Thursday, 18 October 2018

Marvel's Spider-Man ★★★★★

A good Spider-Man game is about as common as a decent arch of the comics. They keep happening but only a few are worth the time. Neversoft had a good run back in the days of PSone and Treyarch managed to trump those, with their two Sam Raimi movie tie-in games and Ultimate, during the PS2 era. The earlier and following generation... not so much. Even the PS4 has already had a couple of bad Spider-Man games, by Beenox. With the reins now passed to Insomniac Games, (a company that seems to have gotten away with using A Perfect Circle's logo), best known for their excellent Rachet and Clank series, as well as Spyro the Dragon and Sunset Overdrive. Not wanting to tell another origin story, Treyarch approached Spider-Man from their own perspective, free from the restraints of the movies. Giving them the freedom to construct the story any way they wished. This is just as much a story of Peter Parker as it is of Spider-Man. You spend a surmountable time juggling his life between Spider-Man, Mary Jane, Aunt May and other. Peter has been Spider-Man for about eight years, so is quite experienced by this point. Mr Negative has taken issue with Norman Osborne, for reasons, so has resorted to people smuggling and mind control to exact his revenge. The story is surprisingly darker than I had expected, seeing as this is still Spider-Man and not The Punisher.

All the gameplay mechanics are Pick 'n' Mixed straight from other games. That's not necessarily a bad thing, when you're just stealing all the best parts and putting them together and adding Spiderman it seems unlikely that you could go wrong. If you've played any Ubisoft game, within the last ten years, then you already know how the map works. Spider-man's enemies, that seem to have enough income to abandon some big screen tv's and camera equipment all over the city, have left him a generous amount of side things to do scattered all over the place. The fighting is straight up lifted from the Batman Arkham combat model, that's basically used in every action game these days. Saying it's not quite as refined doesn't feel fair, as it's still very competent, it just doesn't feel quite as fluid as Batman. When Spidey gets hit, there are no "iframes" (invincibility frames) something most games use, without you realising it, to stop you getting your arse handed to you. So it's quite common for Spiderman to get out-numbered and beaten to death by a lame ass thug because you got caught off guard and have no time for recovery. They can just keep hitting him until he's down and out. And that doesn't really take too much. Another aspect you'll be fighting with is the camera. It'll often lock into a perspective leaving you with a disadvantage of not knowing where the enemies actually are. Use of QTE's, (quick time events) made famous in games such as Shenmue and God of War, seem a bit mundane when you can't really fail them. You can just mash the button until the prompt has lined up with its cue, as there's no penalty for pressing it repeatedly or too early. And sneaking missions just are never fun.

With the small amount of negativity out the way, all I have left is praise for Spider-Man. You know you're getting to the end of a console generation's lifespan when games start looking this good. The city is densely populated with cars and pedestrians. Obviously, they don't play any pivotal role, like a GTA, so AI is toned way back but it perfectly gives the illusion of a crowded city and people going about their lives. The amount of subtle detail in the world is also staggering, from Street level to the tops of buildings and spread over the size of Manhattan Island. Parkouring and swinging around the city is immensely fun to the point of ignoring the Story Missions in favour of doing all the other activities and exploring. The reflections, of the city around you, in the windows, as you pass by add to the illusion of the cities depth.

Something I always like is subtleties in character animation, and Spider-Man has a ton of them. From putting his hands out to touch walls to just making silly hand jesters at passers-by. There's also a button just purely for this. Do superheroes have to make a conscious effort to keep making hero poses? I'm a sucker for game water physics and Spidey's interaction with water surfaces is very satisfying, for something that isn't really needed in a Spider-Man game, the surface reacts to all his running and flipping about. Parker always talks to himself, like a crazy person, especially exposition. When he's communicating with others, via whatever headset his mask provides, there's a slight difference in his voice depending on if he's stationary or in the middle of a bit fight. I'm not sure what trick Treyarch have used to pull this off, but I'm interested to find out.

I'm slightly disappointed Insomniac didn't fit Bruce Campbell in there somewhere.

Bry Wyatt

Marvel's Spider-Man at CeX

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