Game Review, Marvel, Spider-Man, Video Games

Spider-Man on PS4 Review (Base Game + TCTNS DLC)

Spider-Man is, without question, one of the most popular comic book characters of all time. Between three separate movie series, multiple cartoons, hundreds of comics and many video games, there is no shortage of Spider-Man content in the world. Which is all fine by me, because I fucking love Spider-Man.

So naturally, when Insomniac Games (the studio behind the original Spyro trilogy, as well as the Ratchet and Clank games) announced they would be taking a turn at the friendly neighborhood hero, everyone got excited. From what they showed at the many different E3 presentations, this game would have one goal: create an experience that, say it with me now, makes you feel like Spider-Man.

And with that, I will not be uttering that line ever again in this review.

Based on the reaction when this game dropped, they succeeded. Spider-Man on PS4 has earned universal praise, quickly skyrocketing to become the most successful Spider-Man game ever made. Across the board, it’s agreed that this isn’t just the best game the web slinger has ever gotten; it’s one of the best pieces of Spider-Man media ever made.

However, things have changed since then. It’s not just the base game that needs to be analyzed. Three packs of DLC, titled ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ have been released, and with them comes a slew of new content.

Today, I’ll be analyzing the complete experience of Spider-Man on PS4, including the three chunks of ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ and tell you whether or not you should buy it all, only pick up the base game, or if you should just pass on it altogether.

Here is my review of Marvel’s Spider-Man.

The Base Game

To start us off, let’s take a look at the game’s vanilla offerings. This section will take us the longest, as there is a fair amount of stuff in here to talk about. To begin, we’ll tackle the primary use of your time:

The Story

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

This game’s story is easily it’s strongest aspect. Every piece of it works extremely well, from the plot itself to the voice actors bringing it to life.

To briefly summarize, the game opens with an adult Peter Parker rushing off in the morning to help the police finally take down one of his oldest enemies: Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime. He’s been Spider-Man for roughly eight years now, and he’s gotten fairly good at it. Though the same can’t be said about his ability to keep up with his bills.

Shortly after the Kingpin’s defeat, a new and far more violent gang called the Demons emerge and start wreaking havoc across the city, with only one very vague goal: ruin Mayor Osborn.

Oh yeah, Norman Osborn is the mayor of New York in this game.

Meanwhile, at Peter’s other job (y’know, the one that is supposed to pay the rent) Peter and his mentor, Otto Octavius (I’m willing to bet you just figured out the rest of the plot in your head, if you know anything about Spider-Man) are working on creating a new and highly advanced prosthetic arm. As the plot progresses, Otto’s mental state begins to deteriorate, coming to a head when the Neural Interface boosts his negative emotions and he transforms into Spider-Man’s greatest enemy yet: Doctor Octopus.

This story is absolutely fantastic. Sure, it’s really predictable, but that doesn’t stop it from being extremely engaging and emotional. You know that Otto is going to become Doctor Octopus in the end, but the game makes you wish he wouldn’t by forcing you to see a genuinely sympathetic and kind hearted side of the doctor. His fall from grace is a real heartbreak, and being forced to fight him feels truly painful.

The plot is made all the better by the visuals. More specifically, the character models. All of the main characters look fantastic, with wonderful motion capture bringing their every expression to life. I’ve heard some complaints, with some people claiming they can be really clunky at times, but I never had this issue.

The same can be said for the cast. Yuri Lowenthall fucking kills it as Peter Parker, so much so that I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. He’s easily the best voice actor Spider-Man has ever had. And the same goes for the rest of the cast. William Salyers absolutely knocks it out of the park as Otto Octavius, Nancy Linari is perfect for Aunt May, and Laura Bailey brings MJ to life. On top of that, you have Nadji Jeter bringing an A+ performance to Miles Morales, and the best voice in the whole game: Darin De Paul as J. Jonah Jameson.

But we’ll get to him later.

However, a good story can only go so far if the game itself isn’t good. So long as it’s not fun to play, it doesn’t matter how spectacular the cast is or how fun the plot is. So how’s the game actually play?

