[Replayability Review] Spier-Man PS4 – Something Old, Something New, Something… Sticky?
Hello, and welcome back to Galaxy of Geek for another Cade’s Arcade review, I’m Cade! Today, we’re gonna be talking about the Web-Slinger himself, Spider-Man!
Spider-Man for the Playstation 4 has finally released! Last September… Yeah I’m a little late to this review, but better late than never?
Released on September 7th, 2018, Insomniac’s Spider-Man was a highly anticipated title amongst many webheads, including myself. I’ve always been a big fan of the Wall Crawler, and Insomniac is one of my favorite developers. When I originally saw this game announced back in 2016, it’s safe to say I was immediately on board. After seeing the fantastic job they did on Sunset Overdrive for the Xbox One, it seemed like a no brainer that their next title should be a Spider-Man game. And it turns out I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.
It was after the success of their Xbox exclusive that both Sony and Marvel came to Insomniac and asked which Marvel title they would like to work on. Without skipping a beat, Insomniac chose Spider-Man.
Fast forward 2 and a half years later from it’s official announcement and here we are. Now my expectations were set high and while there are many things that can make a game great, there’s only one thing that truly matters to me… Let’s take a look at the replayability of Spider-Man for the PlayStation 4.
Right off the bat, this game doesn’t waste any time with its introduction. In just a few short minutes, the story visually tells you everything you need to know about Peter Parker and where he’s at in life. Shortly after, the game immediately puts you right in the driver seat, as you swing your way to the first mission. All of this happens while an awesome soundtrack plays, hyping you up for the emotional rollercoaster you’re about to go on. It’s safe to say I greatly enjoyed the opening and couldn’t wait to see what the rest of the game had in store.
After the thrilling introduction however, the story’s pacing does slows down. While I can see how people would take issue with this, it honestly wasn’t a problem for me. I appreciated the developers taking their time with the first half of the game to really cement and develop the characters you’re going to be interacting with along Peter’s journey.
This game is filled to the brim with charming interactions that will have you falling in love with these familiar faces all over again. From genuinely funny moments, to scenes that left me in tears, you can tell that Insomniac put a lot of love and care when it came to writing the story.
However, the story really begins to gain momentum around the halfway point, and boy when it rains it pours. Despite it being a 15 hour game, Insomniac managed to cram in a meaningful narrative that will have you engaged from start to finish. There wasn’t a single moment, that I can think of, that I found boring.
This next bit is a side tangent but it’ll make sense in a minute. Growing up, my Mom taught piano. Naturally as a piano teacher, she wanted me and my siblings to learn how to play music. While several of my siblings did learn instruments, I’ve always felt I gravitated towards music just a tad more. So much so that I would always participate in my Mom’s old piano recitals.
I used to practice those songs constantly and try to put my best foot forward, and for the most part I was always proud of what I accomplished.
Anyways, I bring this up because I’m someone that LOVES music. I’ve always had an appreciation for the creativity musicians have. So obviously I’d want to take a moment to talk about the music in Spider-Man. And it should come at no surprise that I thought the sound track was… just ok. It wasn’t bad by any means, and the main theme is pretty catchy. However, the overall sound track didn’t exactly blow me away either. Honestly, the music is more akin to the MCU movie’s, which also isn’t a bad thing.
But that’s when the music is actually playing, and here’s what fascinates me about that. If you’re just walking around, perched on a building, or just standing still not doing anything, the music is non existent. All you hear are the busy New York City streets. But as soon as you start web swinging, all of a sudden this wave of heroic orchestrated bliss rushes over you, Which does nothing but put you in a mental state of heroism. While I felt the music itself kind of played it safe, the fact that I can choose to trigger it at anytime is fantastic to me. I would have liked to hear more music that was a little less generic, but for what it is, it does the job.
Gameplay & Design
Alright so what exactly do you do during your adventure?
