When it comes to superheroes, Spider-Man is one of my favourite because he is such a positive character whose humorous quips are as effective as his spider gadgets. I’m not a super fan who read all the comics and knows all the storylines but I grew up watching the cartoon on Fox Kids and reruns of the 60’s cartoon (you know, the one where all the memes come from). I was excited to hear about this game because it would give me the chance to dive back into my childhood and actually become the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. And you know what, Insomniac Games delivered.

Let’s Not Take It From the Top

Spider-Man’s main storyline is a typical superhero narrative with villains, arch-nemesis, allies, mystery and plot twists. It is thankfully not an origins story. Not only couldn’t I sit through Uncle Ben’s murder and Peter getting bit by a radioactive spider again, but it would lack intrigue for anyone familiar with the web slinger’s background. This game proposes a narrative that starts about halfway and that will entice every type of fan.

I won’t spoil the game for you but here’s the basic plot. You start the game by facing off with one of Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis: Wilson Fisk a.k.a The Kingpin. You successfully send him to jail but that doesn’t mean he’s out of the picture. While he re-establishes control over his activities from prison, a rival gang called the Demons show up. You then spend the game following the threads that connects events to Fisk, the Demons, Mr. Negative and Oscorp, all while juggling the trials of being both Peter Parker and Spider-Man.

You’ll still get tidbits from the past events through gameplay as well. Through the missions, you’ll face various villains and key characters from the Spider-Man universe and conversations and interactions with Spidey will give you a peek into previous encounters. Oh, and when collecting backpacks across the city, make sure you take a moment to listen to Peter as he briefly recounts events and memories about the item, giving you more insight into the story.

Spider-Man combat

Spider-Man fighting Demons (screenshot by Catherine Smith-Desbiens / Girls on Games)

I think Insomniac Games managed to perfectly balance new and old to deliver an original story line that is truly “Spider-Man”. It’s both action packed and emotional, as superpowers do not make Peter Parker immune to life’s ups and downs.

From Web Slingin’ to Ass Kickin’ at the Push of a Button

Spider-man’s gameplay is straight up fun. Web slinging, combat, puzzles, progression… Insomniac Games delivered balanced systems that make this game a solid contender for Game of the Year.

Web Slinging is fun and once you get the hang of it, a very efficient way to travel, especially with New York City’s legendary traffic jams, am I right? After unlocking a few skills, you will seamlessly transition from slinging to parkour to combat and back; no villain nor criminal will be able to outrun you.

🎶 Web slinging my way downtown 🎹 (screenshot by Catherine Smith-Desbiens / Girls on Games)

Spider-Man offers a typical straight-forward progression system that is two-fold. First is the skill tree: level up to earn skill points and spend them to unlock combat, movement and gadget skills. Second are the suit powers and gadgets which are earned through a combination of leveling, completing missions and spending tokens. As the suits and gadgets are made available to you, you can spend tokens to unlock and upgrade them. It’s a fairly simple system which lets you play to your strengths and/or to counter your weaknesses.

I Want To Be A Part of It, New York! New York!

Speaking of side objectives, there’s a lot to do in Manhattan but it’s not overwhelming as they trickle in through completing main story missions. You’re also free to explore the whole world map from the get-go since you are not outleveled by what is available. Facing and overcoming the puzzles and enemy types through the main mission means you can tackle the optional stuff with confidence or know which upgrades and skills will help you in completing them. Although, I do find the types of missions and objectives can get repetitive as they cycle through beat-em up events, car chases, infiltration and stealth, puzzles etc.

I do recommend you take the time to explore Manhattan, and even give a few citizens a high five and take selfies with them. Insomniac Games built a living breathing New York that both mirrors the real thing and mixes in the Marvel universe including the Avengers Tower and The Daily Bugle.

Marvel's New York

Marvel’s New York City (screenshot by Catherine Smith-Desbiens / Girls on Games)

Press X To Save New York

Unfortunately, Spider-Man makes use of Quick Time Events (QTE). The cinematic action sequences are peppered, no littered with QTEs. I hate them, in any game, as they always feel random and break the flow of combat. Unfortunately, the QTEs in Spider-Man are not all fine-tuned. I’m not one to easily start raging while gaming but having to re-do a story mission multiple times because of a fucking QTE will get me going quickly. Not to mention that after months of playing on Xbox, press X is a great source of doubt and anxiety. I personally would’ve been fine with non interactive cinematics that serve as a transition between the different gameplay sequences. I’m really not convinced those QTEs were necessary.

Lookin’ Fly

This game is gorgeous. I’m playing on a day one PlayStation 4 and the graphics are crisp and clear and the animations are smooth as butter. I have encountered little to no clipping, no frame rate drop or input lag. I’ve made good use of the photo mode to capture New York’s architecture and Spidey’s various suits.

Spider-Man photo mode

#TBT to my old job at the Bugle! (screenshot by Catherine Smith-Desbiens / Girls on Games)

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Game of the Year

Spider-Man is one of the best superhero action adventure game since the Arkham series. It will appease and entertain any Spider-Man fan looking for a good story with challenging fights and engaging puzzles. It’ll also scratch the itch for completionists looking to clear a map. Although it’s nothing revolutionary in the genre, Spider-Man does what it does well all while staying true to what we’ve come to love of the web slinger. As this game is a true Spider-Man experience, if the character and his universe are not your thing, I doubt the gameplay alone will make this a game you’ll enjoy.

Web slinging into the sunset and onto GOTY charts (screenshot by Catherine Smith-Desbiens / Girls on Games)

DISCLAIMER: Marvel’s Spider-Man review code was provided by PlayStation Canada. The opinions expressed in the article above have not be affected by, dictated or edited in any way by the provider. For more information please see Girls on Games’ Code of Journalistic Ethics.

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