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"Marvel's Spider-Man" Review

By Kelson Howerton
On October 24, 2018

This comic book hero's abilities perfectly translate into both the game's movement and combat.
Photo Courtesy of Den of Geek

There are A LOT of open world games. From the almost-annual “Assassin’s Creed” franchise, to giants like “The Witcher 3” and the impending “Red Dead Redemption 2.” With so many games in the genre, it is hard for new games to stand out, with so many of the tried-and-true open world tropes coming back again and again.

Some have managed to stand out among the pile, with Bethesda Game Studios’ flagship series “The Elder Scrolls” and “Fallout” using nearly every inch of their worlds for storytelling and worldbuilding, Avalanche’s “Just Cause” series creating thrilling systems to move around and blow things up in its sandbox, and Nintendo’s recent “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” reinventing the childlike magic of simply just exploring.

While there are these standouts, many more fall into the category of tired, plodding and lifeless worlds where the only fun to be found is completing a checklist of mundanity.

“Marvel’s Spider-Man” does not reinvent the open-world formula, it refines it with one of the most fun mechanics to ever grace a game and stands out as one of the best pieces of “Spider-Man” entertainment out there.

Insomniac Games’ take on the fan-favorite hero puts you in the mask of a Peter Parker who has already been around the block, skipping the origin story everyone is all too familiar with in favor of telling a story of a Spider-Man who has already had a few years of experience on the job.

Like the webbed hero himself, “Marvel’s Spider-Man” hangs on its web-slinging – one of the, if not the, best movement systems in a video game to date. Swinging through skyscrapers, web-zipping onto a wall, transitioning into wall-running, then swinging around the side of a skyscraper and soaring into the air is pure joy – a drug-like high that does not wane even after hours of pulling off the same maneuvers time and time again. There is a certain speed and momentum to webbing through New York City that feels like a rollercoaster ride as Spider-Man dives out of the air towards the ground before shooting a web and firing back up into the sky.

This joyfully perfect translation of the comic-book hero’s abilities transfers over into the game’s combat as well. Playing off of the “Batman Arkham” series that so clearly inspired it, “Marvel’s Spider-Man” allows Spidey to swiftly zip around enemies, bashing them with fists, webbing them into the air for air combos, and tackling groups of enemies with his collection of gadgets and web shooters. Spidey is much faster than Batman, but his enemies hit much harder, making combat a speedy game of dodging and striking enemies until every baddie is unconscious or webbed onto the ground or the side of a building.

Spidey does not just have to fight his enemies head-on, however, as the game also presents some areas for Spider-Man to take a stealthier approach. A far less-involved version of the more tense and strategic predator sections of the “Arkham” series, these bits do not have the staying power of “Spider-Man’s” hand-to-hand combat but serve well as a palate cleanser.

This is only half the game, though, as Insomniac’s take on the hero does not just have you play as Spider-Man, but as Peter Parker. Unlike his superhero persona, Peter does not quite have everything together, struggling to pay rent and balance his night job as Spider-Man, his day job as a lab assistant for scientist genius Otto Octavius, and volunteering at the homeless shelter Aunt May helps run. As Peter, the player will spend time talking with people, investigating things he cannot while wearing a mask, and solving a series of mostly unchallenging puzzles in Otto’s lab.

Not as thrilling as just swinging around the city, sure, but Insomniac’s approach to the game opens the door for a great deal of storytelling, delivering a surprisingly rich and emotional story as Peter fights through the worst week of his superhero career. By the end of the game, Peter is pushed to his breaking point, and the player is taken on an exciting ride as Spidey takes on a host of classic Spider-Man villains, including Insomniac’s fresh take on fan-favorites.

The game also throws in sections where you play as Peter’s friends, from investigative journalist and Peter’s best friend/ ex-girlfriend Mary Jane Watson, to Insomniac’s take on Miles Morales, a much younger hero than Peter. Like the stealth sections as Spider-Man, these portions of the game serve purely as palate cleansers and seem not near as thought-out. These sections certainly do not crumble an otherwise excellent experience, but they are lacking in the joy and fun found in every other piece of the game.

As cliched as it sounds, “Marvel’s Spider-Man” makes you feel like Spider-Man. From webbing through an incredibly detailed New York City, to battling off Spider-Man’s biggest foes, to just being a friendly neighborhood hero and helping those in need as both Spider-Man and Peter Parker, no other “Spider-Man” game thus far has so successfully pulled off what it means to be “Spider-Man.” Despite falling into many of the same open-world tropes of countless less polished games, “Spider-Man” soars above the rest with one of the most fun games to hit the genre, and that is a feat in and of itself

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