Spider-man PS4 starts off well. With an opening scene where Peter Parker gets a call from the police radio that there’s some crime going down. He rushes about throwing the suit on, throws some bread in the toaster and has to ignore the letter about his rent being overdue. He has crime to fight, he leaps out of the window and the music kicks in then you are immediately in control with the cutscene transitioning seamlessly into gameplay. And it feels good. The swinging through the city is a lot of fun. Swinging up high and hitting X at the peak of the jump to boost up higher. Tapping X when free-falling performs a mid air web zip to propel Spider-man forward. The web-slinging controls are simple and intuitive to use. Easy to pick up for even non-gamers to have fun with.
Unfortunately when you get to the crime scene and have your first go at combat that’s when the cracks start to appear. The combat isn’t terrible but it does often frustrate. It borrows a whole lot from the Batman Arkham series. With “Spidey sense” appearing as wavy lines around Spider-man’s head indicating an incoming attack and you have to dodge with the circle button. Square is the attack button and you can web up enemies with R1 which creates an opening for you to wail on them much like Batman’s Batarangs do in the Arkham games. There are other gadgets that you unlock as you go that do different things in combat like electric webs that shock enemies for a few seconds or web bombs that explode and tie up a number of enemies with web in a small area.
Enemy types are similar to Arkham too. You have your standard grunts, the guys with shields you have to dodge to get behind them before you can hit them. The larger tank enemies you have to tie up with web before you can hit. Some enemies have guns so you have to take them out first and you can unlock moves to web the guns and pull it out their hands. You can web them and throw them about or various different throwable objects in the environments. Sometimes enemies throw grenades at you that you can web and throw back.
There’s some variety there but it all feels a bit uninspired and leans a bit too heavily on the Arkham influences. Some later gadgets do add a bit of fun to proceedings but it’s nothing compared to some of Insomniac’s other creations for weapons like the Groovitron 3000 a disco ball from Ratchet & Clank that makes enemies dance, the gun that shoots round corners from Resistance or the gun that shoots records at enemies from Sunset Overdrive. Not that Spider-man should have anything quite so absurd it wouldn’t really fit here but what is on offer seems very bland by comparison.
Graphics & Sound
Graphically the game looks good. It didn’t blow me away or anything. There are certainly far better looking open world games out there but it looks good. The open world of New York looks a fairly impressive re-creation of the real life city with lots of locations from the Marvel and Spider-man universes such as Avengers Tower or The Daily Bugle HQ building. The citizens going about are plentiful so it feels like a real life city that is very busy full of people as well as cars driving around, some people inside shops, restaurants, bars and other places make it feel like a lived in city. They are often repeated character models but it’s fairly well spaced out so you don’t get 4 identical twins next to each other or something so it isn’t too jarring like that. Generally the world looks really good when you’re swinging around but stop and look closer it starts to feel a bit less interesting but it looks good enough to service the gameplay.
Sound is very good with various sound effects when web-slinging or in combat that sounds very authentically Spider-man. Sounds and the audio in the open world with people talking and other ambient sounds make the world feel alive although the citizens and Spider-man’s replies dialogue is limited so you will hear them repeat the same lines often. Music is pretty good stuff with a soundtrack that sounds much like the recent Spider-man and Avengers films.
Mission Types & General Gameplay
Where Spider-man PS4 really falls flat is in it’s basic open world 101 mission design. You have to unlock radio towers to reveal parts of the city and then it litters the map with icons for side missions and collectables. The same sort of fetch quests or dull go here and clear out a bunch of enemies from the same copy and paste warehouse, jewellery store, street or other such locations. To start with only a few mission and collectable types are available and it isn’t too bad theres a manageable amount of them and I would have been happy with that. But as the game goes on more and more mission types are added each being utterly banal quests like swinging around after a pidgeon, swinging through clouds of pollution to collect samples, disarming bombs. The basic mission structure that used to plague lots of open world games. The Assassin’s Creed series prior to Origins for example or if you have played either of the Prototype games they are what I was most reminded of playing Spider-man.
Now, I enjoyed those games at the time but open world games have came on leaps and bounds since then and Spider-man feels very much stuck in the past with these bland mission designs. The main story missions aren’t all that much better with similar rinse and repeat combat scenarios different enemy types. Sometimes you will sneak through vents and take them out more stealthily from up high. It is all very simple and basic. It works but I played about 8 hours and was utterly bored with it all so I never finished it.
This game seems to me wouldn’t have got any attention if it wasn’t for the fact it’s a Spider-man game. As Spider-man games go it is one of the better ones but that really isn’t saying much. For me Web Of Shadows is still the best one and that game was severely flawed but for it’s time it played quite similarly to Insomniac’s game. It had dated and dull missions too. It’s just that in 2018 with so many better open world games out there that have much more interesting missions and gameplay that have a lot more substance to them. Spider-man really stands out like a sore thumb.
Developer: Insomniac Games
Release Date: Out now