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Looking Back: Marvel's Spider-Man review

Thanks to my day job giving me time off for Christmas I was able to start going through my back log of video games. One of the games I was able to play and beat was Marvel's Spider-Man. This game is fantastic! Hands down, it is one of the best games I have ever played. That said, the game isn't perfect. I don't want to do a full review of the game, so lets just call this the first in a series of "Looking Back" articles. In these I will talk about what was good, bad, and ugly in the games I clear off my back log. I still have 3 DLCs to get through so I will just be talking about the base Marvel's Spider-Man game this time around. I want to say, it's a damn shame I avoided the game for as long as I did because it is truly a love letter to Spider-Mans fans. Also, it should be noted that the game does go a bit woke but it is far from broke. In fact, a sequel is all but confirmed thanks to the huge sales numbers. Enough wasting time, let's get into it. Oh yeah, spoilers will be all over this article so if you care about those kind of things I suggest you come back after beating the game.
Looks like MJ has a new Spider-Man in her life...
The Good
Marvel's Spider-Man is not set on any of the various Earths the Spider-Man movies, cartoons, or comics take place in, so things are slightly different from the norm. Earth 1048, the official designation for the game's Earth, seems to be an amalgamation of the various Spider-Man properties. Additionally, the game is set 8 years after Peter Parker received his spider abilities, so we are spared a rehashed origin story. Being set so far into Spider-Man's career and on a different Earth allows the game's story to have both a familiar and fresh feeling to it.

People like Otto Octavius, Norman Osborn, and Aunt May show up but they are never exactly what you expect and rarely a let down. Otto's story is both tragic and relatable. We all have those people we wish we could extract vengeance upon, but society and our own sense of morality prevents us from doing so. Otto, freed of his morality and now more powerful than societal pressure, gives in to his emotions and extracts more than a pound of flesh from the city. Seeing him broken and beaten, after you defeated him in an awesome rooftop battle, doesn't feel exactly good and I was almost rooting for Spider-Man to give him a chance at redemption.
...never mind, he's leaving.
Aunt May's story is even more tragic than Otto's. Succumbing to the Dragon's Breath poison, Peter has to choose between saving the city and letting his Aunt May die or saving May and letting thousands of innocent people perish. Peter knows, just as you the player does, that their is no choice to be made and the frustration of being one of the most powerful beings in New York yet totally powerless to save his Aunt May oozes off the character model and voice acting. It is a powerful moment, something the Spider-Man movies are lacking, and for the first time I actually shed a tear while playing a video game.

Moving away from the melancholy, lets discuss swinging around New York. If you have played past Spider-Man game you got a taste of how it feels to let loose and web swing around a digital New York City. Marvel's Spider-Man on PS4 is a four course meal of web swinging action. You can zip across the screen, swing up above a building, web line to a water tower, only to leap off it in one smooth series of motions. It might be cliche to say this game makes you feel like Spider-Man but this game makes you feel like Spider-Man!

The city itself was a real treat and it actually felt like I was inside a New York City that featured things like a Rhino armored villain and out of control, seriously armed mercenaries. Seeing little references to other Spider-Man and Marvel characters is awesome. I only hope they add even more in the sequel. The only that could make the references better would be the chance to fight alongside heroes like Daredevil and Morbius.
The Sinister Six are quite the formidable team.
The Bad
Marvel's Spider-Man has a lot of suit abilities, gadgets, and fighting techniques but you will probably wind up using the same few time and time again. The first suit power you get, Web Blossom, will be your most reliable suit power and carry you through about 70% of the game. Basic webbing will be virtually useless toward the end of the game but you will be popping off electric webs and impact webbing left and right so you will hardly notice. You will almost always want to send out Spider-bots whenever you have some in your inventory because they make your fights so much easier. After getting the final suit power, you can let out an entire swarm of Spider-Bots and watch as your enemies are killed with 0 effort. With so many gadgets, a lot of fights are just too easy, even on the hardest difficulty.

Turning Mary Jane into a reporter wasn't my favorite choice. It felt less like watching Mary Jane Watson and more like watching a redhead Lois Lane knock-off. The "I don't need you to rescue me" attitude had been done to death in recent years and it makes almost no sense in a world with super powered villains hiding around every corner. Mary Jane isn't a fleshed out character, she is the idea of a character.
The Taskmaster's challenges range from fun to annoying.
The random crimes you solve around the city become repetitive after a while and they feel more like chores than fighting crime. I would have loved if some of them led to mini missions or side quests. Following a crook back to the lair of a super villain or seeing several crimes connecting together into a spree would have been a great way to extend these activities and make the city seem as crime ridden as in the comics. Having multiple crimes happening at the same time, forcing you to choose which to stop would have also been a great way to lead into mini missions and side quests. As it stands, the crimes now are just busy work.

The game also suffers from a standard video game problem, a lack of urgency. You are told to hurry up to the next story mission but in reality you have all the time in the world to do it. This really hurts the game's pacing. A system that only allowed you to do a set number of activities or side missions between each story mission would have really helped the game feel more real. As it stands now, the game has a tendency to feel too gamey.
It's hard to see, but there is an enemy stuck inside that building.
The Ugly
One of Spider-Man's classic villains, Tombstone, makes an appearance in this game and they completely ruin his character. Gone is the outcast albino whose only friend was the kid he bullied, replace by a kid who was exposed to chemicals and become nigh indestructible. He is also changed from a hired muscle, and eventual capo, in the mafia to a simple biker gang leader. It makes him less of a tragic yet psychotic figure and just a really tough thug.

Like Tombstone, Mister Negative had his origin changed and like Tombstone it completely changes the core of the character. Having a justified reason to hate Norman Osborn makes you feel a bit sympathetic toward Mister Negative, but his actions are so horrendous you forget that he is a victim in all this too. Had they kept his origin as a common thief who stole the Martin Li identity, things would have made a bit more sense. Additionally, his backstory being some fabrication his Mister Negative persona created would have been far more interesting then his in game lore of being some failed test subject. It would also have been quite a twist to see Spider-Man learn that the Mister Negative side was the real person and Martin Li was the mask he wore. It would have created a mirror image of Peter's own identity struggles as Spider-Man.
Evil Scarlet Spider in Spider-Man 2?
Final Verdict: Recommended
The good far outweighs the bad in this game. Being able to scoop up the complete game at a discount price makes it even more of a must buy at this point.