First Impressions - Marvel's Spider-Man
There will definitely be a review when I’m done with the game, but here are a few of my primary thoughts.
I did not expect the game’s combat to be this good. Watching gameplay videos and trailers made Spider-Man’s moves look more cartoonish and “loose” than I thought I wanted. As a huge fan of the Batman: Arkham series of games, I could tell this would be yet another action game borrowing elements of the “Freeflow” system, but I was worried that this looked like too much button mashing. I was wrong, and this game is easily the best iteration of those ideas that I’ve seen. At times, it feels like it may have even out-Batman’d Batman. This style of timing-based combat is at its best when you can jump into a squad of thugs, have a lengthy fight, and take them all out without being hit. In Batman, it works because of Bruce Wayne’s believable martial arts prowess and crazy gadgets. In Spider-Man it works because of the character’s acrobatic nature and web tricks. In the Arkham games, you feel stronger than your opponents, but in this, you feel faster. Batman combat fits this game perfectly.
So, most of my play time has been streamed live on our Twitch channel. Early in the game, they introduce Peter’s old backpacks as a collectible. The idea is that he’d tossed them away and webbed them to walls whenever he needed to go Spider-Man some people over the past eight years, and now he’s realized they have important stuff in them, so you have to find them. This immediately triggered jokes in my stream chat about how weird it is that Peter could afford all those backpacks given his financial struggles. Turns out, one of the backpack items reveals the answer. It’s always great when a game gives an in-fiction explanation for a game mechanic (I love the explanation for respawning in Borderlands), and this is one of the best examples of that I’ve ever seen.
As has been established on our all-Marvel podcast, I recently caught up with all the Netflix Marvel shows. Those deal with The Defenders, a group of characters operating primarily in New York. Marvel’s Spider-Man leans into that connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in some very intriguing ways. In the time I’ve played so far, there have been references to Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Daredevil, and Doctor Strange, not just as comic book characters, but in specific ways that connect to their recent TV shows and movies. It’s a fun little treat.
I have an unusual, irrational love for Spider-Man 2, the movie tie-in game released on PlayStation 2 back in 2004. It’s a bad, short game into which I poured thousands of hours, primarily because it’s a game that does one thing extremely well: swinging. Since that game, developers have tried multiple times to replicate the fun and complexity of its swinging mechanic for years. This new Spider-Man is the first time a developer has managed to improve on those ideas. I’ll get into more detail later, but for now, rest assured that swinging around NY has never been better.
My biggest concern so far is that I’ll run out of room. This game’s New York doesn’t seem all that large, and given how fun it is to just do stuff, I’m concerned the map will feel small sooner rather than later. Admittedly, that complaint can also be interpreted as “I like the game so much that I already don’t want it to end.” Additionally, because Spider-Man covers a lot of ground very quickly, the game feels a little off in close-quarters situations. Some small movements, like climbing down from ledges, feel strange in the same way they do in other open-world games with unique traversal mechanics, such as Assassin’s Creed. That awkwardness is just something we’ve all come to accept in games, though, so I assume it won’t be a big deal.
As of now, I’m still unlocking systems and mechanics as the game’s story ramps up. I think my save says I’m at 6% game completion, so I clearly have lots of Spider-Man-ing ahead of me. Overall, I’m enjoying my time with this game immensely, and even writing this is driving me nuts because I could be playing. I’ll be streaming the game some more later today.
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