You’re gonna be punching, dodging, web swinging, collecting crap, and serving up 31 different flavors of justice amongst a variety of criminals. The game has this way of encouraging you to think on the spot, and does a good job of letting you play the way you want… for the most part, more on that later.
Web swinging does take a little getting use to in the first few minutes, but it feels great once you get going. The momentum you generate combined with Spider-Man’s fluid and improvised actions are what makes the web swinging feel so “spectacular.” This improvised style of gameplay bleeds directly into the combat.
You can choose to fight with an assortment of gadgets, utilize suit abilities, use the environment to your advantage, or just stick with your basic hand combat. The variety of options you have at your disposal is phenomenal. Like for example, you could uppercut someone, air punch, and then slam into the ground. Or you could uppercut, attach a trip line, and force him to the ground. Or you could get lazy like me and send out a hoard of Spider Drones, a personal favorite of mine.
Now I couldn’t do this video justice without addressing this next point. Prior to Spider-Man’s release, people compared the combat to Batman: Arkham Asylum. I myself even made this comparison when describing the game to other people. However, when I made the comparison, I used it in a way to emphasize how much fun the gameplay looks by Spider-Man seemingly drawing inspiration from a previous combat system that felt great. I’ve noticed that people have a tendency of twisting this aspect as though it’s a negative in Spider-Man’s case.
Yes, the combat is very fluid and there are moments where it can seem like a Batman Arkham clone. However, the similarities are superficial at best. For one thing, in Batman Arkham Asylum you can spam the counter button all day and 90% of the time, you’ll be just fine. But if you try to do that with Spider-Man’s dodge…. Let’s just say you won’t be so lucky.
To clarify, if you couldn’t tell from my Arkham Asylum review, I love the Arkham series, they’re some of my favorite games to play on repeat. I’m just pointing out that while it can seem like Insomniac “ripped off” Batman’s combat, I don’t think that’s an accurate or fair assessment. I do have more to say about this comparison, but to put it simply, Spider-Man for PS4 is not Batman: Arkham Asylum with a Spider-Man skin.
Moving on, I n addition to the exhilarating and fast paced gameplay of Spider-Man, you also get to play as Mary Jane and Miles Morales. Of which I will get into later…
When you’re not chewing bubble gum and kicking butt, you’re gonna be collecting crap. Yes ladies and gentlemen, Spider-Man for PS4 is a collect-a-thon, but don’t worry!
The amount of things to collect is very minimal compared to some video games in this sub-genre. The collectibles include backpacks containing fun, but ultimately useless fan service, and reactivating police towers to help you locate different icons on the map such as the collectables and fast travel points.
You’ll also be going sightseeing by taking pictures of iconic locations both real and fictional, as well as completing various side missions like helping Harry out with his science fair projects, or completing a variety of challenges from Task Master. All of this bonus content nets you tokens you can then use to unlock different suits and upgrade your gadgets. And the best part about collecting the tokens is you don’t need to do everything in order to get everything you would want to unlock.
I also appreciated when the game gave me a warning that I was heading to the final boss. With most games, when you reach the final area you don’t normally get a heads up like this that allows you to prepare for the final stretch. As someone that likes to get to the final area and then gather everything before I go to the last boss, this is a convenience I greatly appreciate. Yes, I realize that there are several games that do this, but there’s plenty others that don’t. It’s when those games don’t do it that kind of drives me to be crazy and paranoid.
As I previously stated, I have a lot of love for fantastic soundtracks. However, there’s another aspect to video games that goes beyond my love of music. To put it simply, I like to admire all of the effort and attention to detail the developer put in to make the game look and feel right. While I am referring to the obvious things like the web swinging, I even admire the mundane little things normal players wouldn’t stop to think about.
For example, I could just stare at a tree for several minutes to study how it moves just to get an idea of what the developer would’ve had to do in order to make it work right. There’s a whole laundry list of things the developer is expected to do, and when those things don’t work as intended, it’s ridiculously easy for players to overlook the little things that the developer did get right, the things that made the experience work to begin with. These details could be anything from major moments that make or break the experience to the completely unnecessary and missable details that are equally just as awesome.
