources to be scarce if you really try to get everything. However, I didn’t find many of them too attractive, and mainly stuck to what was provided in the beginning, feeling those were exactly what I needed. The game doesn’t encourage experimentation in this regard as well as it does with its combat and gadgets. I didn’t feel the need to try something new because my current setup wasn’t good enough, instead I questioned how any other choice could be better, since what I had going on was already great. Perhaps I’m at fault for not experimenting for the sake of it, but the game never had my back against the wall when it came to my choice of suit mods and ability.
Boss battles were well-crafted, with most of the highlight encounters taking place later in the story. A couple characters are fought after the completion of some side quests and challenges which I’d say are well worth the time. Each boss was met in a unique environment which played a role in the fight. None could be fought like regular enemies, so adapting to each new scenario was key, but also less difficult then I’d have hoped, having played on Spectacular, the hardest difficulty. (Since this was written a new Ultimate difficulty has been released)
Your Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man
The campaign of the game sees the vigilante superhero working with the police force to try and regain control of Manhattan. I found myself lost when it came to some of the finer details, and could only piece together the general motives of the characters involved. I veered off from the story missions quite often, becoming more immersed in my progression of conquering each district. Aside from the main plot, which is fragmented in my memory, I was intrigued in the character arc of Peter Parker. Insomniac did a good job at making a superhero relatable to regular people, showing his everyday personal struggles and how he deals with them. We get to see Peter learn and develop as a person, and how it reflects into him becoming a better hero.
Take A Breather
Throughout the main storyline, you will find yourself playing as Mary Jane or Miles Morales in some missions. This was interesting at first, being able to actually see and hear the story through their perspectives, but it got old rather quickly. It was a change in pace, which I always welcome, but I feel these sections weren’t executed well enough to warrant themselves all that necessary. Most of the events which transpired could’ve been put into a cutscene. The first few playable segments mainly consist of walking past enemies unnoticed, and only later in the story do you do anything mildly interesting with these characters. The idea has its potential, and I believe if they were developed more it could have been a fully-fledged, exciting portion of the game, but this is a game about Spider-Man and Peter Parker first and foremost.
Besides the main story, things slow down in a different type of way when you find yourself collecting some much needed resources, through side missions, activities, and collectibles. As a break from the main action, or action in general, these were very enjoyable. They were jobs suitable for Spider-Man, and they were taken care of in a Spidey manner. They don’t take you out of your flow, but in fact, let you maintain it. It’s possible to grab some collectibles while casually swinging by, but even if you are stopped, the game always makes it easy to get back up in the air. Many of the additional objectives on the map offer challenges for your approach to the situation, and reward you quite well for overcoming them, instead of ignoring them. The game doesn’t bombard you with everything at once, but gradually gives you new things to do throughout the game to let you focus on some, and give you more reasons to revisit and explore parts of the map.
Insomniac delivers a gratifying experience with astounding mechanical capabilities, and provides enjoyable content that lets players have fun in their own way, but also rewards those who perfect their skills. Although parts of the main quest have escaped my mind, I enjoyed everything Manhattan had to offer the vigilante Spider-Man, and loved following Peter Parker’s personal journey.