The hype surrounding Insomniac’s Spider-Man game was massive. I saw posts about how New York’s subway had been transformed into a Spider-Man theme park, billboards across the country had gone up, even bus stops had Peter Parker’s masked face adorning them. I told myself “I don’t need to buy this at release, with all this press they must be expecting to need a sales push, so it can’t be that good”. I’d also heard from podcasts I trust that it was a collect-a-thon, I have a 1 year old son so definitely do not need this day one.
Naturally I was there day one to buy it at full price from Tesco. Popped it into my PS4 Pro to let it install and didn’t play it until the following evening. I write this review a week after I finished the main story line, collected a lot of the collectables and finished many of the side missions. I ended on about 85% completed, on spectacular difficulty (hard) clocking in around 16 hours of play. The reason I reiterate this, is after a week of reflection, I’m not sure I actually did enjoy it as much as I thought.
Visually, Spider-Man is fantastic. Running on a PS4 Pro, I could see the stubble on Martin Li’s face as he spoke to me. New York looks and feels like it should, to the point that my girlfriend gave it the seal of approval through recognising streets and landmarks (“I’ve been there”). The characters look and emote like real people, with fantastic voice acting to boot. It turns out that all Peter’s lines were recorded twice, once whilst he is stood still and a second more ‘out of breath’ version for when he is swinging across buildings. I don’t recall the music, so can’t have stood out as either great or mediocre, and I did find that enemies started to repeat the same quips as I progressed through the game.
The gameplay itself is where I feel a little let down. The first 10 hours are an absolute blast. The swinging is incredible and does feel like you are whistling across roof tops and whipping around the sides of skyscrapers. The combat is an Arkham clone, but didn’t ever feel like it had any weight to it. I don’t know if it was the difficulty level that meant the enemies were damage sponges, but they took a beating, then popped back up to take some more. You can attack with square, dodge with circle and web zip over to an enemy with triangle, and as the game went on more moves were introduced. Even on hard mode, I never felt the need to use them. There are various ‘Spider gadgets’ that can be created as the story progresses, however I never found myself looking to use any past the first 2 that you gain access to. If the game was a little more challenging, I may have felt the need to mix it up a little, but once I got into my stride, I would throw the enemy into the air, punch, punch, punch, zip to another. With a very limited pool of enemy types, it can get old, fast.
Without spoiling the fantastic story line, there are some particularly notable boss fights. Insomniac pulled some great villains from Spider-man’s catalogue, each having a history with this version of Peter Parker making them feel more realistic, and that you are peeking into Peter’s life as it happens, rather than starting at the beginning. This part I loved, and is what drove me through the game. There were some parts of the game where you don’t play as Spider-Man or Peter and whilst I appreciated the effort to mix up the game play, they ground it to a halt. I would rather have seen a short cut scene to move the narrative along, than have to push forward on the left stick and play insta-fail stealth sections.
If I had to give the game a score when I had played 10 hours, it would have been a solid 9/10. I loved the world I was in, the fluid movement and fast paced story meant I was Spider-Man. However as the repetitive combat, same side quests and drawn out ‘other character’ sections continued and mounted up, I found myself less enamoured with the world, and only wanting to see the game through to the conclusion. So a week later, I am dropping the score down to 7/10. If the game was a little more varied, or maybe even less ‘padded out’ I would have appreciated a more streamline game.
I wanted to add one more note about the upcoming DLC too. Insomniac announced 3 pieces of DLC, a week or so before the release of the game for the price of £15.99, to be released a month after the game came out. There are 2 arguments to be had here. On one hand, how great that they are supporting the game with more content, to keep the world alive after it is released. However I come down on the cynical side that if this content is ready to release a month after the game is released, why would it not be included in the game? Why produce a game and additional content side by side, if not for a quick money making exercise, when it could have been used instead of the samey side missions that were included? Unfortunately another reason I feel a little disappointed with the game’s overall package.