Marvel’s Spider-Man Swings in to Save the (Gaming) Franchise

While we’ve been struggling with the lack of internet in my apartment, my roommate and I both turned to console gaming to help us fill the lack of video games caused by the loss of our usual games (WoW and Destiny 2, right now). I went for Hallow Knight and A Night in the Woods right away but, after thinking it over a little, I thought it would be good to buy a copy of Marvel’s Spider-Man. I’ve been a fan of all Spider-Man games for years since I think it’s always a ton of fun to traverse the city and explore as much as possible. When people started saying this one was the best Spider-Man game yet, I knew I had to try it out. Since I knew my roommate (who owns the PlayStation 4) had been looking at it a few weeks ago, I decided to wait until I’d spoken to him to pick it up. Later that night, when we had a chance to talk, we both started the conversation with the intent to tell the other we planned to buy Spider-Man. One overnight download later, we settled in for our first day of taking turns playing the game.

I haven’t had this much fun in a brawler in ages and I could spend an hour wandering around the city without getting bored. The combos are so incredibly smooth and the pathing is so forgiving. Unless you’re my roommate. He always seems to wind up with the worst possible pathing and I honestly can’t tell him why. I can swing through the city fast enough to outpace whatever I’m supposed to be chasing down and he struggles to beat a timed mission because the target for one of his movement abilities either sticks to something he’s passing over or it jumps to something dumb the instant before he pulls the two trigger buttons to leap forward. When it comes to web-swinging instead of parkour or leaping forward, he has a bit more success, but he still almost always winds up in a difficult situation with the way the camera follows him. I’ve tried to figure out what I’m doing that he isn’t, but I’ve got nothing. It’s just really terrible luck on his part.

My favorite part of fighting is the different moves you can combo together that normally aren’t used in combos. For instance, I can air dodge, leap forward, and then pull myself down on top of a bad guy for a big hit and then instantly be leaping into the area again so I don’t get hit by any of the bullets that are now being fired at the poor guy I just punched. Throw in some fun ground-dodges and a certain fluidity to the brawling that makes it easy to fight large groups and I have a blast dancing around the street as I dodge bullets, rockets, and some big dude with glowing fists who creates shockwaves when he slams the ground. The biggest problem with the combat system comes when your enemies are really spread out and you need to dodge. There aren’t a lot of good options, so you kind of just prance around a bit before getting hit enough times that you get frustrated, leap away, and then swing in quickly from a new angle so you can punch the gunmen in the head after pulling yourself toward the ground from fifty feet above him. If you don’t do that, then you just need to wait for Spidey to dance-fight his way over to the gun dudes or buy the skill that lets you pull guns out of people’s’ hands.

While I’ve been playing for a while now, and gotten through a significant chunk of the plot, I can’t help but feel like there’s a whole lot more to the game than what they released. I know they’ve got some meaty DLC planned already, but I’ve gotta admit that I’m feeling aggravated that the game feels like it was built to sell me story chunks in video game form. It’s still a great cost to hours-of-entertainment ratio, but I just don’t like the feeling that the game is just tossing threads around so they’ll have loose threads to tie each DLC to the main story. I wouldn’t mind it if I’d gone into the game with that expectation, or if the hype had included acknowledging that they were setting the stage for a lot of story expansion DLC, but I had no idea and now it feels a little under-handed and sneaky.

Like all the Mary-Jane stealth missions. I go from pummeling bad guys and flying around the city to needing to sneak through a series of rooms using crappy barriers to block sight lines that are only considered blocked in video games. It’s a real pace-killer and I don’t really enjoy them that much. That, plus waiting for Dr. Otto Octavius to go Supervillain, are my two least-favorite parts of the game so far. Also, I’m getting a little time of every non “demon” bad guy being a dude in a tracksuit with a gold chain. There are guys without tracksuits, but they’re the brothers of the guy with the tracksuit and they all feel so stereotypical. Just like all the hoodie-wearing bad guys. The tropes and stereotypes get to be a little much at times. I once fought a group of enemies that was nothing but guys in tracksuits, one for each color of the rainbow. Also, during stealth missions, you can distract people using web shots and they all, without fail, say something like “Spider-Man is here!” or “It’s gotta be Spider-Man!” and then wander over to the noise like a super-powered man in red and blue spandex (or a black leather noir suit because the costumes in this game are hilarious) isn’t about to kick their ass. Also, if they come across an unconscious compatriot after saying “Spider-Man is around here, somewhere,” they still unfailingly say “what happened here?” like it’s some great mystery that someone was found beaten unconscious or webbed to a wall in area that you currently suspect Spider-Man to be around.

Essentially, the AI is kinda dumb. At least, most of it is. There are some interesting choices that make up for it, like when a paramilitary organization gets called in by the mayor and they start fighting the terrorists and gangs in the street. This particular paramilitary group doesn’t care much for Spider-Man and they make it clear with how frequently they fire their guns while Spider-Man is fighting amongst the terrorists. The New York police never once hit you with friendly fire but the paramilitary jackasses hit me more than the terrorists did and it is completely clear that they’re supposed to be doing it. The boss fights are just as interesting, since the bosses tend to fight a bit more intelligently than most bosses. They’ll move around, counter, progress attacks, and have little tricks up your sleeve that will make you innovate or figure out how to just constantly throw stuff at people because that hurts everyone the same and no one can block it.

It’s really just a ton of fun to play and I’m probably going to go spend some time playing it now that I’ve finished writing about it. I’ve still probably got a dozen hours of web-swinging in me before I get bored and I’m looking forward to making the most of them. I gotta find all of the various tokens so I can unlock the grunge Spidey outfit and fight people using the power of RAWK.

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