Spider-Man box art on Paul Gale Network
Spider-Man has a minimalist design for its box art, but the game is anything but.

Amazing? Spectacular? Superior? Yes…I suppose that any of those adjectives would do, when trying to find a word that best describes Spider-Man, but the one that I’m using for this review is “Euphoric”. That’s right, Isomniac Games has given millions of gamers around the world, Euphoric Spider-Man! This review will be relatively spoiler-free and hopefully provide you with just enough peace of mind in knowing that your time and money will be well spent here.

Spider-Man web slinging on Paul Gale Network

Spider-Man games have existed for many years on a variety of platforms and has had a decent history for the most part. From story telling to web slinging and fighting baddies to general banter, others have been somewhat successful in different categories, but none have ever perfected the formula…until now. Insomniac Games with their 3+ year development cycle on Spider-Man have crafted an exceptional title. You are met with an incredibly agile super hero who is a joy to maneuver. The game’s tight controls allow you with ease, to navigate around a beautiful New York City, swinging from building to building in the most fun, accurate way that Spidey has ever been handled. You can run up and alongside a building, launch off a flag pole, perform a couple of fancy flips, swing the camera around, and shoot a web to another building all in a manner of seconds, without ever feeling overwhelmed with control difficulty. There’s no penalty either for shooting too many webs or not sticking a landing. This allows for the most steady, fluid action you could ask for in a very story driven action game. What also helps add to this fluidity and sense of awe is the game’s soundtrack. Every time you take to the skies, the score gets your blood pumping to really put you in the mood. Each cut scene, too, is backed with very appropriate tunes.

Spider-Man's Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson on Paul Gale Network

The story is a totally original piece that is beautifully written and voice acted, as well. You’re met with a variety of characters from the Spider-Man universe, including Mary Jane Watson, Miles Morales, Aunt May, Doctor Octavius, and plenty of others. Think of the perfect balance between the best you’ve read of Spidey in the comics, your favorite episodes from the 90’s cartoon on Fox Kids, and the live action films…and that’s how this story is executed. Carefully structured cinematic scenes give you a fun and gripping narrative that simply hooks you. In addition to these high quality pieces are bits of voice acting everywhere. You can be walking around the city and you’ll have J. Jonah Jameson pop up on your radio, talking with guests about the nuisance that is Spider-Man, random citizens will come up to you and chat, and there are moments in certain boss fights where the banter between Spider-Man and his opponent are hilarious.

Spider-Man has plenty of classic enemies as seen here, on Paul Gale Network

Marvel created a wonderful cast of villains over the last several decades and Insomniac Games has done equally an impressive job with taking close to a dozen of them and giving you some highly memorable boss fights. Never while playing, did I feel that a boss fight was too similar to one that I just faced. The creativity behind each one was fun, I felt like a badass taking them on, and my jaw was on the floor more often than not. The combat here is well varied but not overly complex, too. There’s a gradual progression that takes place when it comes to learning new moves, unlocking and updating your gear, purchasing new in-game costumes (there are around two dozen), and acquiring other ways to help improve your character’s offense and defense. The boss battles were definitely fun, but even the criminals on the streets of New York were cool to beat up on. I found myself experimenting a lot with different load outs of special moves before engaging in combat and really liked how many challenges the game provided.

Spider-Man has a great open world as seen here, on Paul Gale Network

Fighting enemies is one thing and in some games, even with a varied move set, can get boring. But what Spider-Man achieved is several different instances in which you fight. You have common street thugs robbing a store, citizens that open fire on you because they’re Wilson Fisk supporters, those that are in vehicles, fleeing the cops, bases with snipers that you can choose to be stealthy when taking out to make you job easier, elite task force members on rooftops that are reigning terror on the city, and more. In fighting them all, your overall skill and understanding of how much Spider-Man goes through to save the city he loves, is well felt. The game is not all combat, however. The very open world nature offers a lot of other things to do that are quite enjoyable. Finding pigeons and backpacks, cleaning out pollution and helping Harry make the city better, analyzing code as a chemist and electric currents (two fun puzzle systems that show us how smart Peter Parker actually is), taking pictures, etc. You’re never bored playing as Peter or Spidey.

Peter Parker as Spider-Man is such an important piece of this game as seen here on Paul Gale Network

And for that matter…you’re never bored playing as Mary Jane Watson or Miles Morales. These two offer a change in pace of how you play. Controlling either, is done with precision and usually stealth, not with super powers. Those moments and many more, really add to the world and help expand the story from a different perspective. The graphics, controls, gameplay variety, lack of load times, music, sound effects, and voice acting are all top notch. The overall length is also substantial. Only during grand shootouts with many enemies on multiple levels, does the game sometimes suffer from “cluster combat”, where it’s on the verge of “too much to do” in the moment, because while normally having very little issue in going from horizontal to vertical fun, certain areas don’t lend themselves too well to this and break up your flow. There are also some tasks to complete that while most of the time are a joy, can offer a moment of confusion in completing due to a rare camera hiccup/map mishap. Do not let these couple of flaws turn you away, however. They are few and far between and in no way should stop you from buying this game.

I have been a Spider-Man fan for close to thirty years and I’m pleasantly surprised to say that…gulp…this right here is my new, favorite interpretation of the character. I really fell in love with everything about it and can’t wait for more. You’ll see other Marvel property hints here and there, you’ll tear up twice (once from sadness and once from sheer joy) if you’re like me, feel empowered like never before with a Marvel video game, and walk away quite possibly calling this the best superhero video game you ever played. Congratulations to Insomniac Games and its Creative Director, Bryan Intihar (who I am personally very proud of, as my friend dating back to our 1up.com days), and PlayStation 4 on one stellar exclusive. Here is to the inevitable sequel and hopefully even more Marvel superhero games. Euphoric.

Score: 9.6/10

Related: Shout out to Bryan Intihar!
E3 2018: Bryan Intihar from Insomniac Games and Paul Gale Network

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