After its unveiling at E3 2016 in Los Angeles, we’ve had quite the wait for Sony Playstation’s next big exclusive. Developed by Insomniac, the studio behind classics such as Spyro the Dragon and Ratchet & Clank, this fresh new take on Marvel’s most famous spandex-clad superhero has being surrounded by a Rhino-sized level of hype. So, does it deliver? Has Insomniac nailed that ‘friendly neighbourhood’ feel and do non-PS4 owners need to reevaluate what they spend their savings on? Read on to find out what we think in our Spider-Man review.
“…as Peter Parker, it feels like you’ve still a lot to learn when it comes to balancing your personal life with your alter ego.”
To the delight of many, this is a brand new take on the Spider-Man universe and isn’t tied to any pre-existing film or TV show. This clean start has given Insomniac incredible creative freedom whilst still making sure to stay true to what makes Spider-Man, ‘Spider-Man’. Right from the start, we’re introduced to a more seasoned Peter Parker who’s more masterful at fighting crime and is a lot more adept at controlling his powers.
As Peter Parker though, it feels like you’ve still a lot to learn when it comes to balancing your personal life with your alter ego. Mary Jane, or MJ, plays a large part in Peter’s life in this game, for better or worse, along with Aunt May who Peter continues to look out for. You’ve also got a job to hold down (with whom I won’t say to avoid spoilers) and rent to pay so we really do get a insight to what it’s actually like to live the life of a superhero who still needs to make a living!
There’s some great character development, on all fronts, which help give the story a real credibility and Insomniac have crafted a story that stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the best comic-book narratives out there. It’s well paced with highs and lows nicely dotted throughout. The term, ‘playing a movie’, is quite a cheesy one but there were moments it truly felt like we were controlling our own Spider-Man blockbuster.
“Being able to swing into a crowd of thugs and systematically level each of them with acrobatic back-flips, uppercuts and well-timed web-blasts is intense, engaging and incredibly fun.”
A game could have an incredible story and stunning graphics but, if it doesn’t ‘play well’, it’s really not worth the time. This aspect, probably more than any other, was something Insomniac knew they had to absolutely nail to have any chance at standing up to gamers’ expectations, and thankfully, they have.
If you’ve watched any of the pre-launch trailers, you’ll get a taste of what to expect when it comes to controlling one of the most agile and acrobatic superheroes out there and, having swung, punched and skydived my way around a digital New York for over 50 hours now, I can definitely say it only gets better with time. The parkour system Insomniac has developed can been seen as a significant evolution from what they created in their Xbox One exclusive, Sunset Overdrive, which was impressive to begin with.
As you swing at breakneck speed through the streets of Manhattan, your ability to weave through, up and over its skyscrapers is extremely smooth and enjoyable. It looks like Insomniac has developed a system who’s only goal is to keep you moving no matter what and there were very few moments where we lost our momentum whilst traversing across the city.
When it comes to combat, it appears the team took quite a bit of inspiration from the Batman: Arkham games which is by no means a bad thing. The fighting is smooth and intuitive and, as you develop your skills and abilities, it only gets more enjoyable.
Being able to swing into a crowd of thugs and systematically level each of them with acrobatic back-flips, uppercuts and well-timed web-blasts is intense, engaging and incredibly fun. You also have the ability to use the environment to your advantage, either by pulling down street-side scaffolding onto unsuspecting baddies or ripping the door of a nearby car to launch at another bunch of thugs. When all of this comes together, it has an extremely good flow to it and I found myself actively looking for fights as I swung around the city!
There are upgrade systems in place for everything from your suit, your weapons/gadgets to Spider-Man’s abilities themselves. As you gain XP from completing story-line missions and various challenges, you level up as a character and unlock skill points which allow you to upgrade the various types of things you can do as Spider-Man. Broken into 3 distinct trees, you can upgrade your character however you feel. There are also an almost dizzying amount of side quests and challenges to complete (almost too many if we’re being honest) as you progress through the story line with everything from chasing down escaped pigeons to taking photos of New York’s most famous landmarks.
“…with Spider-Man, they really have raised it to the next level.”
We’re now almost 5 years into this ‘console generation’ and, like previous generations, it’s apparent that developers are learning how to get the absolute best out of their respective chosen consoles and Insomniac is no different. Having previously launched the stunningly remastered Ratchet & Clank on PS4 in 2016, we could already tell Insomniac knew what they were doing when it came to getting the most out of both the PS4 and PS4 Pro but, with Spider-Man, they really have raised it to the next level.
Their recreation of one of the most famous cities in the world is truly something. From the micro to macro level, everything is incredibly detailed and well designed. The character models are some of the best we’ve seen to date with stunning lighting that only adds to the overall package. We know Insomniac has been getting a lot of flack lately about an alleged ‘#PuddleGate’ visual downgrade but we can attest, especially as we’ve played through it on a PS4 Pro and 4K HDR screen, the game looks spectacular (and has plenty of puddles around the place).
One thing we do wish was implemented is a day/night/dynamic weather cycle as, right now, as you progress through the game and complete the main story missions, it transitions to set times of day and night with different weather types. They all look great to be fair but we would have liked to have seen a proper 24 hours/dynamic weather system in place.
So, what is there to say about Sony’s biggest exclusive available right now? The hype around this title was pretty immense and it really needed to be something special to deliver. Insomniac, in partnership with Marvel, were well aware that they were dealing with one of the most famous superheroes of all time and needed to make sure they got it right, and I, for one, feel they have. The story is engaging and well structured, the gameplay is enjoyable and addictive and the stunning visuals bring the whole thing together. Spider-Man on PS4 really is ‘for the players.’
A review code for Spider-Man was supplied to TheEffect.Net from Sony Playstation Ireland and was reviewed on a Playstation 4 Pro system.
Spider-Man for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro launches Friday, September 7th 2018 and you can pre-order it here.