Marvel’s Spider-Man is arguably the first major Marvel hero video game to release ever since the MCU went into world domination-mode and took over cinemas like nothing else. We say "major game" because while other titles have been coming out (with a lot of Spidey games included), this one has the full backing (and budget, among other things) of the comic book publisher as a flagship title in the series—hence that all important “Marvel” in front of the game’s name. Developed by the talented people at Insomniac Games, it comes out exclusively for the PlayStation 4 in September and the folks at Sony Interactive Entertainment Singapore invited us for a special hands on: we’re happy to report that we think it lives up to the hype.
All original plot
The game is not actually a tie-in with the Tom Holland movie version (or any existing book or comic at all). Instead, it’s an original storyline exclusively written for the game, which let’s it go in unexpected directions with the plot. You already know Spidey will be up against the Sinister Six but they’ve added several other unexpected twists that we can’t talk about, but are sure to give fans some “luh!” moments.
Peter Parker in this game is an older post-college version who works in a lab, and MJ gets remixed into an investigative journalist who works with the Daily Bugle. You get to play through parts of the game as Peter rather than Spider-Man too, which helps expand the plot since you get involved in the other half of his life.
Swinging is fun
A key part of any Spider-Man game is web swinging, and the team at Insomniac have made it intuitive, fast, and satisfying to do. There’s just enough skill involved that you can’t mindlessly swing on auto-pilot and it makes improving your traversal of the NYC skyline a fun game in itself. Think coming up with new routes in Mirror’s Edge or getting distracted and just driving around in GTA. It's that kind of pure video game playing around that separates Spider-Man games from other hero franchises. Also did we mention it’s fast? We played with a base level Spider-Man, but future suit unlocks promise that you can swing around at basically warp speed later on.
Combat is just the right amount of chill
As expected, Spider-Man can easily trash goons in a variety of methods—these techniques are unlocked and improved within a three-branch skill tree. So you can upgrade your web-shooters and stick them to walls in advanced ways or maybe unlock some “perfect dodge” counters that reward players who like to time feints just right. You can finesse your way with stealth takedowns and sneakiness but it’s also easy enough to win by button mashing. Health is refilled by storing energy from combos so it's easy enough to top up when you're low, but if you don’t pay attention you can also quickly get dogpiled and end up reloading a checkpoint. If you think it's Arkham-esque, there is indeed a vibe at times with the "tap-tap" punching but Spider-Man has much more mobility. And yes, you can come in hot from swinging from the rooftops and seamlessly blow away some thugs upon landing, which is very satisfying.
It’s a visual treat
The game’s new Advanced Suit with the white detailing looks good and appropriately 2018, but the eye-candy extends to the rest of the game as well. There is some element of “tower hunting” to open up the map, as it leads you to various buildings to expand the game area—and perhaps the best part of this necessary open-world chore is that it leads you to several in-game landmarks where the visuals shine. The graphics aren’t super stylized, generic comic book goons will be generic comic book goons after all, but the detail in the environment makes up for it (climb up Avengers HQ and the view is pretty sweet up there). The score also sounds appropriately superhero-ish, it doesn’t stand out at first with everything going on, but it grows on you and it gives the game that little more oomph.
Is it a must buy?
We got to play a full three to four hours of Marvel's Spider-Man and the only time we got bored was when we had nothing to do but small recurring sidequests after hitting the end of the playable story missions. Without any plot progress, some sawa crept in because we could no longer alternate big moments with some optional objective distractions. Some of you who have open-world fatigue may feel apprehensive because of this, but Spider-Man as a hero (and game) belongs in an open world—it would feel really cramped if you couldn't run around New York at will—and no one said you have to clean the map of icons anyway. If you're a fan itching to run around New York and beat thugs up in Spider-Man's suit though, we think you won't be disappointed—and you may event want to cop the hot-red limited edition PS4 Pro to go with it, too: