Video Game Review: SPIDER-MAN (2018)
System: PS4 Exclusive
Studio: Insomniac Games
Bias: I'm a comic nerd and a casual gamer, so this review is coming from that perspective.
In a Nutshell: After eight years of web-swinging, Spidey has finally managed to take down Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime. However, a new crime boss, Mister Negative, steps into the vacuum left by the fall of the Kingpin. Mister Negative is driven by a desire to gain revenge against Norman Osborn, the mayor of New York. Can Spider-Man fight off this new villain, while juggling his responsibilities to his mentor, Otto Octavius, helping Aunt May at F.E.A.S.T. and figuring out whether he and MJ are on-again or off-again? And what about the bigger threats waiting in the wings?
The Critique: I'm going to make a bold claim. This is the perfect Spider-Man game, and probably the best superhero game thus far. As much as I (generally) love the Batman Arkham series, it almost entirely focuses on Batman, rather than Bruce Wayne. And while the later games incorporated members of the extended Bat-Family, they were additions, rather than integral parts of the gameplay or story. Spider-Man is effectively the full Peter Parker/Spider-Man experience. In addition to fighting a variety of street criminals and supervillains, you'll also complete science-based side games to upgrade your gear, snap photos of landmarks throughout the city (and I mean THE CITY - the map is massive and spectacularly detailed), listen to rants by J. Jonah Jameson, get some parental concern from Aunt May, and try to figure out your love life with Mary Jane Watson.
As for the gameplay, they nail the essentials. Web-swinging is awesome, allowing you to smoothly transition from street-level interactions to rooftops. Later in the game you can earn the ability to fast-travel via subway to different parts of the map if you're short on time. The designers include a satisfying variety of crime events, side missions, and fighting and web-swinging challenges. The fight mechanics can be a bit complicated the in the beginning, but once you get the hang of them it becomes easy to string together combos and manage the variety of different attack and defensive moves. If I had one complaint it would be that, aside from a single suit-power per suit, there's no real variation, functionally, between the different costumes (slightly spoilery example - in the comics, the 2099 suit incorporates gliding, which isn't present here). To a large extent, though, the variety of suits you can earn is impressive and satisfies my inner-geek.
I will say that even as a casual gamer, I found some of the boss-fights overly simplistic (usually only requiring pulling off the same one or two moves to beat them). That said, photo-mode, which allows you to stop the action and create an array of third-person and selfie photos is incredibly fun, But what ultimately sells me on the game is the sheer depth of the story. I'm not exaggerating when I say this was one of the best Spider-Man stories from start to finish, and easily the best outside of comics. The characters, from Peter Parker, the star, to supporting characters like Detective Yuriko Watanabe, the characters feel fleshed out and fully realized.
Buy it Now, Wait for a Sale, or Just Watch a LetsPlay: Look, every one of your nerd friends is playing this game for a reason, so you might as well play it, too. In addition to the main game, which is already worth the cost, you get some extra suits and the next three chapters of DLC with the Deluxe edition for around $80 (and I say that as someone who rarely spends more than $20-30 for a video game).