“With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility”
Those who follow me on Twitter have probably seen my posts about this game and how much I love it. I can’t hide the bias I have for Spider-Man and Spider-Man games but I will try to remain objective. Spider-Man was released in 2018 by Insomiac games.
The game features a vast city to explore with tons of collectibles and side missions. This is the type of game I live for. You earn experience from web-slinging and running around so traversing the city has benefits. You also earn experience from collectibles and side missions so you don’t feel like you’re wasting your time when roaming around the city. The map isn’t intimidating, but there is a lot to do. We’re not talking GTA-level colossal maps, more like Infamous.
The main story begins with Spider-Man taking on Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. the Kingpin. Spider-Man wants to bring him and his criminal empire down but he has lacked enough evidence to get him convicted. In this latest attempt, cops are en route to Kingpin’s building to arrest him for his criminal misdoings. To make matters worse, his armed thugs are crawling all over the building to stop the police.
Kingpin is attempting to destroy whatever evidence the cops have against him. Spider-Man arrives, beats down the thugs, and infiltrates the building. This sequence serves as a tutorial for how to play the game. Eventually you reach Kingpin’s penthouse and take on the big man himself. The fight has multiple sections where you fight off wave of enemies and Fisk. Eventually, Kingpin finally goes down and the cops send him to the Raft.
Now it is time for a little Peter Parker time. You take Pete to work to find that he works with famed prosthetics engineer Otto Octavius.
Otto is working on a big project with funding from a reputable source where he is attempting to build robotic arm prosthetics that are a form fit function replacement for people that lost their arms. I’m sure fans of the series know where this is going. Pete can help Otto create electrical circuits and determine new prosthetic materials in the lab.
Late one night, Otto discovers Peter working on his Spider-Man suit and offers to help with new gadgets and he even designs a newer suit. Apparently he thinks that Peter only designed the suit though… So much for being smart.
Once Spider-Man stops the Kingpin, a new group, the Demons, seeks to take over his empire by stealing his weapon. Does the leader of this new group want to become the new Kingpin, or is something else in the works? Fans of the comic series may be able to guess who the leader of the group is early on.
To talk about the game in-depth, I feel as though I’ll need to spoil it a bit. So, if you want to keep the story a surprise skip down to the image that says “End of spoilers.”
There are several plot points throughout the game that eventually converge into the overall plot. We’re introduced fairly early on to the fact that Spider-Man has been around long enough to have captured some of the more well-known baddies (through newspaper clippings and backpack items found around the city), but a few are absent (e.g. Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus). We learn why this is early on.
We’re working for Otto Octavius. He doesn’t seem to be evil, but maybe he hasn’t been pushed hard enough to begin his spiral. Enter Norman Osborn, head of Oscorp and the mayor apparently. He and Otto don’t see eye to eye. They used to work together, and Otto even co-founded Oscorp with Norman. The duo split after Norman committed several safety and ethical violations, more on that later.
Otto set up his own company, Octavius Industries, and relies on grant funding in order to get fund his projects. His business is not as big as Oscorp, nor as successful. Norman arrives at Octavius Industries and pulls Otto’s funding. Thus beginning the transformation of kind-hearted scientist to evil mastermind. Add to that a degenerative illness and you have the makings of a supervillain.
You can pick up audio logs scattered throughout the lab at various points in the game. They progressively go from inspirational to crazy. It’s great character development. Otto eventually finds a new funding sponsor from the A.I.M. organization. This organization is known for having a shady reputation.
Otto decides to create new, additional, appendages vs. replacing lost ones and undergoes a risky surgery to add neural implants to himself in order to control them. The implant leads to more anger, further fueling his rage to destroy Osborn at any cost. Throughout the game, Otto is seen converting his prosthetic limb into four tentacles. Peter even helps with the circuit diagrams and material selection.
