This is a review of the base game without the DLC.
Marvel has had no shortage of success in theatres. Even though Spider-Man as a character is in Sony’s hands now, that won’t even put a dent in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The amount of characters that the MCU has both introduced and contextualized in one massive story is truly unprecedented.
Even Spider-Man, both inside that MCU and in Sony’s films, has seen a lot of success. The Raimi films, the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, and especially the under-seen Into the Spider-Verse have all made impacts with many people. They’re called “comic book movies,” but Spidey has a ton of name recognition from movies alone.
That made him a logical starting point for a new video game universe. The future of that Marvel video game universe is yet to be determined, but Spider-Man PS4, is, in many ways, the same kickstart that Iron Man was for the MCU. Before Iron Man, super hero movies were hit-or-miss at best. Now? They’re pretty consistent in high quality. At least, if it has the Marvel Studios logo attached. It’s the same thing with super hero video games.
They were very present in the 2000’s and early 2010’s, when every movie and cartoon was getting a video game adaptation.
Now, though, things are different.
As stated, Spider-Man is the game to try and bring the MCU-style success to the video game side of entertainment. For it to work, it needed to nail it.
Nail it, it did.
Taking cues from Batman: Arkham City, Spider-Man is a highly cinematic open-world adventure with many great features that you’ll notice right away.
The visuals are some of the best in the current generation of gaming. The lighting in the replica of New York City is among the prettiest things I’ve seen in a video game, and it’s just a joy to swing around the city, whether it’s day or night. (More on the swinging in just a little bit)
The music is equally great. John Paesano’s score is reminiscent of an MCU score to the point where, out of context, you could easily be fooled into thinking it was part of a movie instead of just a game. It’s a unique approach to scoring a modern game, but as the entertainment lines mix more, don’t be shocked if it becomes more common in AAA titles.
To go alongside the music, the voice acting and motion capture are both well done as well. Yuri Lowenthal is a perfect Peter Parker, and his chemistry with both Laura Bailey (fictional love interest MJ), and Tara Platt (his in-game boss and real-life wife) is superb. A special shout out as well to William Salyers, who is the best Otto Octavius since Alfred Molina in Spider-Man 2. The interactions and story arc between Octavius and Parker is emotional and very realistically portrayed. This is a story you won’t forget for months, and it should hang in your brain for longer than that.
The aforementioned swinging is very well done, which is important both within the game’s context and outside of it. Spider-Man games have been botched so often that fans still boot up Treyarch’s Spider-Man 2 adaption from the sixth generation of consoles. Fans of Spider-Man 2 will be pleased to know that this swinging feels like a modern version of the Treyarch system. It’s a joy to use, and once the optional mega-jump is re-activated, it becomes nearly perfect. The swinging is so good in this game, there’s a chance you might forget that there’s a fast-travel system implemented at all.
The combat isn’t as unique, but it’s effective and fun nonetheless. Taking cues from the Batman: Arkham games, the combos feel smooth and natural.
There’s also plenty of Spider-Man references throughout the open world, and many suits to explore the city in – including the Raimi Suit, which looks absolutely incredible.
The game isn’t perfect, though. The story felt short, with the main story falling short of 20 hours for the purposes of this review. The post-game is largely engaging, but the combat gets a bit repetitive when going through Sable bases. There’s also a section of the game that’s very well done, but it’s far too similar to a sequence in Arkham City. There’s inspiration, and then there’s crossing the line. For most of the game, the former is applied. In this one mission, it’s hard not to feel like it’s more the latter.
Even with the issues, Spider-Man on PlayStation 4 is still an easy recommendation if it’s already caught your attention, or if you’re a big super hero/Arkham fan. It’s the definitive Spider-Man game and a good start to a possible Marvel gaming universe.