A lot of things could've gone wrong with Marvel's Spider-Man. Such a beloved character brings with it a massive list of expectations from millions of fans, and while the superhero's video game career has had its moments, there have been several titles that have left players a little cold. When you consider the pressure on Insomniac Games to deliver a brilliant Spider-Man game, it makes what the studio accomplished even more impressive. This is one of the most entertaining titles of 2018, and probably the best Spidey game to date.
Insomniac working with Marvel and Sony on a game starring the web head sounded like a match made in heaven, and it absolutely was. The studio smashed it. Manhattan is a sheer joy to traverse thanks to the endlessly fun web swinging, making you feel amazing as you pirouette and flip through the skyline. When simply getting from A to B in an open world is a highlight, you know you're onto a winner, and this game rarely, if at all, places obstacles in your path.
Combat, too, is just fun to pull off. Using a mixture of melee, environmental attacks, and gadgets, the fighting feels improvisational in the best way; there are lots of goons to take down, but it's ultimately your choice in how you utilise all of Spidey's abilities and equipment. It makes for combat that's fast, varied, and compulsive. It means that, while many of the side activities involve gang hideouts, it doesn't get boring.
Perhaps the greatest triumph, however, is the surprisingly well realised story and characters. Many licensed games have fairly throwaway narratives, but Insomniac tells a totally original story about a financially struggling, 23-year-old Peter Parker, his on and off relationship with Mary-Jane, the involvement of Aunt May in the F.E.A.S.T shelter, and a brilliant main villain. It's unique among Spider-Man fiction, and the writing and direction make it feel at home among Sony's in-house exclusives.
When you add everything together, the amount of love Insomniac has for the character is clear as day. Even outside of the great story and the brilliantly fun gameplay, the game is jam packed with references, easter eggs, and details that are the icing on the cake. The collectable back packs each contain something interesting - either some lore or a reference to other Spidey fiction - and there are definitely a few nods to other games and films dotted throughout the story. Between the alternative suits, the fake social media feed, and even the ability to high five citizens on the street, this feels like a game made by fans for fans.
All of Insomniac's effort clearly paid off, as it's been a runaway success, both in terms of reception and sales. It's a huge achievement for the studio, as not only has it delivered a stellar action adventure, it's secured its position as one of the best developers in the business. The game is confident, bold, and a blast from beginning to end. There are certainly more ambitious games on PS4, with larger open worlds, or more innovative features, but few are as thoroughly enjoyable as Marvel's Spider-Man.
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Where does Spidey perch among your favourite games of 2018? Swing by the comments below and let us know.