Game Review: Spider-Man PS4

Game Review: Spider-Man PS4

Impressive from the core and beyond with a few minor irritations

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Spider-Man PS4, which I guess is what we have to call it in order to not confuse it with any number of Spider-Man movies and video games that have come out over the course of our lifetime, is one of two games that have come out in 2018 that have gotten to the core of what gamers want from video games.

  • Fun, engaging, and rewarding gameplay
  • Solid coherent narrative

While that sounds laughably simple, game developers and publishers have been missing on the concept of gamers wanting to play games that are fun to play or have an entertaining story.

Instead, there?s so much made about online functionality, open world, branching narratives, the GRAPHICS, and while these are all valid desires to have in a game, the bones of a game has to function before you can put the muscles and skin on it.

God of War achieved this. It has an open world. Beautiful graphics. But it?s the story and gameplay that earned the game its mass acclaim. God of War PS4 released in 2018 that is. Not to be confused with God of War PS2 released in 2005. Video game historians will be pulling their artificial hair out centuries from now trying to decipher which game is which with how often publishers are reusing game titles. I digress.

I would be shocked if the Game of the Year conversation isn?t split between Spiderman (this is where I?m officially giving up on using the hyphen) and God of War. Considering the competition this year, the recognition would be deservedly so.

What makes Spiderman PS4 praiseworthy is that it excels in its most important areas. The story is an overachievement based on my expectations going in, and the gameplay made being Spiderman the joy he deserves to be.

Let?s talk about the gameplay first because I won?t need to linger long (but probably will anyway). The web swinging physics and mechanics are reminiscent of Spiderman 2, the only Spiderman game anyone happily acknowledges. After watching some Spiderman 2 gameplay footage, Insomniac Games delivered on the same beats in Spiderman PS4, but also cleaned up the brutal momentum stoppers that hampered Spiderman 2. It?s important to note Spiderman 2 was released in 2004. 14 years ago.

Other consistencies that can be seen in Spiderman 2 and Spiderman PS4 are in the combat. What Insomniac did was build off the principles of a really good old game, worked the kinks out, and applied a fresh coat of 2018 graphics and game design.

The web swinging is the defining experience of the game. It?s wonderfully cathartic. Spiderman glides through a spectacularly designed New York City filled with landmarks aplenty. A casual swing may take you by or atop Madison Square Garden or through Central Park. Head to a rooftop and you can easily spot the Empire State building or the Freedom Tower or even the mighty Avengers Tower. One of the first things I did in the game was scale the Empire State building and jump off. Hilariously, Spiderman hits the ground with a somersault and rolls up to his feet with 206 functioning bones.

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The game is designed so that Spiderman can swing with speed and precision. You?d be hard pressed to find another open world game with a more satisfying means of traversal.

As for the combat, it?s in the same vein as Batman Arkham and Assassins Creed. The combat is designed mostly around the punch, counter, and gadget system. Spiderman is able to unlock an array of gadgets that are fun to use, most of them involving webbing of some kind. Spiderman is able to build up focus which can either heal him or use a finishing move. The combat is fairly balanced, and while it?s no Shadow of Mordor or Arkham Asylum, the combat is well done.

There are some stealth sections. The stealth system is fine. Spiderman isn?t exactly Agent 47 though I?m sure Agent 47 may dress like Spiderman on occasion. The stealth element is occasionally used in the story but most prominently used in base takeover missions where after you stealth takedown some baddies, more waves of baddies come out already alerted to your presence. Having no reward for being stealthy doesn?t really help the cause, but being a stealth fiend I couldn?t help myself. I would hope a likely sequel addresses this concern.

Base takeover missions become mundane by way of sheer volume. There are radio towers. Also mundane, but not Far Cry levels of infuriating. Side missions and side activities are okay. The main story is where most of the good content is held.

My favorite side mission involved a psychotic internet streamer forcing Spiderman to solve clues in order to save a civilian in danger. My least favorite side mission was a series involving D-list level bad buy Tombstone.

There are also challenges of combat, stealth, and web swinging set by a C- level villain known as Taskmaster. His PR team really needs to find him a better less literal name. Taskmaster studies Spiderman as he completes his challenges of disarming bombs and saving hostages in order to get his comeuppance against Spiderman.

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The most insulting side activity is Black Cat?s stakeouts. It?s a peeping tom (or err cat) minigame where Spiderman looks through binoculars to see locations where Black Cat is robbing rich people. By the end of it, there?s no payoff because Black Cat never appears for an actual side mission making the whole charade pointless. I heard she was in the DLC but to spend another $25 for three missions is highway robbery so the game publishers can piss off with that garbage.

