An amazingly woven web!
Spider-Man is my favourite super hero, and my affinity to Insomniac Games is similar to the nostalgic attachment many have with Nintendo. I grew up with these two major entities, both of them shaping my sense of identity and fostering this current passion of mine – Spider-Man: The Animated series and Spyro the Dragon were the definition of my childhood. The collaboration between Sony, Marvel, and Insomniac Games is nothing short of a match made in heaven; this amalgamated passion project is a conspicuous labor of love and is one of the best representations of everyone’s favourite webslinger. Marvel’s Spider-Man is a testament to Insomniac’s pristine quality and unparalleled level of passion, for their “underdog” pedigree is a perfect match for the thematic nature of Spider-Man. Insomniac Games has not only crafted one of the most satisfying gameplay experiences in recent memory, but they also created one of the most empathetic and emotional Spidey stories in the character’s on-screen history. While its narrative may fall onto familiar territory every now and then, it’s constantly filled with surprising twists and turns that range from the notably delightful to the undeniably heartbreaking, drastically flipping any preconceived notions of the established universe. It’s a fantastically well-told story that soars meteorically due to the excellent cast of characters and the strong performances behind them. Insomniac’s notable level of care and polish is also heavily reflected in Spider-Man’s gameplay, with each element striking a resounding, yet harmonious balance. Web-swinging and traversal is unabashedly invigorating, but also bears certain therapeutic tendencies. Combat is accessibly simple, yet has a profound layer of depth and complexity, which results in a brilliant system that oozes an unparalleled sense of style and fluidity. Each element is seamlessly weaved into a wonderful web that provided endless entertainment while providing an emotionally rich story that rarely pulled its punches. While a few derivative design choices and repetitive elements slightly hinder the core experience, nothing fully detracts from what is one of the most captivating and addicting experiences of the year. Marvel’s Spider-Man is without a doubt the best Spider-Man game ever created; its Insomniac Games’ best work to date, and one of the best superhero games of all-time. It’s remarkably spectacular and undeniably amazing.
Insomniac’s rendition of Spider-Man successfully flips the established formula in a myriad of clever and audacious ways. Insomniac’s tale focuses on a more experienced Spider-Man, with Peter donning the suit for eight years and developing a certain comfortability with his role and responsibility as Spider-Man. While Peter himself is at a focal point in his life; at the age of 23, a fresh graduate out of college, and with a sense of uncertainty, Peter’s narrative is extremely tangible and relatable, focusing on thematic elements of identity, purpose, and balance – all of which are integral elements for a great Spidey story. With Peter struggling to find a sense of purpose in both his professional and personal life, while desperately trying to maintain a form of balance and cohesion, it’s difficult to not develop a sense of empathy towards this relatable character. His clear passion and admiration towards helping others through his heroic antics and dedication to medical science is nothing short of inspiring and downright infectious, making Peter’s inevitable struggle all the more heartbreaking. As with any great Spider-Man story, at the heart of Insomniac’s narrative is a tale of two worlds colliding, and the emotional impact they have on one another. Filled to the brim with heart-pounding set pieces that rival the action sequences of the MCU and beautifully directed moments of poignancy and tranquility, Marvel’s Spider-Man is an emotionally driven narrative that never loses its focus on its admirable sense of selflessness, responsibility, tragedy, and hopefulness. It’s a phenomenal story that made me laugh and cry on multiple occasions, and constantly left me speechless with an ineffable sense of awe. Notable narrative and creative decisions will forever change the perception of the Spider-Man universe, and I am more than pleased with Insomniac’s bold new direction. With intriguing seeds brilliantly placed for future endeavors and a strong sense of independence and identity, Insomniac Games has crafted a phenomenal universe that is ripe with new possibilities and amazing stories to tell. Equally as strong as the phenomenal narrative is the wonderful cast of characters. Peter’s relatable, awkward, and empathetic quality is undeniably likeable and infectious. MJ’s brilliant rapport with Peter and her remarkably strong and independent persona not only resulted in my favourite moments of tranquility but also rekindled my love for the character. Their comically sweet banter and loveable interactions are heartwarming, but most importantly, they’re natural and believable. Their reasons for separation are believably complicated, their back-and-forth dynamic is equally heartwarming as it is hilarious (brilliantly displayed in a realistic and hilarious scene delivered through text messages), and their sense of history has a significant, yet subtle presence that is easy to digest and never overstays its welcome; in short, their relationship feels weighted and tangible, and is the best video game relationship since Drake and Elena. Each relationship fostered in Marvel’s Spider-Man shares this emotional sentiment and sense of polish and tangibility. Whether if you focus on Peter’s relationship with Aunt May, MJ, Yuri Watanabe, or Miles Morales, each is extraordinarily well-developed and highlights Insomniac’s immense strength in character development and storytelling. Complementing the amazing cast of characters is the spectacular performances behind them. Yuri Lowenthal’s portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man is not only his best performance to date, but it’s also one of the best renditions of Spider-Man in any form of entertainment. He absolutely nails all facets of the character, breathing life to the whimsical idiosyncrasies of this loveable icon. Yuri delivers the performance of a lifetime and stands tall amongst the likes of Tom Holland and Josh Keaton. While some performances are stronger than others, each one manages to exude an impressive sense of deliberation and polish, ultimately rivalling the performance and cinematic quality of Naughty Dog’s repertoire. While Marvel’s Spider-Man’s musical score never reaches the meteoric heights of Danny Elfman’s iconic composition for the Raimi Trilogy, nor does it bear any memorable attributes, it’s still a competent work of art that manages to compliment the tone of the impeccable narrative. Lastly, Marvel’s Spider-Man’s graphical fidelity is an impressive accomplishment, and its keen sense of polish and attention to detail is second to none. While it’s not the most graphically intensive or the most beautiful game on the PlayStation 4 – those honors rightfully go to God of War and Horizon Zero Dawn – its detailed recreation of New York City, gorgeous facial animations, dynamic weather effects, and beautiful lighting is absolutely breathtaking. Everything, from the intricate patterns weaved onto Spidey’s suit to the glistening beams of light that reflect off of skyscrapers, highlights Insomniac’s pristine attention to detail and their conspicuous love for the source material. Plenty of photorealistic landmarks, Marvel Easter Eggs, and excellent cameos burrow their way into this developed world, further cementing the games’ presence in the overarching Marvel universe and catering to the inner fanboy. Marvel’s Spider-Man feels like a love letter to the beloved character and it’s immediately apparent that this phenomenal game was created by people who love and respect the character.
While Insomniac Games captured the thematic tones of Spider-Man and delivered an emotionally rich narrative with exceptionally well-written characters, their true genius and unabashed accomplishment lies in their achievement in making you feel like Spider-Man. Insomniac has created the most satisfying gameplay experience that not only pays homage to the beloved character, but manages to bleed their own idiosyncratic identity into the formula, fostering an impeccably fine-tuned experience that inherently feels like an amalgamation of the two. Marvel’s Spider-Man’s addictive gameplay is reflected as two major pillars, with its brilliant traversal mechanics and the fluid combat system. Web-swinging is arguably the most important aspect of a Spider-Man game and Insomniac spared no quarter when implementing their spin on the popular mechanic. They undeniably perfected web-swinging, creating a masterful system that harmoniously blends an invigorating sense of addiction and a therapeutic aura of tranquility. Swinging around New York City is one of the most satisfying gameplay experiences of all-time. Webs believably attach to buildings and structures of all varieties, incorporating the heavily requested sense of realism and tangibility that was fostered in Spider-Man 2. There is a relative learning curve to the web-swinging and traversal, but your understanding and level of skill grow over time, with each new element introducing a layer of depth and complexity, enhancing its stylish, cinematic, and satisfying nature. Whether if you’re running on the side of a skyscraper, web-zipping to a perch, launching off of said perch to gain momentum, free-falling gargantuan heights to maintain a level of speed and momentum, propelling yourself forward at the end of a wall run, or methodically swinging across the gorgeous rays of Manhattan, each layer of traversal is impeccably designed and beautifully woven into a melodic dance. Not only does your sense of comfortability and maneuverability