Comic book fans around the world have been anxiously awaiting Insomniac’s Spider-Man game for the PlayStation 4. Since Sony announced it at E3 2016, this open world action game has been on the radar for lots of fans. Marvel’s Spider-Man was playable at E3 2018, preparing for its upcoming release in September. How does it play compared to previous Spider-Man games? Does it manage to come out swinging or does it fall flat on its face? Here are our hands-on impressions from our demo at E3 2018.
Sony’s E3 demo gave roughly 20 minutes to swing around the city of New York, fight crime and be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. If players want to follow the story missions, they could end up with a fun fight with the Shocker. Otherwise, there were plenty of other side missions players could tackle in the city. The demo opens up with Peter (as Spider-Man) seamlessly jumping out into the city, reminiscent of the opening of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Players are given the prompt to cast a web line using one of the triggers as they start to build speed and momentum into their swing. The swinging mechanic in this game feels extremely fluid, but traversal in general steals the show. While Spider-Man can swing from any building, he can also run along walls, perform aerial acrobatics, and slingshot himself to distant places. Players can get more precise with their movements, crawling along walls to move around a bit slower. Being Spider-Man honestly never felt this good, and Insomniac should be proud of this achievement.
Before we talk about the combat, let’s take a moment to talk about the attention to detail placed in this game. Not only does the city of New York look stunning with the use of light and reflections, but it feels alive. Spider-Man can land in the streets and wave to pedestrians. The sun will set and give off a beautiful orange glow over the skyscrapers and buildings. Last but not least, there is crime. There is a lot of crime. Just all in a days work for the infamous web-slinger.
Spider-Man can reach the top of antennas and skyscrapers in the city to scan the city for objectives. Think like the viewpoints in Assassin’s Creed, synchronizing the map and missions for Spider-Man. Objectives are color coded and easy to differentiate from each other. Moving towards a crime-in-progress, police radios can be overheard and centering the crime scene will usually start the mission. Spider-Man will usually find a high point to perch upon, giving him the chance to use a Web Strike to deal the first attack.
Entering combat with enemies, it will feel pretty familiar to fans of the Batman: Arkham series games. Like freeflow combat, Spider-Man will be able to move freely from enemy to enemy, attacking to create bigger combos. Spider-Man is capable of all sorts of attacks, even an uppercut that brings enemies into the air for flashy aerial moves. He can use his webs to grab objects and debris and fling it at his foes. He can even use his webs to interact with environmental hazards like pulling down scaffolding.
Spider-Man can use his spider-sense to detect oncoming attacks, giving him time to react accordingly. This can be an evasion move or even just a quick attack reaction. He may even want to use his suit power, an ability that players can activate upon filling a special meter. In the demo, it was “Web Blossom”, which has Spider-Man jump up in the air, shooting webs in all directions and usually incapacitating most foes. It’s good for clearing a room, and it seems implied that there are other suit powers to gain through the course of the game.
While combat seems to work well, taking full advantage of Spidey’s abilities, it doesn’t exactly feel perfect. The action moves just a bit to quickly, and that can be a problem for certain environments. The camera seems to be the issue here, as it tries hard to keep up with all the action. When Spider-Man moves from enemy to enemy, it can move pretty fast, and it can make the action hard to follow sometimes. This can get even more difficult when indoors, giving the camera potential walls that it has to go through. It’s not a deal breaker, but perhaps Insomniac can tweak it or have a setting (if it’s not already there) to fix this issue.
Actual fights seem to offer plenty of bad guys to take down. It offers just enough challenge and variety, as there are enemies with very different skill sets. Some will fight with their fists or melee weapons while others will use guns and rockets. One particularly effective weapon from the enemy is a concussion grenade, which disorients Spider-Man temporarily. There are also enemies that seem to have powers provided by Mister Negative, one of the big villains of the game. They seem a bit trickier, but the true challenge is when all the enemies work together. Luckily, the battles seem set up in waves, so players won’t get too overwhelmed as enemy reinforcements arrive.
We mentioned earlier that the demo had a boss fight, and we didn’t forget about that. Reaching a bank in the city, a cutscene will play as Spider-Man will interrupt a bank robbery in progress. Of course it’s the Shocker, a long-time Spider-Man villain from his rogues’ gallery. As the fight begins, the Shocker will attack with blasts of electricity. He seems to follow a typical boss pattern, doing his blast attacks and leaving himself open for a counterattack. In this case, players will use the objects and debris in the building to attack him while he’s vulnerable.
There will be openings for normal attacks against the Shocker as well, as a button prompt will appear for Spidey to quickly pull himself up to the foe. After enough attacks, Shocker will go into a new phase where he’ll use slam attacks that create shockwaves. Again, rinse and repeat the attacks while evading his attacks and the game will transition into phase three. This phase removes all the debris to hit Shocker with except for a pillar coming from the ceiling. During Shocker’s recharge periods, the player will have a brief window to try pulling down the pillar. After a couple attempts, the pillar comes down and incapacitates the Shocker, ending the boss fight and thus ending the demo.
Overall, Marvel’s Spider-Man seems to have a lot to offer. With a story that seems to involve the Sinister Six, Spidey will likely have a lot on his plate. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try any of the Peter Parker missions in this demo. Playing without the Spider-Man powers might give the game a different change of pace. It’s clear that Insomniac is using their experience with Sunset Overdrive for this project. The world seems larger and overall better for endless traversal across the city. Previous Spider-Man game developers have tried to do this but ended up missing the mark, even if just barely. The only game to get close before was Spider-Man 2, but it seems we’ll have a new champion.
Fans of the web slinging hero won’t have to wait too much longer to get their hands on the game. In just two months, Marvel’s Spider-Man will launch exclusively for the PlayStation 4 on September 7th, 2018. The game takes full advantage of the PlayStation 4 Pro’s 4K and will run at a targeted 30 fps. Preorder the Marvel’s Spider-Man now to secure three special suits. The three suits in question are Spider-Punk, Avengers Infinity War’s Iron Spider, and a mystery suit to be revealed this month.