All my life, I’ve loved Spider-Man. I’m talking about, from the age of four or five. I wish I could pinpoint to you exactly what it was about him that made me gravitate towards the character so strongly. I didn’t see myself in him, I was too young, and Spidey was already into his college years when I started reading the comics and watching Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends and the classic, ’60s animated series. I remember being 10 years old and lining up at Silver Snail in Toronto to meet John Romita Sr., who signed the annual where Peter and Mary-Jane tied the knot. I remember reading J.M Dematteis’ classic Fearful Symmetry (now known as Kraven’s Last Hunt) and ruing the fact that I was missing that first issue of the crossover. I saw all the movies on their opening days, some even earlier, and enjoyed almost all of them immensely (all except the Amazing Spider-Man 2, which is an offensive misuse every actor’s talents).
And of course, in high school and university, and then into my 20s, I would pick up Spider-Man video games, including Spider-Man 2, the movie tie-in that for many of us has been the defining Spider-Man game of our lifetime.
Until now. Congratulations, Sony PlayStation and Insomniac Games. Spider-Man for PlayStation 4 is a masterpiece in superhero video gaming.
In this, the first next generation console Spidey video game, you get to play as a Peter Parker who has been doing the job for nearly a decade. He’s confident and capable and well-voiced, courtesy of the talents of actor Yuri Lowenthal. The story, written by Jon Paquette, Ben Arfman, and Spider-Man comic scribes Dan Slott and Christos Cage, finds the wall-crawler up against the diabolical Mister Negative (along with a whole host of familiar faces from the character’s legendary rogue’s gallery). Gamers also get the chance to play as the character of Mary-Jane Watson throughout the story, though this MJ isn’t an aspiring actress or model, but instead is a writer for The Daily Bugle.
From a story perspective, one of the great aspects of Spider-Man is that its not tied to any one interpretation; not the films or comics, or various animated series. It’s a brand new story with a character that’s familiar, but that still lends itself to multiple interpretations and beats. For instance, I wasn’t a fan of on the new white aspect of Spider-Man’s costume I was seeing in pictures and trailers…but when it was introduced in the game, I was immediately sold on it. Smart writing; logic – these things matter, and the creatives delivered in spades.
One of my favourite things…scratch that, everybody’s favourite thing when Spider-Man 2 came out back in 2004, was the ability to swing through the streets of New York City. It was well done back then, but 14 years later? It’s an incredible experience, and one that leaves you often more interested in swinging around and taking in the sights (and taking on random criminals) than completing the story and various tasks that come up. And you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. Part of the ongoing appeal of a character like Spider-Man is that he still feels a sense of wonder about his abilities and his station in life. There have been so many issues where Pete’s gone out to take a swing around NYC to clear the cobwebs in his head, and now we gamers get to throw on his web-shooters and do the same if we want to.
Of course, there’s also the gameplay, which is crisp and clean, as Spidey has lots of moves and devices to take down the long list of bad guys that he comes across throughout the games 20+ hour length. Experience leads to points which leads to upgrades on web-shooters and fighting abilities. Take downs are fun, as are the moments where you need to wall-crawl at your subtlest.
Clearly, I’m a fan of what Insomniac Games has achieved with the Spider-Man license. Earlier this year, when BBP’s Mat Langford and I watched the Sony showcase from E3, Spider-Man got the largest reaction from the gathered crowd and, I admit, I was surprised. Were people really that excited for a new Spidey game? Clearly, they were, and thankfully, what we’ve been given was, as far as I’m concerned, everything a Spider-fan could hope for.
Spider-Man is out this Friday, September 7th, exclusively for PlayStation 4. Pick it up and, I promise, you’ll be rewarded with action.