The long-awaited Spider-Man review.
Well, I wanted a AAA game to come out, and it doesn't get much more "AAA" than this. Spider-Man means Sony, it means Marvel, it means Disney, it means they couldn't animate Spider-Man scratching his arse until six teams of lawyers had discussed it for a week. You can practically smell the money coming off this one.
So, of course, they're going to milk it till its kidneys plop out; I go to buy it, it goes, "Do you want the Standard Edition for the usual only faintly extortionist 60 bucks, or the Deluxe Edition for the obviously bullshit 80? You get a whole three more missions!" Oh, okay; so by "Deluxe Edition", what you meant was "Intact Edition", "Unbutchered Edition", "Edition That Wasn't Picked Apart on the Surgeons' Table by Dr. Nickel and Dr. Dime"! You don't get this in films; they don't bring the lights up halfway through and say, "Could the Silver Ticket-Holders kindly fuck off for twenty minutes so the Gold Ticket-Holders can watch a few subplots?" Anyway, I went for the Standard Edition, because I wasn't going to let more of this dominate my weekend than necessary.
Marvel's Spider-Man is, of course, a new sandbox game about Spider-Man, a genre that has seen one exemplar - Spider-Man 2 on the GameCube - and a whole load of Spider-Manure since then. So let's get straight to the big question: Is Disney's Marvel's Spider-Man a better Spider-Man game than Spider-Man 2? The answer is, "Yye-ees…?" And that, incidentally, was my entry for the 2018 Most Subtext in a Single Syllable Competition. It is, in the sense that Sony's Disney's Marvel's Spider-Man does contain a better Spider-Man game; if you broke it down to component bits and selectively reconstructed it, you'd have a perfect Spider-Man game. The problem is, the game also contains... every other game that has ever existed in the history of the world - most predominantly, Batman: Arkham City - and the advice I've given to pretty much every Spider-Man game in the last decade has been, "Stop trying to be Batman! Embrace the things that make you special, Spider-Man! You can't skulk in the shadows; you're dressed like the top of a police car, for fuck's sake!"
So while the web-swinging in Sony's Disney's Marvel's Stan Lee's Spider-Man is great - it looks good and requires finesse, and there are races and stunt challenges and boss fights that make the most of it - we also have to do the usual fucking stealthy base assaults, and once again, someone rips off the Arkham-style "predator" missions without understanding the ingredient that made them work: escalation! The enemies got twitchier and more scared as you picked them off; the situation evolved! If it doesn't, it gets boring! Isolate, pick off. Isolate, pick off. Whoops! No more isolated ones! Distract, isolate, pick off.
And what's really galling is that, even if I successfully pick them all off with no alerts, half the time, the game just spawns more dudes, pre-alerted for your convenience, and you're forced to fight them. I spent ten minutes going out of my way to "careful-careful, stealthy-stealth" the first round of lads, but apparently, I might as well have just blundered in here in a sombrero with my knob out, for all the good it-- Hang on; why does it say "Wave 1" at the top of the screen?! Oh, you're just padding this out now. The combat's already somewhat annoying; it's got a nice variety, and you can bestow a smorgasbord of blatantly life-threatening spinal injuries upon random goons, but I guess they all got bitten by radioactive rolled-up newspapers, 'cos even basic thugs can knock your health down rapidly, and the "Spider-Sense" effect that tells you when to dodge is wonky as balls. Sometimes, it goes off when nothing's about to hit you; at other times, it goes off .1 seconds before a hitherto-unannounced rocket obliterates your Spider-Nads.
So, the base assaults are a miserable chore, frankly. Oh well, at least it's still superhero stealth; at least you're not some boring fuck crouched behind a box, throwing distraction objects, and getting insta-killed the moment you get spotted. "Ahem..." I don't like the sound of that cough you just made, Marvel's Sony's Steve Ditko's Spider-Man! "Well, the thing is, we thought we could have a few missions throughout the campaign where you play as Spider-Man's normal human mates, crouching behind boxes, throwing distraction objects, and, uh... the other thing. You know, for variety!" So let me see if I've got this straight, Insomniac Games' Disney's Spider-Man: You're going to interrupt your high-octane, big-balls, web-swinging, free-roam superhero power fantasy for the sake of some mandatory forced stealth sections playing as a mundane fuck going on a chest-high wall inspection tour? And you're doing this so that we don't get bored?
Yes, downtime is important for pacing, but the downtime in a Spider-Man game is when you blow off the missions for a bit to idly challenge yourself to web-swing all the way across the map without losing speed, or mentioning that you're from New York. Speaking of the campaign, the story takes another cue from Batman: Arkham Asylum, which went, "You fucking know who Batman is! Shut up! Don't lie! You know who the Joker is; you know who the Riddler is. Let's just get on with the fun and not piss about with origin stories!" Marvel's Clive Barker's Spider-Man mostly does that: it's eight years into Spider-Man's career; there's a rather loose plot existing, mainly as an excuse for a villain showcase.
No offense, Spider-Man, but your villains kinda suck (although, it would be weird if you did take offense to that). There's only two kinds: the "silly" villains - bank robbers with really obvious themes and generic villain personalities, so if you swapped their powers around, you couldn't tell the fuckers apart - and the "serious" villains, who are all former Peter Parker father figures with "Jekyll and Hyde" issues. Peter Parker really needs to learn to stop latching onto older men; it never ends well. The exception to the "no origin stories" rule is Doctor Octopus; he gets origin story for days. There's, like, 90 million plot missions where you just hang around the lab, so Dr. Octavius can drop another hint and make another weird face to camera, until you're going, "For fuck's sake! We know he's going to be Doctor Octopus! Stop arsing about and bolt some Japanese rape tentacles to this motherfucker!"
Marvel's Disney's Sony's Insomniac Games' Stan Lee's Steve Ditko's Giant-Size Man-Thing achieves that wonderful quality of Spider-Man 2, in which it was just fun and not a little Zen to while away the afternoon randomly swinging through the streets, stumbling on collectibles and little crimes to foil, which may ultimately be enough. But I feel like saying it's a really good game is like saying the Bible supports the ostracization of homosexuals; it's true, but only if you cherry-picked bits of it from the piles and piles of other stuff.
Web-swinging becomes the "spoonful of sugar" to help keep down the base assaults, the forced stealth missions with other characters, and the weirdly elaborate "science" minigames where you have to play Pipe Dream and do tile-matching puzzles, which make me think Octavius went off the deep end 'cos he was sick of sitting around the lab playing Dr. Mario all fucking day. This sort of design is the result of seeking the broadest possible audience, but I would argue there is still value in a refined experience. It's a bit unfair that AAA games can afford to just keep throwing bollocks at the wall until some of it sticks; sticky bollocks are the last thing you want when you're wearing spandex tights.
- Does whatever Destructoid can't: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Remember to stretch your pelvis regularly so your costume doesn't get crunchy around the balls
- Evil Science: not even once