It’s been the closing game at Sony’s E3 conference for the last two years, but at E3 2018 we finally got the chance to go hands-on with Marvel’s Spider-Man on PS4.
Insomniac’s take on the super-hero isn’t directly tied to any existing comic events or films; instead, Insomniac is trying to tell its own story while borrowing select elements from the comics. They aren’t doing this completely alone though — Insomniac has managed to get some help from a few veteran Marvel writers that include Christos Gage and The Amazing Spider-Man’s Dan Slott.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is set eight years after Peter Parker first received his powers; since then, he’s been battling crime in New York City. While everything we’ve seen previously about the game suggested that Mister Negative might possibly be the main villain, it turns out this doesn’t appear to be the case. If its latest E3 gameplay trailer is anything to go by, it looks like someone else is calling all the shots. We see Spider-Man getting a beatdown from what is this universe’s Sinister Six; a group of super-villains who team up in an attempt to take down Spider-Man once and for all. Said team is compromised of Scorpion, Electro, Mister Negative, Rhino, Vulture, and a currently unknown mystery leader.
In our hands-on demo we were given free roam around a closed-off section of New York. One of the things you really want to get right in a Spider-Man game is web swinging, and Insomniac has nailed it. There is a bit of weight and momentum to the character when swinging around which feels really good. You’re not able to just web-swing whenever you want, either — you’ll need to make sure that your webs actually attach to anchor points throughout the environment. Otherwise, nothing will happen and you’ll plummet to the ground below. It’s all very fluid though once you get the hang of it, with Spider-Man combining web-swinging, jumping and wall running to traverse the city.
Everything in the demo that we saw was either side-activities or collectibles; we had no opportunity to engage in main story missions. There was quite a variety of activities to take part in, ranging from collecting Peter Parker’s hidden backpacks, helping Harry Osborn complete tasks at his research stations, drone race challenges, or clearing out Wilson Fisk’s hideouts. While I was roaming around one of Spider-Man’s allies, Yuri Watanabe, told me that some of Fisk’s goons were at a nearby location. After arriving to the spot which is a building under construction, you’re tasked with taking out the gang members in a wave-based encounter.
Combat is a very similar to the Batman: Arkham series. You’ll face different types of enemies that require you to approach them in different ways. Sometimes your foes will have shields, guns, or melee weapons that mean you’ll need to perform specific moves to dispose of them. Additionally, Spider-Man is very agile and spends a lot of time bouncing in the air and webbing up enemies during his attacks. There were a few gadgets available to use as well, like Spidey’s classic web shooters, a tripwire mine, and web bomb. All of these gadgets are on a cool-down timer and need to recharge before you can use them again.
As you build up your combos, you’ll be adding to a focus bar meter that allows you to initiate instant takedowns or special abilities. There are nice little stylistic touches added to these finishers, with the camera shifting and slowing down when activated. You’ll also see some small cool details — if you knock a person off a building, Spider-Man will web them up to save them from falling to their death.
We also had the chance to check out a section of a boss fight which involved Shocker robbing a bank. It was a typical phased fight where you needed to damage him a few times before initiating the next section – really, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but it was still a fun moment nonetheless.
Everything that we’ve seen so far for Marvel’s Spider-Man looks fantastic. It’s a gorgeous looking game and Insomniac has clearly taken the time to and care needed to serve this iconic character. It’s been a while since we’ve had a decent Spider-Man game; this is definitely one which could be the best we’ve ever seen.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is due for release 7 September, exclusive to PS4.