Spider-Man Review: A web-swinging good time

When I was a kid, one of the first games I ever owned was Spider-Man for GameCube. I was obsessed with swinging around the city and fighting all the bad guys that could be thrown at me. Since then I haven’t gotten to play a super hero game that gave me that feeling of being a super hero.

But thanks to the newly released Spider-Man I get to feel like a kid again. The new Spider-man feels like a Marvel movie, and it makes you feel like Spider-Man. Sure, you’re watching Peter Parker’s story, but the freedom the game gives you immerses you into New York City.

The game is visually beautiful. It’s the first game I’ve ever really cared to use the camera mode in. Capturing moments in NYC as Spider-Man swinging through the streets felt like it needed to be done. Almost every moment in the game looks like a screenshot you could put on the back of the box. The character models never quite got to the same level though. Most of the time they looked as great as the world, but at other times they were in the uncanny valley.

While it was noticeable at times, it never took away from the vast amount of detail in the world. Rooftops were full of details, the city was filled with small creatures like rats and squirrels, and streets were packed to the brim with people.

Walking around the city streets feels as fleshed out as web swinging. People greet you, take your picture, and there’s plenty of sights to see.

I was really impressed with the amount of stuff on the screen at any given moment. You don’t see a lot of pop-in, there’s never any issues with object or texture load in.

The reflections were a little lacking though. At first the window reflections seem to be another detail in the already stunning world, but look closely at all and you’ll see that they’re all just images placed on the glass. This is most noticeable on buildings with lots of glass, but luckily it doesn’t stick out too much for the most part.

The booming orchestral soundtrack compliments the beauty of the world almost perfectly. The soundtrack sounds like it was pulled from a Marvel movie, and it helps heighten every aspect of the game. The one issue the soundtrack has though is something I think it shares with most marvel movies. While on a moment to moment basis the music is never lacking, it feels forgettable. You aren’t going to remember most of the music. The first song in the game is easily the most rememberable song, but it’s completely separate from the rest of the game’s music as it’s a rock track and the rest of the game is orchestral.

Spider-Man’s story caught me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting much, but it was able to be an exhilarating super hero game while also being an extremely touching Peter Parker story. The emotional side of the story was what really caught me off guard. I didn’t expect a Spider-Man game to have the balls to go some of the places it did with its characters. It never felt like a shallow experience playing as Peter, but instead it felt like the focus of the story.

While you may play as Spider-Man more, the game makes it clear that Peter’s sacrifices cut deep.

The game also does a great job at referencing old Spider-Man moments. There’s plenty of times that you’ll see something in the world or something will happen that will make you remember the Raimi films. It also does a great job with its story telling. The game can catch you off guard at times, and its exciting when you think one thing’s going to happen, but then other thing happens. Sure, you’ll know a lot of what’s going to happen, but it does a great job of averting your expectations.

The voice acting in Spider-Man echoes the emotions of the story, and every single character feels real. There’s never a moment when characters feel off. Even side characters who don’t have tons of voice lines are well acted.

On top of that, the normal enemies you encounter throughout the world have great banter. I was thoroughly entertained by some of the things I heard enemies say while I was in stealth taking them out.

The sound of the densely packed city is also done superbly. As you zip through the city skyline the sounds of police, cars, and bustling people help to make NYC feel even more alive.

When it comes to gameplay, Spider-Man is a mixed bag. While its mostly good, there are some aspects that become a little boring and repetitive.

Swinging through the city never gets old, and most importantly every web sticks to something. There are no webs that stick to the air, so you’ve got to think about your environment while you swing. If you’re in Central Park you have to be careful and stick to the ground, but if you’re in Time Square you easily be able to swing 100 feet above the pavement.

The wall climbing is a bit of an issue though. Often times I found myself being frustrated at how hard it was to stick to walls. Climbing downwards was also an issue that I had. The camera didn’t seem to like me climbing down let alone trying to sprint down walls.

Combat had its ups and downs. I really liked the way it looked and felt. Insomniac did a great job at making the fighting feel like Spider-Man, but it was extremely repetitive. There were times that felt like you had to just spam the dodge button until you got to pull yourself in by your web and hit the same combo you hit the entire game.

Boss battles also suffered from this repetitiveness. Every boss battle felt like it was focused on one single move set to replicate the entire battle. Dodge their attacks, wait for them to rest, press triangle, press square 4 times, repeat. They were cinematically amazing. The set pieces around the battles were spectacular, and they looked like a hard-fought battle. They just didn’t feel as great as they looked because of the repetitiveness of the combos you had to do to win.

That said, they were still fun. The final boss battle, especially, was an intense battle that looked straight out of a Marvel film.

Suit abilities, gadgets, and suit mods help to spice up fighting. They are a rather entertaining way of disposing of bad guys. The gadgets you use are really diverse in their use. For example, you could use a trip mine to stealthily dispose of an unknowing enemy, or you could shoot it onto an enemy that’s facing another enemy. If you do that they’ll get pulled together and collide, knocking them both out. Suit powers are really useful as well, but with the low amount of health Spider-Man has I never found myself using the other abilities for more than the initial test run. Suit mods are only perks though, so they aren’t too game changing. They are useful, but they don’t alter as much of your moment to moment combat as gadgets and powers do.

What Insomniac has done with Spider-Man is spectacular. Sure, there are some rough edges here and there, but as a package the game is superb. Sony has had some amazing games come out as of late, and this just adds to that long list of amazing exclusive titles.

I was, and still am, a little salty about them teasing the upcoming DLC before the game had even come out, but now I’m excited to have even more Spider-Man content.

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