Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Rating: T for Teen
Ever since Insomniac Games first announced Spider-Man at the 2016 E3 Sony presentation, I have been patiently, or more so impatiently waiting, for the game to be released. As a lifelong Sony fan, Insomniac Games has been a mainstay in my household for many years, especially with the Spyro series, Ratchet and Clank series, the Resistance series, and even briefly with Sunset Overdrive on the Xbox One. Insomniac Games has become known to develop top-notch games. To be quite honest, I haven’t figured out why Sony has neglected to make Insomniac Games a first party studio. That being said, let’s get back to Spider-Man.
While I’ve never been bitten by a radioactive spider, I’ve always identified with Peter Parker, a geeky guy who struggles with relationships and oozes awkwardness. And I’m sure many feel they identify with Spider-Man because he is a scientist, a hero, but remains a normal everyday person with real-life struggles like all of us. Spider-Man on PS4 encapsulates all of these things with wonderful Insomniac Games quality, as well as keeping Spider-Man grounded with his own unique story.
Violence: As we all know, Spider-Man is a superhero who fights larger than life villains, everyday thugs, and even a mercenary or two. Which means this game contains violence and a lot of it. Enemies use fists, crowbars, baseball bats, handguns, machine guns, knives, swords, electrified whips, and other means to bring down Spider-Man. They are relentless in their mission to squash a spider. Occasionally, there will be a small blood splatter or two from enemies as well as cutscenes featuring an injured Spider-Man. However, the graphic nature of the blood and violence are minimized by Spider-Man who doesn’t kill his enemies but simply subdues them.
Language/Drug Use: In addition to violence, foul language will occasionally make an appearance between NPCs when Spider-Man is observing enemy bases and listening to dialogue of an enemy in a panicked sense. Bad guys will say expletives while Spider-Man silently neutralizes one by one in the cover of darkness. Yet, it never exceeds what’s appropriate for a Teen rating. In addition to foul language, there are a handful of times when drugs or drug use is referenced. Again, nothing over the top or what can be expected in a Spider-Man game.
Spiritual Content: Spider-Man also looks at a couple major themes: namely death, deceit, and revenge. Without being too spoilery, death creeps in at certain points in the game. These scenes are heartbreaking, long lasting, and respectful to those involved. What’s even better is we see positive character development occur for the surviving members. Something else we see in Spider-Man is deceit or lying on a few fronts. Of course, we have the character Mr. Lee or as I like to call him, Mr. Negative. During business hours, he’s a typical ethical businessman, but when he clocks out, all bets are off. Peter Parker also suffers from this duality. He’s Peter, but he’s also Spider-Man, and at this point, he has been Spider-Man for about eight years. This means that Peter has been living a life built on lies, breaking relationships and hurting those he loves—all this so he can be the friendly neighborhood spider.
Revenge also plays a major part in this story. Again, I won’t spoil anything, but seeking revenge does something to our hearts, as you’ll see in the game. The same is true for Christians. As Christians, we must push aside anger, revenge, and selfish gain. St. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:19-26, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Positive Content: Spider-Man is also full of positive themes such as forgiveness and redemption. But one major theme is self-sacrifice. During your playthrough, you’ll face a character-defining moment where Peter Parker must choose one of two options: to be selfish and self-serving or rise up and be greater for all people of New York and presumably the entire world. Whichever decision Peter makes, it defines him forever. While as Christians we may never face the same type of choice as Peter Parker, our choices and actions have consequences too whether for good or for bad.
Sony has been on a hot streak of games this year (God of War, Detroit, Shadow of Colossus), and it doesn’t end with Spider-Man. Now, I don’t know about you, but one of my childhood dreams was to web-sling above cars, climb towers, and fight the likes of the Kingpin, Scorpion or Rhino, and, boy, Insomniac’s Spider-Man meets and exceeds all of that desire.
One of the best parts of Spider-Man is the fact that Insomniac Games has made the story their own. They offer a unique twist on familiar characters and storylines while honoring the comic books and films released. In Insomniac’s Spider-Man, you’re a seasoned superhero who has been donning the red and blue suit for about eight years. He is comfortable in his role as a crime fighter, is popular with the city, and even has an inside person in the NYPD. As far as Peter Parker goes, he’s as awkward as ever. A scientist working paycheck to paycheck, currently broken up with MJ and finding the people he admires eventually turn on him.
Any great superhero needs a great supporting cast of allies and foes. Supporting Spider-Man are the usual group of people such as Aunt May, Mary Jane Watson (MJ), and Miles Morales. Missing, however, are Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy (I guess there needs to be a sequel). Each of the supporting cast members plays important roles in both the lives of Peter Parker and Spider-Man.
Spider-Man also has an excellent cast of villains. At the beginning of the game, you take out the Kingpin and with Wilson Fisk behind bars, there’s a crime void that needs to be filled—and you will not be disappointed. A few of the villains you face off against are the Vulture, Scorpion, and Rhino, with a few awesome surprises along the way.
As far as gameplay goes, Spider-Man is top notch. The Spider-Man we know and love is a nimble acrobat who swings, leaps, and throws himself towards danger without thinking about it and that’s what we see in the game. Some of my favorite moments included seeing how fast I could get across a borough, how high I could climb or swing, as well as pulling off a fifty-hit combo against Fisk’s thugs or the Demons. Spider-Man is also full of collectibles, gadgets and Spider suits to wear, as well as challenges and procedurally generated crimes. So there’s plenty for the web-crawler we all love.
Which brings up an unfair comparison. Many believed Spider-Man was going to be a Rocksteady copy-and-paste of the Batman: Arkham series. There are certainly similarities; it’s a superhero game, and there is a similar combo system, but that’s about as far as it goes. Spider-Man’s fighting mechanic is acrobatic, quicker, and more intuitive than Arkham. However, there are times when Spider-Man responds like a tank, specifically when you control Peter Parker, MJ, Miles, or Spider-Man when walking or crawling through air ducts or on walls.
Visually, the game is superb. Sure there have been a few examples where visual fidelity was in question like puddlegate or the people on the boat. But the city looks alive, whether it be day or night. NYC has recognizable landmarks and a few Easter eggs scattered through the sizable map. The game also sounds nice. It has a great soundtrack during exploration and boss fights, lifelike traffic, and the wind rushing through your ears as you gain momentum in your swings.
With all this praise, however, Spider-Man is not a perfect game. Again some of the controls were tanky, a few of textures of faces were odd, occasionally Spider-Man or an enemy would get stuck in a building or car, and during my gameplay, the game crashed twice. Those, of course, are minor complaints in the big picture of things.
Overall, this is a great Spider-Man game, a great Sony exclusive, and something I feel every PS4 player should have in their game library. Spider-man also has more bang for your buck; Insomniac will be releasing a new game plus mode in the near future as well as releasing three paid DLC. I, for one, cannot wait to be swinging through New York City again in a few weeks.
The Bottom Line
If you’ve ever wanted to be a super hero, this is your chance. If you’re unfamiliar with Spider-Man this is a great entry point. Insomniac has another hit on their hands. And if you own a PS4 this is a must buy.