Mr. Negative is also a major focus of most of the story. He is introduced as Martin Li, the founder of F.E.A.S.T., a shelter for people down on their luck. He disappears after the demons make their appearance, for the most part, and is revealed to be Mr. Negative during a rally to commemorate local police hero, Jefferson Davis. He commands the demons to destroy everything in sight.
In fact, this is where we’re introduced to gameplay as Miles Morales. The first Act ends with the chaos of the attack and the death of Miles’s dad. The entirety of the second act of the game revolves around stopping Li and the demons. Li has an obsession with Osborn as well (seems to be a theme) and finds an experimental drug created in Oscorp that can be used as a bioweapon if used incorrectly. Devil’s Breath.
Li’s goal is to unleash the experimental drug and infect as many people as possible. Li also attempts to locate all of the scientists involved in the creation of Devil’s Breath. Dr. Morgan Michaels keeps the only remaining sample of drug on him at all times. Li catches Michaels and takes the Devil’s Breath. Towards the end of Act 2, you stop Li and send him to the Raft. End of game, right? Well…
There’s a jailbreak. All of the prisoners are released, including some major villains. You may recognize them from the newspaper clippings located in Peter’s office. Electro antagonizes you into chasing him, Rhino and Scorpion engages Spider-Man in a fight, Vulture comes at you, and Mister Li even joins the fray. Odds are against Spider-Man, but they get worse. Enter Dr. Octopus. Spider-Man is beaten and bruised and cast aside like nothing. Enter the Sinister 6. Act 2 ultimately culminates with the Sinister 6 standing over a broken Spider-Man.
The other villains don’t appear on screen long enough to delve into their backstory. Dr. Octopus and Mr. Negative have reasons for doing what they do. Otto promises each member of the Sinister 6 something in return for helping him succeed in his goals. Rhino doesn’t have much of a personality. He just wants his costume off. His defining characteristic is charging through things. Electro doesn’t look all that unique and his story is not fleshed out. He wants to become pure energy… okay? So he commits crime because…? Vulture wants a suit that won’t cripple him. Makes sense. Scorpion wants his record expunged and debt erased. Guess Otto is an expert hacker. Shocker even makes 2 appearances during the game. First time he appears, he is just freed from jail and goes back to robbing banks. No reason is given, it’s just what he does. Second time he appears, he robs a bank. Shocker’s costume is top notch in this game though. Shocker isn’t a part of the Sinister 6, but he’s in the main storyline so I figured I would mention him.
Mr. Negative wants revenge on Osborn for the death of his parents. As a child, Li’s parents took him to Osborn and Octavius to have an experimental procedure done to cure him of an unknown condition. Li was injected with the Devil’s Breath. Of course, something goes wrong. Octavius wants to stop it, but Osborn won’t. There’s an explosion and Li’s parents were caught in it. Li’s hatred for Osborn has been building ever since. The injection also gave Li his super powers.
Silver Sable also makes an appearance in the game. She brings a group of mercenaries equipped with high tech gadgets, gizmos, and armor. These are my least favorite enemies to fight in the game. It’s hard to get a read on her character, as she is just there as a mercenary hired to protect Osborn from the Demons. She doesn’t have much of a personality. She seems to eventually come around to tolerating Spider-Man and accepts his help when dealing with Mr. Negative and The Demons.
The third act begins with Dr. Octopus unleashing Devil’s Breath into the city, infecting countless people. Next we see a battered and beaten Spider-Man rising out of his hospital bed to try to fix things. Dr. Michaels patches him up and tells him that there is an antiserum for the Devil’s Breath. F.E.A.S.T. becomes a shelter for Devil’s Breath victims and Aunt May even becomes infected at one point.
You set off to retrieve the antiserum and stop the Sinister 6. The Sinister 6 are causing mayhem all over New York City. Spider-Man must travel all over to stop them. You eventually take on Vulture and Electro in a double battle then Rhino and Scorpion. The fights are tough at first, but the patterns become clear after a round or two. There is a second Mr. Negative fight as well but it’s not really different than the first one.
