Insomniac Games has been hyping up its take on Spider-Man pretty heavily. And honestly, I can’t say I blame them. Based on the incredible trailer that we caught in action tonight, there’s a lot that this game is building up to.
But imagine our surprise when Sony presented me with the opportunity to take the game for a literal swing with a hands-on session. And let me tell you...if you enjoy Spider-Man adventures, you’re going to be right at home with this one.
First off, let’s note that Insomniac has done their homework, as they probably studied up on what others like Treyarch and Beenox did with the web-slinger. His movement feels absolutely natural as you take him swinging through the city.
First off is the web-zip capability. By tapping the X button, you can zip to certain points on the map. Sometimes if they’re a little further off, you have to hit the shoulder buttons together. But his responsiveness is excellent, and helps you move around much more quickly.
Then there’s the general swinging, and it’s probably the most focused I’ve played in a Spider-Man game. It requires some momentum, so if you’re on the ground and trying to swing right away, you probably won’t get anywhere. However, when you combine that with a web zip, you’ll get up to speed and soon see what he’s capable of. And it’s pretty damn cool, especially when you connect them together to get from point to point across the open world.
Speaking of exploration, you can tap the R3 button at any time to see where objectives are in the city. This is a great way to tackle the next mission that’s ahead of you, whether it’s examining a research center and containing a leak; or tackling Kingpin’s thugs at a checkpoint. You can tackle them any way you see fit, although the bigger boss fights are the obvious highlights. But we’ll get to that in a second.
Being able to take on missions big and small is rewarding. But it’s when you take on challenges and really see what Spider-Man is made of that you’ll be in awe. And we did that with the game’s combat system, which feels fantastic.
It definitely has variations that are akin to the Batman: Arkham game. For instance, your Spidey sense lets you know that an attack is incoming, so you can hit the circle button to dodge and strike back accordingly. The multi-directional combat also feels smooth, and you can chain together attacks to make Spidey execute them almost effortlessly. In fact, the finishing takedowns are pretty cool, especially when you get all slo-mo on someone.
However, it’s when you deviate from the norm that things really pick up. You can interact with enemies with special attacks by hitting two buttons at once, finishing them off in style. You can also use your webbing to stick them to a surface and take them out of the fight completely. And then there’s interaction with the environment. By hitting the left and right shoulder buttons, you can grab something and fling it at an opponent, like a trash can or a sandbag. In fact, sometimes it’s useful, like when you’re trying to stop toxic leaks by slamming them on the ground from above.
That’s not all. You can utilize different web attacks to mix things up as well. You can throw web grenades that can stun and capture enemies with ease; you can shoot multiple webs to try and throw opponents off; and once you’re charged up, you can launch into the air and shoot multiple webs all around you (like in the trailer). It’s remarkable how it all comes together. You can also hold down the L1 button and manually aim when the situation calls for it.
Oh, and one neat ability that was picked up from Spidey’s previous games is wall-running. By either sprinting along the side Prince of Persia style or even going up vertically to reach a rooftop, they tie in with a great parkour style that feels like old-school Spider-Man. Someone did their homework at Insomniac, so give them a gold star.
The missions within the game offer great variety, like trying to stop a bank heist by taking out the robbers and then going after a last one on a high speed chase. You can also do smaller things like containing leaks or looking for connections (with help from your Spidey vision, activated with R3) to get to the source of the problem. It’s all very nicely put together, even if we only explored a small part of this world.
But let’s get to the boss fight. We eventually come face to face with Shocker in the midst of a bank robbery, and end up taking him on in the middle of the building. We fought him in different phases, however, which make the fight interesting.
First up, he shot at Spidey with different electric blasts and a ground shockwave. The way to overcome this is to pick up objects and hurl them at him, then come charging in with a web strike and hit him a few times. Repeat this and he comes back for a second wave.
Here you’ll have to move a little bit quicker, as the intensity of his attacks pick up. So you have to dodge and do a little swinging (yes, indoors) and then repeat the pattern by picking up an object and doing the same thing.
This is when things get tricky. We then moved into a final phase, in which he tried to blast us multiple times. The reason this is so difficult is because we’re required to take down support beams from a large global-like structure above in the hopes of trapping him. (Fortunately, you have a few heal packs that can bring you back to health -- but don’t let them run out!) Once we got the support beams, we brought him down, and the demo was over.
The ambience of the game is, for the lack of a better word, amazing. The visuals are stupendous, as Insomniac has done a bang-up job recreating New York City into a large, explorable hub. The animations on Spidey -- and even the bad guys -- are beyond impressive. You can tell the animators had a field day letting him show off his style. And it runs very smoothly. Granted, we might’ve been playing on a PS4 Pro, but no matter. This game shines thus far.
Also, the audio is excellent. Insomniac has captured the comic book appeal with the game’s dialogue, right down to the camaraderie between Spidey and Shocker as they’re throwing taunts at one another. It does get a little too serious at times, but, hey, sometimes Spider-Man just has to get down to business.
This was just a small taste of what Spider-Man has to offer, but Insomniac really has taken it the extra mile here thus far. The world is remarkable; the gameplay (from wall running to web slinging to zipping) just feels like it really comes together; and the boss fight we came across is imaginative, and leaves us wondering how the others will be.
You’ll be having a good swinging time when Spider-Man releases on September 7 for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro!