Marvel’s Spider-Man: PS4 (2018)

Perhaps the most authentic Spider-Man project to-date – with vibrant FP-gameplay, rich cinematic storytelling/characterization, comics-lore, & crisp web-slinging mechanics, but flawed combat system, ill-balanced screentime, PS4-exclusivity, & mixed open-world missions. 8.9/10.

Plot Synopsis: Peter Parker is a teenager living in NYC. When he gets bitten by a radioactive spider during a school field trip to Oscorp, he develops spider-like powers, including the ability to shoot webbing from his hands and to climb up walls. When tragedy strikes close to his home, Peter must decide how to come to terms with the momentous loss but also how he must adjust to his new job as a masked superhero. Peter will face all manner of villains and those looking to cause trouble as he attempts to rid his city of corruption.

*Possible spoilers ahead*

Review: I just finished Sony’s new majestic Marvel foray into PS4, and all I can say is.. wow. A lot to unpack here, both good and bad, but I can say without doubt: You need to experience this if you’re a Spider-Man fan. Much like the Batman: Arkham games are to its titular hero (and Arkham’s influence is certainly clear here), I would argue this is one of, if not THE definitive Spider-Man experience, and an overall grand one at that. Perhaps the most authentic Spider-Man project to-date – with vibrant FP-gameplay, rich cinematic storytelling/characterization, comics-lore, & crisp web-slinging mechanics, but flawed combat system, ill-balanced screentime, PS4-exclusivity, & mixed open-world missions.

Let’s start out with the things it gets right. First, the feel. About as authentically Spider-Man as you can get, it’s bright, vibrant, triumphant, and done by people who clearly know the character and his persona/atmosphere. And that’s as it should be, considering Spider-Man (like Batman is to DC) is the in-essence personification of the Marvel brand and feel, and the effort and R&D put into it fits accordingly. The web-slinging mechanics are crisp and make it an unfathomable joy just to simply swing around the concrete jungle of NYC for hours – my favorite part of the game. The graphics are strong (despite a downgrade from the E3 teaser, as I’ll discuss later) with good textures, the score is bold and classic with themes and progressions that ooze positivity and wonder, and the world-building is fantastic with a 1:1 recreation of NYC and awesome Marvel-universal Easter Eggs from Avengers Tower to Sanctum Sanatorium to the Wakanda Embassy to J. Jonah Jameson’s blog to Miles Morales to a wide Spidey suit collection to.. well you get the point (HC suit is still the most beautiful Spider-Man suit in my opinion, 2nd favorite being the 2D comic book suit – no way that won’t put smiles on comic readers faces!). The voice-acting and characterization are equally strong, but above all, Insomniac get Spider-Man right. This is the classic, powerful, experienced Spidey straight out the comics (what I’ve been asking for and was disappointed in the MCU in. No Stark-daddy) and it provides the perfect base for the adventure.

Next, the story and Peter. Arguably the best thing about this game is the phenomenal cinematic storytelling. Video games were always theorized as an eventual platform to make playable movies in motion. And we’re finally here now, SM:PS4 being the latest in a string of many that have transcended to that level, and it’s glorious. I would argue that the story presented in this gamr is better than ANY of the Spider-Man movies! (except maybe Raimi’s masterful Spider-Man 2). It is emotional (as you’ll certainly see in that final cutscene – absolutely gut-wrenching, powerful, well-humoured without overdoing it, masterfully develops its characters, and even accomplishes new feats bringing an unknown villain to the spotlight and focusing on Peter as much ad it does Spider-Man. I thought I was just coming to play as Spider-Man, but didn’t think I’d enjoy playing as much as innocent, caring Peter as much as I did either – phenomenal idea and writing. ou’ll have to play the game to find out who.

Finally, the villains. While there is a noticeable and at times deeply frustrating lack of iconic Spidey villains (I’ll get to that later), the villains that it does focus on are expertly executed. The biggest underdog and surprise story here is Mr. Negative. A previously-unknown Asian villain given A-list ticketing in this storyline – not only bringing respectable representation for the often-slighted/forgotten Asian community but earns his keep as a strong gillain with cool powers and intriguing dynamic with Peter.  The choice was a ballsy one considering the plethora of iconic Spidey villains from Venom to the Goblins to Sandman to Doc Ock to etc, but something I kind of respect for not playing it safe and trying something new (even though he’s given way too much screen time). In the back-half of the game though, WOW. When the Sinister Six are introduced, the game turns into masterpiece-level, as we’re breathtakingly introduced on a rainlit prison-set night to the iconic Spidey villain team, as well as a gut-wrenching reveal of who’s behind getting them together. That sequence alone, even though most of it was teased at E3, is worth buying the game for and exactly the big-ticket showdown I was looking for as Spidey – one of the most iconic Spider-Man sequences ever realized to film/gaming.

Now, the flaws, and I would be lying to you if I didn’t say: there were a lot of them. First, the combat system. All I heard about when the game was released (had to secure a PS4 first.. Thanks Sony..) was people complaining about the combat system.. and they were right. While it offers lots of cool options for customizable combos and creative gadget uses while copying the core mechanics/working of the system Batman: Arkham designed and perfected, it somehow feels sloppier and worse than it’s 10-year ancestor, which, with the huge strides and more powerful processing systems/technology, just shouldn’t happen. It can be downright difficult and even frustrating taking on a simple group of loser street thugs when you’re SPIDER-MAN (as an experienced gamer using intricate combos too..). Baffling.

Next, the graphics/console bait-and-switch and villain choices. Another well-documented and rightfully torn-to-shreds aspect of the game is that the graphics are way different than they were at the E3 showcase earlier this year, where the game was shown and tremendous hype was built with the strategic showing of the Sinister Six reveal plan (clever move Marvel, albeit a bit of false advertising, explained below). The graphics are muddier and far more opaque in the version the public gets than what was clearly presented at E3 for that one S. Six sequence shown (that they obviously boosted the graphics for that one scene to build hype), and that is flagrant misrepresentation/baiting-and-switching and it’s just wrong. Besides that, the fact that Sony had the audacity to make it a console-exclusive to PS4, no doubt so they could greedily nearly-force anyone interested in the game but who has another console to shell out a $360-base price just to play this one game (me included), is just disgusting. Many people have to struggle for every penny they have to simply make ends’ meet, but this kind of brutal ultimatum-giving of buy the whole console or don’t play, only to increase already-rich share-holders’ pocket sizes while screwing the public making them pay SIX TIMES more than the game would be by itself had it not been console-exclusive (that’s the real Sinister Six here), is just terrible and Sony/Marvel should be ashamed of themselves. The Sinister Six marketing also turned out to be mostly catfishing, since, while they are stunning while they are featured, they’re only given roughly 25% of the storyline.. HALF of what’s given to some random previous B-Villain in Mr. Negative. Just mind-boggling.

Finally, the side missions and lack of post-game content. The biggest flaw in the game by far and one that HEAVILY detracts from the experience is the bizarre and inexplicable side-missions having to play as Mary Jane and Miles…. Yes, that’s right. You bought a SPIDER-MAN game, only for them devote entire CHUNKS of precious game/storyline to doing entire long missions as the girlfriend and friend of Spider-Man.. In two parts of the game, you are literally just snooping around Norman’s apartment building.. and an art museum.. as M.J.. for 25-30 MINUTES EACH!!!! Just stupefying – I did not come to a superhero game to play as these random powerless people doing boring journalistic/delivery work, and it feels like a purposeful cop-out to add diversity and something for the woman and Spanish/Black guy to do, also detracting from what would have been over-the-top-putting critical Spidey/villain missions.. What a shame. Oh and not to mention, EXTREMELY DANGEROUS – when you’re basically sending the message to thousands of players and young players to do things like sneak into armed Sable concentration camps and gang hideouts.. as a superpower-less teenage girl.. at night.. unarmed.. what do you think could possibly go wrong with that Marvel?? There’s a difference between having strong female/minority leads, and just being stupid putting them in reckless situations you’d better hope no fangirls/boys take too seriously/empoweringly in that sense.. Insanity. Lastly, the post-game content is atrocious and borderline non-existent – at best giving you a Black Cat and Task Master tasks that don’t even result in you having a storyline/cinematic showdown with them.. Tragic.

Overall, while there is a laundry list of flaws from the false-advertising of better graphics and Sinister Six-dominated storyline at E3 to a downgraded public release version, PS4-exclusive excluding millions while forcing super-fans to shell out big hard-earned bucks to play, flawed combat system copying but somehow downgrading from Batman: Arkham’s removing decent counters and poorly-designed tech switching, and downright-idiotic and poorly-paced M.J. and Miles side missions forced for diversity’s sake and dangerous as well as cop-outs from important additional superhero/villain storylines, Spider-Man PS4 is a great game. It just feels like Spider-Man and gets the core essence and understanding of the character perfectly, bringing it to life in spectacular fashion with bright, vibrant visuals and cinematic storytelling, crisp web-slinging mechanics, good villains despite improper juggling of screen time, & a shocking finale, making it a must-see Spider-Man experience. Perhaps the most authentic Spider-Man project to-date – with vibrant FP-gameplay, rich cinematic storytelling/characterization, comics-lore, & crisp web-slinging mechanics, but flawed combat system, ill-balanced screentime, PS4-exclusivity, & mixed open-world missions.

Official CLC Score: 8.9/10