That’s a time period that we don’t often see in Spider-Man adaptations. Many storytellers rely on the burden of being Spider-Man as a source of drama. Insomniac, though, has decided to tell a slightly more classic Spider-Man story. Peter Parker still struggles to balance his superhero and personal lives, but the main source of intrigue in this story revolves around his battles with the city’s many villains.
It’s a battle that starts with the fall of The Kingpin and the crime lord’s threat that his downfall will trigger a criminal underworld battle for NYC that Spider-Man is not prepared to deal with. His threat proves to be anything but empty as everyone from pickpockets to a new threat known as Mr. Negative begin to tear the city apart in order to claim whatever may remain.
Granted, that’s a somewhat familiar premise so far as superhero entertainment goes, but what keeps Spider-Man‘s story from feeling superfluous is both Insomniac’s ability to tell that story well and the studio’s willingness to alter certain elements of the Spider-Man mythology. While the latter aspect of the story will likely draw all the attention because of how easy it is to sensationalize (“Mary Jane is a journalist!” “Spider-Man’s suit is different!” “Character origin stories have changed!”), it’s actually the former aspect of the story that makes it easy to recommend Spider-Man based solely on the overall quality of the game’s campaign.
What makes Spider-Man special in that respect is that it manages to tap into the pure comic book origins of the character and this world (classic villain outfits, an underlying foolish optimism about being a hero) while incorporating darker elements like shocking violence, character flaws, and other “mature” storytelling that remarkably doesn’t feel out of place with the rest of the experience. There are times when the game’s plot is dragged down by the inevitability of certain events and a few dry sections that border on filler, but for a superhero game campaign that will likely take you at least 15 hours to complete (likely more), Spider-Man’s story remains remarkably compelling throughout.
Yet, Spider-Man’s best moments aren’t found in the story. Those come from the thrill of the game’s open-world web-slinging. While some may say that Spider-Man’s web-slinging system isn’t quite as tight as the legendary one featured in Spider-Man 2 (due to slightly decreased sensations of speed and momentum), Spider-Man more than makes up for any minor shortcomings by offering a slightly complex (yet immediately accessible) series of movements that force you to do more than just hold down a trigger in order to get around the city.
In fact, Spider-Man’s movement system is at its best when you’re near Central Park or another area of the game’s sizeable map that doesn’t allow you to easily zip between buildings. Instead, it’s Spider-Man’s ability to run up walls, zip forward for extra momentum, dive bomb to gain speed, and launch off the edge of rooftops that make you feel like you’ve truly mastered the full range of this character’s unique set of abilities.
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