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Marvel's Spiderman (2018)



It's just an average day for the city of New York's friendly neighborhood Spiderman. With the infamous crime boss King Pin behind bars, Peter Parker thought that maybe his daily struggle of juggling his everyday life with crime fighting would get a bit easier. Even better now that his new job working with Dr. Otto Octavious is looking up to a promising future. However, hidden in the dark shadows of New York, a new gang of criminals is pushing in to replace the old. A vicious game of super powered men known as the Demons are up to no good. Peter will have to investigate the Demons and their leader, Mr. Negative while keeping his loved ones safe.

Marvel's Spiderman is the latest game in the Spiderman video game license but the first to be created by developer Insomniac Games. This game features an original story written by four different writers: Jon Paquette, Christos Gage, Ben Arfmann, and Dan Slott. The game is notable for having the largest production team for an Insomniac game, lead by Bryan Intihar (Creative Director) and Ryan Smith (Director). The game was highly anticipated when it was announced in E3 2017 and since its release on September 2018, the game has received critical acclaim and worldwide popularity.

As one of the many games that made our "Games we can't wait to play in 2018" last year, it was only a matter of time before the webslinger's latest virtual outing came to AFA Gaming. Though this is far from the first video adaptation of the popular super hero, the general consensus is that Insomniac seems to have taken the best elements of the franchise and condensed them in to one singular experience.

But the question is, how did they do it?

Let's take a dive off the Empire State building and find out.



How does the gameplay tell the story?




Back when the game was first being promoted in E3, many compared the combat and style of the game to Rocksteady's Batman Arkham Asylum. Though remarkably once the game was in my hands I would argue it took a lot more inspiration from Activision's Spiderman 2. The reactive combat and the sheer speed of webslinging, running up skyscrapers, and the detailed New York cityscape that the game is praised for, all got it's start back in 2004. That isn't to say that Insomniac's game is a direct copy, it is clear that the development team studied what worked about this game and why it was continuously lauded. By taking and building on a rock solid foundation, Insomniac was able to mold the open world of Marvel's Spiderman into what they needed for their narrative. This includes the more RPG elements added, such as crafting tools/modifications to Spiderman's crime fighting arsenal. While this is definitely a specialty of Insomniac (from their Rachet and Clank franchise), it is a function that works well with Peter's story due to the character's inventive nature.

These elements, speed, fluidity, and inventive side all play into the story to show Peter Parker's level of experience as Spiderman. You can tell he has been at this for a long time, figuring out as he goes along. Life isn't perfect and he still has a hard time balancing his real life with crime fighting but that is what makes him relatable. While plenty of Spiderman games that have come out in recent years focus on the fantastic side of Peter's life, this one gives equal balance to both sides of the character. Capturing what made the character so much fun in the first place. He has dreams, he has problems, he has, of course "responsibilities".



In fact, plenty of my favorite missions in the game followed an equal balance of both Spiderman and Peter Parker. For example, early in the game, Peter is evicted from his apartment finding all of his possessions have been thrown out. Worried that all his hard work developing his webshooters have been thrown out as well, the mission involves an entertaining sequence of Peter (as Spiderman) swinging through New York and dumpster diving for his lost items. While seemingly mundane, I appreciated the break from the thug beating and super villain conspiracy to show that even Spiderman can have everyday problems. The game also gets bonus points for crafting the most endearing depiction of Peter and Mary Jane's relationship that I have ever seen, and the heartbreaking fall of Otto Octavious.

What makes the animation unique?

As far as the animation goes, my feels on it can be a little back and forth. On one hand, Marvel's Spiderman has an almost Naughty Dog level of cinematic detail in its design and facial expressions. Then the next it can seem slightly unsettling with the eye animations (uncanny valley esque). Though when the game animations need to work, they REALLY work. The big apple feels more alive than I have ever seen in a video game, with great crowd animations and even little Easter eggs such as a random passerby holding up their hand to give Spiderman a high five as you run through Times Square. Even the time of day influences what you may see as you swing from one side of city to the other. You may see a group of people practicing Tai chi in Central Park in the morning, or citizens having a rooftop party as you swing through Greenwich Village. As the story ramps up, the atmosphere changes and by the time you reach the end game, the player, much like our hero, may miss the simpler times when things were relatively peaceful.


If the game was going for a specific look, I would say it feels more in lines with the recent Marvel films than taking inspiration from the comics themselves. There have definitely been more stylized Spiderman video games in the past but for a game that is going for a more cinematic tone, Insomniac hit the nail right on the head.


What are the game's flaws/problems?

Though this game does an incredible job recreating New York, many feel that they wasted the potential of the open world. There is plenty of stuff to do, side missions, collectibles, mini games, and mini bosses. While a lot of these are fun, it feels like the game may have been just a little too stuffed with content that doesn't add a whole lot to the story. That these are more or less distractions keeping you from the main meat of the game.

Because of this, going through wave after wave of Fisk thugs, Demons, and eventually heavily armed mercenaries can get very repetitive. Though I didn't feel the fatigue until I got to the end game, it hit so hard to the point I had to put the game down and move on to something else. Just so I could come back and finish the game fresh. The fact that the end game contains a pretty significant difficulty spike with generic baddies (even on easy) was more than a little frustrating to me. To the point that I began ignoring pop up missions entirely. While I'm glad I wasn't penalized for this, it felt like some of the game's charm had faded away.

Final Verdict




While Spiderman 2 will always have a special place in my heart, I'm happy to say that Insomiac's latest hit has swung its way to my favorite Spiderman game. For finding equal balance between what makes Spiderman my favorite super hero. Fast paced action and humor crossed with humanity and tragedy. With a teased follow up game possibly in the works, I am more than happy to wait to see what new adventures Spiderman will find in the future.



AVAILABLE ON: PLAYSTATION 4. FROM: SONY INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT RATING: T FOR TEEN








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