Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Open World Action-Adventure Mega Review: Spider-Man

There have been many great Spider-Man games over the years. However, Insomniac's Spider-Man changes up the mix a bit, with a more experienced Spider-Man, playable Mary-Jane Watson and Miles Morales stealth sections, and a mix of iconic and lesser-known characters in Peter Parker's rogues gallery. 

Spider-Man uses the mechanics from the Batman: Arkham games with the addition of climbing on walls and webbing. It is this final factor that makes the game really enjoyable and sets it apart from its inspiration. It is really fun to web up thugs, and super enjoyable to swing around town. Swinging is the mechanic that will make or break a Spider-Man game, and this one delivers. It also adds a mechanic to make Spider-Man's swinging zippier. The zip web is thrown in front of Spider-Man, causing him to zip forward. Spider-Man also makes new gadgets as the story progresses which can be used in combat. It's fun to use the web bomb to web up enemies and then use the concussive blast to throw them back and stick them to walls.

The Arkham mechanics work well because, in both the game and the comics that inspired it, Spider-Man is a lot like Batman. He is also a genius that makes gadgets and has a suit lined with electronics. For the things that Spider-Man doesn't have, such as a bullet-proof suit and a grappling gun, Spider-Man makes up for it with a healing factor and his web shooters.

Alongside the Spidey missions are story beats where the plot switches to the Daily Bugle reporter Mary Jane Watson and the teenage coder Miles Morales. As she is Peter's on again, off again girlfriend, M.J. Watson is in close contact with Spider-Man, and as a reporter, she proves invaluable in finding evidence. Stealth is the key in these sections of the story, as both characters have to get in and out of situations without being caught. These sections are a controversial part of the game, but personally, I enjoyed them a lot. I just wish there were more M.J. stealth sections, not just because Miles Morales got his own game by Insomniac, but also because they are more fun. Once M.J. gets the ability to shock enemies unconscious, the stealth sections become quire enjoyable.   

The story sees Peter Parker working for Otto Octavius working on mechanical arms for people who lost their own. As time allows, he also helps his Aunt May, who works at the F.E.A.S.T. shelter. The charity, founded by a businessman named Martin Li, is so named as it provides resources for food, emergency, aid, shelter, and training.

In addition to his obligations as Peter Parker, he also patrols the city as Spider-Man. This version of Spider-Man takes its Batman inspiration further as he works with a contact in the police department. Yuri Watanabe is a great addition to the Spider-Man lore, as she is a wonderfully complex character and not just a cookie-cutter police chief.

Fans of the comics and films will be happy, as the story includes Spidey staples such as Kingpin, Doctor Octopus, Vulture, Electro, Rhino, Scorpion, Black Cat, Taskmaster, and Norman Osborn. It also has lesser-known villains such as Mr. Negative, Shocker, Hammerhead, Silver Sable, and the obscure villain, Screwball. Mr. Negative, in particular, is a very compelling villain that I hope makes it to the big screen someday.

The presentation is excellent. It has moments of cinematic action, which are very reminiscent of the Uncharted series. Many are quick-time events that provide precise button pushing, but the prompts stay on screen for a while, so, thankfully, they aren't a challenge. The visuals are quite realistic, even in the original PlayStation 4 version. The textures and models in the remastered version are improved and sometimes changed, especially Peter Parker who is completely redesigned. The former actor for the face of Peter Parker, John Bubniak, has been recast to Ben Jordan (no relation to the paranormal investigator). This was done to better match the facial performance capture of Yuri Lowenthal. Both versions are excellent. I, personally didn't notice a difference in the facial movements of either actor, but your perceptions might be different than mine. The rest of the actors are excellent as well, especially Watanabe's voice actor, Sumalee Montano. Her vocal performance helps a lot in making Yuri Watanabe a compelling character.

Insomniac's Spider-Man is the Spidey's best game so far. With great visuals, interesting characters, fantastic voice acting, fun cinematic staging sequences, and cinematic music, it is worth playing both for people who are fans of the comics and films as well as people who only have casual knowledge of the web-slinger. 

Final verdict:
5 out of 5

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