Insomniac’s SPIDER-MAN for PS4 has been the talk of the town since it was announced at last year’s E3 conference in Los Angeles. The game is not the friendly neighborhood spider’s first venture into the video game world.

It probably won’t be his last either. And yet, despite the highly adapted story of Peter Parker as Spider-Man, Insomniac’s SPIDER-MAN is a fresh unique take on the popular hero. From its extremely fluid gameplay to its emotional, well-developed main plot, it’s definitely one of the best video games of 2018 thus far. So please believe me when I say this: if you have to play one PS4 game this year, please make it Insomniac’s SPIDER-MAN.

I do want to preface this review by saying that I am a casual gamer. There are only a handful of games I play regularly. So while I played Insomniac’s SPIDER-MAN on the “friendly” or normal setting, there are aspects of the game that other reviewers found easy that I might have had a little difficulty in completing. My review reflects how I felt about the game as a casual gamer.

A Hero’s Journey Retold

The game skips over a lot of what we already know. Now 23, Peter Parker has been saving New York City from superpowered villains and everyday criminals for almost a decade. Uncle Ben has been dead for quite some time. Peter works as a research assistant for Dr. Otto Octavius, better known as Doc Ock. MJ Watson got a job at the Daily Bugle after her and Peter broke up. And Aunt May volunteers at a homeless shelter called F.E.A.S.T. owned and operated by Martin Li, aka Mister Negative.

Spider-man hangs from the Empire State Building in Insomniac's SPIDER-MAN.
Meet the new Spider-Man. | Image: Marvel

Insomniac’s SPIDER-MAN has two acts. The first deals with Spiderman’s investigation into Li’s sudden disappearance. The second act tasks players with re-capturing escaped Raft and Ryker’s prisoners. Meanwhile, Peter and associates also search for an antidote to a bioweapon created in one of Norman Osborn’s labs. Mixed into it all is a plethora of side missions, such as stopping all sorts of crimes, chasing pigeons, solving mysteries, and helping Harry Osborn with his research lab’s across the city.

A Fully Realized Story

Insomniac’s SPIDER-MAN is incredibly well-developed plot-wise. I am honestly in awe at how the story and its characters progress throughout the game. This is by far the first game I’ve played with such a well written main and sub-plot. Since its a game where the characters have already been established, there’s the obvious worry of too much backstory being left out. However, Insomniac’s SPIDER-MAN puts a great amount of detail into each character and the relationships they have with each other.

Peter and MJ at a diner in Insomniac's SPIDER-MAN.
MJ and Peter on their first outing together post-breakup. | Image: Marvel

A lot of what happens in the game is foreshadowed in the first act. But if you’re in any way familiar with Spider-Man comics, you might know a lot of what happens to specific characters, especially the real identity of villains. With that in mind, Insomniac’s SPIDER-MAN had to figure out how to take care of both old fans and new players.

It remedies this by giving almost every character an emotional arc. Insomniac’s SPIDER-MAN takes great care in building up character relationships. So even if you aren’t intimately familiar with the SPIDER-MAN comics, the game creates a welcoming space for the average player to learn about and appreciate these characters.

Whether it’s rekindling the flame between MJ and Peter in a very mature way, or watching Peter and Dr. Octavius’s father-and-son-like relationship fall apart, the game allows players to empathize and sympathize with its characters. I was honestly crying during the final cutscene because, by that point, I cared about the other character’s just as much as Peter did. It’s a reminder that not every villain is inherently evil. Sometimes, it’s the things we do to help ourselves and to help others that causes bad things to happen.

Structured Gameplay

I will admit, there is a pretty big learning curve to Insomniac’s SPIDER-MAN. When I first saw gameplay videos when the game was first announced, I was honestly a little worried that I wouldn’t have the skills it takes to play the game. To make things a little worse, Insomniac’s SPIDER-MAN does sort of throw you straight into the action. It wasn’t until the game’s second act that I truly got into the hang of things. Once you adapt to Spidey’s combat style, fighting becomes much easier and far more graceful.

Spiderman fights Shocker in Insomniac's SPIDER-MAN.
Spiderman vs. Shocker. | Image: Marvel

Spider-Man’s swinging ability is another incredible aspect of the game. While the game does offer fast travel spots and the good ‘ol subway, I only found myself using them if I was more than 4,000 meters away from where I needed to be. Swinging from the city is just more fun. The game allows players to actively think about how you’re going to swing. There were multiple times throughout playing where I chose to complete side challenges just so I could swing around for a little while longer.

My only real complaint about Insomniac’s SPIDER-MAN is that it’s pretty easy to get through. The main story takes less than 10-12 hours to finish. It goes by much faster if you skip over side missions and quests. But even with those, I was still mostly finished with the game in its entirety (main story plus side games) the Monday following its release. I haven’t gotten through a game this quickly since INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US. Sure there are multiple DLCs coming, but I expected it to take at least a week or two like other open world games (i.e. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: THE BREATH OF THE WILD or any of the ASSASSIN’S CREED games).

An Exciting Future Awaits In Insomniac’s SPIDER-MAN!

So does Insomniac’s SPIDER-MAN live up to the hype? 100% yes. Its intuitive gameplay and well-written plot make it one of the best games to release this year. It seamlessly blends together the best of open-world adventure, mystery, and action games; making it perfect for returning Spidey fanatics, MCU fans, and the casual fan/gamer.

While no sequel has been announced just yet, we can hopefully be expecting one in the future. While I won’t go into specifics, Insomniac’s SPIDER-MAN does lay the groundwork for future in-world games. It would be a downright crime for Insomniac or Marvel to pass on a sequel given the game’s dramatic ending and raving reviews. If this game is any sort of indicator, we can probably expect the sequel to be just as good, if not better.

Have you played the new SPIDER-MAN game? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments.

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Featured image courtesy of Marvel.

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