Developers have been left fruitlessly chasing the ghost of 2004’s excellent Spider-Man 2 tie-in, with each of the releases since fixing and breaking things in equal measure. We’ve had cool cel-shaded art makeovers, noir and future settings to change things up, but we’ve also seen devs knacker the web-swinging and flush us down more sewer pipes than we’d care to remember.
Despite the numerous letdowns, I’ve been cautiously optimistic about Spidey’s next-gen debut, although this is more of a port rather than something purpose built for the new machines like Infamous: Second Son.
One parallel with the latest Infamous game and Spider-Man is the importance of that superhero feeling when moving around the city. Web-swinging through New York’s tall streets has always played such a pivotal role in any Spider-Man game. Keen to add their own stamp to swinging (stop laughing at the back), Beenox has changed things again, this time by assigning individual left and right hand swinging to the shoulder buttons. This is supposedly to give you greater control, but if I’m honest, it’s a needless addition as leaning with the left stick was always enough to turn. Beenox also made a bit of a fuss about how webs would no longer attach to the ‘sky’ meaning you’d always have to be near a building to swing. I know, they didn’t attach to the sky in 2004’s game anyway. Despite Beenox’s claims, during the closed-off outdoor base levels Spidey’s webs are clearly attaching to thin air.
The Web Rush mechanic from ASM1 is still here and feels as clunky as ever. A tap of R1 sends you rushing forwards to a distant ledge where you can then perch or push forwards to bounce off it and keep your momentum going. If you hold R1, the game will pause allowing you to choose a specific landing point instead. It’s inconsistent as to how far away it will detect a ledge and it doesn’t always lock-on to the correct point. You’ll also frequently fly past the area where you wanted to land to collect one of the hundreds of comic pages scattered around NY’s rooftops. You’ll really miss the piercing air-dash move from past games.
When moving in a straight line through the skyscraper-packed areas of Manhattan, it’s undeniably exhilarating, more so when you unlock a speed upgrade to add some serious momentum to each swing. It’s just a shame that turning and moving over lower rooftops more often than not sees you faceplant upside-down into a wall. Vertical wall running is prone to veering off to the side and you can no longer jump upwards while running up a wall, instead you uselessly leap away from it.
The fighting has seriously improved at least, mainly because the action has been given some Arkham-style polish and is more counter-heavy than before. It works well thanks to some abundantly clear Spider Sense warning signs indicating it’s time to bash the Triangle button. Later skills include using webs to yank guns away or slow down enemies. There are not many new moves to unlock compared to past games, but considering you can rip through the story mode in about eight hours, the combat never feels stale.
Combat stays fresh thanks to some stealth segments. I should point out that the stealth was generally optional, so it isn’t the end of the day if you mess up. Upgrading your Spidey Sense to include cones of vision for guards is a nice touch too.
It won’t surprise you that the plot is as bare bones as these things get and missions are simply A-B beat ‘em ups with a few side missions involving saving people from fires or beating up more goons. The story begins just before the recent movie, with some of the film’s events belatedly thrown in. Expect appearances from Kingpin, Kraven, Electro and some other names too. Aside from some of the usual half-assed rough edges, it doesn’t really feel like a movie tie-in as there are no official likenesses or voices from the film, somewhat cheapening the package.
Also, the game’s far from ugly, but there’s a distinct aura of ‘that’ll do’ to everything. I had to keep telling myself that this was a PS4 game, so if you’re thinking about picking this one up you may want to save some money by opting for the last-gen version.
So, perhaps as expected, this hasn’t dethroned the 2004 game. But this is certainly one of the better efforts since. Despite clumsily crashing into buildings more times than I’d like to admit, I never really got annoyed with the game and I found myself happy to play through it in about eight hours over two play sessions in less than 24 hours.
With multiple outfits to unlock (each with different stat bonuses), photo assignments, races and hundreds of collectible items to find around the city there’s certainly many more hours to enjoy if you can adjust to the web swinging. It’s a shame the rental market is almost extinct nowadays (thanks LoveFilm and Blockbuster), as this would make a fine weekend rental recommendation. For now though, maybe wait for a cheap deal.
- Combat is responsive and pleasingly ‘Arkham’
- Lots of collectibles around New York
- Straight-line web-swinging is fun…
- …but lacks finesse for tighter turns or accurate landing
- Graphics never aim for anything above average
- Story mode feels like mission filler
The Short Version: There’s a lack of ambition on show here with the graphics and the story, but the combat is the best seen in a Spider-Man game thanks to some snappy controls and a responsive counter-system. The web-swinging could have been better, but Spider-Man is still by far the best gaming character to get around New York with.