Sony's Spider-Man (PS4) is the best Spider-Man movie you've never seen
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Spider-Man is great. I mean, the Sony Spider-Man game released in 2018, not Spider-Man 3 or The Amazing Spider-Man or Spider-Man: Homecoming. Those things were terrible and best relegated to the dustbin of history. Nothing in Insomniac's track record (which includes odds and ends like the reputable shooter series Resistance for PS3 and the hipster-doofus inFamous knockoff for XBOX, Sunset Overdrive) suggested that it was capable of pulling off a AAA action-adventure title of this caliber, but it worked. If this jewel is ported to PCs in the future, as many PlayStation exclusives seem destined to be, don't hesitate to pick it up there if you don't own a PS4.
The first and, arguably, most important thing that a Spider-Man game has to get right, and many have done a commendable job with this in the past, is character movement. Jumping from rooftops and swinging through the city has to feel easy and smooth, and it does in this game. Holding down R2 and occasionally tapping your X will cover a lot of territory in the game's detailed, living rendition of New York City. That's a very good thing because you have to go through quite a bit of the game before you unlock "fast travel" to key locations (mostly police precincts) by hopping a ride on a subway car (sometimes literally when you get to the part of the story where the Webhead is a fugitive); this means you will be web-swinging and wall-climbing A LOT. The game has what looks to a person whose never been to New York like a faithful recreation of Manhattan and you cover a lot of territory during the course of the narrative, challenges and side missions.
The second thing that's most important about most games for me is the story. Is it any good? In this case, the story, which has a smattering of both of the first two Tobey Maguire films (much more of the second one) as well as numerous comics. There is a villain with whom I was not previously familiar who is ostensibly the main villain, but who is later overshadowed by another emerging villain. I'm trying to avoid spoilers here, but I will include one that probably isn't a shock to anyone who watched and liked Into the Spider-Verse (here's my three-word review: it was okay) or anyone who is familiar with the comics. This isn't a Peter Parker Spider-Man origin story. Unlike several of the movie series, which start with Peter Parker in high school, this Peter Parker is, I'd say, in his mid- to late-20s and he's done the whole dirtbag-murdered-my-Uncle-Ben and Mary-Jane-knows-my-secret-identity song-and-dance. However, it does represent a kind of Miles Morales origin story. That's pretty much all I'll say about that, other than that it will be interesting to see what they do with this in the sequel.
The characterizations of the characters with which I am familiar (most of them) are spot-on and the voice-acting is uniformly great. Also, this is a very beautiful game. Everything looks great, the city is full of average people wandering around doing people things, and there is a pretty remarkable attention to detail. Spider-Man can even wade through rooftop swimming pools on buildings that have them (but there's no option to swim laps).
This is, at its core, an open-world game, so there are main story missions, that can be played straight through to the end, if you choose--although the game gives you little breaks between them where it unsubtly encourages you to do other things. There are side missions, which you'll uncover as the plot advances, challenges, crimes, research missions, and enemy bases. If you're looking for things to do, you will find them. Your protagonist earns experience points for every activity, and he can level up to 50 (well, you can level past that, but the rewards at that level are trivial). With each level, S-M gains a boost to damage or health and an ability point. He has three separate skill trees from which to unlock abilities related to movement, offense, and defense. If you level your Spidey up tp 50 (which I was able to do within the base game), you earn enough skill points to unlock every skill in every tree. Peter also creates gadgets to help him in combat, which you unlock and enhance using the game's (six) types of "currency" (research points, base points, challenge points, crime points, backpack points, and landmark points). There are enough of all of these to fully upgrade every apect of your Spider-Man too, but only if you're skilled enough to score well on most of the challenges. The final "collectible" is suits. It wouldn't be a Spider-Man game without alternate costumes and this game has 38 of the suckers (if you include the DLC--note that the silver trophy for unlocking all costumes only requires the suits available in the base game). Some look cool, some look . . . like Spider-Man suits, and some are just silly (Bag-Man and Undies come to mind). Your inner nerd will undoubtedly settle on three or four favorites.
I should say something about the music too. It's some of the best superhero game music out there. Like some of the best game soundtracks, it's the kind of music you could easily play while walking around or working out (if you're into that sort of thing), doing tedious paperwork, or riding around in your car.
So what about the DLC? Either my PS4 doesn't keep track of this or I'm not clever enough to figure out how to persuade it to share the information, so I don't have a good sense of how much time I spent on the base game. It's probably safe to say it's 50+ hours. The three-part DLC probably has around 20-30 hours of extra gameplay. It tells a story of Hammerhead's (okay, I'm just going to say it--of all of the Spider-Man villains in this game, Hammerhead is just the dumbest and most stereotypical--a psychopathic mobster with a plate in his head--even Tombstone is more interesting) attempt to take control of the city's underworld using the wiles of Black Cat and the advanced arms and armor of Silver Sable. While I just found Hammerhead a bit irritating, the overarching narrative is quite fun. It picks up almost immediately after the crisis of the base game and runs with a few of the story threads that were intentionally left hanging afterwards.
Do I have any criticisms? Well, Screwball is REALLY annoying, and her last mission in the Silver Sable DLC was beyond my abilities (or maybe my patience threshold) to complete. The game also has carried on the Marvel movie tradition that was novel and fun at first but has now come to represent the height of tedium--yes, I'm talking about BOTH mid-credit and post-credit scenes, truly the best of both horrible worlds. And. . . that's about it. This is damn good game. If you have a PS4, you're doing yourself a terrible injustice if you don't play it.
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