Sony had a heavy presence at this year’s Montreal Comiccon and nothing was as anticipated as the upcoming Marvel’s Spider-Man game from Insomniac Games. The studio most recently worked on Sunset Overdrive on the Xbox and now they’re looking to bring your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man to the PlayStation this September.
So how is the game? I got hands-on with an 18-minute demo, similar to what was shown at E3 this year. Right off the bat, let me just say that the game world is stunning. The demo set Peter Parker lose in a section of Manhattan and let me do any manner of sidequests I wanted. If not for the time limit, I would’ve likely spent my playtime swinging around the city. The buildings are incredibly detailed, with signage at street level, emergency stairwells on the side and garden patios decorating many building tops. Many games have been set in New York City before but few have felt so alive and well realized before. When swinging over streets, pedestrians will cheer Spidey on and make comments about him. When walking on the streets, the camera tilts up, encouraging you to leap back into the air and begin swinging.
But all of that would mean nothing if the swinging controls sucked. The most important aspect of any Spidey game is the part that most developers fail to understand. Any character can swing with the right programming, but to make it feel right is another. I’m very happy to report that swinging through the city is not only a blast but possibly the best in any open world Spider-Man game. Players can press R2 to swing around and each webbing has to connect to something. It’s also physics based, so transitioning at different heights will affect your speed. Pressing X zips you along, making you traverse even faster. Wall climbing and running are also handy mechanics to use. Doesn’t take long to travel around as Spidey quickly and fluidly moves around.
I also got hands-on with four combat scenarios. One was at the very start of the demo and saw Spider-Man taking on a gang of street thugs. Pressing Square launches a basic attack which can be used in a combo while holding it will launch enemies in the air. Triangle is the basic web attack and functions as a silent takedown attack on unsuspecting enemies. Pressing circle rounds up the face buttons as the dodge button. As you fight you gain focus, which can be used for special attacks or to refill your health meter at the top left of the screen.
Holding L1 brings up the gadgets. These fun toys have an ammunition counter so use them wisely. They range from web grenades to sticking an enemy to a nearby wall. Gadgets are used by pressing R1. Holding R1 and L1 lets Spidey interact with the environment, such as swinging manholes, rubble and garbage bins at enemies or pulling entire scaffoldings down over enemy heads.
My other combat scenarios were a Fisk hangout, which was occupied by traditional thugs armed with fists, guns and explosives. The second was a wave-based horde mode in a Demon Lair. These enemies were a lot stronger, using Mr. Negative’s powers against me. I started this section in stealth mode, picking apart wave 1 before engaging in direct combat.
Finally, after all that, I got a call that Shocker himself was robbing a bank and that we should go stop him. A boss fight ensued, requiring precision timing, environmental interaction and combos to win the day against the famous baddie. The fight required swinging inside a close space and using the rubble from the battle against Shocker himself.
All in all, Spider-Man on the PS4 is shaping up to be incredibly fun. It has tight, responsive combat, a great visual style and amazing Spider-Man web-swinging mechanics. Hopefully, the narrative is one worth taking!