I’m talking about stuff like the fact that Spider-Man comics are a thing in this universe. They did not have to go through the trouble of licensing out the rights to use this copyrighted material, only to use it once and then never show it again. Or different moments of continuity like when Peter’s voice pattern changes from calm to out of breath depending on if he’s swinging or not. Peter will even resume a conversation he was in the middle of if he gets interrupted.
These aren’t things that just magically happen. Someone had to think of these ideas and then program them into the game in order to make it happen. It’s details like these that I appreciate the most. I especially like how your punch button turns into an interaction button allowing you to wave at people, or even take selfies.
Details like these aren’t what make the game good. Honestly, the game would still be great without these added extras. However, going the extra mile to inject just a little more personality goes a ridiculously long way in making the world you’re playing in feel so alive and that much more believable.
Another aspect that was done really well was how cinematic the cut-scenes are, which pairs nicely with the music. While recording footage for this video, my parents would briefly pop in every now and then to see what I’m up to. My mom would say that it felt like she was watching a movie, and I completely agree. The presentation Insomniac put into Spider-Man really shows just how far they’ve come from their Spyro and Ratchet and Clank days.
Speaking of presentation, the characters were all very well designed. Insomniac managed to nail the look of the staple Spider-Man characters while simultaneously adding their own spin on them. I especially like the star shaped scar on Electro’s face, which is a direct reference to his classic suit from the comics.
All of the characters look great except… for Peter. Look, I try to give as honest of a review as I can when I make these videos, and he looks like a potato to me in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he looks all that terrible. He’s definitely not an eyesore; he’s just kind of vanilla.
But beyond the cosmetic details, there’s some options they added to make the whole experience more convenient. Like for one thing, you can turn off the Quick Time Events. I keep hearing people complain about how this game has QTE’s, and yet I don’t think those people realize that you can actually turn them off.
For those of you that don’t know what a QTE is, basically it’s when a cutscene plays and you’ll be prompted to press specific buttons at specific points in time. To turn them off, go into Accessibility and among those options should have a “Turn off QTE’s” option. Boom, you’re welcome, you can thank me later.
Now it doesn’t 100% turn off the QTE’s, they will still play at the start of a car chase. But it does turn off all of the QTE’s during the main campaign. So to everyone who keeps complaining about this part of the game… my gosh your prayers have been answered.
Another nice convenience is the fact that you can turn off JJ’s podcast. In this universe Peter’s old boss J. Jonah Jameson has since left behind his Daily Bugle days in favor of a more streamlined style of news delivery in the form of a podcast, and… I’m just not a fan of them.
I realize I’m in the minority on this, but it is what it is. Which is why I’m glad they provided the option to turn them off completely. There’s nothing specifically about them that I hate or I find ruins the experience for me exactly. I just find them annoying, plain and simple. But if you’re someone who enjoyed listening to them, then hey more power to you. You do you, my dude.
Another part of the game I felt was a little lackluster were the lab mini games. They were fun initially, but got really stale too quickly to me. I believe it was mostly due to how mind numbingly easy they were solve. To be fair, Insomniac has never been known for making difficult games, and that goes double for their puzzles. However, these puzzles are especially easy; I can’t stress that enough.
There’s no challenge with them, they drastically slow down the pace, there’s no satisfaction for solving them, and you don’t get much of a reward for doing them. You do earn some of those tokens I mentioned earlier, but for how many mini games you have to do relative to how many tokens you get, you’re better off just doing the other side missions which will net you more. Which is why I’m also glad they added a skip option for these mini games. Again, just like JJ’s podcast, if you’re a fan of these mini games then awesome, go nuts.
