Incoming – Review No. 2099
Spiderman is not invincible. He can almost fly and is 72% quips. Seems ideal for computer games, right? I’d admit I have a soft spot for web-slinging but this isn’t about me. This is about you… who knows what you find pleasurable. You might collect famous hairs or even take pictures of drains. Who knows what disgusting things you get up to.
Oh, you can also enjoy the many pictures I took, as photo mode was tremendous fun.
Not having to trudge through Spiderman’s origin story is bliss. It immediately sets the tone and screams that the game has a clear vision. This is big budget gaming done right. Please pass directly to punching hired goons in the face and zipping around New York. Web-slinging doesn’t rely on slamming your finger on a button. To really show off you’ll need timing, awareness and maybe the odd wall run. The core mechanics are perfect and before long you feel like Spiderman. Even after platinuming the game I returned to dive off buildings and I rarely stick with games after mining them for everything on offer.
The city is complex and full of busywork, which makes sense as Peter Parker’s always late. Running into trouble does ruin brunch appointments and you’ll be surprised (and pleased) by the amount of New Yorkers trapped under cars. Side quests range from collecting things, to chasing things to beating things up and it’s all completely optional. When the fundamentals work this well, nothing feels like a chore and wrapping enemies up in webbing is fun. Of course, each incident might be worth searching out solely for those juicy experience points, to invest in shiny new equipment and suits…
… I had no idea I wanted to dress Spidey up. Each suit beings a fancy new power and I nearly always forgot to use them. You already have so many options at your disposal, even stealth. I guess they make for a good back up plan if times are ‘a hard going.
Side note – At important story moments I felt compelled to have Spiderman in his classic colours. I’ve no idea why it felt wrong in his more esoteric suits.
This is a game that makes you feel like you’re always on the cusp of flying off the road at 100mph. Taking control of a fluid acrobatic fighter does come with a base level of stress, but if you stick with the learning curve you’ll find yourself using Spiderman’s full repertoire of moves and it becomes second nature. Everything from dodging off a wall to continually punching enemies into the sky. Yes, there is a big idiot bloke that you can’t punch in the face, but it will give you an excuse to use one of the many gadgets on offer. Using a trip-wire whilst hanging from the shadows is a highlight and I was surprised by the amount of joy being sneaky brought me. The AI is just the right amount of dumb!
Side note – You can disable quick time events. YES! More games should give us the choice. In fact the accessibility settings are hugely impressive and I’m hoping this sets the standard for the future.
I’m also happy to report the story isn’t dumb. The masterstroke of a mature Peter Parker isn’t squandered and allows the adventure to go to places that have real meaning. It is a very human story for a game about a spidery-man, even if the story seldom throws up any real surprises. If you’re so inclined, you can have a nice little dig to find character and plot inconsistencies, but I might suggest you stop wasting time and get back to work on your own theatrical production about a struggling chimney sweep with a voice of an angel. Speaking of which, the quality and amount of voicework is staggering. Every voice fits. It was a joy to have my afternoon web-swing interrupted by J Jonah Jameson’s radio show and I found myself having to track down his dialogue in the option screen each time I interrupted his rants with a errand. There are other interruptions. There are story missions where you are not the all-powerful Spiderman and I can imagine a fair few people could find these interludes unwelcome. These segments are pretty forgiving, but you may or may not appreciate the break in action. As Peter’s a scientist there are also a selection (of mostly optional) inoffensive puzzles that could become tiresome as they literally pull you out the action…
… but for each break there’s that moment you dive from a building, the music sweeps in as you begin your swing and you succumb to the incredible illusion as you interrupt a burglary.
The fantasy does crumble if you hang around a crime scene. This isn’t a city simulator, so don’t get your hopes up. Victims will hunch over, winded forever… the emergency services will show up to look the part with some quality standing around… leaping away to high-five the public does help though and before long you’re back in this well curated world. If you want further proof then look no further then the static day and night cycle crafted to the tone of the story. Who doesn’t appreciate sad story rain or a hopeful new dawn?
The graphics aren’t just a pretty face as it helps with the cover up. Webbing a hired goon to a getaway car just before his mates take off at high speed not only made me laugh, but shows what the game engine can do. The density and lighting effects are outstanding and the minor bugs I came across have since been patched out.
Side tangent – New York felt so real I tried to find the hotel I stayed at. Obviously, it wasn’t there… hmm, probably a good idea to concentrate the game for rooftop traversal then accurate hotel placement. Hmm, that could be a whole other game. “The hotel inspector”. Shit, what as waste of tech. Then again, I wonder if I could purchase the game engine and city map…
Spiderman has a level of polish expected of a mature game at the end of a trilogy, not at the start. From the Tooltips on the loading screen, that updates with each new move you unlock (reminding you to use ‘em), to the excellent map legend for completionists, everything feels right. Technical achievement and thoughtful design in perfect harmony. If I did have a gripe and I’m really stretching… I’d say I would have wanted a bit more time with some of the lessor Villains.
The only other thing to warn of is… at its heart, this is just another open world game.
With a subject matter you probably already love and a level of polish deserving of the very highest scores. You won’t find something wholly inventive like the nemesis system from Shadow of Mordor. The city incidents, that pop up all over the place won’t randomise with otherworldly coding. You will eventually see it all. Yes, of course there’s a mission to collect flying pigeons. I mean, Spiderman does the small as well as the big, he is friendly after all. This is not the next stage of the evolution of the superhero or open world game, but is the perfected version of this what this generation of games can do… and (puts leg on a pretty high ledge) that’s pretty damn cool.
This isn’t just the definitive Spiderman game,
it’s one of the very best superhero games around.