Calling Spider-Man, the best superhero video game feels like Hyperbole, even a month out from finishing it. The Marvel Ultimate Alliance and X-Men Legends games were great, but Spider-Man was a game that did its best to make you feel like a hero, while still staying close to the progression and story-telling required to feel like a game.
Part of that comes from the giant tent that Insomniac built for this game. They mixed various genres and play styles in a way that most modern games don’t even attempt. That variety means that there are parts of the game that might bore some people, but in most cases those are limited.
If you don’t want to solve a bunch of puzzles, you can skip all, but the few worked into the storyline. Same goes for the more elaborate challenges and raids. The only thing you end up stuck with are the stealth missions. You’re yanked out of Spider-Man and forced to play as Mary-Jane or Miles to sneak past guards without the benefit of being able to web up guards before they can call for help. I didn’t mind them, but I can see some people annoyed by being forced through these missions. They are used sparingly and do add something to the game.
The story is refreshingly free of both movie and comic continuity. There’s plenty of references and characters you know, but if you are coming in just knowing a bit about Spider-Man from your childhood or the movies, you’ll be fine. Though there is a good story here, most of the appeal of this game is going to be swinging through New York and bashing criminals in the face with manhole covers.
It is Spider-Man and the Sinister Six though not entirely as you remember it. Mary Jane is now an intrepid reporter, letting her and Peter team up. Some of the stealth levels have you playing her trying to avoid being caught while she is sneaking around. The game actually executes this better earlier in the game where you play as Spider-Man crawling on ahead of her to clear rooms without attracting attention. The stealth levels end up feeling like they’re intentionally slowing your progress. They break up the pacing, but they feel a little forced.
The open-world portion of the game seems to frustrate some people. Primarily, you go to a new area find a tower that unlocks all the missions in the area. The exception is a few that come later in the game and the faction crimes. The crimes pop up as your patrol, which goes a long way to make it like more than an adventure game that happens to star Spider-Man. It's shouldn’t be a knock on the game that it didn't innovate on how to present an open world game.
New York, or at least Manhattan Island, is practically a character. It takes the same detail to sculpt the city that a game like The Division did and then populates it. Rather than a dead model, you get people who react to your actions. This isn't just people screaming when you start fighting, and some people want to take a selfie with you, others are in the J Jonah Jameson camp and harass you for being a menace.
That was one of the more surprisingly fun parts of the game. As you swing around, episodes of J Jonah Jameson's podcast play. It acts as a way for the world to update from your actions but is also pretty funny. In general, the writing in this game should be credited for how funny the game is while still being serious. It is essential to the feel of the comic. That humor is the thing most of the movie adaptations miss, well until Homecoming. Even then I feel like the quips during fighting are the best in this game that they have ever been outside of the comics.
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