When I finished Marvel’s Spider-Man, my only gripe was that I’ll be waiting at least another two years for its inevitable sequel. If you’re reading this and are still on the fence about adding it to your gaming library, just purchase it on Sept. 7 and thank me later.
Insomniac Games’ labor of love clearly shows after the first loading screen, at which point the gamer takes their place as Spider-Man and immediately web-swings to the first mission checkpoint. There are no tedious origin stories that bog the story down, nor are there any awkward training sequence to introduce you to the game. The game starts with Spider-Man aiding the NYPD on a raid of Wilson Fisk’s offices, letting the gamer figure things out with a few training aids to gently ease them along.
Of course, learning on the fly does allow for some potential pitfalls, mainly the control scheme that the game employs. The fact that the game lets the gamer figure it out on their own is bound to frustrate some early on. The learning curve for this Spider-Man game is steep, but at the same time, gamers will want to know why they haven’t experienced something this complex (in a good way) before.
The gameplay is where Marvel’s Spider-Man really shines. Standard Spider-Man activities like web swinging or webbing up bad guys still manage to be fun even after you do it hundreds of times. With skill tree that expand as the game progresses, the moves expand and make you want to keep grinding away to learn more.
The work put in by Insomniac is on display during boss battles. The sets pieces are highly detailed, making proper decision-making crucial. Few boss battles are alike and will test skills at each and every turn. The final boss fight and subsequent cutscenes are among the best storytelling through set pieces for any form of Marvel media ever. That’s not hyperbole — if you play through the sequence through to the credits and don’t shed a tear, you might be devoid of a soul.
The side-missions are also in depth, only enhancing the main story while also helping to reduce the dramatic learning curve. There are no shortage of these side missions, which are necessary to build up your Spider-Man avatar as the game gets deeper as you prepare to face the run of villains that this game offers, which are varied and consistently make sense in this telling of Spider-Man’s story.
Most importantly when it came to storytelling, the secondary characters that are in this game are some of the most fleshed-out versions that they’ve been in any medium. For instance, Mary Jane is used as more than a cheap plot device or a damsel in distress that Spider-Man has to rescue. In fact, she plays an active role in the story and helps advance the plot in many different ways. I’d go as far as to say this is how the character should be used going forward in comic books, movies, etc.
But it’s not just characters like Mary Jane — Aunt May is fleshed out with her own purpose other than doting over Peter Parker. Villains are given clear motivations as to why they’re doing these heinous acts as well. Everyone down to Norman Osborne has a very human reason to their motivations, and it’s a refreshing shade of grey in the normal black-and-white version of comic books.
Even the smaller details, like the costumes that gamers can unlock, are more than the standard fare we’ve seen in previous Spider-Man games and highlight that every decision tied to this game was made with care. For instance, whichever Spider-Man costume is selected transfers over to the loading screen as well, which isn’t a game-changing detail, but it’s proof that those involved with creating these things were obsessed with ironing out the smaller details.
But when you add it all up, this is the best video game based upon a comic book ever. The Batman: Arkham series has been the standard-bearer for nearly a decade until now, but Insomniac Games took the foundation of those games, bulldozed the house, and renovated the entire genre.
If you have any love for Spider-Man, you owe it to yourself to purchase this for the experience alone. If you’re a gamer, you’re going to want to experience this, because it’s the new standard-bearer for superhero games. And of course, if you’re both, just sit back and enjoy the ride.