Thanks for coming back to my, extremely infrequent, blog. I really do appreciate it! For this post, I am going to give some thoughts on Marvel’s SpiderMan for PS4 by the awesome developers at Insomniac Games.
I have recently completed Act A of the game (as well as collecting all the back-packs, pigeons and Black Cat collectables as I go) and wanted to put my pen to paper, as it were.
Now, I know the game is getting on a bit, BUT, if you haven’t played it yet, there may be some SPOILERS. Although as I write this, all I have written so far is what you have read…
So, back when Spider-Man was released in September 2018 I wasn’t ready to swing straight into action. I felt coming off the back of a lot of open world games, I could not face yet another. Although we have been treated to many critically acclaimed, supposedly top-tier games such as Horizon and God of War, I was feeling some kind of fatigue, and the thought of more fetch quests and collect-a-thons put me off. Let’s be honest, most open world games follow an extremely similar blueprint.
However, after the surge of recent Marvel films (we saw Captain Marvel and End Game twice in the cinema as well as watching both Ant-Man films in close proximity .. but that’s for another day) and the upcoming Spider-Man Far From Home film, I wanted to get in on the web-slinging action after finishing the super-awesome Resident Evil 2 Remaster.
From the off it was quite obvious this was another highly polished, well thought through PlayStation 4 exclusive. The audio, perfect as the game boots up and runs through the intro. Being thrown (literally) right into the action feels a bit overbearing to begin with, with the game reeling off all the control commands. However after 30 or so minutes I was swinging through skyscrapers like a (PS4)pro.
Borrowing a lot of mechanics from Insomniac’s last title, Infamous, Spider-Man has a large open world, city map that can be uncovered by initiating radar towers. There can be multiple towers in each sector of the map, that when activated, reveals certain collectables and events in a district. Of course there are story mission markers that progress you through the narrative, but with my trophy hunting sense tingling, I set off to unveil the whole map and collect everything I could…
After getting to grips with the controls (combat is you typical fair these days with Square & Triangle being different forms of attack, Circle dodge and Cross jump, while swinging it’s basically R2 and Cross) you do feel like Spider-Man, and the freedom of the setting is unreal. A little like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Switch, you can go anywhere, up any building and travel from one edge of the map to another with no loading screens. At street level New York is teeming with life. Roads are full of traffic and sidewalks buzzing. Some civilians even want to high-five their neighbour hood hero with a tap of Triangle. Hold R2 though, and walls become running tracks. You can literarily run up the side of the Empire State Building (Or the Avengers Tower – which I am certain is fictional) to the very top, only to jump off and fall effortlessly towards the tarmac. It’s an amazing experience and most probably the biggest achievement of the game.
Once this wears off, and all the revealed collectables are in Peter Parker’s pockets, I could get on with the story. As mentioned above, I have only just completed Act A (a quick look at the hidden trophies allows me to see there are 3 acts). The story is OK so far, mainly revolving around New Yorks’ crime ring after Fisk – the previous gangster overlord, is jailed in the game’s opening moments and no one is controlling the grim underbelly of the city. There are some cool segments where you don’t control Pete, but MJ and Miles instead for some stealthy sleuthing, a nice surprise and change of pace, but not earth shattering.
I’d say I have spent about 10 hours or so playing (52% complete) so far and while it’s as polished as most other AAA games, and the setting super impressive, I feel fairly similar to how i did with Horizon Zero Dawn. Maybe for me, open worlds just doesn’t hold a narrative very well. Maybe the draw of going on a jolly for 2 hours collecting backpacks breaks the urgency and that connection between you and the tale being told. Obviously I have a way to go, and now most of the gathering is done the story will take centre stage. But, off the back of the tension-fest that was Resident Evil 2, Spider-Man feels more like a game than an experience.
*Let me elaborate* I know all ‘games’ are ‘games’. And I know not everything should be compared to one’s personal pinnacle. But when a Triple A game like Spider-Man comes about, that is the bar it has to be compared to. For me, that is either The Last of Us or Uncharted 4. Now, with those two, I felt the characters plight, I was ‘in’ their shoes and the worlds felt real. With Spider-Man, and the aforementioned Horizon, I did not. They are good games, but I won’t carry them and the emotions I felt with me forever. I might be wrong, but I hope that makes sense… Let me know what you think, and if there are any games that you can relate this point to.
Having said that, I am excited to see what the next 2 acts have in store, and even what Insomniac could do with the IP. I’d love a tighter, narrative driven Marvel game in this engine (please, please, please Captain America). I am sure it’s just scratching the surface of what’s to come!
Thanks for reading! /∆