The Gameplay

Spider-Man on PS4 is, in every respect, the ultimate Spider-Man experience. From combat to simply moving around, everything in this game is designed to make fans of the classic character feel great. However, every product has flaws, and this game is no exception.

To start, let’s tackle the single most important thing a Spider-Man game needs to get right: the web swinging. If swinging around isn’t fun, then your Spider-Man game has failed as a Spider-Man game. Luckily for us, this game knocks it out of the god damn park!

Swinging around in this game is easily the most fun thing about it. It’s fast, energetic, weighty, and immensely satisfying. Plus, there are a ton of different maneuvers you can learn throughout the game to make moving around quicker and more fun, such as the Charge Leap or the Point Launch. With all of these different moves at your disposal, traversing New York city isn’t just a mandatory task; it’s the most fun you’ll have playing the game!

Don’t believe me? After I 100% completed the base game, and before the DLC came out, I’d still boot up the game just to swing around. That’s how fun it is.

The combat, on the other hand, does not have this addictive longevity.

Fighting in Spider-Man is very simple. You punch, dodge and use gadgets to take down waves of enemies and move on. As you fight, you build up your Focus Meter, which you can use to heal or execute a one-hit knock out move.

Every now and then, you enter ‘Stealth’ Combat. And you could practically break your fingers with the air quotes around the Stealth in that sentence.

It’s a perfectly acceptable combat system, but it’s hardly anything to write home about. In terms of an activity to spend the game with, it neither hurts nor helps the game. It’s fun for a while, but it does get old.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Spider-Man game without boss fights against his iconic rogues gallery. So how are those? Well… not very good. They boil down to doing the same thing over and over, then the boss gets stronger, then you get back into the same loop you were in before. This is the most disappointing aspect of the game; the only boss fight I enjoyed was the tag-team match against Electro and Vulture. Aside from them, none of them were very memorable.

Aside from swinging around and fighting goons as Spider-Man, the game has three other playable characters, each with their own gameplay mechanics. And each of these are kind of the worst parts of the game. Not terrible, but far from as fun as the Spider-Man gameplay.

First there’s Peter Parker, whose gameplay consists of doing puzzles. These include redirecting electricity through circuit boards and breaking down chemical compounds. While they do get a bit tricky, they are far from fun. Luckily, you can change the settings so you can skip these altogether.

But that doesn’t exactly justify them being there, does it?

Our next character is Mary Jane. Her gameplay is very simple: sneak around, take photos of stuff, and don’t get get caught. And that’s it. It sounds like a fun diversion from the main game, but it gets old really quickly. It’s super easy to get caught, and if you suck as bad as I do, you’ll get caught a lot. The only really fun one was when you got to order Spider-Man around to take out guys in your way.

And our final character is Miles Morales. Now, before you get your hopes up: no. He’s not a Spider-Man yet. His gameplay is practically a carbon copy of MJ, but he gets to hack things to distract people. The most fun you’ll ever have with him is hiding from Rhino in his final mission, as that mission is surprisingly tense and fun.

Unfortunately, the only consistently fun character to play as is Spider-Man. Whenever I was forced to play as someone else, I audibly groaned and prepared my stomach for an annoying time. Honestly, I wish I could skip these like I could the QTE’s and the puzzles.

Side Activities

In an open world game, it’s important to make your world feel lived in. And Spider-Man on PS4 has tons of stuff to do. It’s not an overwhelming amount of content, like Breath of the Wild or the Witcher 3. To me, it strikes the perfect balance.

Excluding side quests (although those are fun little distractions), the list of content is still huge. They include:

  • Random Crimes (which include Thugs, Demons, Sable Agents and Escaped Convicts)
  • City Towers (your typical Assassin’s Creed map revealing thing)
  • Peter’s Old Backpacks
  • Research Stations
  • Hideouts (which belong to Fisk, the Demons,
  • Black Cat Stakeouts
  • Taskmaster Challenges

Let’s start with the Random Crimes. Each district of the city has five crimes from each kind of criminals, from muggings to hit-and-runs, so on and so forth. Swinging in and stopping these mid progress is the best little addition to this game, if you ask me. Of course the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man would stop as much random crime as he can. Now, these can get tedious after doing it seventy times, they don’t stop being fun for the first sixty-nine.

