This review of Spider-Man for the PS4 is going to get into some mild spoilers. Not *HUGE* spoilers, really. (For one thing, I haven’t finished the game.) But if you merely want to know whether it’s good, then know that I think it’s good. Is it perfect? No, it’s got some hinky stuff going on with the combat. Some of the various story points are weird too.. but if you want to avoid spoilers entirely, just know that it’s worth getting and, more than that, it’s worth getting to the point where if you were on the fence as to whether to get a PS4, this game should push you over to “Yes. Definitely get one.”
Now, from this point on, I’m going to get into some mild spoiler territory. Nothing huge… but if it would have ruined your enjoyment of Batman: Arkham Asylum to know that you started off as Batman, you had Joker with you, you were going to Arkham and you were going to be staying there, and the first “real” villain you fought (kind of as a tutorial) was Zsasz… well, just close the window and get the game. It’s worth it.
All y’all still here? Good.
One of the conversations I had with Maribou was over how I wanted to play the game. One option, I told her, was how *I* wanted to play. That is, find all the collectables the second they became available and only get to the main story when I had no other option. The other option was to play the game in such a way that it’d make for a better review. More emphasis on story, less emphasis on side quests.
“Play the way you want to play”, she told me.
Well, okay then.
So here’s the setting: When the game starts, you are Spider-Man and you have been for a while. Long enough to have put a number of villains on The Raft (think Alcatraz) and to have worked at and then quit from The Daily Bugle and, not only that, for J. Jonah Jameson to have retired and started a radio talk show in which he gives short rants about how Spider-Man is bad. HOWEVER. You have not been Spider-Man for so long as to have encountered Doctor Octopus. He doesn’t exist yet. You have a day job as the apprentice of Otto Octavius and you’re working on prosthetics, of all things. But he’s just this schlubby guy who works as a scientist and he has but the four mostly-standard factory limbs. A bit after, you meet Norman Osborn, but he’s merely Norman Osborn (like, he’s alive and he’s not wearing a Goblin suit). At the same time, you’ve got people like Aunt May explaining how she wishes that you and Mary Jane would get back together. J. Jonah Jameson, at one point, yells about how Spider-Man, at best, attracts Super Villains to New York City (and, at worst, is in “cahoots” with them) and he mentions the Nazi made of bees (that would be Swarm, for those of you with less than perfect knowledge of our favorite web-slinger).
So it’s some sort of hyper-modern reality. Some stuff from the 60’s and 70’s is discussed as if it is well behind us. Some stuff from the oughts, tweens, and teens as if they were resolved around the same time. All together as if they just happened yesterday.
It’s interesting because, at this point in the game, I still haven’t encountered the Green Goblin or Doc Ock and I feel like I will witness their birth… but it also mentions stuff like The Vulture or The Sandman in the past tense (like, not that he’s *DEAD*, but that he’s defeated).
When it comes to the main story, the only villains that I’ve encountered that you’d recognize are The Kingpin and The Shocker and you meet several of the shock troops of Mister Negative (and you meet Mister Negative’s alter ego) but… well, I’m playing the way that *I* want to play. I’ve collected all the backpacks. I’ve taken pictures of all of the awesome buildings. I’ve visited all of the places where Black Cat has been scoping out her marks. So I’m only a handful of percentage points done with the game’s story (even though I’ve spent hours and hours with the game swinging through buildings and collecting tokens).
As for the gameplay? Yeah. It’s pretty good. Swinging is *FUN*. You really get a sense of velocity as you swoop between buildings and it’s *FUN* to transfer from this side of town to the other (don’t worry, if you don’t want to spend a couple of minutes going all the way from here to there, you have the option of taking the subway). The side-quests are *FUN*. It feels like you’re actually doing different little scientific chores for your friends (there are spectrometer puzzles!) and the gameplay is varied for these little sub-games.
As for combat… well, I admit to having been spoiled by The Batman Arkham series. By the time that series finished, they had perfected the fluidity of the combat.
Playing Spider-Man feels like going back and playing Arkham Asylum when you’re used to playing Arkham Knight. Already, I can’t wait for the sequel.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I think it’s a game you should get if you think of yourself as someone who might like a Spider-Man game. This is it, baby. The game you’ve been waiting for.
So… what are you playing?
(Picture is HG Wells playing a war game from Illustrated London News (25 January 1913))