There’s nothing quite like the feeling of effortlessly soaring over the Manhattan cityscape in a red spandex suit. Dozens of New Yorkers yelp and cheer as you zoom past them, gripping strands of webbing attached to the looming buildings overhead. Of course, that feeling isn’t one any normal person could experience — not unless they’ve played Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man, coming exclusively to the PlayStation 4 this fall. That being said, the game hasn’t released yet, but I did have the opportunity to have a taste of what Spidey’s world had to offer at E3 this past June. The experience was equal parts nostalgic and exciting, and it only made me want more. Marvel’s Spider-Man is a superhero game done right — it shows smooth and polished gameplay, gorgeous visuals, and the promise of a thrilling narrative that all come together to create an experience that will leave comic enthusiasts and casual gamers alike satisfied.
Too many games today are filled to the brim with game-hindering bugs and all around lack of polish when it comes to the reliability of their gameplay. Choppiness, bad AI, and seemingly infinite loading screens all break the immersion of a gaming experience. At conventions like E3 where new games are supposed to be shown off, games can seem even more rough, although they’re often still early in development at this point, so it’s more understandable. However, this isn’t the case with Insomniac’s newest title. The swinging mechanics are fast and fluid, and the combat has excellent flow. There’s a certain polish that Spider-Man had at its E3 booth, which is really impressive considering it’s still three months from release. Free falling in between buildings and zipping down into a swing kick on an unsuspecting goon is extremely satisfying, especially when coupled with Spidey’s Luchador-esque fighting style. There are a few hiccups when Spidey collides with walls and fences, but those are small when compared to the free flow flips and kicks when taking on multiple goons at once. The entirety of NYC’s landscape loads in with no issues, and the whole map is visible in detail from high points around the city. Spidey’s speed traversing through the city is silky smooth, with no clipping or frame drops occurring during my time playing. Some of the zipping mechanics can feel funky at first, but time and experience will make those movements second nature. With the game showing this much polish so early on, I am thrilled to see where it is at launch.
It’s no secret that impressive visuals are almost expected from games now, especially AAA titles. Games like God of War, Far Cry 5, and Grand Theft Auto are just a few examples of titles that really push the capabilities of today’s hardware, and Spider-Man is no exception. Developers have been noted saying that the map isn’t quite 1:1 with the real city, but it is about as close as it possible can be. Even in my short time with the game, it became quickly apparent that this claim isn’t an exaggeration. That being said, it would be easy to sacrifice beauty for size in a case like this, but Insomniac Games isn’t pulling any punches. The buildings and surrounding landscape show a unique and fresh look, almost as if looking through a window at the cityscape. The character models are crisp, with the wall crawler himself standing out in the best way possible. Watching the game unfold is almost as satisfying as playing through it, which is a feat in itself.
Narrative is a key element missing in so many new games, and gamers aren’t shy voicing their disapproval. A game can play perfectly and be a visual masterpiece, but all of that is hindered severely if the story isn’t up to par. In the past, comic book games such as the Batman Arkham series took the character and universe and ran with it, creating a great and original story, but that hasn’t been the case for the web slinger. Most games in the Marvel universe take old comic narratives and rehash them, often taking away the magic that made those storylines great in the first place. Insomniac have decided to create their own version of Spidey’s universe, crafting an original narrative with some of the lesser known villains and characters in the franchise, one of which is the centerpiece antagonist. This comes across beautifully in theory, and should delight both casual and hardcore Spidey fans. The biggest change, however, is the promise of a story that is heavily centered around Peter Parker. Exploring the true struggle of the duality that he juggles on a day-to-day basis is something that I feel most writers are afraid to explore in a video game. If done right, though, this could create a truly unique and captivating experience.
Spider-Man is the culmination of Insomniac’s greatest triumphs — taking the fluid movement and unique narrative of Sunset Overdrive and the overall enjoyable combat and exploration of Ratchet and Clank and morphing them together with the witty and acrobatic spandex-clad hero that so many people have grown up loving. The short amount of time I had to experience Insomniac’s world left me wanting more, and I am thrilled to see the final product this fall.