Marvel's Spider-Man: Hero or Menace?
Marvel’s Spider-Man Review by XandoCalrissian
I bought Spider-Man 2 for the original X-Box on a whim and fell in love with the gameplay. The story was pretty good (albeit different than the movie it was based on) and the web slinging felt better than I imagined it could be. A few years ago, I booted this game up only to find the game didn’t live up to the memories I had. It was still good, but the amount of times I would be swinging around only to hear “Oh no, my balloon!” was insane. The thing that made me finally cave and pick up Marvel’s Spider-Man was when a friend (who had no idea of my experience with Spider-Man 2) posted his review saying “Marvel’s Spider-Man is the game you remember Spider-Man 2 being.”
He was right.
At this point in time (October of 2018), there are certain truths that I’m willing to bet that 90% of the world knows: fire is hot, rock beats scissors, full screen DVDs are a waste of money, Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider that bestowed upon him great power and turned him into Spider-Man, Peter’s Uncle Ben taught him that with great power comes great responsibility before he was killed so that he wouldn’t be some dingus with superpowers, and GameZilla Media is the best website to go to for podcasts. We can all agree on those, right? This game knows you know these things, so it doesn’t bother you with an origin story. You’re just thrown into another day in the life of Spider-Man.
Immediately you’re introduced to one of the best parts of the game – the web slinging. You can’t just shoot webs wherever you want and swing, there has to be something around you to attach your webs to. Is there a building by you? If yes, then swing. If no, hold down R2 until you can. The mechanics of this game are so fluid and natural that you feel like you’ve been doing it forever. Once movement mechanics are established, your first mission is to take down the Kingpin.
This intro is designed to do two things: set up the games overarching story line and teach you how to fight just about every enemy you’ll come in contact with for the duration of the game. After the opening mission, you’re all set to do whatever you want in New York (in the body of Spider-Man). The entire island of Manhattan is open to you. You can proceed with the story, swing around aimlessly, or start hunting collectibles. The game doesn’t force you to follow any one path if you don’t want to. In that sense it’s a very zen-type of gaming experience. There’s something satisfying about swinging around the map that you could boot the game up, just do that for 15-20 minutes and still have fun!
The graphics, music, and sound effects are all about what you expect from a AAA title nowadays. There isn’t anything that really stands out about it from an A/V standpoint. Where the game does shine is in making you feel like you are Spider-Man in his universe. The game takes place in New York and does a great job of mixing the real world with the one you’ve read about in the comics and with the places you may have seen in any movie based in New York. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are many inaccuracies that your NY-Native friends could point out, but as someone who has been to the Big Apple for one weekend of my 30+ years, I was pretty excited to see landmarks I saw during my visit.
Then there are all the small things- the collectables in the back packs, the “hidden” landmarks tying into the Marvel universe, all of the extra spider-suits, and (my personal favorite) J. Jonah Jameson’s radio show that plays randomly after certain events. It reminded me of how Grand Theft Auto would have news programs interrupt their radio stations to talk about missions you had done earlier in the game. My only gripe about this feature was that J.K. Simmons didn’t voice ole’ brush head in this game.
The story in Spider-Man is mostly an original story. What I mean by that is that it’s obviously based on existing characters, situations, etc., but it isn’t a story line we’ve seen in the comics before. So long as you go into this game with the same mindset you would as an MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) movie, you will probably really enjoy it. If you’re coming from a very strict comic point of view there might be some things that you dislike that in the interest of keeping this spoiler free, I won’t address.
One of the most impressive things is the pacing of all of the in game events. There are so many things to do in this game between the main story, the stopping of crimes, and all of the collectibles. And while Spider-Man does have a very engaging story, it picks very strategic times to break up the action and encourage you to explore and tackle the side missions.
I really only have two things that I didn’t like about the game and they aren’t even major complaints. The first of which was when I was making good strides in the story only to be blindsided by a mission where I was suddenly playing a different character trying not to be seen. It was kind of cool to get a different perspective on things, but every time the mission would start and I realized I was no longer playing as Spider-Man I would immediately regret starting the mission. Somehow these missions always appeared at a time when I would think to myself “One more mission and then I’ll go do productive things” just to ruin my day.
The other thing that was mildly annoying were the side missions that were graded challenges. And this one is probably more on me than the game design. I was able to ace all of these, but not until I stopped paying attention to the grading criteria and figured out they were all based on time. It was annoying getting just shy of a gold medal and reading the points I was graded on wondering what I could do to score better before realizing it all about speed. It took me a YouTube search to confirm that suspicion.
The only other thing I can list here isn’t necessarily a gripe about the game, just a concern for the future of Super-Hero based games. This game is very lucky that it was able to replicate a winning formula and have it work. At least for me, the obvious inspiration for this game was the success of the Batman: Arkham series (which is evident in all of the sneaky stealth take-down missions). My concern is that other studios take this games direction and thus Batman’s direction, and try to suit it to other super heroes. We’ve seen this happen in the movie world- The Dark Knight was an incredible film, but when they try to take the darkness of the Batman films and apply that to other characters you end up with movies like The Amazing Spider-Man and Man of Steel (or at least, that’s my opinion.). I would hate to see the success of this game and the Arkham series have a negative impact on future Super-Hero games.
The good: Amazing gameplay, spectacular story, sensational pacing.
The bad: Web of slightly annoying side missions, potential to screw up future franchises.
Overall, I really enjoyed this game. The story hit in all the right places, I cared about all of the characters and had a blast completing every task in the game. I’m thankful we’re only a week or two away from the first batch of DLC!