Spider-Man 2 is the yardstick for how Peter Parker's arachnophile alter-ego should be handled in modern media... twice, actually. The 2004 game made the simple act of swinging around Manhattan feel incredible and has been fondly remembered ever since, while the Sam Raimi movie on which that game was loosely based remains a cinematic high point for Spidey, packed with explosive set pieces and some interesting character development on both sides of the good/evil divide. Modern technology allows Insomniac to draw from the best of both those worlds and produce what must be the quintessential Spider-Man experience, a stunningly recreated New York the playground for players to explore with that oh-so-satisfying web swinging. It feels a little basic at first, with a similar mechanic to Assassin's Creed's 'hold R2 to parkour' used for both ground- and web-based movement. But that's the beauty of the system in place here – Spidey-loving kids can pick up a pad and feel like Spider-Man just by holding a single button while moving, but more adept players will learn to time web pulls, swings and releases to build crazy momentum, chaining these moves with wall-runs and other tricks in one seamless and endlessly satisfying core movement loop. Young or old, rookie or pro, it's fun just to 'be' Spider-Man.
Open world game design has evolved a lot in the 15-odd years since Spider-Man 2, but this is one aspect in which Insomniac seems to want to play things pretty safe. The game's structure is dangerously familiar – explore the open map, activate towers to fill it in and highlight optional extras like side missions, mob hideouts and dynamic crime events in the world, then visit each icon in turn to partake in the expected array of combat challenges, races, and other busywork between the main story beats. That's not to say it's bad per se, and the jaw-dropping visuals and excellent movement tools even do a pretty good job of painting over the rusty old framework the game is built around, disguising it expertly at the best of times. Even the basic systems are gamified to the nth degree – while recent open world highlights such as Breath Of The Wild and Horizon task players with rounding up materials to craft items and upgrades, Parker somehow manages to forge his new toys out of things like Crime Tokens. Yes, Crime Tokens... not only is the old adage finally proven to be incorrect as crime clearly does pay, but it apparently pays so well as to support its own currency. It's very daft. Functional, sure, but daft nonetheless.
Production values are also through the roof, and the visual fidelity is doubly impressive when you consider the verticality of the city and the crazy speed at which you can freely zip around it. Attention to detail is just insane – you'll notice bad guys you booted off buildings left hanging from the sides so as not to straight-up murder them, explore lavishly detailed back alleys that have no real reason to exist, and even notice Spidey deliver lines differently while exerting himself. All of this just plays into the idea of creating the ultimate Spider-Man experience, and that's exactly what this is. Marvel's Spider-Man nails all of the cinematic splendour of webhead's finest silver screen moments and offers all the key elements that made the classic Spider-games so entertaining, all wrapped up in one stunning package.
- Swinging feels spot on
- Simple yet entertaining combat
- Some neat twists and turns
- Feels somewhat padded
- Drowning in open world tropes
- Stealth sections aren't great
Marvel's Spider-Man Review (PS4)
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