Marvel's Spider-Man Review

Richard Walker

Batman has this video game superhero schtick sewn up, the Arkham series providing the definitive take on its subject, with genre-defining combat and fan service that went way above and beyond anything that anyone expected. Marvel's Spider-Man is what the Arkham games are to Batman: the most faithful adaptation of the source material we've seen in a game to date. Insomniac has surpassed our expectations to deliver not only an awesome piece of fan service but one of the finest open-world action games on PS4 to date.

One of the best things about Insomniac's Spider-Man is that (like Spider-Man: Homecoming) it dispenses with the origin story everyone knows all too well, picking up with Peter Parker juggling his personal life and crime fighting as an eight-year web-slinging veteran. As he's webbed up and locked up his fair share of super villains in his time, Spidey has few friends in New York City, and regular episodes of J. Jonah Jameson's blustering Fox News-style 'Just the Facts' radio show push old JJ's assertion that Spider-Man is a menace that must be stopped.

While Spidey has a rogue's gallery of villains and rampant criminals to contend with, Peter has long departed The Daily Bugle and is working in a laboratory on cutting edge prosthetics research. It's a prime spot in the Spider-Man timeline to set the game, allowing for myriad references to ol' webhead's past glories and some of the villains not present in the game that he's previously butted heads with. Much of this stuff is conveyed through collectibles, but there are a few easter eggs for die-hard fans too.

This kind of thing is all gravy, of course, and it would count for little if Spider-Man were a trainwreck. Happily, it's anything but, and by far the best game based upon Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's most recognisable Marvel character. Practically everything about it is exactly right, from fluid, brilliantly animated swinging and free-running through a bustling New York City to acrobatic, intuitive combat that gives the Dark Knight a run for his money. Every one of the game's mechanics very quickly become second nature, punching, kicking, web-zipping, webbing enemies to walls, using gadgets and evading attacks whenever your Spider-Sense goes off all remarkably simple to pull off.

As you level up and unlock skills, the expanded number of options at your disposal only serve to make traversal and combat even more enjoyable, as you can swing foes around your head and hurl them, yank away weapons from baddies and throw them back, or perform aerial tricks to build your Focus meter. Stringing together combos also feeds into the Focus meter, enabling Spidey to heal at the touch of a button or perform agile finishing moves, while each Spider suit (and you can unlock a whole bunch of 'em) bring with them their own powers that can be mixed and matched.

Fancy wearing the classic Spider suit with the web blossom ability? You can! Want to sport the Avengers: Infinity War Iron Spider suit with a defensive shield? Or how about quad damage instead? There are loads of options and combinations to choose from, with suit mods to unlock that supplement your abilities, with increased healing, defensive properties or damage dealing, for instance. Then there's the gadgets to consider, ranging from web bombs to impact webbing, electrified webs, concussion blasts and the deployable Spider-Drone, all of which can be upgraded using tokens earned by completing side content scattered across NYC.

And loads of these kinds of distractions there are too, including constant calls from the police to help stop crimes in progress all over the city to earn crime tokens, criminal hideouts to clear out using stealth or straight-up face punching to bag base tokens, challenges to complete at the behest of a certain someone (no spoilers here) to acquire (you guessed it) challenge tokens, and erm, pigeons to catch for some reason. Photographing landmarks across the map will also grant landmark tokens, while completing research puzzles and research lab tasks give you research tokens, and all of these various tokens can be exchanged for new suits (revealed as you level up) or for crafting new gadgets and upgrades.

This system means that you're encouraged to explore the city and take in everything on offer, and every activity you complete gives you currency to put towards unlocking new stuff, all of which will excite even the most casual of Spidey fans. There are numerous nods to other villains across the city too, like Black Cat leaving her mark on certain rooftops, and a slightly more obscure bad guy cropping up in one of the more involved side missions.

Some of these side activities can prove repetitive, and in the case of the challenges, achieving a gold level (Ultimate) score in its various combat, stealth, bomb disposal and drone chasing objectives is balls-hard, if not almost impossible. But this is a minor complaint in an otherwise remarkable game that's the first to do proper justice to the wall-crawler since 2004's Spider-Man 2 movie tie-in. It's the spread of different things to do and the overall quality of the entire package that mark this out as something special; few games are as polished and lavished in such attention to detail.

Even the stealth sections are masterfully handled, being able to silently string up enemies or perform rapid web strike takedowns providing a constant source of fun. Comparatively, the stealth sections in which you play as Mary Jane aren't quite as enjoyable, but still serve in breaking up the game and making you appreciate the freedom of swinging across the city at breakneck speed. Playable Mary Jane sequences also lend an alternate perspective to the story, so they're not simply shoehorned in for the sake of it. Ultimately, virtually everything on offer in Spider-Man is of a high quality, regardless.

It shouldn't be surprising coming from the studio behind Ratchet & Clank that Insomniac's Spider-Man is completely amazing, but amazing it is, marrying awesome traversal, badass combat torn from the pages of the comic books, and rewarding exploration to a compelling, cinematic story that brings together all of the best bits about Marvel's iconic character. It's worth stating again that Marvel's Spider-Man does for Spidey what the Arkham games did for Batman. It's that good. 'Nuff said.

Marvel's Spider-Man

Making up for all of the sins of the webhead's past, Marvel's Spider-Man is easily one of Insomniac's finest moments, the studio showing a full understanding of what makes the character tick, creating a definitive Spidey experience that's utterly sublime. Excelsior!

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An epic orchestral score worthy of a Marvel movie and exemplary voice acting without exception, as well as all of the 'thwips' and other iconic sound effects all present and correct. No Spider-Man (does whatever a spider can) theme tune, though.


A faithfully recreated New York City complete with changing weather and a day/night cycle, and detailed character models with superb motion-captured performances. Insomniac's game looks utterly stunning.


Varied, intuitive combat that's hugely gratifying, fluid traversal that makes it an unbridled joy to flip and spin between New York's skyscrapers: Spider-Man is never anything but a total pleasure to play.


A plethora of side activities, meaningful collectibles and an engaging story, all beautifully presented. Fans will get a real kick out of all of the easter eggs and other mementoes to be found throughout Manhattan, and all of the different Spider suits to unlock.


An excellent list with a perfect spread that adds extra impetus to acquiring that full 100%, and ultimately bagging that all-important Platinum. The biggest challenge you'll face is earning enough challenge tokens to unlock all of the gadget upgrades and suits. Those challenges are tough.

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