I just put down my controller after my 20+ hour playthrough of Marvel’s Spider-Man, and there is one line that continues to stand out to me.
“Adulting is hard.”
No truer words have ever been stated by Peter Parker aka Spider-Man. Peter makes this comment on the phone with MJ in the midst of a battle with the Demons of New York. While Spider-Man has been a part of this New York for eight years, we as players are joining him for the first time. We know these characters from the comic book stories but this is the first time we have played as a Spider-Man like this, and it is refreshing as can be.
Doing What a Spider Does
Marvel’s Spider-Man jumps right into the action by allowing you control of Spider-Man mid-web swing, within the first minutes of the campaign. Much like breathing is the first thing we have to accomplish as a baby, our Spider-Man must swing. Traversing New York as the webbed hero feels fast and fun with blur effects wiping past the character and through the screen. My web swinging skills didn’t truly flourish until further in my playthrough, but it became second nature. Just like dancing you will have to stumble through it until you can fully wrap your brain about the timing of the web swing.
Besides the web swinging, Spider-Man needs to stick to walls. Insomniac’s Spider-Man, unfortunately, has some trouble climbing on every surface. It can take some time for the avatar to understand what surface you are trying to wall crawl, and sometimes when you are already wall-crawling, Spider-Man may not be able to maneuver around some rounded awnings. This isn’t a deal breaker as the game doesn’t require much crawling. This Spider-Man moves much too quick to be crawling to his destinations.
Marvel’s Spider-Man draws heavy influence from the Batman Arkham series. Combat is free-flowing, allowing Spidey to switch targets with the flick of a thumbstick and the press of a button. The combat system is not as smooth as that of the Arkham games though. I found myself whiffing a lot of punches and dodges during some of my combat trials. As enemies get further away from Spider-Man, it becomes more natural to just web towards them by locking onto a target and starting a new attack chain.
As your combo numbers increase you gain Focus, which opens up Spider-Man’s combat choices. You can spend the Focus bar to do quick takedowns with flashy slo-mo animations, or you can use that same Focus bar to heal yourself mid-battle. Enemies breaking your combo will pause your Focus build up, which will usually be the cause of you losing a fight.
I played on the game’s normal mode which Insomniac titled “Amazing.” The game’s difficulty is a fantastic balance at this level. As someone who enjoys playing a wide variety of games, I found the “Amazing” difficulty to be unforgiving when I didn’t use all of Spider-Man’s abilities. It developed gameplay skills like using different combos for different enemy types and even taking out more difficult enemies by using gadgets instead of old-fashioned punches. The game is meant to provide difficulty without allowing you to steamroll once you understand how to punch and dodge. I felt like I was learning with Spider-Man just like he was learning how to use his new gadgets.
Web shooters are not the only gadgets that Spider-Man can use in Marvel’s Spider-Man. Insomniac played to their strengths on this one by drawing from previous game experiences and other game franchises. While this is by no means a Metroidvania title, every new piece of Spider-Gear allows unique opportunity. Whether it be in stealth missions or direct combat, the gadgets help players accomplish tasks quicker and quieter. All the devices are not necessary to complete the campaign, but they allow the player to handle the side missions and challenges with relative ease.
Spider-Man’s gear is well thought out. From web bombs to a suspension matrix, there are plenty of gadgets to choose from. All of Spider-Man’s equipment is upgradable which allows more utility for each piece of tech. My personal favorite goes to the trip mine because they can be used as traps for enemies when you are trying to be stealthy, but can also be used in the middle of combat combos to incapacitate low tier mobs when they are fully upgraded.
Just like the comics, Spider-Man has an entire closet of costumes. There are 26 different suits, and most of them unlock a special “Suit Power.” The powers generally match the uniform that is put in the game like the classic costume giving you a web barrage attack. The Advanced Suit - the costume seen in all promotional trailers - gives you an increase in your Focus gain. After unlocking a Spider-Suit, you gain access to the power and can mix and match.
Insomniac must be full of Spider-Man fans because they went deep into the Spider history breaking out costumes from all different story arcs. Costumes from the MCU movies to comic books stories like Spider-Man 2099 and Secret Wars are available to unlock. There are also three suits created by the Insomniac team including the Advanced Suit.
Every Spider-Man uniform allows the player to use their favorite version of the Web-Head. Changing costumes allows the players to feel like they have personalized their Spider-Man. It is a small touch that can go a long way and with Insomniac’s promise of more costumes in future DLC packs, the game will only expand on its customization.
A Spider’s Tale
Marvel’s Spider-Man is an original story with heavy influence from the Ultimate Spider-Man storyline. Many of the characters that fans know and love are included like, Aunt May, Mary Jane, and J. Jonah Jameson but they also included Miles Morales who is a newer character in the Spider-Man mythos. Plenty of villains make appearances and watching interactions between this experienced Spider-Man and enemies like Tombstone are fun to watch. Since both characters are already aware of each other, Spider-Man uses the information he knows about Tombstone’s skin to fill the battle with silly quips and banter. Of course, Spider-Man makes jokes at the expense of every bad guy he fights.
*Spoilers to follow*
Peter’s relationship with Otto Octavius is heartwarming. The father and son dynamic they share in the lab is apparent from the first few minutes you work at the lab. Otto’s transformation into Doc Ock was evident to me, unfortunately, but that may not be the case for Spider-Man fans who do not read the comics. Regardless, it creates a factor of disappointment between the two characters during the final battle in the story. Also seeing Miles’ ability to stick to the ceiling just gets me excited to play a sequel to this game.
Marvel’s Spider-Man takes the best qualities of Assassin’s Creed freerunning and Batman: Arkham Asylum stealth and combat to place them into a large open world Spider-Man title. Collecting Spider-Man’s old backpacks to join a car chase in progress later. This is hugely gratifying for all Spider-Man fans. Even after I completed 100% of Marvel's Spider-Man, I still want more to play. I can’t wait to see what is in store for the future DLC that Insomniac has planned but as for the base game, I highly recommend giving it a try. Marvel’s Spider-Man is a prime example that single player games are not dead and enjoyable single-player titles will always have a place.
Will you be playing Marvel's Spider-Man? Let us know in the comments section.