strengthen the more you play, but your actual swinging speed increases as well. In fact, each attribute of Spidey levels up accordingly based on your current playstyle and how it compliments particular qualities. Swinging around as Spider-Man is pure, unadulterated fun. Combat in Marvel’s Spider-Man is another stellar feature that finds a resounding equilibrium between the simply accessible and the delightfully complex, while fostering a welcome sense of player freedom. Combat boasts a certain fluidity that feels unique to the character and perfectly captures the essence of his acrobatic nature. Melee combat is expectedly fast and frantic and shares the same stylish quality of the amazing traversal. The dodge mechanic, via Spider Sense, can act as a counter attack if timed correctly, but it’s typically used as a defense mechanism or to gain a different angle on an enemy. When paired in succession with your attacks, Spidey can display a wide array of different acrobatic moves that further accentuates your flurry of combos in illustrious style. Spider-Man can also pull himself towards an enemy with a web-strike, that way more time is spent in actual combat as enemies are always within reach. Aerial combat highlights Spidey’s agile and acrobatic nature, acting as a phenomenal blend of visceral combat and elegant web-swinging. Finishers, attained by filling your focus meter, add a required cinematic touch to the addictive combat, topped off with satisfying animations and slow-motion goodness. Spidey can also use portions of the environment as a weapon, hurling different objects at his enemies as a means of crowd control and to gain the upper hand on specific enemy types. Spidey gadgets are strategic and tactical items that can be used in battle to gain the necessary advantage when encountering larger groups of enemies or approaching scenarios in a stealthy matter. From an explosive Web Bomb that ensnares everything within radius upon detonation to the nimble Trip Wire that will latch enemies onto the nearest surface when in close proximity, these brilliantly designed contraptions add a designated flavour to your average takedown and/or combo. Lastly, Marvel’s Spider-Man includes a slew of idiosyncratic suits that provide far more than just aesthetic variance. Each suit unlocks a respective suit power that not only provides an undeniable gameplay advantage, but a profound sense of creative identity. From the roaring sound waves of an electric guitar riff to spontaneously spinning in midair while webbing everything in site, each suit and respective power bears its own sense of charm and purpose while also representing a piece of Spidey’s history. You can also equip modifiers for your suit of choice, providing a wide array of different gameplay enhancements; from slowing down time when performing a perfect dodge to building up electrical energy in aerial combat and discharging it the moment you land, modifiers compliment the established quality of the intricate combat and cater to your playstyle of choice. Each dynamic element creates a flexible gameplay template, where different combinations result in different satisfying outcomes, further cementing its combat system as a robust and dynamic symphony that rewards experimentation and player freedom.
Each gameplay pillar is remarkably customizable and can be upgraded through XP gain and the collection of tokens, enhancing gameplay efficiency and spectacle. Tokens and their respective collectible are the required building blocks for crafting new suits, gadgets, and modifications and upgrading your expansive arsenal of delectable contraptions. New York City is beautifully littered with a copious amount of different collectibles and side activities to partake in. Each provided contextual gameplay value and longevity, but also served as a narrative window into Spidey’s history and this overarching universe. Backpacks are a notable highlight as they not only provide a necessary tool for crafting and upgrading, but each bag contains a relic or Easter Egg from Spidey’s long list of endeavors and is accompanied with excellent vignette dialogue, further developing a sense of history and personality. Fisk Construction sites, and other villainous hideouts, act as side combat challenges that not only reward you with their respective token but flesh out the polished stature of Spider-Man’s intricacies and gameplay design. Each combat challenge is pressed with optional objectives to complete, which provide additional tokens upon the hideout’s completion. These objectives, ranging from performing stealth takedowns, electrocuting a certain number of enemies, or performing a specific combat move ‘x’ number of times, alleviate the pace of the optional encounters and significantly spice up the traditional formula. Side activities are a plenty and most certainly add a sense of value and longevity, and while some aspects are far more repetitive than others – random crimes never overstay their