Yes, I did do that on purpose.

Then there are Peter’s backpacks. In total, there are fifty-five of these in the game, and they are easily my favorite collectible in any game of this ilk. Each one contains a little piece of Peter’s history, from unique items building the story in this game to Easter eggs referencing Spider-Man’s long history. All of these are fun, give extra context to Peter’s past and character, and make the world feel more alive.

After these are the Research Stations. These little mini-games involve Spider-Man taking care of different things in the environment on the behest of his old friend Harry Osborn. These are a very refreshing change of pace, as they force you to do things you’d never expect. Things like unclogging the sewage, preventing steam explosions, exposing cars that are polluting the environment to an extreme degree, and other things. This may not sound like fun, but I assure you it is actually really entertaining.

Hideouts are my least favorite activity. They all boil down to a basic formula: fight six waves of thugs of the different varieties. Sure, there are the extra challenges to add a little flavor to each, but they’re all the same if you choose to ignore them. They’re not a waste of time, and they certainly can be fun, but they’re certainly not the star of the show.

Then there are the Black Cat stake outs, which are very simple and kind of forgettable. It’s simple: find Black Cat’s equipment, look around for the cat, and move on to the next. It’s not super fun, but hey! It nets you a kind of cool suit at the end of it.

And finally, the most challenging of all of these, the Taskmaster challenges. These come in multiple flavors: Bomb Challenges, Combat Challenges, Stealth Challenges, and Drone Challenges. Bomb challenges are the simplest and easy to get a high medal: swing around, throw a bomb and web it up. Combat challenges are equally simple: fight some dudes. Stealth challenges are all about knocking enemies out without getting spotted.

It’s the Drone Challenges that make me upset. See, in these, you need to chase down a drone leaving cameras all over the city. In order to get the highest possible score, you need to catch all of the drones and catch the drone as quickly as possible. Except here’s the issue with that: it requires a great amount of precision and speed.

And swinging around in Spider-Man is only built for one of those things: speed. As such, these challenges are extremely frustrating for completionists. If you’re only going for the win, then they’re not all bad. But if you enjoy this game as much as I do… well…

Have fun.

The Unlocks

Spider-Man on PS4 has plenty of fun unlocks for players. There’s the Skill Tree of course, which gives you plenty of new ways to play the game, as well as all the extra Gadgets to unlock. But the really special ones are the different Spider Suits.

By using the different Tokens you get for completing activities, you can unlock different suits from Spider-Man’s history. There are many from the comics, such as the Spider-Man 2099 suits (yes, both of them), the Stark suit from Homecoming, and a cell-shaded style suit that looks ripped right out of the comics! Each of these come with their own unique power, and you can mix-and-match these to your liking.

I love these suits. They’re a fantastic bit of fan-service, and they serve as a nice way to introduce new comers to some of Spidey’s most iconic stories. Thanks to this game, I discovered Spider-Noir, and now it’s one of my favorite Spider-Man stories out there. As well as my favorite part of Into The Spider-Verse, but that’s a different review.

The Little Details

There are so many little things jammed into this game that it would take me forever to talk about them all in depth. So I’m just going to quickly burn through the list so we can move on to the DLC. Starting with my absolute favorite: the inclusion of J. Jonah. Jameson.

JJJ is easily my favorite Spider-Man character, and he is not misrepresented here. In this game, Jonah runs a radio show that plays while you swing around the city, giving you color commentary on the different acts you perform throughout the game. These are absolutely hilarious, and his voice actor is just as perfect as the casting of the original trilogy.

Next up is New York itself. The city is insanely detailed, from the buildings to the people who inhabit it. It’s a charming setting that clearly had a ton of love put behind it, and swinging through it is an absolute blast.

And holy shit, this soundtrack! It sounds lifted straight out of a Spider-Man film, and I freaking love it. Each track fits the bill perfectly, and I absolutely love it. And yes, much like many of my favorite soundtracks, I do in fact listen to it while I’m at work.

