Marvel’s Spider-Man: review

Marvel’s Spider-Man is fantastic. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it polishes everything up until it has a pristine glow to it. It does polish up a few turds in the process, but they’re only little plops. Is it the best superhero game? It’s very tempting to say yes, but it occupies a different enough niche from Batman that they can co-habit the top spot.

This version of Spider-Man doesn’t tie into any films, so it doesn’t carry any of that baggage. He’s eight years into his double life and has fought quite a few big villains, which you don’t get to see but get to hear about in passing. So how best to start it other than by throwing a big villain at you for the intro? You get to fight Wilson Fisk and his goons on a pretty exciting tutorial/intro that is fun, but a little too confining for a little too long. After you’re done beating big Willie, you soon get the chance to to swing about the Big Apple.

With “Noo Yawk” being so open and there being so many things to do, it does immediately make everything about the story feel less urgent than intended. As you take time to do things here and there like any normal person, the story’s pace will feel like it doesn’t quite keep up. The pacing suffers later, too, as the latter third of the game ends up cramming so much stuff in that you’ll be left wondering why some of it wasn’t brought in sooner to even things out.

Spidey’s web-swinging is the best thing about the game. The whole aspect of swinging, running up buildings, and zipping around with your webs in general. Combat is fun and all, but the movement is divine. Almost every aspect of it feels perfect, but in some cases almost too perfect. You’ll not end up as a Spider-Splat for many reasons, the main one being that it nudges some movement to always work as though you’re doing something cool. When we were swinging amongst the traffic, it often gave us physics that made the swinging feel cool but very “unrealistic”. It’s great that it’s there, as it keeps the momentum going; but it made us feel a little coddled at times.

Momentum is what makes the movement feel so fun. Diving off of skyscrapers only to swing just before hitting the ground, and jumping right at the height of an upward swing, will catapult Spidey acrobatically into the sky. Running full pelt up a building only to sling yourself over the rim like a trebuchet is super satisfying. Zipping about from one point of a building to another and using the impact to launch yourself back into the air at speed is thrilling. Combining them all together however – is spectacular.

You can still zip around fairly fast in combat, but it’s just not the same; mostly because someone’s going to shoot at you if you’re not knocking the baddies about constantly, and you’re generally in a more confined space. Spidey is still as acrobatic as they come, flipping, twirling mid-air, and lots of other feats of flexibility. This means he dodges attacks rather than countering them. Mis-timed dodges, no matter how effective they should be, are punished through Spider-seeking limbs that magnetically follow him as he flips away. It’s one of the few issues with combat, but we managed to curb that by getting better at timing our dodges.

Combat is fairly simple, the complexity lying in stringing the basics together into more complex combos which all flow fluidly. Mixing it up between standard punching and kicking before launching enemies into the air or dashing to a far off enemy with your webs is very simple, but allows for quite complex combos. The focus bar is also done really interestingly. It builds up as you fight in combat and can be stored up to unleash finishers on thugs, or you can use it to heal up, which is literally a life-saver.

As you level up, you get to buy upgrades across three skill trees that’ll help in some form or another. Combat abilities aren’t all you get, but they’re often the most useful. You’ll also be able to upgrade or create new gadgets and suits using tokens gained from doing the side quests. This includes a massive repertoire of Spidey-suits including the Noir suit, which we adore and wore throughout the entire game.

Outside of just the sheer thrill of swinging or combat you do get a few other distractions to deal with. The side missions are often niff-naff objectives, with the research stations being particularly gruelling to complete. Some of the main missions are also a little frustrating – instant fail stealth missions where you don’t have access to any web-slinging get old very fast, and lack any element of fun.

There are some stealthy web-slinging bits, but they often lead straight into combat after you’ve been spotted or soon after you’ve taken out the first few goons. These are the good stealth bits, but they’re not as fleshed out as the combat, which means playing each section can feel a bit paint-by-numbers; and there aren’t enough of them that feel truly unique. However, it is glorious to rack up a lamp post with cocooned baddies hanging down like Christmas decorations.

Marvel’s Spider-Man is excellent on almost every level, and all the criticism we have barely makes a dent on our love for the game. If it had just been the Web-head swinging about we’d still love it, because everything about the movement is just that good. The combat is thick and fluid, but swinging is on another level entirely. Luckily a few chunks of DLC are due over the coming months, which will tie us over until the inevitable sequel.

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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