welcome, but their frequency and lack of variety leaves much to be desired – the copious amount of content never fails to impress and exudes a formidable level of polish and quality. Aside from the side content acting as a pace changer and distraction from the main story, Insomniac Games incorporates clever gameplay variances that alleviate any sense of monotony and repetition. Certain implementations dwell on established design and familiar territory, such as activating towers to reveal portions of the map and the locations of side activates, while others are especially novel to the preconceived structure of a Spider-Man game. Fast travel is also available for those interested and is paired with comical animations, providing a slice of entertainment while the game loads in the background. Marvel’s Spider-Man has you not only play as the titular hero, but you will also get the opportunity to play as Peter himself and even MJ, giving the player a unique take on the fantastical world of a superhero through the eyes of someone without powers. Both segments are significantly slower and methodical in nature but provide a nice breather from the bombastic action of the Spidey segments, eliminating any potential for the traditional gameplay to become stale or repetitive. Peter’s segments focus on melodic exploration, non-linear storytelling, his empathetic interactions with others, and completing different scientific puzzles – highlighting Peter’s ingenuity. MJ dons the role of an investigative journalist for the Daily Bugle, typically being in places where she’s not welcome. While her segments are purely stealth based and notably less enjoyable, her gameplay dynamic develops and improves over time and her narrative component results in the discovery of the most fascinating revelations.
Insomniac’s rendition of New York City boasts a remarkable level of personality and charm; it’s filled to the brim with iconic landmarks of the historical and non-fiction variety, and perfectly captures the essence of a seamless and dynamic world. While combat is impeccably designed and consistently evolves through dynamic implementations, repetitive attributes slowly unravel due to constant exposure and extensive frequency. Luckily the aforementioned gameplay variances and their sense of diversity balance out any repetitive development. Marvel’s Spider-Man is a labor of love that oozes an idiosyncratic sense of style and polish, constructing the greatest homage to the webslinger’s history, while establishing a profound identity of its own. It’s a remarkably well told story that is equally bold as it is familiar; a brilliant narrative that isn’t afraid to take risks and packs a delightfully emotional punch. Insomniac’s accessible and empathetic quality compliment Spidey’s whimsical nature and they perfected the established tones of harmony and balance, with Yuri’s astounding performance raising the bar for any portrayal of the past, present, and future. Villains not only boast a creative element of reinvention in their aesthetic design, but their actual encounters are brilliantly orchestrated and weaves their powers and respective environment in an exceptionally clever manner. With over ten different baddies to encounter – some of which are emotionally developed to perfection – there is no shortage of incredibly thrilling battles to partake in. Its robust combat system and intricate traversal mechanics are masterfully polished and perfected to a T, resulting in the most fluid and satisfying superhero experience to date. Its side content may be derivative or uninspired in nature, but it’s driven through narrative purpose and thoughtful exposition, justifying its existence to those who perceive the side content as busy work or filler. Marvel’s Spider-Man rightfully fits with Insomniac’s long resume of impressive titles as it manages to embody the idiosyncratic DNA of their quirky charm and jovial nature. Marvel’s Spider-Man is a rewarding experience that consistently emits an ineffable sense of elation, similar to the unadulterated joy of Super Mario Odyssey. Its fluid combat system is pure addictive gold and the web-swinging is the definition of perfection, Marvel’s Spider-Man is simply an amazing game from every angle imaginable. With new game plus and DLC in the works, there is plenty of reason to jump back into this addictive universe. Plus certain, tantalizing threads are left dangling for future development and fruition – so there’s room for further exploration in this growing narrative and expansive universe. Hopefully Marvel’s Spider-Man kickstarts the inception and eventual success of a Marvel Games universe, similar to the effect that Iron Man had on the MCU back in 2008. If Marvel’s Spider-Man acts in similar vein to Batman’s ‘Arkham Asylum’, then Spidey is not only off to a remarkable start but has already surpassed the insurmountable standards set by the Dark Knight. Insomniac Games’ latest masterpiece is nothing short of a marvel.