I’ll be honest, I’ve never really been much of a superhero fan, whether it’s comics, movies, or video games. I don’t have a burning hate for them or anything, I guess I just missed the boat. With that in mind, I wasn’t particularly phased by Insomniac Games‘ upcoming Marvel title, Spider-Man, but after spending some time with it, I may need to reconsider my stance.
After spending some a couple of hours with the game yesterday, I feel like it’s not a stretch to say it’s kinda like Grand Theft Auto, only instead of jacking cars, you’re slinging around an incredibly beautiful and realistic New York, and instead of getting involved with the city’s criminal underbelly, you’re beating the shit out of it. After the session, I got to have a chat with Insomniac’s community director, James Stevenson, who was flattered by my comparison.
“Those games are just so gigantic with so much variety, whereas we’re really focused on the Spider-Man experience of giving you things you can do as Spider-Man, and I think we have a lot of cool stuff you can do in our world,” he told PEDESTRIAN.TV “And obviously, the ability to swing around the city means you have the ultimate traversal method, you’ve got this really fun way to get around.”
He’s right, flying around the city via web is insanely satisfying, from the variety of moves you can pull off in the air, to seamlessly transitioning from swinging to wall running to landing on the ground. Every line you shoot out is attached to a physical point in the world and will behave accordingly. While the city itself is a pretty accurate replica of the real New York, the team did make one cheeky adjustment in the name of fun.
“It’s actually more vertical than real New York because it’s more fun if the buildings are tall, so we actually kind of stretched and made the buildings a little bit taller than they actually are in Manhattan,” Stevenson said. “It’s not one-to-one by any means, but it feels big.”
I think it’s safe to say that everyone at least knows Spider-Man’s deal on a basic level. Young bloke gets bitten by a spider and as a result, develops some gnarly powers. I think a big reason I tend to avoid Marvel stories is because I feel like I’m too far out of the loop to enjoy them, which isn’t the case with this title. While it obviously appeals to hardcore fans, there’s tons here for those who are new to the series.
“The thing I would say to folks like that is that this is not just a superhero story,” Stevenson said. “I think one thing Marvel does really well is that it’s not just about the mask, it’s the person behind the mask, so these stories have to be bigger than just superhero stories, they have to be human stories.”
“You may just like Spider-Man, but if you like good stories, hopefully you’ll play this game and enjoy it.”
What really stood out to me during my playthrough is just how much you can do. After the first 20 minutes or so, the world is completely open to you, so if you just wanna spend some time swinging around the city, you absolutely can. The story missions are fun, rich with narrative, and feel on par with PlayStation‘s recent run of incredible first-party games, but even the side missions are surprisingly entertaining. By perching yourself on a high point and tapping a button, you scan the city for points of interest, whether it’s crimes in progress or just collectable items.
“You can go and do a side activity in a few minutes and you get to swing around, you get to do some combat, and you just wanna keep doing it,” Stevenson said. “I’ve played this game for hundreds of hours, I’ve played it through several times in full this year and I still wanna play it more.”
In terms of combat, there’s an insane amount of variety in the way you can approach it, but the basics include button combos, dodging, shooting web, and interacting with items nearby. When you take down a group of enemies using a combination of all four, it feels like nothing short of magic. As Stevenson said during our chat, Peter Parker has been Spider-Man for 8 years prior to the events of the game, so feeling like you’re in control of a masterful Spider-Man is super important, and that certainly shows.
You also have the option to upgrade your combat abilities, whether it’s by unlocking different combos or swapping out your web shots for powerful ones which send enemies flying. Upgrades are also available for all sorts of gadgets and different suits, of which there’s a dizzying variety. There’s just so much content packed into this amazing world.
Tapping into the human side of the Spider-Man story literally puts you into the shoes of Peter Parker and, at times, other characters like Mary Jane, allowing you to “feel who they are, feel their place, be able to walk around and explore those places a little bit, and also do some little activities and get some of the lore,” Stevenson said.
Whether you’re a fan of Marvel or not, Spider-Man is a helluva good time and if you fall into the latter category of gamers, I’d urge you to pick it up regardless. The PS4 exclusive drops on September 7.Image: Insomniac Games