- Move around New York as Spider-Man is once again a joy
- Master the combat system and create huge combos
- His story manages to reflect very well what is inside and outside the character
- It lacks variety in aspects such as animations and gadgets
- His side missions are pretty anecdotal
Hard task is to adapt Spider-man today, to consoles. Complicated by the maturity achieved by other superhero titles, such as the ‘Batman: Arkham’. Sweet because it comes when the hero has managed to revitalize his film franchise, but demanding because it is with this that we are going to compare. And finally, it is hard for the legacy of the previous video games of Spider-man, unable to be faithful to the character or capture his spark.
This is how Insomniac had to face this return of Spider-man to videogames: as a superproduction in which many sights were set and which needed to reflect the soul of the character. Difficult in an industry as mammoth as that of video games, simpler if it was precisely the Burbank studio involved.
How to adapt to Spider-man
“For some time there was no way to identify you personally with the superheroes of the comics. I read books and they always had interesting characters: Dickens, Mark Twain, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur Conan Doyle. In Spider-Man I wanted to write the dialogues to give personality to the protagonist “
And that simplicity, that paying attention to the problems of the day to day, that peeled walk to pay the rent or not to support your boss, has always been the great workhorse of the adaptations of the character. Although Spidey has a gallery of charismatic villains, although his own powers give rise to amazing epic scenes, the key has always been how he is walking at home. And his house is New York.
The city as a playground
When Ubi broke the mold and created with the first Assasin’s Creed the school of open worlds with towers with which you synchronize to see everything that you have left to do, got several things, not all good. On the one hand, it made the open world become the industry standard: if you are not a shooter, your game may end up here, in this easy to classify and sell box.
On the other, the traditional side-quests of lifelong RPGs were increasingly separated from all meaning: there was more and more each time, but inventing narrative excuses for all of them was expensive, so we arrived at absurdities like “collect all of the feathers that you see and do not pretend that it has more importance than finishing the mission “.
The first was an appealing consequence, more hours of play in more immersive and cared environments. The second, no: more than playing with the game, at times gave the feeling of working for him (for many of them).
That, together with the obsession to recreate the cities to the detritus and that the people crossed them, caused extreme situations where the narrative of the game was blocked until you “worked” enough. An example taken to the extreme is that of ‘Mafia III’: an ambitious narrative game and a vibrant start that, from the middle, is shattered by the obsession to make you come and go through its open world.
The ‘Spider-man’ of Insomniac needed to balance this aspect very well: New York was going to be essential, almost like a main character. Walking the city, living it, exercising your “friendly neighbor” was necessary. This video game could not be one on rails: it needed the environment as a playground. But recreation means playing, not working. In that, the game is intelligent: everything secondary, collectible, you can skip it, does not interfere or paralyze the main plot.
And, nevertheless, everything accessory is fun. Why? Not because of its incorporation into the narrative: the excuse of backpacks that Spider-man has been leaving for the city in all these years and now we have to pick up is absurd. And the taking of photos at certain locations is also a pilgrimage. But it works because the way you move around New York is extremely dynamic and faithful to the character: even more than in ‘Batman: Arkham City’, I’ve wanted to travel again and again New York by launching networks between buildings because that’s what Spidey does.
It’s fast, it’s contagious, it’s pure arcade. You do not need any specific goal in the game to want to be doing it. R2 + X, the mechanics are so well executed that you never want to rest on a roof unless you have a reason for it. And the game makes the reasons to temper your crazy journey through the roofs and walls of New York, however secondary they may seem, are also appetizing.
It’s time for cake
Parallel activities also work because New York is much more alive than other open worlds. At each corner there is some situation where Spider-man is needed. And the game makes you feel that they need you. It’s something dynamic: you went to another side, to another marker on the map and you receive the warning of an accident, a robbery, a kidnapping … you cannot ignore it, the game calls you to it. You are Spider-man: if you can do something good for others, you have an obligation to do it. All this leaves a relation with the world very similar to the one of John Marston with the West of Red Dead Redemption, but everything to more speed.
Also, at higher speed is the combat, which drinks from the wickers of the ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’ and company to develop a fast system of combos, kickbacks, auctions and other tools of pure action. It respects, in addition, the sensation of comic of which to Spider-man they fall hosts to him like loaves and still it is able to rise again.
At the level of gameplay, in 2018 there are few combat systems as immersive and fluid as this Spiderman. And the game itself bets, unlike the Batman of Rocksteady, to promote more action than death by stealth. Only one fault: it is not well understood that such a brilliant game in combat turns the fights with the final bosses into something more routine, mechanical and less dynamic than the rest of the matches.
A careful project despite the doubts
Graphically, there have been many doubts in the last few hours about whether the game has suffered a downgrade or not. There are details that Insomniac should have polished more, such as some facial animations during in-game conversations. But nothing is relevant to the development of the game: ‘Spider-man’ is a title that moves with fluidity at all times, leaving no general sense of having spared details.
Neither has he spared Insomniac in reflecting the gallery of villains. Many appear present in the development of the main plot and others in the secondary. There are also juicy details and surprises for the followers of the character or the Marvel Universe. And, for example, in the parallel of the locations or in the backpacks there is a lot of detail for the marvel fan.
In fact, the plot itself is elaborated with details, enough turning points, rhythm and bets for having its own stamp that indicate the care for the project. It could have been a pure project to order, after the success of the film’s re-launching of the character, but he wanted to go further.
More debatable is the progress of the character: the skill tree is short, the differentiation between the costumes is little more than aesthetics, and the technological gadgets are immediately unbalanced: many improvements pale before the utility of the Spider-electric companion.
Maybe that’s why I had more desire to do secondary missions and collectibles for the pleasure of doing them and for the speed with which I could get them than for the experience and development of the character.
Is this ‘Spider-man’ the best superhero game possible? To this day, I’m still staying with the feeling of the first Batman of Rocksteady: a breath of fresh air on how to face the action video games that put you in the skin of the character quickly. But some of the best action moments of 2018 on PS4 come from the return of Spidey, and that’s great news.