A Little Spider in a Big Apple

Throughout my time playing open world “beat-em up” games, Spider-Man for the PS4 has by far been the pinnacle. With a rich story, cast of characters, and jaw-droppingly smooth combat, this game has it all. The game was released Sept. 7 to critical acclaim, and for good reason. The game excels in making its “beat-em up” combat as smooth and enjoyable as possible. I already ran through the game quickly—not taking time to look at it with a critical eye. This time, I did myself a favor by playing it on the hardest difficulty possible.

Right from the beginning this game tries to set itself apart from other Spider-Man movies and games, not starting with the iconic death of Uncle Ben, but eight years later when he’s been the web-slinging hero for almost a decade. The game also takes a few liberties with the origin stories of some of the villains. The story is engaging and interesting, while not taking itself too seriously as Spider-Man cracks sarcastic insults at his enemies mid-comat. Cutscenes are spaced out, giving them more importance, and put the PS4’s visual capacity to good use, and characters move realistically and don’t seem like stiff actors in mocap suits. A plethora of characters are introduced as the story goes on, from Mary Jane to the iconic Miles Morales.

As engaging as the story may be when the player is Queen’s famous savior, what we’re all really here for is some good old fashioned fights beating up the baddies of the underground. Combat in the game is extremely fluid; dodging attacks is graceful and beautifully flows into punches. Spider-Man can slide under enemies and kick them into the air, finishing them off with a swing kick in glorious slow motion. As the game progresses so too does the roster of enemies that become available to fight, from guys with crowbars to mask-wearing men with two “negative charged whips.” Each enemy archetype has a different strategy to defeat them. Terrain can be used to throw enemies over or take them out of commision. Stealth combat is a bit generic, jumping from shelf to shelf waiting for enemies to be safe to silently web away. Sometimes the enemies have a tendency to group up around the web-slinger, not giving the player a chance to even react before ending up on the ground wondering what just happened.

The game is also beautiful, with dynamic weather and lighting that bring out the meticulous remaking of New York and its populace. Even down to their shoes, NPCs fit the New York setting, with 50 percent of the characters I came across wearing Timberlands. The location of the sun determines a shadow’s position just like it does in real life. The graphics in cutscenes excel, showing the characters’ lips and faces moving, even off screen. The plethora of Spider-Man suits the player wear are all dynamic, some being rigid metal or leathery black noir costumes that shine in the rain. However, like most open-world games with so much to render, the NPCs too far away to see or too far below to notice aren’t usually visible.

Overall, Spider-Man shapes up to be a nominee for game of the year with its only downside being that it ends. Besides a few very minor drawbacks, this game is an amazing ride from the very start to the very end when left wondering, “When is that Black Cat DLC coming out?” (The answer is Tuesday, Oct. 23).