Conclusion

So that’s the base game. It’s a solid experience, filled with fun gameplay and an incredibly solid story. For the initial price tag, you get one of the most solid Spider-Man experiences ever made, and easily the best Spider-Man game ever released. For the base game, I’d give a high recommendation.

The DLC, on the other hand… Well…

The City That Never Sleeps

For an extra twenty-five dollars, you get three brand new packs of content for the game. These each have small stories that link together into one greater narrative. And by greater narrative I mean that they all have the same villain: Hammerhead.

Really Insomniac? Out of all of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, you picked Hammerhead? You had the chance to introduce Mysterio, Kraven, Sand-Man, the Prowler, hell I’d take the Tinkerer over this guy! I get that you can’t use the Green Goblin or Venom, as they’re likely being saved for the sequel, but you went with one of the least interesting members of the roster?

That aside, these packages are of greatly varying quality. None of them reach the heights the base game reached, but they’re all pretty fun, albeit very short (like, really short, you can beat each of these within three hours). With the exception of Turf Wars, but we’ll get to that. First, let’s start with my favorite:

The Heist

The Heist is a great opening chapter to this story. It introduces the Magia crews, as well as one of my all-time favorite Spider-Man characters: Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat (yes, her stakeouts were in the base game, but this is the first time we get to meet her). It has a pretty interesting story, featuring lots of cool set pieces, wonderful moments between Peter and MJ as well as Spider-Man and Black Cat, and the ending is a pretty satisfying cliffhanger. In terms of story, I have no complaints for this pack.

But of course, story isn’t all that makes a good game. How’s the new content? Well, the new crimes are incredibly forgettable but fun in the moment, and the new side quest that sends you hunting for long stolen art (courtesy of Felicia’s father) is pretty neat. But there is one addition, one side-quest that lingers throughout all three packs of the DLC. And I hate this more than anything I’ve had to do in any game ever. That’s not hyperbole, I genuinely hate these extra challenges, and they make the DLC a hundred times worse than it could’ve been.

But we’ll get to that after we’re done with the other packs.

Turf Wars

This is easily my least favorite chunk of the DLC. It’s the most combat-heavy out of all three, and each encounter features the most annoying enemies in the entire game. Playing through this was the first time I was truly miserable playing through non-side content in this game’s content.

The story on display here is okay at best. While chasing Hammerhead, many of Yuri’s men are gunned down, and she becomes increasingly upset and unstable. When Hammerhead tricks her and Spider-Man, stealing a large stock pile of Sable tech and slaughtering many good men, Yuri snaps and goes rogue, even threatening to arrest Spider-Man. All the while, Hammerhead plans the murder of the other Magia heads to become the head honcho of New York.

Yeah, it’s not super thrilling. Yuri’s heel turn feels justified, but way too quick. Within two scenes, she’s completely turned against both the law and her friend, even going so far as to try killing Hammerhead. Hell, she actually pulls it off.

At least for a minute, before he’s revived in an ambulance. Despite having been dead for well over thirty minutes. But whatever.

Side content wise, this pack didn’t introduce anything new aside from a few more Hideouts to take down. Which meant I got to play through more of my least favorite activity in the base game on top of the worst side mission in video game history.

Yippee fucking yay.

Silver Thread

This one came really close to being my favorite DLC out of all of them. It’s easily the most packed in terms of content, featuring two extra side-quests, three new Hideouts to take down (fucking shoot me) and the conclusion to the worst side-quest in the history of video games.

Much to my sadness, that quest didn’t end with Spider-Man brutally beating the villain involved to death with his bare hands.

The story on display here is also the strongest, featuring some of the coolest visual set pieces. A boss fight with Silver Sable that we never got in the base game (which is easily my favorite boss in the entire game), chasing a group of Hammerhead thugs while Sable blasts them apart, and a pretty epic (though infuriating) boss fight with Hammerhead involving Sable blasting him in the fucking head with a god damn laser while Spider-Man holds him down. And while the ending itself is unsatisfying (not counting the post-credits scene, which is absolutely great), the road to it is pretty satisfying and fun.