Which *sigh* leads me to where the game needs to improve. Up to this point I’ve been doing nothing but praising the game. While I did REALLY enjoy this title, I do have some bones to pick with it. While my previous few points where commenting on some things I didn’t like, they were issues that do have features that fix those minor annoyances.
As previously mentioned, the game does let you play and fight how you want for the most part. However the same can’t be said if you go to an enemy base.
In the game, there’s different factions of criminals. You’ve got your mob and street thugs, Demon gang, prison broken inmates, and super teched up Silver Sable agents. Your goal for each enemy base is to clear out every enemy in the base. Each base has a total of 6 waves, and you always start the first wave in stealth mode.
The lack of freedom comes when you finish that first wave. Once you reach wave 2, the enemies automatically spot you and you’re forced to fight offensively like normal. I wish the game gave you the option of completing these missions in stealth mode. Yes this is a minor complaint, but it would be an added opportunity to allow the player to really mix up how they want to approach a situation.
Going back to the Batman: Arkham argument, in Batman different gadgets were assigned to different buttons on the controller. These would be what you’d call “hot keys”. This means that during combat, you could whip out different gadgets and execute really satisfying combos with ease.
Spider-Man in a lot of ways is way more fluid and dynamic than Batman’s combat. Switching weapons on the fly in Spider-Man on the other hand, isn’t as flexible as I’d like it to be. Being able to activate different gadgets at will, rather than go to my scroll wheel and slow the momentum of the fight every time I want to use a different gadget would make combat even more exhilarating than it currently is. Just to clear any potential confusion, the weapon wheel should stay, it’s an Insomniac staple, I’m just more-or-less wanting more variety in how I access my weapons and gadgets is all.
You might have already guessed that I appreciate fast paced combat, which is why it’s really frustrating that the hit detection kept getting caught on walls more times than I would have liked. If you’re swinging around trying to chase a drone and turn a corner too sharp, then Spider-Man will either stop completely in his tracks or start running in an entirely different direction than where you were going. Or if you’re fighting in the air and you get too close to the walls, Spider-Man will automatically stick to the wall, breaking up the flow of your combo. The gameplay is fantastic but there’s something that needs to be done with Spider-Man’s hit detection with walls.
Then there’s the MJ and Miles missions… I’m not gonna beat around the bush, I hated these levels. Just imagine for a second, you’re going on a stealth mission as Spider-Man, but the mission completely sucks all the fun of the main game and instead replaces it with cardboard boxes, and you have a typical MJ and Miles level.
Why are there so many freaking boxes….
I group these two segments together because they both play exactly the same with some minor differences. Originally I was looking forward to trying out these segments. I was excited by the fact that we got to play as more than just Peter the whole time, and I wasn’t expecting to play as Miles originally, so that came as a pleasant surprise the first time I played this game.
However, they weren’t fun to play at all. They limit your mobility, you’re playing in a hallway the entire time, and by the time they begin to do anything interesting with those segments, the game is almost over. The only MJ mission I actually liked was when both MJ and Peter had to work together to take out the enemies at the train station. I wanted to see more of that!
I’m all for MJ’s missions being stealth based, but give me some room to explore. I want to see a room that has multiple paths that allows me to choose how I get from point A to point B. While it would still be linear, there would be more variety in how I can approach the task at hand which would mirror Spider-Man’s style of improvised gameplay.
With so much variety and thought put into Spider-Man’s combat, the MJ and Miles missions honestly feel like an afterthought. But the thing that makes me sad about them is they had potential to be greater than they actually were.
Let’s take Miles’ levels for example. I liked- no, LOVED– the fact that they integrated the tech side of his character into his gameplay. But that part of his gameplay is limited by utilizing the items around you, which kind of makes it as mind numbingly easy as the lab puzzles. I think in the sequel Insomniac should take a page out of Watch_Dog’s gameplay with his tech. Now I know what you might be thinking, I realize the reputation Watch_Dogs has, but just hear me out. The gameplay Insomniac has implemented is very similar to Watch_Dogs already anyways, so why not just go all the way? What if you were able to scope out an enemy base by hacking into the security cams or do some recon work with a Spider drone? Or temporarily disable Sable’s tech remotely to catch them off guard? Those are just a couple of examples they could utilize with plenty of other options.
