A swinging time
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“That’s strange,” quips Spider-Man as we swing past the Sanctum Sanctorum, taking a snap on our phone as we go. If nothing else, Spider-Man is a fan’s dream writ large; a teasing orchestration of nods and winks to the wider Marvel universe. And it’s brilliant.
While the game mixes its influences, using Ultimate’s MJ – she’s a fierce reporter out for the scoop – and dropping in Miles Morales (both playable), it also takes time to present a Parker/ Spider-Man that’s unique to developer Insomniac.
Eight years of saving New York have taken their toll. Separated from MJ and kicked out of his flat, and on the verge of losing his job assisting Otto Octavius, Parker is thinking the unthinkable: giving up the mask. The story offers nuance. Its hero is (early on at least) unheroic; its villains, including Mister Negative, are damaged and relatable; and it all barrels towards its climactic confrontation with the Sinister Six at a pace worthy of any MCU blockbuster.
But this is a game, a perfectly poised blend of open-world design, side-quests and SpiderMan’s own mix of gymnastic combat matched by Parker’s guerilla science. Fights riff on the
It works because it’s a love letter to the comic
Arkham series’ counter system, with button prods seeing Spidey flip and dance from danger, filling a specials meter to unleash suit powers and finishers. But unlike in Rocksteady’s games, Spider-Man can zip out of danger, web-swing up and over enemies and use the character’s agility to get the edge. It’s how you’ve always wanted a Spider-Man game to play.
Once the main story is wrapped, loose threads tied off and sequel teased, it’s the city itself that keeps you swinging. The game drops familiar cameos (Black Cat) and cult favourites (Screwball), then encourages you to hunt down and revel in aspects of Spider-Man’s world: the Avengers Tower is obvious, but how about Fogwell’s Gym or discovering a vial of Sandman’s granular self?
For all its current-gen spectacle, modern game design and ludicrously fun web-swinging, Spider-Man works because it’s a love letter to the comic book. It’s so good that even Stan Lee makes a cameo.
The Amazing Spider-Man #546 team of Dan Slott, Stephen Wacker and Nick Lowe brainstormed the story with the developer.
Turns out that Spider-Man hated confetti.