The city is also filled with escaped convicts and Sable mercenaries. Spider-Man is viewed as a threat and Sable and her mercenaries try to take him down. The convicts also see Spider-Man as a threat, because they don’t want to go back to jail.
After you get through the 5 of the Sinister 6, you get to face off against Dr. Octopus. You even get a special suit in order to do that. It’s revealed that Otto knew that Peter is Spider-Man because, duh. What did you expect Peter? Not only are you working on Spider-Man’s suit but you posted articles of all of the villains you beat on the wall in the lab. Guess Otto was smarter than I gave him credit for earlier. Peter stops Otto after a hard fought battle and lets him get taken to the Raft.
We’re then treated to a good news bad news situation. Dr. Michaels determined that the antiserum is able to cure the contagion. Great! Bad news, there’s only enough to treat one person. That means there is either enough to cure Aunt May or mass produce it to save everyone.
If May doesn’t get the antiserum immediately, she’ll die. May wakes up and reveals that she knows about Peter being Spider-Man too. Peter repeats the same line he gave Dr. Octopus and the real final boss fight begins… okay not really, but Peter is really bad at keeping his identity a secret. Aunt May tells him that she is proud of him and to do the right thing and Peter starts to give May the cure but then decides not to.
The scene ends with the loss of Aunt May. The following scenes show a barrage of exposition. The cure was mass produced and distributed, Aunt May’s funeral, Peter and Mary Jane rekindle their relationship, and Miles gains superpowers from a spider bite (yes, there are still radioactive spiders running around in this Spider-Man universe). I didn’t mention it earlier, but there are sections where you play as Mary Jane. She sneaks into Osborn’s apartment penthouse and that’s where the extra radioactive spider was. Hopefully we will get more information on this in the next game. Especially given the ending sequence with Osborn.
No spoilers for that one. You’ll have to play it yourself, or view a video, to see it.
Of course, as the story progresses, the side-quests pile on and more characters are introduced. You can stop crimes, perform tasks for Harry, and infiltrate enemy hideouts to name a few.
Black Cat and Taskmaster are two big names that arise from the side quests. There is history between Peter and Felicia that the game delves in to. She leaves cameras set up around the city to give Peter clues about her next potential targets. You never get to see her in game, but completing her side-quest unlocks a new suit.
Taskmaster leaves consoles around the city that assign tasks to Spider-Man (did I make a bad dad joke?). He studies Spider-Man’s actions as Spider-Man completes the side missions. Unlike Black Cat, you do get to meet Taskmaster in person. In fact, you even get to fight him a few times. The game also gives us Screwball… yayyyy…….. My least favorite character from this game. She’s a villain that is obsessed with internet fame and makes a viral video challenge for Spider-Man to complete or else someone gets hurt. It’s ridiculous. Tombstone also appears in the game, but is only around for a Mary Jane sneaking section and 1 Spider-Man fight. He feels kind of wasted.
The theme of “responsibility” is big in the Spider-Man universe and is no different in this game. Remember, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” The death of Uncle Ben shows a lack of responsibility of Peter when he could have used Spider-Man’s powers to stop his death, but the opposite can be seen with the death of Aunt May. In this case, Spider-Man takes on too much responsibility. This is a constant theme throughout the game as Peter has trouble balancing his life as Spider-Man with his personal and work lives. Should he try to help out at F.E.A.S.T., or should he chase down petty criminals and help local police captain Yuri Watanabe? Should he help Otto discover new materials for prosthetics, or should he perform challenges for Taskmaster? You even hear Spider-Man say, “Should I feel this mad for not getting the best score,” or something of that nature, if you do not get three stars on Taskmaster’s challenges. Should Peter fix things with Mary Jane, or should he catch a man’s pigeons? Not sure what’s harder for me to believe, that I actually wrote that sentence or the fact that you do catch pigeons for someone.
