Developer Insomniac Games Publisher SIE Format PS4 Release 2018
Spider-Man, Detroit: Become Human, Hidden Agenda, Knack II, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Star Child, Monster Of The Deep: Final Fantasy XV, Shadow Of The Colossus, God Of War, The Inpatient, Bravo Team, Days Gone, Moss, Skyrim VR, Matterfall, Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds
Much of the appeal of Marvel’s friendly neighbourhood SpiderMan comes from his personality – the sense that, like most of us, he’s making things up as he goes along. Insomniac’s version of the hero, however, looks positively professional.
Sony’s behind-closed-doors E3 demos are normally intended to dig a little deeper into a game’s press-conference showing, but our second viewing of Spider-Man is almost indistinguishable from the first. This is a Spider-Man who, by age 23, has found all eight of his implied feet, boasting mastery over his movements unless the script demands otherwise. At its best, Insomniac’s game is fluid and improvisational, the stuff of our web-flinging dreams. But it’s nothing we haven’t seen before – both in the press-conference demo, and Rocksteady’s Batman games.
Parker spends much of the demo stalking through a warehouse, putting down Wilson Fisk’s bemasked goons with a stealthy toolset which, spurts of sticky webbing aside, plays out exactly like an Arkham game. Combat itself is a brawl of canned combos and counters,
punctuated by flashy contextual takedowns. It’s an effective system in Rocksteady’s work: Batman is, after all, a bruiser by trade. SpiderMan’s all about the locomotion, though, and we want to see it.
So when our demo transitions to open-air web-slinging, we sit up – but not for long, as the action plays out exactly as it had on Sony’s stage. Chasing Fisk’s helicopter, Spidey crashes through all the same signs, swings from all the same corners and bashes through the requisite QTEs. This is one of only a handful of linear, story-led missions, we’re told, and we’ll spend the vast majority of the final game in complete control of our actions. So why show the game in this unflattering light? We trust Insomniac to nail the movement system, but the glossy auto-action on show here has us worried that things may stray too far into the cinematic to feel authentic.
Insomniac assures us that things won’t always run so smoothly, however. There will be repercussions for missed QTEs (the hilariously exaggerated fail-state faceplants of Spider-Man 3 live in infamy), although whether they’ll extend beyond small stumbles or bland checkpoint reloads isn’t made clear. It’s even suggested that we’ll spend some time playing as Parker without the Spider suit, which we think was meant as a positive.
But with the most exciting part of the game – that signature webslinging – relegated to just a minute or so of what we’re shown, it’s difficult to get a sense of the true game behind the shiny mask. It’s not that we don’t want to feel like a superhero. We just hope Insomniac knows we want our improvisational, free-flinging, fallible Peter Parker – not simply Bruce Wayne with webs.
We don’t doubt Insomniac’s ability to make New York a playground; Sunset Overdrive’s open-world traversal was great, though we could do without its bland mission design