Thursday, 6 September 2018

Marvel's Spider-Man: PS4 Review

Marvel's Spider-Man: PS4 Review

Developed by Insomniac Games
Released by PlayStation

In case you've been hiding under a rock or avoiding the web (sorry) for a while, it can't have escaped your attention that a new Spider-Man game was on the way from Insomniac Games, the studio behind beloved series Ratchet and Clank and Spyro The Dragon.

Sizzle reel reveals at E3 have left fans salivating at the return of the web-slinger, and his alter ego Peter Parker.
Marvel's Spider-Man: PS4 Review

And with online stores abroad already selling out of the game and limited edition Spider-Man consoles going flying off the shelves, it's fair to say the hype machine has been in full effect.

For the large part, it's actually justified.

This is a game that delivers on the promise and premise of being Spider-Man, being Peter Parker and being a comic book hero and part of that world, as well as the conflicts it presents.

Much like the arcs of the Spider-Man comic book series, this one throws you into the world of Parker as he juggles the self-appointed responsibility of being New York's keeper, his daily life and his relationships, as well as the endless pressures of dealing with bad guys.

As the game continues, various threats present themselves - and it's up to you as Spidey / Parker to combat them.

If it seems like the synopsis here is ducking the main story and robbing you of a clear picture of what transpires, that's because spoilers this time actually prevent you from having the full experience - and Insomniac Games have gone some way to hold much back to preserve the experience, something which should be respected.
Marvel's Spider-Man: PS4 Review

Let's get the good - of which there is plenty - out of the way.

The web-slinging and hurtling through the Manhattan skyline is superlative; fluid and reflexive drawing on Sunset Overdrive's sense of fun, hurling Spidey through the air, watching him pirouette and prance while airborne never tires. Much of the early play through sees you zipping from point-to-point, and while this game's set eight years after Spidey's origin, you'll gain the skills you need the more time you spend - it's rewarding to say the least (even if in some of the more open areas, there's less to web on to.)

While the combat's very familiar to those who've played any of the Batman: Arkham games (even down to the final crunching noise indicating you've taken out a villain), the lithe way that Spidey contorts and builds on his combo promise is smartly executed. Again, like the airborne antics, you'll grow to utilise the gadgets and webs that Spidey has at his command, giving you a sense of achievement once you hit the pinnacle.

Marvel's Spider-Man's story is also rich as well.

A couple of sequences (admittedly cut scenes with the dreaded Quick Time elements) feel like they are equals with anything Marvel's films have committed to the big screen. And while some of the animations of the main characters occasionally look off (developers rarely seem to get the actual flow of hair properly committed to screen), the emotional engagements and beats of what transpires hook when they need to - and the surprises of the story and mixing up of the characters contrort and twist your expectations of what is ahead.
Marvel's Spider-Man: PS4 Review

Playing as MJ as well is slightly limited to stealth opportunities and may feel stilted to some - but the relationship between both Peter and MJ feels grounded, realistic and enough to keep you engaged. It hints at history, feels contemporary for the characters and sets up more than enough to keep you tantalised for future engagements.

Yes, there's a lot to love in Marvel's Spider-Man.

But, there are some minor downsides, perhaps hampered by some of Insomniac Games' ambition for the beloved superhero and the gaming experience.

While the city's big, and teems with life, the NPCs are there solely for the journey, more as passengers than fully formed lives to deal with. It's a hurdle Insomniac would have struggled to overcome regardless, so some minor engagements have been thrown in.

But given so much time is spent in the city doing side missions, the repetition does become apparent.

Equally, there's a replaying of cut scenes and limited action scenes available in some of the other elements around the city - for the first few times, the repetition of a slow-mo or an action sequence is tolerable, later on it becomes an irritant.
Marvel's Spider-Man: PS4 Review

The game also has a habit of the action moving into a cut scene when you're nearing a story point, but maybe not wanting to engage with it. That single moment is jarring and takes you out of the experience in a way that seems - to these eyes at least - preventable.

Most of  what transpires outside of the confines of the story is a melange of other gameplays. From Assassin's Creed style tower-unlocking to Arkham-style stealth, it's very familiar, even if it's well-executed. And one showdown borrows liberally from Insomniac's own back catalogue, channelling a Ratchet confrontation with Dr Nefarious.

Granted, imitation's the sincerest form of flattery and all superheroes share a similar DNA in all forms of their execution, but this Spider-Man never quite achieves a defining moment of its own, a declaration of its own independence and intent, preferring instead to shape and twist what's gone before for its own ends.
Marvel's Spider-Man: PS4 Review

These are minor niggles, to be honest, and Marvel's Spider-Man does exactly what a Marvel's Spider-Man should - it's fun, richly engaging in its main storyline and captures the thrill and humanity of what the web-slinger should be about.

With three planned DLC drops on the way, the first of which drops towards the end of October, it feels like Marvel's Spider-Man has plenty of life in it. And thanks to some great eyes toward character and story, this game really does feel like an at-times thrilling blockbuster on your console - which is nothing to be sneezed at or no bad web to be caught up in.

- Marvel's Spider-Man releases Friday September 7; the writer received a pre-release review copy of the game from PlayStation NZ.

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