HOLD UP! Back up? The most insulting side activity is the stupid puzzle games you have to do when the game thinks its acting all scientific. There is a pipe placement mini-game and spectrometer mini-game that are absolute snores. I can tell the intentions were good on Insomniac?s part. Apparently, they wanted to get it across the Peter Parker is also a part-time Thomas Edison, but the science mini-games are overkill.

One minor detail I want to give utmost praise to the developers of Spiderman PS4 is in the sound design. The Marvel-like soundtrack that fades in as Spiderman takes to the sky adds that needed superhero atmosphere. Of all the minor details that were assessed in this game, this might be the most important. Great sound design is the ultimate enhancement for any good film or game.

I loathe most boss fights. To Spiderman PS4?s credit, I thought some of the boss fights were well designed. The best boss fights involve Spiderman taking on two supervillains at once. The downfall of some boss fights and sequences of the game is that they devolve into quick time events.

Without further ado, Spiderman PS4?s story mode. Insomniac seamlessly crafts the story within the game allowing the pacing to be taken at the rate of the player. Want to rid New York City of crime? You have time for that. Want to collect all the backpacks Peter has littered all throughout the city? There?s time for that. Want to go on a sightseeing tour and take photos of all the landmarks like an unwanted tourist? You can do that too.

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Want to blaze through the story in a convenient amount of time? Spiderman PS4 has you covered. I don?t count gameplay hours because I?m not a maniac, but if I was to pontificate upon how long I felt the game was, I thought it was neither too short or too long. The reason being, I thought Insomniac and the writers of the game did a masterful job of developing a story with a succinct beginning, middle, and end.

The beginning of the game introduces you to New York, the lively cast of characters, their roles, and what it?s like to be Spiderman. Throughout the heart of the game, tensions rise and rise and rise, and eventually, we arrive at the turning point in which the game turns everything on its head. The conflict becomes inflated and Spiderman?s situation dire. We meet Spiderman?s villains and the game?s archnemesis. We finish off with a wicked climax and a powerful ending.

The two premiere villains of the game are Doc Ock, who we get to know as the good doctor for a good part of the exposition, and Mister Negative. While Doc Ock will receive more fanfare, I found Mister Negative to be just as compelling.

The plot revolves around the two main villains hating Mayor Norman Osborn for personal reasons. Osborn owns Oscorp which owns a lot of biotechnology among other ventures in New York. Osborn is the shady politician who ends up pissing off the wrong people.

Spiderman?s job, as always, is to stop the bad guys and protect the lives of the innocent. The story exposes us to a healthy amount of Peter Parker, his charitable Aunt May, his ex-girlfriend MJ, and series newcomer Miles Morales.

The best character in the game is never seen, he is only heard. But he is heard loud and clear. In a blatant attempt to take a dig at nonsensical loudmouth radio show personalities, namely Alex Jones, J. Jonah Jameson hosts a podcast that plays minute-long clips berating Spiderman. Jameson reacts to Spiderman?s actions with outrageous conspiracy theories that would make Skip Bayless proud. The segments are so well done in script and delivery, they add that extra layer of depth and authenticity to Spiderman?s world. Jameson?s character isn?t just a sketch parody, rather he comes off as a believable media adversary to Spiderman. Jameson is inspired by today?s media ?take? culture.

The rest of the characterization plays on the usual superhero beats. Parker?s complicated relationship with MJ. Parker?s kinship with Miles. Parker balancing his superhero responsibilities with real-life struggles. The writers do a great job of making a 23-year old Parker come off as relatable. The expectation of Spiderman is that he often has tired quips and jokes, and doesn?t take much seriously much to his own detriment. The writers for this game, however, understand how human?s talk and interact in 2018 and it?s noticeable in how natural the dialogue and scenes play out. Marvel films are known for a trademark brand of humor, and that carries over to this video game. I laughed out loud when Spiderman ribbed on T?Challa from Black Panther.

Insomniac?s crowning achievement story-wise is that Spiderman PS4 feels like a playable Marvel movie. The story isn?t groundbreaking or revolutionary, most superhero films aren?t. They?re popcorn movies made for the enjoyment of the masses. Spiderman PS4 has that quality of accessibility.

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What I found particularly impressive was how sharp the facial animations were. Many video games struggle with truly bringing their characters to life with natural facial expressions during conversation. I think back to how much time was spent on Batman?s cape animations in Arkham Asylum. I imagine a gruesome amount of time was spent successfully capturing and polishing the actors? facial expressions to make their conversations and emotions appear real and genuine. This is yet another one of the minor touches that makes Spiderman PS4 a standout title. Certainly, having Marvel/Disney funding helped but credit nonetheless to Insomniac Games for doing their due diligence and beyond.

There?s really no better way to put it. Spiderman PS4 is a game where the developers did their due diligence and beyond to create a marquis video game.


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