I figure I start most of my blogs with this sentiment but I really can’t help it. After all, I like to write about things that I like. That said...
Wow I love this game. Wow. This is, without a doubt, the best Spider-Man game ever made, and one of the best in the action adventure genre as a whole. And with a great story to boot!
There are three aspects that I want to talk about for this game: movement, combat and story. Spoiler: all three are excellent.
Coming from Insomniac Games, I sort of expected the traversal be great. I never played Sunset Overdrive but I heard awesome things about how good movement was in that game. I also remember playing the likes of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows for the Wii and Ultimate Spider-Man for the Game Cube. Both are open world games where Spidey’s main mode of transportation, web swinging, felt fairly good. So I figured, yeah, the foundation and all the ingredients are there. We should be in for a good treat.
This game though, it kicks things up a few notches. I honestly don’t how to put it into words. Web swinging in this game feels SO good. It takes a little bit of learning at first, but once mastered, you can zip through roof tops and along buildings with so much ease and quickness. Like Spidey himself truly would.
Traversing the huge open world of the island of Manhattan is incredibly fun. So much so that I almost never wanted to fast travel, which is pretty fun in itself as you see Spider-Man taking the subway and sometimes interacting with other NYC citizens. I sometimes wanted to fast travel only to see these cute interactions, but it was never a necessity. I never cared about saving time because I was never bored of swinging around the city.
There are basically three main of moves to use for traversal. First, there’s your typical, momentum-based-pendulum-trajectory web swinging. This is what you’ll be doing the majority of the time to move from point A to point B and it feels great. Nay, perfect. It truly feels perfect. The senses of momentum and speed make doing this so much fun. Web swinging is realistic in the sense that you can’t just do it anywhere, there must be a nearby, higher point where the web can attach to in order for Spidey to be able to swing. This serves to give you a great sense of place within the world and makes it that much more believable.
At any point along a swing, you can let go of the web to jump off of it. Depending on the point you let go, you’ll be shot straight forward, upward, or anywhere in between. It feels great when you know when to let go in order to make traversal more efficient for your specific destination. Chaining web swings together to get to where you want to go as quick as possible is just a ton of fun.
The second move available for traversal is a web zip that pulls Spidey straight forward. This is very useful when moving horizontally to get sort of a speed boost. You can’t do many of these in succession so the idea is that you alternate it with the regular web swing. In particular, this move becomes a necessity when there are no higher points around you for the web to attach to for a swing.
The last and final traversal tool is another style of web zip. This one, however, attaches to any point in range and pulls Spidey towards it in an instant, regardless of direction. There’s a targeting system as well that highlights these points as you traverse. These points can be the top of a sign, a space that Spider-Man can quickly squeeze through, a building’s roof corner, etc. Pretty much anywhere. What’s important though, is not where this can happen, but the fact that, thanks to the auto targeting system, it can happen at any moment, mid flight. Also, just after landing from one of these web zips, Spidey can jump right away and continue moving forward while gaining some speed.
So, with these three moves, Spider-Man has all the tools he needs to traverse Manhattan quickly, with style and having a ton of fun while doing it. The traversal then, becomes a sort of rhythm that alternates between swings and both types of zips. It is truly a thing of beauty because, it not only feels great, but it also looks awesome thanks to the incredible job that the animators did for this game.
There’s also crawling and running up and along the sides of buildings which, while not as exciting as the previous three moves, can also be chained together in the “traversal rhythm” to produce something truly exceptional. They all come together into what is, in my opinion, one the most fun movement systems in a video game to date.
The combat is also a highlight in this game. There are punch (or kick, depending on the situation), jump and dodge buttons. It is clearly Arkham-inspired but with a host of Spider-Man inspired twists that make it have its own identity. The combat system in this game is far more dynamic and fantastic that anything you’d see in an Arkham game. There’s a great emphasis on air combat and using the environment and gadgets.
On the ground, Spider-Man plays a lot like Batman. You punch dudes until some dude, by trying to hit you, alerts the Spider Sense, prompting you to dodge, rinse and repeat. You need to be careful about different types of enemies though, as some are immune to certain things. Some guys hold shields, for example, and are only vulnerable by slipping to their back and hitting them there; some others are big brutes that will take some webbing before they can be taken down by hitting them (more on the gadgets later).
The environment is also ripe with opportunities to help mess up your foes. Spidey can pick up stuff like barrels, manhole covers and cement bags that are lying around, swing them with a web rope, and throw them at some dudes. The dudes themselves, once incapacitated, can also be swung around with webbing and thrown at other dudes. You can also take the weapons (bats, rifles, bazookas, and the like) from said dudes hands and throw them back at them. Oh, and if you’re close to a wall, Spidey can quickly jump and stick to it to then spring back with a punch! It’s all incredibly fun.
When fighting groups of enemies, you’re encouraged to lift them off the ground whenever you can with a well placed uppercut. Once in the air, enemies can be comboed, thrown away, smacked back down to the floor or brought back up for more punishing. This is not endless though, as Spidey will lose altitude gradually until he’s back on the ground.
Spider-Man also has many gadgets which have been implemented in an awesome way. There are web bullets, web bombs, web mines, impact webs and even a flying spider that shoots lasers to the thugs. Just thinking about it while writing this brings a smile to my face. These gadgets can be upgraded individually by spending tokens that you earn as you progress through the game.
Oh! And there are even stealth sections which also feel great. There are few things better in life than being Spider-Man sneaking around and dispatching thugs without them even noticing it. Simple pleasures.
Anyway, the combat system is also a home run. It’s so much fun. It can also get pretty difficult at times when the game throws many enemies of multiple types and weapons at you in a single group. It all adds to the excitement and fun. Another point that I like is just how true to Spider-Man the combat feels. It’s all just punches and kicks and gadgets and throwing people and stuff around. But it’s all so fluid and acrobatic and dynamic and well animated. It truly looks like this is how Spider-Man would fight.
This is one aspect of the game that caught me by surprise. Honestly, I think this game’s story rivals that of any of the movies and, in some aspects, maybe even surpasses them. In that sense, I feel like, not counting the comics, of which I’m no expert, this is one of the finest Spider-Man stories ever told. The campaign in this game is exciting, emotional and cool. It brings together familiar elements of the Spider-Man ethos, but also is not afraid of shaking things up a bit. The characters, both new (to me!) and old, are charming, engaging and I ended up caring about them and what they go through. Both villains and good guys. I don’t want to say anything more as I don’t want to spoil anything. Just go ahead and play the game.
What else can I say? Well, actually, I can still say much. I can talk about how good the score is (I’m actually listening to it right now as I write this), or the collectibles, or the suits, or some of the side quests. But I think by now I’ve gotten my point across. This game is great, a masterpiece even. I think that any fan of Spider-Man or video games in general should try it out.