Spider-Man: Sven’s First Impressions

I’m about six hours into the new Spider-Man game from Insomniac and I’m having a blast. I know what you’re thinking, a good Spider-Man game? It’s been years since we had a stellar game staring our favorite webslinger. The movie-based Spider-Man 2 still holds a special place in my heart. I remember being amazed by how perfect the web slinging mechanics were. The game was quickly followed up by Ultimate Spider-Man, a cell shaded romp through Marvel’s ultimate universe and an admirable successor. After that though…Spider-Man just couldn’t find his footing again.

Game after game we received a disappointment. How did the developers manage to screw up something that was already perfected? Being a Spider-Man fan, I bought every single game only to hate myself after playing them for a few hours. While Web of Shadows was a fun departure from the open world gameplay we were used to, it wasn’t the game we wanted. I wanted what we had back in the mid-2000s. Hell, I wanted something better than that game…and now we finally, we do.

Insomniac hit this is one out of the park, this game is amazing. I just have a feeling that this PS4 exclusive is going to move millions of consoles as this might be one of the best games of the year. Visually, the game is breathtaking. When Sony announced this game a little over two years ago, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There was no way the footage they played was actual gameplay. Spider-man was weaving through buildings and jumping off cars so fluidly. It had to be pre-rendered. Even when they showed the demo last year at E3, that had to be special build of the game. There was no possible way that the game could look that good when it came out.

Well, it’s out and it looks just as good as it did when they announced it. Character models, while not lifelike, have a style of their own. Instead of trying to reach for realism, Insomniac chose a different approach with the look and feel of the game. The game looks comic book inspired without it being completely done in a cell shaded style. The style of the game doesn’t overpower the other qualities of this title.

All of Spider-Man’s suits are beautifully textured and he looks great while web zipping across the New York City skyline. New York itself if incredibly detailed and I can’t even begin to think how they built out all of it. Buildings are unique, not just square boxes on a grid. Every single window has a faux reflection of the city. Fire escapes and balconies dot various buildings. The rooftops are full of water towers and even groups of people hanging out at parties. Speaking of people, the city is full of them.

The developers did not shy away from having a densely populated city. Cars pack the streets and follow their own traffic patterns. Pedestrians walk all over town and when you walk up close, the don’t look like blocky 64-bit rejects. It all looks good and the frame rate is solid. A lot of care was but into the visuals of this game but even more so in the gameplay.

This game is a lot of fun and it hits the ground running. You don’t have to sit through a long cinematic intro and there’s no slow tutorial that shows you how to play the game. You literally jump off your perch and are asked to apprehend the King Pin. Not some mugger or street thug…the King Pin! The first mission is developed well in that it does a great job in introducing all of the game’s mechanics. When you start, you’ll learn how to swing, how to speed up and how to web zip. It all feels so damned good. Swinging through the city is simple but fun.

You don’t have to worry about slowing down because if you hit a building, you’ll just run across it. No tall structures around to swing from? Don’t worry, you can easily web zip to hundreds or points and then sling yourself into the air. This is the gold-standard for web swinging…Insomniac would be insane if they tried to revamp it for the next installment.

Once you get to Fisk Tower, the game introduces interior environments. It always worries me when Spider-Man leaves the open world for cramped quarters, Shattered Dimensions left a bad taste in my mouth and I was skeptical. I shouldn’t have been because the interior portions are just as easily to navigate. The camera is pulled back far enough so you can see most of the space. Most buildings have rafters or structures for you to perch from. It’s quite fun to navigate and reminds me a lot of the Batman Arkham series.

The comparison to Rocksteady’s masterful trilogy will be hard to avoid. Every superhero game will always be compared to the Arkham games, it’s inevitable. This game especially since there are two mechanics that, at first, seem to be directly lifted from the Batman games. The stealth and combat mechanics. When you enter an enemy encounter, you’re usually faced with two options. You can either jump into the fray and start fighting or you can take your time and pick off enemies from the shadows first. I love finding a nice perch and then webbing up enemies before zipping to another side of the room to take out another thug. It’s fun and you feel a sense of accomplishment as you slowly take out the entire crew without alerting a single guard.

Combat is fun too, but it took me a while to get used to it. I was playing the game on normal difficulty and was surprised when I died in my first fight. This continued to be a problem during the first few hours of the game. I just couldn’t get a handle of the game’s fighting mechanics. I would counter enemy attacks but kept getting hit by bullets or cut my energy swords. Then I tried something different, I stopped playing the game like it was Arkham. Normally, you sort of wait for your enemies to attack and then you counter and follow up with attacks and counters, jumping from one enemy to another in the Arkham series. In this game, they all just come at you at one time. There’s no time to stop and counter, you just must keep moving. Punch one guy, web zip to another and then uppercut him into the air. Your spider sense will go off because someone’s about to start shooting at you, counter that quickly and then keep moving. Yes…it’s like Arkham but it’s a completely different animal.

The game is packed with missions. From finding all of Black Cat’s stakeouts to completing science research missions for Harry. The game slowly rolls out fun things for you to do until your map is dotted with icons. It’s hard for me to comment on the story since I haven’t finished the game yet but 6 hours in and it’s already got plenty of exciting and unexpected moments. I’m looking forward to playing finishing this game and highly recommend it. If the opening moments are any indication, this might not only be the best Spider-Man game, it’s quite possibly one of the best games this year.

This game gets a big YASS QWEEN.

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