Entering 2018, there were, in my opinion, three licensed superhero games that could be seriously considered masterpieces. Those games? Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City, and Batman: Arkham Knight. Now, one more superhero game not only joins the Arkham Trilogy—it surpasses it, setting an entirely new standard. Marvel’s Spider-Man is polished, pretty, expansive, and made with love. It is the best superhero game ever made and quite easily one of the best games ever made. It has everything a Spider-Man game should have. Web-swinging is addictive, and it feels absolutely amazing. Combat is a joy, and you can use multiple approaches to tear through hordes of bad guys. The cast was incredible, with heroes, villains, and their relationships all fantastically developed. In giving us one of our first looks at adult Spidey outside of a comic book, Insomniac has delivered. Their enormous respect for the source material shows as every corner of New York is brimming with personality, easter eggs, and comics lore. Comics fans are in good hands–and a good wardrobe–as a long ensemble of suits enables fans to rock their favorite Spidey looks. The end result is a fantastic game that should be on anyone and everyone’s radar.
Spider-Man: Arkham Long Island
The combat takes a LOT of inspiration from the Arkham games, forcing players to utilize counters, gadgets, finishers, and all of the other bells and whistles. Like the Arkham Trilogy, you can stealthily clear rooms or you can jump into a pack of gangsters webshooters blazing. Stealth scenes generally involve hopping around rafters and high points and discretely causing distractions to isolate enemies. Once an enemy is on their own, web them up or jump down to execute a stealth takedown. Repeat until there is nobody left or until you are comfortable taking on the rest.
Combat is overwhelming at first. Within minutes of starting the game, a million mechanics are shoved in your face all at once–counters, dodges, web moves, gadgets, finishers, and more. Seconds later, a million thugs are thrown in your face. There is a lot to get used to, and the game does not hold your hand in any capacity. You will struggle at first, especially if you try to methodically punch your way through every single bad guy like you would in an Arkham game. However, the more you learn, the more rewarding battles get. As you slowly acclimate to the many unfamiliar mechanics, such as webbing enemies to surfaces, throwing them off buildings, using gadgets and suit abilities, healing, and more, you will see yourself evolve from a skittish, uncontrollable glass cannon into a web-spewing, ass-kicking machine. At his full combat potential, Spidey is a monster, stealthily clearing rooms or wiping out hordes of baddies in a heartbeat. Enemies will never know what hit them, as even in an open brawl, Spidey is constantly zipping from one corner to the next. Combat is fun, stylish, and insanely rewarding. No game before Marvel’s Spider-Man has ever had such smooth fighting, and frankly, I will be shocked if anything other than a sequel ends up being its match.
Web-swinging is a feature unique to Spider-Man games, and it’s also one of the most important aspects. Traversal has to feel right or else the game is starting off on the wrong foot. Luckily, in Marvel’s Spider-Man, web-swinging is better than ever. I am not sure why Insomniac even bothered putting fast travel into the game (I only used it once, when the game forced me to). If you have ever found yourself sidetracked by swinging around in a game like Spider-Man 2 or Ultimate Spider-Man, then you know what to expect here. I often severely delayed my time between missions just to swing around, hunt for collectibles, and, of course, climb up the Empire State building and nosedive off. Spider-Man 2 purists will take a few minutes to get warmed up, but as soon as you get a handle on traversal, you will swing, zip, and wallrun through the game’s urban playground with ease. And what a fantastic world you have to swing through…
A friendly neighborhood
Long Island has been faithfully recreated for Marvel’s Spider-Man, with a few Marvel twists such as the Wakandan Embassy, the Sanctum Santorum, numerous sites from the Marvel Netflix series, and, of course, Avengers Tower and Oscorp. Once again, every preceding Spider-Man game has been left in the dust. The map is massive enough already without considering the impressive degree of verticality. There are actual skyscrapers towering hundreds of feet above everything else. I spent so much time swinging around these buildings that I often forgot about the lively streets below. Detailed and packed with people, simply walking through the streets and interacting with citizens is a great time. Marvel’s Spider-Man boasts a living, breathing world, with this feeling exacerbated by random crimes constantly occurring throughout the city. There is always something to see or do, even after you earn the Platinum.
Face it, tiger, you just hit the jackpot
Something that absolutely must be mentioned is the strong stealth gameplay for Mary Jane. Despite having no superpowers of her own, Mary Jane does not hide from danger. She can’t punch her way out of a room with the same grace as our favorite webhead, but she does have a knack for sneaking around. At numerous points throughout the game, you will find MJ in sticky situations loaded with bad guys. MJ has to worry about her own survival rather than engaging with the enemy. Tiptoe carefully, stick to the shadows, and recognize that you have no room for error. These missions are very tense and very satisfying, and Insomniac does an excellent job of constantly adding new mechanics to keep the stealth missions from wearing thin.
After hearing some other initial impressions, I was amazed at how strong the game’s characters were. The plot was pretty simple for the most part, but excellent characters carried the game’s emotional weight. Villains were well-designed, built-up well, and had believable motives. Numerous side characters such as MJ, Aunt May, and others all had their own captivating moments in the spotlight, and tons of exciting developments occurred throughout the game. Certain villains stole every scene they were in, and when the game’s plot finally did pick up in the third act, it was the characters that carried the torch to deliver some of the most powerful moments I’ve encountered in any piece of media.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is a masterpiece. Its biggest flaw is that the Sinister Six lacked a legitimate story presence, with its supporting villains appearing as a flash in the pan at best. It takes too long to actually encounter any of the beloved side villains, and several did not even receive a dedicated story mission. The campaign’s length certainly could have been a few hours longer without wearing thin, so it is disappointing that many villains are wiped out almost as soon as they appear.
Outside of that, though, it is a fantastic game. Combat is off-the-wall fun, webswinging is amazing, and the open world is fantastically designed. The heroes and villains are extremely well done. There are so many jaw-dropping moments throughout a playthrough, between treats for diehard Spidey fans and well-done moments that anyone can appreciate, regardless of whether or not they have ever read a comic book.