His work life also begins to interfere with other aspects of his life as Otto begins his descent into madness. He wasn’t there to help keep Otto grounded when he started to spiral. The fact that he was careless enough to work on his suit and leave Spider-Man-related things in his office shows he’s not thinking things through very clearly. This theme is done really well and hopefully they make a second game to see if Peter learns from this or not. I’ll get into whether or not the DLC touches on this in a later review.
Have you played Arkham Asylum, or any of the Arkham games? Then you know what the gameplay here is like. Press square to attack, triangle performs dodges to avoid getting hit (and webbing the attacker), and circle allows Spider-Man to jump over or under enemies.
The free flow combat is great…when it works. It’s very easy to get into a groove, but once you mess up you will get smacked around. The game has many difficulty settings but it almost doesn’t matter in terms of how fast you die after getting thrown around. Of course, on Ultimate difficulty you’ll die in a few hits anyway.
Going back to breaking the groove of free flow combat… You know what really grinds my gears with Spider-Man games? Spider-Man has the ability to stop a car with his bare hands, but if someone approaches him with a bat or a car door he’s powerless to stop them? This is a problem I’ve had with other Spider-Man games in the series. This man has super strength. Let’s pretend like he does in the gameplay too. There’s nothing like working on your combo count only to mess it up and get hit because some jerk with a tire iron approaches you.
There are also stealth sections where Spider-Man can silently take down enemies using his webs or attacking them. Again, just think of the stealth/predator sections of the Arkham games.
Going back to the Arkham comparison, the Black Cat and Taskmaster quests are very reminiscent of The Riddler quests in all of the Arkham games. Black Cat leaves cats around the city for you to find (mentioned above with the cameras) and Taskmaster’s tasks are like the challenges where you get rated for your performance.
The major difference here is that this game doesn’t overdo the amount of items you need to find in order to complete the side-quest and the challenge stages are challenging, but not difficult. They can be done within a few tries.
Web-Slinging has never been easier. Hold R2 to shoot a web and let go of the button to release the web. Just thwip and release. Thwip and release. The web slinging is easy to control, but challenging to master. If you let Spider-Man swing too high, he loses speed but gains a height advantage. If you let Spider-Man swing too low, he loses height but has a chance to gain more speed. There are advantages to both but they can be tricky to pull off in a pinch.
Another thing you can do while webslinging is aerial tricks. They are fun to perform while you’re waiting for the next mission to show up on the map and they even gain you a bit of EXP. Not much, but the aerial tricks are entertaining enough that you’ll want to keep trying them anyway.
Plus this game gives us the best character in the series… Spider-cop! Half man, half spider, ALL COP! Seriously though, the spider-cop bits were great.
There are a variety of costumes for ol’Spidey to wear. Many of which are unlocked from collecting the various tokens that are found throughout the city. There are a few that can be unlocked through story/side-quest progression. The suits also provide functionality as well… in that they unlock new suit powers that you can use during gameplay. There are a few suits that were missing that I wish they had added to the game. Specifically, the symbiote and Miles’s suit. I’m assuming we’ll see both in the next game, if we get a sequel.
I was also disappointed that the armored Spider-Man suit from the 90’s cartoon wasn’t added (edit: in the main game. It was ultimately added in the DLC). Speaking of suits that need to be in the sequel. If there isn’t a Spider-Cop costume in Spider-Man 2, I riot.
We’re also given opportunities to listen to podcasts from none other than J. Jonah Jameson, although I like to refer to him as J. Jonah Jones in this game. My god, he goes off on some tirades a la Alex Jones. He mentions conspiracies from Spider-Man eating pigeons to causing pollution. He really does channel his inner conspiracy theorist in this game.
I absolutely love this game. This game is loads of fun and kept me entertained throughout the story. Insomniac did a great job at giving the characters interesting backstories and dialogue (for the most part). Spider-Man’s jokes are both hilarious and cringe-worthy. It’s amazing. The gameplay is fun and swinging around the city is a fun time waster. It’s a good game and I highly recommend it, but there are things that keep it from being perfect like enemies that aren’t fazed by a superhuman and some of the side missions get pretty repetitive.