When the PlayStation 5 was released on Nov. 12 of 2020, one of its launch titles, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, was a game that piqued my interest. I was familiar with its predecessor, Marvel’s Spider-Man, a highly-rated game which came out in late 2018 that was developed by Insomniac Games, but I hadn’t played it myself. I decided to play Spider-Man before checking out Miles Morales. The praise it received was justified, as it is a game I thoroughly enjoyed playing.
Spider-Man follows 23-year old Peter Parker, who has been Spider-Man for eight years. Parker works for Dr. Otto Octavius, a respected scientist who is developing prosthetics for those who have lost their limbs. On the side, Parker, as Spider-Man, swings around New York City, looking to save people from criminals and super villains.
The game begins with Spider-Man capturing Wilson Fisk, the “Kingpin” of crime in the city. After Fisk is locked away in prison, Mister Negative and his gang of demons begin terrorizing the city, stealing remaining assets from Fisk while plotting attacks on mayor Norman Osborn. After the violence escalates, Spider-Man must stop Mister Negative and other supervillains from carrying out their sinister plans, while keeping civilians safe. Along the way, he receives help from his ex-girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson (MJ), and his new friend, Miles Morales, as they look to save their home city. This game is a blast to play, primarily for the incredible open-world experience, the thrilling combat system and the excellent portrayal of Spider-Man.
An issue I have with open-world games, such as the recent Assassin’s Creed games (starting with Unity) and the Batman: Arkham games, is the sheer amount of junk developers shove into the world to make it seem like organic and alive. There are a lot of side quests that feel unnecessary and stuff the main character would not be doing in the situations they are presented in, such as the Riddler trophies in the Arkham games. Also, traversing the large cities is tedious and can drag down the enjoyment of the games.
Spider-Man (2018) does not have this problem, containing one of my favorite open-world settings. First, swinging through New York City is beautiful. The graphics give the city a high amount of detail, allowing me to feel like I am actually flaying around in New York City. Traversing the city is fun every single time due to the swing mechanics and the great atmosphere. Every side activity either adds to the lore of the game or to the overall story. For example, collecting backpacks with trackers allows us to hear Spider-Man reminiscence on fond memories, adding to the depth of his character while learning more about this interpretation of the character. Most of the side missions are Spider-Man taking down criminals, which is exactly what he does on a daily basis in the source material.
Also, the combat system is great, allowing me to feel enjoyment and satisfaction in each of the game’s fight scenes. Spider-Man has many gadgets and powers, allowing many different ways for the player to take down enemies. With his Spider-Sense, the player is able to dodge enemy attacks and find ways to launch counterattacks. With these counterattacks, the player has many different power moves to defeat enemies, including a ground pound, a normal attack, and, when focus bar is built up, a move to finish off most enemies in one hit. The web shooters are the most efficient way I found to deal with enemies, as I webbed up enemies with weapons, rendering them immobile as they become easy targets. The shooters can even be used to pin enemies against the wall, essentially working as another method of disabling your enemy. More gadgets, such as web bombs, are effective at stunning a crowd of enemies, making it a useful gadget when in a tough spot. All these methods and the skill/difficulty progression of the enemies allowed for action scenes to feel rewarding, adding to their impact in the overall story.
When I think of Spider-Man, Yuri Lowenthal’s portrayal is the first one that comes to mind. He represents everything I love about the character, including his desire to help everyone the right way and his use of tension-breaking quips. Lowenthal gives the character a relatability factor, portraying a 23-year-old man who has relationship and financial issues, on top of his duties as a lab assistant and superhero. I connect with this portrayal more than any other, making me feel strong emotions with each situation Peter is forced into. This got me as invested into the story as I ever had in a video game. He is a layered and well-developed character, making him one of my favorite video game protagonists of all time.
In addition, Mister Negative is a fantastic villain. It is revealed that his alter ego is Martin Li, the founder of the F.E.A.S.T (Food, Emergency, Aid, Shelter and Training) homeless shelter and the employer of Peter’s aunt, May Parker. Li’s backstory is tragic, and seeing a good person succumb to his darkness is heartbreaking. His motivations make sense despite him going way too far to achieve his goals. Mister Negative was a lesser-known Spider-Man villain before this game, and I am glad he got to shine here.
The one issue I have with the game are the sequences where you control MJ and Miles. Their characters are well-written, receiving great development and bouncing off Spider-Man well. Laura Bailey and Nadji Jeter are great in their respective roles as MJ and Miles.
However, the problems with controlling them are that the sequences feel slow and tedious, ruining the pace of the story. You do not have any powers with them and only have a gadget or two to sneak past enemies. While the scenes are important to the overall story, they drag out way too long, making me forget I’m playing a Spider-Man game. There are too many of these scenes, preventing the game from being perfect. I would have preferred these scenes to be simple cutscenes as their impact would not have been lessened and the pacing would not have dropped at all. The characters are great, but I bought the game to play as Spider-Man, not to do puzzles with MJ. However, since they are key to the story, it does not bother me that much.
Overall, Spider-Man is a fantastic open-world experience with great gameplay while exploring, thrilling action sequences and a great portrayal of Spider-Man. If anyone has a PlayStation 4 or 5, I highly recommend buying the game as it is worth every penny, especially if you want to play Miles Morales. Stay tuned webheads for my future review of Miles Morales.