I also felt the game gets a little repetitive at times. There isn’t much I have to say about this one, just the spectacle of watching him stop a car chase tends to wear off when you see it 50 billion times. This isn’t something that will ruin the experience, it’s just something I felt was worth mentioning.
Which brings me to my last point. I felt they showed off more story than they should have in the trailers. I felt that in the advertisements leading up to this game’s release, they showed off a lot of Mr. Negative. Now, I get why they focused so much on him. They wanted to make it look like he was the main villain so that the final reveal would be more impactful (which everyone could see coming a mile away btw). What I’m getting at is there’s times when studios and companies will deliberately change trailers just so they can hide potential spoilers that will reveal major plot points.
Marvel is a prime example of doing this lately. They did in Thor Ragnarok when they changed the scenes in the trailer where Thor was missing an eye in the movie. They did it again in Infinity War where Thor has an eye patch where he normally has an eye in the movie. I get these decisions, they make sense and I’m fine with that. However, Insomniac’s marketing team decided to do the opposite.
The first time we’re introduced to Martin Li (Mr. Negative) was during the E3 2017 gameplay demo. Li was featured in the demo and then later removed from the same scene in the final game. At the point in the game where the demo takes place, Mr. Negative hadn’t been shown yet and Li is established as a trusted friend and surrogate father figure to Peter. All matter of surprise had been taken away from the story because this plot twist was already shown off in the demo.
I’m someone that didn’t know who Mr. Negative was prior to this game, but I know that there are fans that did. And obviously those fans would see that twist a mile away. I’m also not saying that Li being revealed to be a villain was all that surprising because it wasn’t. My point is Mr. Negative wasn’t as well known to the general public. Insomniac even said they wanted to cast a different character that not a lot of people knew about and that’s why they chose Mr. Negative, specifically. Showing off Mr. Negative this early in the the marketing and then later removing him from the exact place he’s in makes no sense what-so-ever. This is nit-picky I realize, but I can’t help that stuff like this bugs me.
Despite bugs and glitches having the potential of ruining someone’s experience such as crashing your game or getting you trapped in a room you can’t get out of, occasionally you’ll stumble upon some glitches that can actually enhance your enjoyment of the game. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend checking out Son of a Glitches’ video on Spider-Man, it’s worth a watch. He goes way more in depth on the subject than I ever could, and goes as far as explaining how you can replicate these glitches yourself, provided they haven’t been patched already.
There’s so much more I can say about Spider-Man for the PS4, and there is DLC that has come out at the time of this review. I will be following up with the DLC at a later date, so stay tuned.
But in a nutshell, Spider-man is a thrilling joy ride from start to finish. The gameplay is exciting and dynamic, and the story is what held my interest the most and left me in tears. And don’t get me started with this game’s visuals… beautiful!
Despite my frustrations I expressed and the things I want to see improved, I would consider this game….
If you’re a playstation owner who hasn’t picked up this title yet and are a fan of open world action adventures, then you need to add this to your collections immediately!
TL:DR? Here’s a link to the video review!
Now remember, reviews are just opinions that should never be taken your own. As always, keep it right here on Galaxy of Geek, and don’t forget to check out Cade’s Arcade for more reviews and videos on all things video game related. Take care, and I will see you next time!
GOG Break Down
Console & Version: Playstation 4, base game
Time upon completion: 15 to 20 hours
Price: $39.99 Digital/Physical, $35 on Amazon
Why you should buy it: It’s Spider-Man! It’s reputation should speak for itself
Why you shouldn’t buy it: If you’re not a super hero fan
Who is this game for: Any comic book/video game enthusiasts