- Developer: Insomniac Games
- Genre: Superhero
- Release Date: September 7, 2018
Coming exclusively to PS4 on September 7
The first 3D Spider-Man game back in 2000 for PSOne saw our titular hero fall off a rooftop. Spidey fans had to wait a further two years before they were able to see the web-slinger swinging through New York City, with a PS2 movie adaptation that was the best take on the comic-book hero to date. Since then it’s been a rough ride for Spider-fans, with no game managing to completely encapsulate everything about our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. Based on what I’ve seen at E3 2018, Insomniac Games could be about to deliver an experience for which we’ve waited almost 20 years. This is the amazing Spider-Man.
Watching the latest trailer, it’s the fluidity of the game that really shines. Moving as Spider-Man in previous entries was incredibly clunky, it was almost impossible to go where you wanted to, either the result of an erratic camera or wayward movement. Somehow, Insomniac has managed to perfect this, both in exploration of the world in vast skyscrapers through New York City and also tight spaces in combat.
The demo starts with Peter Parker atop a building, to let the player get to grips with the web-swinging mechanics. These couldn’t be simpler. A hold of R2 will see him do a standard swing, and releasing the button let’s go of the current web. You can also press X to do a ‘Web Dash’, which Pete will shoot straight and zip towards for faster movement. The latter is great for making tight turns in chase scenes, or if you simply want to get to your destination faster. More impressive still is the intelligent lock-on system.
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There’s no button or burden on the player. Instead, a reticule will display where your web will fire at the time you press the button. As you fall through the sky, the reticule will change target to find the nearest and smartest thing to aim for.
This smart-aim system also applies in combat. Rather than adding more buttons to the mix for the player to push, the nearest enemy to you will get a white outline, indicating this is the next person in for a beating when you press an attack.
However, you’d be wrong to believe that there aren’t plenty of inputs to get your head around. On top of attack, web attack, dodge and jump, Spidey’s suit is kitted out with plenty of web-tech. In the demo he had a web-bomb, a web-mine as well as the standard ‘shoot all the web at someone until they can’t move’ trick. Each is accessible by pressing L1 and selecting from a weapon wheel (which I couldn’t believe wasn’t a weapon web, but never mind).
Also, when you’re health gets too low, holding X slows the game down to a ‘focus’, and pressing down on the D-pad allows your suit to heal you. It’s a very high-tech suit that one might assume was a gift to Spider-Man from Tony Stark – but this hasn’t been confirmed as yet.
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Also, there are contextual attacks. If you’re in the vicinity of steam grates, car doors and other objects, holding L1 and R1 will see Spider-Man web them and swing them around to crowd control a group of enemies before slamming at an unfortunate foe. It’s a great mechanic and incredibly satisfying to use.
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Combat as a whole feels amazing, on a level similar to Rocksteady’s Arkham series that sees you bouncing around between a large number of baddies without feeling underwhelmed or out of control. You always feel like the powerful one, not matter what the enemy is equipped with – it’s about reflexes and spacing.
After dealing with the first group of enemies, I run up a wall – achieved by holding R2 and literally just running at a wall – then perch atop a rooftop. Spider-Man has an Assassin’s Creed-esque mechanic, where pressing R3 while perched anywhere will enact a 360-degree pan, displaying all the side-quest activities in the nearby area.
I then begin collecting rucksacks webbed onto walls and completing scientific investigations for Harry Osborn. They’re all basic fetch-quest trials of the sort often seen in the territory of open-world games, but doing them with the satisfying exploration mechanics of this excellent Spider-Man game makes them super-enjoyable.
These are also broken up with random pop-ups of crimes occurring throughout the city. So, while nipping off to collect a backpack, I stopped armed robberies and bank heists in progress, too.
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The demo ended with a boss battle in a bank vault – which, while fun, followed the typical ‘do this thing three times, pattern changes, do this thing three times, pattern changes, rinse and repeat’ formula that’s such a trope in video games. I hope this isn’t a familiar trend that plagues all the supervillains in the game, and that there’s plenty more variety in how each enemy is dealt with. Based on the E3 trailer, this will certainly be the case. It was a minor blip in what was an excellent gameplay demo.
I was blown away by a game about which I didn’t think I could get any more excited. I’d always wanted a game of my favourite superhero that really created the sense of being him in New York City, but my experience thus far has been a series of games that never quite delivered. It seems Insomniac is about to buck the trend.