Spidey’s had a few great titles before—especially since the arrival of the first Spider-Man game for the original Playstation in 2000—but the current Spider-Man takes full advantage of the power of the Playstation 4 Pro to deliver what may be the best Spidey adaptation to date. Recently, Nerdist was among a few select outlets invited to play the first few hours of Spider-Man. And while we’re not allowed to share certain spoilers from the in-game storyline, we can say that hardcore fans are likely to be very pleased when they see what’s in store for them.
ENTER SPIDEY’S WORLD
The first thing that stands out with this title are its intuitive controls. Web-slinging quickly becomes second nature thanks to the fluidity and speed of Spidey’s movements. Our hero can pull off many of his best flips and tricks from the start and he can even break out some Spider-Parkour as necessary. There’s more than one way to climb a building or make your way through the thoroughly realized open world playground of Marvel’s New York City.
IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Spider-Man’s graphics are truly impressive on the PS4 Pro. The city, the backgrounds, and especially Spidey himself are gorgeously rendered, and it’s a nonstop visual delight. Plus, the look of the game does feel very true to the different versions of Spider-Man that we’ve seen in print and on film. John Paesano’s music even seems to echo some of Danny Elfman’s soaring notes, and that’s not the only Sam Raimi influence that we felt within this game.
BRAWL FOR ALL
In terms of controls, the closest comparison to Spider-Man is probably the Batman: Arkhamseries. The options are deceptively simple, but if your fighting style is one-dimensional then you will take a pounding. Spider-Man is more powerful than the average bad guy, but he can be overwhelmed by sheer numbers if the player doesn’t mix up their attacks and remember to dodge. But when Spider-Man gets into his flow, it’s incredibly fun to see him in action.
The enhanced webbing options aren’t available right away, and some additional moves will have to be purchased by using experience points earned throughout the game. Players get to choose which options they want, and it’s going to affect Spidey’s fighting style. We haven’t seen what Spider-Man can do once he’s gotten every single ability, but it’s an exciting prospect.
One of the first major stages in the game pits Spider-Man in a showdown against the Kingpin and his men inside a skyscraper under siege. It’s basically a lot like Die Hard, with Spidey standing in for John McClane. Except John McClane can’t walk on walls or reach air ducts at will.
This level also serves as a tutorial for the game by slowly introducing the players to the functions of each button and illustrating their options. All of that practice will come in handy once Spidey gets some face-time with Wilson Fisk himself.
PETER PARKER’S DAY OFF
During our time with the game, we also played through a few of the Peter Parker segments as well. This Spider-Man title isn’t leaving his alter ego out of the equation, and his place of employment may prove to be a critical part of the story. We can’t say much about this part of the game, but we can say that players will take control of Peter during his day job and that his personal life and his superhero adventures will collide in an unexpected way.
F.E.A.S.T. OR FAMINE
Insomniac has said that this game isn’t based on any particular version of Spider-Man, but it does borrow pretty heavily from Dan Slott’s comic book run. That’s to be expected, since Slott is one of the co-writers of this game. Peter’s relationship with Aunt May and other characters also seem to echo the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, and tend to tug on the heartstrings as such.
Another effective touch occurred when Peter is at the F.E.A.S.T. center, as several NPC characters know him by name from his volunteer work with the homeless. It’s a small thing, but it shows us that Peter is important to more people than just his immediate circle of friends and family.
BRAND NEW MARY JANE
Mary Jane Watson also gets her chance to shine within the first few hours of the game, although her story is only getting started. In this incarnation, Mary Jane is a reporter for The Daily Bugle, which kind of makes her more like Lois Lane than classic MJ. But it works, giving Mary Jane an agenda outside of Spider-Man or Peter’s goals. MJ’s a crusading reporter who’s out to get a story, and she has to rely on stealth to keep herself out of danger. It’s a different flavor of gameplay that doesn’t let the player simply fight their way out of trouble. It also goes a long way towards making MJ more than just a supporting player.
Players kick off the game wearing Spider-Man’s classic costume from the comics, long before they get their hands on the advanced suit with the pronounced white Spider logo. According to Insomniac Games’ studio art director, Jacinda Chew, ““That was actually [decided] very early in development… When we design things, we want to be sure that there’s a narrative reason as well.” Without giving away any major spoilers, the creation of that suit is a very important moment for Peter Parker.
Although we love the original costume more than anything, players may find it difficult to go back once they get to play with the abilities of the advanced suit. It gives Spidey a few additional advantages that will come in handy more than a few times.
By this point, Spider-Man felt so complete that we jokingly asked the developers to just send it home with us. It has almost everything that anyone could have wanted from a Spider-Man title, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of it. Some aspects of the gameplay remind us of the classic Spider-Man 2 for the Playstation 2, but refined to a much higher level. As excited as we are to finish playing through Spider-Man, the prospect of DLC and continuing missions is almost as enticing as the main game itself. Insomniac’s Spider-Man is so enjoyable that we don’t want to put it down any time soon. This is the comic book world that we want to live in, and it may be a real contender for video game of the year.
Spider-Man will arrive on the Playstation 4 on September 7.
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Images: Sony/Insomniac Games/Marvel