I preordered Spider-Man late last year, but it was less because of hype and more because of necessity. Target was running their annual Buy 2, Get 1 video game sale and it applied to preorders as well. I decided to get God of War (for me), Kingdom Hearts 3 (for Diane), and I needed a third game to round out the deal. I went with Spider-Man because I loved the comics as a kid and I wanted to be positive about getting a good game for the property despite so many lackluster attempts over the years. As I am sure you realize from the title of this post, Spider-Man was totally my jam.
((No spoilers in this post other than general opinions.))
Insomniac Game’s Spider-Man takes place in its own universe which immediately resolved several of my initial concerns about the game. First, it isn’t an origin retread (thank God). In this game, Peter has been Spider-Man for eight years. Second, it didn’t place in any comic continuity where I would feel completely lost. Insomniac’s version of the character works as a “Best Of” album that assumes some familiarity but not so much that I ever felt lost.
I was also worried about it being open world. Yes, the game suffers from a lot of repetive content (same models, same animations, same quips, etc.), but it stays fresh enough. What makes it all work though is the movement, controls, and all the animation work that goes into making this the most accurate depiction of Spider-Man yet. I didn’t care about repeating the same car chase a couple dozen times when it meant more time swinging freely through a photorealistic version of New York City. The combat also borrows heavily from the Batman Arkham series with a greater emphasis on stealth and dodge mechanics which keeps it from feeling too much like a button mashing action game (though ultimately that’s all it is).
I am rarely a completionist, but Spider-Man scratched the same itch that Horizon: Zero Dawn did before it. From the very beginning, you have access to the entire map and total freedom in regards to swinging. As the story progresses, new activities unlock. Each of these activities rewards unique currencies which are then used to buy new suits with special suit powers or upgrade gadgets. In addition, you level up by gaining experience which provides for progression through the game’s skill trees.
Every time an activity unlocked, I only did that activity until I had cleared it in all sections of the map. This made things feel a lot more repetitive but it was a strangely satisfying kind of grind. It also takes nearly the entire story for all activities to be unlocked, so it isn’t the kind of game where you will be able to do all of the side stuff within the first five hours. Everything is gated but remains useful (in terms of rewards) throughout the game.
All of the side quests were forgettable give or take a couple. Some activities I hated (research labs and superheroic environmentalism nonsense). The challenge activities were all fantastic though. I also loved all of the crime activities, despite their repetition, just because it never got old swinging to the scene, dropping from the sky, and dropping some bad guys.
Finally, and most importantly, the absolute best thing about Spider-Man is its story. I won’t spoil it here (stay tuned for another post) but rest assured that this game understands Spider-Man, creates a branch of his universe I want to revisit, and freshens up the relationships with all of the characters we expect to be in a Spider-Man story. Overall, the story stays true to the essence of the characters without feeling stale or dated. It is superb and I recommend you at least watch a playthrough if you don’t want to play it yourself.
With another platinum trophy added to my list, I still want to play more Spider-Man. I haven’t committed to preordering the DLC, especially at $24.99 spread over the next three months. I am hoping it is worth it but the problem with most DLC these days is they don’t have the budget/attention to add more story, which is what I really want. I may hold onto my copy of the game to see what comes of the new content but at this point, I am more hyped for a sequel than anything else. Too bad it will likely be on the next generation of systems, if it happens at all, so there will be a long wait!