Marvel’s Spider-Man is another attempt at the ultimate power fantasy. Giving players the ability to pull on a mask and take over the role of a famous hero has become a rather typical setup for video games, whether they be based on an IP, or if the hero or superhero was created for games.
When the focus is on telling a story or having players experience the role, the most important thing to the whole experience is how immersed players can become with the game, and that’s one of the reasons why so many people say “you feel like Spider-Man” because in many ways you do.
You’ll be able to web sling throughout a video game version of New York, fight famous villains, and be led on a powerful story as you learn more about the world that Spider-Man finds himself. The story starts with Spider-Man taking down Wilson Fisk, known as Kingpin. The story is definitely a core reason to play the game, so it’s important not to spoil yourself fully, but I also think the story is the one part of the game I have a major issue with.
A large amount of the game focuses on a new gang taking over for Fisk being led by Mr. Negative. The story for the first and second acts of the game is compelling, it creates characters, builds them up, and develops them. Even when a mercenary joins the game, they are still interesting and unique and help move the story along.
Of course, the reason I talk about the first two acts is that the third act is where the trouble begins. It feels like the game is put in freefall, and has to develop and execute a rather complex story in record-breaking time. What’s strange is everything in the third act feels like it was done by a different studio. The amazing pacing and storytelling, the great characters, and the excellent delivery is missing.
And what’s boggling about the story is that most of the problems come with the number of characters, and how the established characters change. Our Mercenary changes because the game moved from Act 2 to Act 3, but the character development is missing, there almost should be an extra cutscene or a mission devoted to that turn.
Worse, there are so many new characters, none have any development time, and that leads to problems in the mission structure where many characters just feel thrown together. Of course, I am avoiding talking about those characters because I feel the reveal and the experience still is worth seeing, even if it’s not that good.
The final two missions in the game are right, and what frustrates me is that Act 3 has a good story, it has just become convoluted by unnecessary additions. The main villain was excellent, the final mission is possibly the best in the game, and it’s like the original story is still there. But for some reason, most of Act 3 feels like filler content, when it easily should have been utilized in developing that final confrontation better.
What also frustrates me is that the filler content itself could have been great, if it was left to the sequel. I question why it wasn’t, because having more time to build, and potentially even using the DLC to lead into the sequel would have been a better way to tell that story.
With the story out of the way, the combat in Spider-Man is what has become common for superhero games. This is similar to Batman Arkham’s style, though with large moves, bigger attacks, and more flexible motion, which is what one would expect from the web-slinger. Spider-Man is a bit weak, but can easily recover health if given the chance, and the combat never really feels that bad. The one issue is it’s not that amazing after the first couple of hours, and later enemies look different but require similar patterns over and over.
If the story is my big issue, the other issue I have with Spider-Man is that it’s such a slave to the story that the big moments are made to be cinematic. There are no life bars for bosses, every boss is a fight scene where the game is waiting for the next stage of the fight to occur to slightly change the location or show a small cutscene. This works well and the flow of the game is right in service to the story.
However, even on the hard difficulty, the game gives players entirely too many checkpoints in the battle. It means rather than balance the combat, it’s made so that players can restart from multiple points on each mission with full health. But the same is done for Bosses. So rather than feel accomplished with a boss, players walk away feeling like they did something a set number of times.
This could have been solved by having a simple life bar, so players can see the progression of the fight, but instead, the game wants to avoid putting a UI limit on the fight and instead just count how many small cinematic moments there are. Once you realize that death won’t reset your progress that far, and the boss fights aren’t about whittling down the opponent but rather about the game waiting for you to see enough cool stuff, the bosses just don’t feel as epic.
That’s not to say this is bad, because if you care about the cinematic or story elements, even with its problems Marvel’s Spider-Man stands out. Having a knockdown drag-out battle with Wilson Fisk or Mr. Negative and seeing the amazing way the fight plays out works. But this has been done better even with that cinematics. God of War for instance has the same level of Cinematic work (though with slightly less variety) but also creates a skill test for the player.
Spider-Man on the other hand… well you’ll feel like Spider-Man after playing it. No matter whether you earned that feeling or not. Still, this was an enjoyable experience and I’d easily recommend it to others, especially if you already have some relation with our Friendly Neighborhood spider.
Yet still, a strong recommendation, as I’ll probably play Act 1 and Act 2 multiple times, since the pacing is so well done, and just web-slinging around New York City is an enjoyable experience on its own.
One thought on “Marvel’s Spider-Man Review – A web slinging good time.”
It’s interesting to see your perspective on Marvel’s Spider-Man, and I agree that the story is a core reason to play the game. I can understand your disappointment with the third act of the game, and it’s a shame that it didn’t live up to the high standards set by the first two acts. Despite this, it’s impressive that the game manages to immerse players in the role of Spider-Man and allow them to swing through a video game version of New York while fighting famous villains. Overall, it sounds like an enjoyable game with a few flaws, but still worth playing for fans of the superhero genre.