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‘Spider-Man’ Review: Does Whatever A Spider Can



Many games branding the Spider-Man appellation exist, and most do the nearly six decades old Marvel main man a disservice. Constantly chasing the slick swinging of 2004’s Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man games never nailed it. Cue Insomniac Games having a go at the friendly neighbourhood red-clad webbed lad in the creatively titled Spider-Man (sarcasm).

Shattering the cycle of poor Spidey games, it recaptures Spider-Man 2’s acclaimed swinging, zipping and crawling through a bustlingly lifelike New York. But despite its accomplishments, it’s bogged down by banality. Spider-Man offers a slice of fun flavored pie, but the pie’s stale. The crust’s hard, and the filling tastes a bit weird. You should’ve stored it in the fridge Grandma, you wretched wrinkled witch, always ruining the pies!

Pie analogy aside, Spider-Man’s a grand romp in the shoes of Manhattan’s masked marvel, but lacks originality. For better or worse, this is Peter Parker’s alter-ego at his most predictable, so don’t expect too many surprises. True to name, Spider-Man is what it is: simple ‘n’ straight up Spidey, nothing more, nothing less.

Fortunately, amazing combat and movement maintained by razor-sharp controls is the beating heart of Spider-Man, and the titular hero thrives as a result. A deluge of dazzling abilities for traversal and baddie beatdowns bring him to life, his actions playing out with briskly paced brilliance. Exploring New York is a blast with his powers at the helm, so much so that fast travel is obsolete. Why take the train when it’s more fun to don skin-tight spandex and swing sky high from skyscrapers?

Combat is top-notch, with many marvellous mechanics at work. Fights contain cartoonishly kick-ass choreography, oozing with style as players punch in quick-fire button bashes, before being rewarded when Spidey kicks the chops off a thug and webs him up. It’s the best kind of combat: lots of depth, but not overwhelming.

Spider-Man’s story is engaging, featuring fan favorite villains alongside some dark twists and turns for good measure. The decision by Insomniac Games to not rehash an origin story and instead tell a new tale, is a smart move. Highlighting an experienced Spidey hurls players into the thick of it, as mission one sees him obliterating Wilson ‘Kingpin’ Fisk’s criminal empire (as opposed to confronting Flash Thompson or chit chatting to Uncle Ben). Bundles of bombastic action set pieces arise along the way, satisfyingly juxtaposed with a sub-plot concerning Peter and Mary Jane’s off and on relationship. Culminating in a showdown with Spidey’s most infamous opponent, Spider-Man’s adventure boasts high stakes and quality.

But the cracks begin to show.

Beyond main missions, Spider-Man has lots to do. Side activities are plentiful but unfortunately forgettable. Whilst never outright bad, beating up thugs gets old. Chasing pigeons, finding Felicia ‘Black Cat’ Hardy’s stakeouts, and swinging through smokey smoggy stuff for Harry Osbourne offers variety, but doesn’t transcend mediocrity. Mandatory for acquiring tokens, which in turn unlock suits and gadgets, Spider-Man’s side activities are a means to an end that doesn’t stand on their own merits. Furthermore, said side activities are tediously trickled onto the world map, dictated by players’ place in the main story (an approach at odds with modern open world design).

Restrictions like this aren’t specific to side activities; suits and gadgets are affected too, as many hide behind level requirements. “Congratulations on collecting those backpack and research tokens, but come back after accumulating more experience points and levelling up thirty two more times, loser!”. The eye-popping suits and handy powers are one of Spider-Man’s best assets, so impeding access to them via a levelling system prevents players from diving into Spidey’s wardrobe. Spider-Man withholds flexibility from the player, drip-feeding its content with little room to venture off the beaten path.

Spider-Man lacks freedom of choice.

Despite its core strengths, Spider-Man flaunts much to criticize. It may be one of the titular hero’s best outings, but it’s plagued by negative tropes of the open world genre, and the cracks begin to show once the novelty of zipping around New York and webbing up baddies dissipates. Instead of being bold, Spider-Man plays it safe by neglecting innovation and slapping training wheels on the player. Thankfully, it’s saved by fantastic fundamental mechanics, oodles of nifty unlockables, and respect for its source material. Not to mention, it tailors to die-hard webheads via nods to Spidey’s rich legacy (collectible backpacks offer fan service-y easter eggs), but without alienating casual fans.

Spider-Man stumbles into some potholes here and there, but it’s a web-tastic time nonetheless.

I invest my time in playing all manner of video games, and as of 2017, writing about all manner of video games.



  1. ReVibe

    September 12, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    So you basically knocked three points off because you didn’t like the challenges and how they were paced?
    I don’t know what else you were expecting from a Spidey title when you say “nothing more, noting less.”

    Nothing to say about the meticulously crafted musical score? References and small details to hunt ans say “hey I know that!”?
    You don’t strike me as the kind of person who would’ve even checked out the photo mode; which in my opinion brings an even deeper layer of immersion to the Spidey/Peter experience (if you’re into taking pictures and being silly or creative.) Different strokes for different folks, but you really did bash a big dent into it basically over how you chose to pace your experience.

    Do try to consider exploring more avenues of developers’ hard work when reviewing in the future.

    • Harry Morris

      September 12, 2018 at 7:32 pm

      Whilst reviewing Spider-Man, I delved into all its features, including the photo mode. I take reviewing games very seriously.

      Everyone has subjective tastes on review scores, and I see 7/10 as very positive. For a game to be 9/10, it has to well and truly blow me away. For a game to be 10/10, it has to be in my top 5 favourite games of all time. I would have awarded Spider-Man an 8/10 had it been more innovative regarding its direction, and more polished regarding its open world and side activities.

      Even without its flaws, Spider-Man is not fundamentally strong enough to be a 9/10, let alone a 10/10, game for me. That’s just my opinion though, and you have every right to disagree. Neither of us is right or wrong, and our perceptions of Spider-Man’s quality is entirely subjective. 🙂

  2. Ricky D Fernandes

    September 12, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    I haven’t yet played Spider-Man sine my pre-order hasn’t yet arrived for some strange reason but … this is why I hate review scores and have been fighting to remove them from the site since day one. Review scores are shit. It is a waste of everyone’s time even arguing about it. When reading your review, I can see you do enjoy the game but were disappointed with some aspects such as story, but the review score makes it seem like you think the game is below average.

    • Harry Morris

      September 12, 2018 at 8:34 pm

      To me:

      6/10 = Decent.
      7/10 = Good.
      8/10 = Really good.
      9/10 = Amazing.
      10/10 = Hot damn I would marry this game if I could.

      But to some people:

      6/10 = I want to die.
      7/10 = Unplayable.
      8/10 = Really bad.
      9/10 = Bad.
      10/10 = Yes, this is the correct score.

      I agree that given how controversial this topic is, review scores should be removed.

  3. Mike Worby

    September 12, 2018 at 8:22 pm

    To be fair, below average would have to be a score from 1-5, 6-10 is technically above average. The problem is that anything below an 8 is now viewed as garbage in the gaming industry, and that’s the real problem.

    • Harry Morris

      September 12, 2018 at 8:38 pm

      I agree. 7/10 is a good score, but many people want to see every game handed 9/10 and 10/10. I deliberately refrain from scoring too high because I don’t want to devalue the meaning of higher ratings.

      If I ever score something 10/10, you can be sure it’s bloody phenomenal.

  4. James Baker

    September 13, 2018 at 7:38 am

    Spider Man is the worst Marvel character in my opinion, so just like I avoid Spider Man movies, I’ll be avoiding this game.

    • Tim Maison

      September 13, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      You misspelled “best.” I’ll fight you.

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