Review: Our spideysenses are tingling over new PS4 game
TORONTO — Comic book icon Spider-Man is famous for his uncanny agility and his unique method of getting around. So in a game featuring the wall-crawler, swinging through the city should be as much fun as duking it out with supervillains.
Marvel’s Spider-Man, out this week for the PlayStation 4, gets it. It gives players the freedom to explore an impressive facsimile of New York City through web-slinging between buildings, effortlessly sprinting up the sides of skyscrapers and bounding across rooftops.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because this ground was broken in 2004’s Spider-Man 2, the first game to really offer a satisfying interpretation of Spider-Man’s powers.
Emulating Spider-Man 2 isn’t a bad idea here given the character’s history. Spidey has been the star of more than 30 video games and has appeared in several more, and that list includes more than a few duds.
While reworking a proven formula from the ground up using the PS4’s processing power would have been welcome in itself, Marvel’s Spider-Man weaves an excellent superhero tale around those mechanical bones. The result is an excellent first entry into SpiderMan’s mercurial gaming history from publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment and developer Insomniac Games.
As Spider-Man investigates with the help of Daily Bugle reporter (and currently “off-again” love interest) Mary Jane Watson and teenager Miles Morales, a tale begins to unfold that features betrayals, hard choices, and ultimately a showdown with SpiderMan’s biggest arch-foes. It’s original, well-told and its narrative is as strong as many of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (heck, there’s even two end-credit cutscenes).
Combat in the game is as smooth and well thought-out as the traversal mechanics, and Spider-Man has many ways to take down thugs. His spider-sense lets him know when attacks are coming, and his ability to dodge and counter allows him to take down many foes at once.
Of course, Spidey would be nothing without his webs. You can use these in the flow of combat to tie up adversaries, throw them or yank them skyward for an air combo. They can also be used to do stealth takedowns from above, hoisting up and incapacitating unsuspecting enemies. Everything in combat has a flow that really captures the essence of Spider-Man.
The game is not without it’s drawbacks. The New York City of Marvel’s Spider-Man has a laughably high crime rate, and the thrill starts to fade a bit after stopping your seventh break-in or drug deal in the past five minutes.
There are also a few stealth missions featuring Mary Jane or Miles that drag. It’s relevant to the plot, but in a game where the selling point is how fun it is to be the main character, these missions just get in the way of more web-slinging.
But these are minor quibbles. A good Spider-Man story spun around a reimagining of successful mechanics that have worked in the past makes Marvel’s Spider-Man one of the finest games around in the superhero genre.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is rated T for teen players and older, and retails for around $80.
A screenshot from Marvel’s Spider-Man for the PlayStation 4.