All in all? It’s a good final note for the DLC, though I don’t enjoy it as much as I did the Heist. Still, it is an undeniable improvement over Turf Wars. If you’re buying all the DLC as separate packages in order to avoid the bad one, this is definitely one you should grab.

Now, for the worst side mission in any game ever:

The Screwball Challenges

I hate these challenges more than anything in any video game I have ever played. I hate them more than I hate the aged controls of Goldeneye 64, all of Superman 64, and the god awful storytelling of the Destiny franchise. These single handedly manage to spoil the experience of the DLC for completionists. Oh, and guess what? If you want all the extra suits introduced in the DLC, you need to beat these!

Is it hard to beat them? No. Is it hard to get the gold? Fuck yes. Which is why I said “Fuck it!” and stopped at the silver.

My patience can only go so far.

The Screwball Challenges are like the Taskmaster challenges, except incredibly infuriating and unfun. They boil down into a few categories: Combat, Stealth, Gadget, and Jammer.

Jammer challenges are the most unique, and also the least fun. You need to follow a trail leading to electric generators in a certain order, blow them up, and move on. This doesn’t sound all bad, but each generator requires you to come to a full stop, blow it up, then look around like an idiot before you catch the trail again and get moving. Does this sound fun?

Congratulations! You’re a masochist.

Then there’s the Combat and Stealth, which are carbon copies of the Taskmaster challenges. Not much to unpack there. The Gadget ones are the closest to fun, but they still manage to screw it up. In these, you’re limited to two gadgets, and you need to use them in tandem to quickly knock out a large number of enemies.

Here’s why these are absolutely no fun at all. There are two primary reasons. One: the Photobomb system. At random points in these challenges, a pink spotlight will light up the area. When this happens, you need to run over there and complete a certain criteria in order to gain extra points. These include knocking dudes out in combat related challenges or doing neat tricks in traversal ones. When you activate it, a meter will start to fill, and you need to hit the button right as it nears the top.

You’re still vulnerable during this, by the way. So good luck keeping that combo high while the camera locks onto the dude you just knocked out. In slow-mo.

Then there’s reason number two: Screwball herself. The entire time, and I mean the entire time you’re playing through these challenges, she’s screaming in your ears without end. And she is the single must insufferable, cringe inducing and painful character in the history of fiction. I get that’s the point of the character, but guess what? Making a character infuriatingly annoying on purpose doesn’t make her a good character! It just makes her infuriatingly annoying!

I know I’m not alone in my hatred for these challenges. And there are good reasons for it. Both in terms of story and gameplay, these are easily the worst thing in the entire experience. They alone knocked this game down from my game of the year, leaving God of War to firmly dominate that spot.

Sorry to spoil my games of the year list before I posted one.

Final Verdict

Despite it’s flaws, Spider-Man on PS4 is still a fantastic experience. If you own a PS4 and you still don’t have this game, you are missing out big time. Whether you’re a hardcore Spider-Man fan or a newcomer to the franchise, this is a great time.

The DLC, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as great. The flaws far outweigh the positives, whereas the base game did the exact opposite. And I must reiterate: the Screwball challenges are my least favorite addition to any video game I have ever played.

My recommendation: buy the base game and finish it to whatever degree you want. If you absolutely loved it to death and you just want more, then go ahead and pick up the DLC. If you love the base game but what I’ve said about the DLC doesn’t sound up your alley, then don’t pick it up. Really, it all boils down to you and your preferences.

As well as your tolerance to annoying enemies and Screwball’s screaming.

Ultimate Conclusion

This year has been a bittersweet one for Spider-Man fans. Yes, we’ve gotten the truly wonderful Spider-Man on PS4, as well as the absolutely amazing Into the Spider-Verse film, but we’ve lost someone extremely important to the franchise. The daddy of Spider-Man: Stan Lee.

If you read my post on Heroman (link to that right here if you want to learn about the anime led by Stan himself) then you know that Stan Lee was one of the biggest inspirations in my life. He was a man who created simply because he loved creating, and he wanted to make as many people happy as possible. Never once did all the fame get to his head, and he remained a humble, gentle and kind soul right up until the end. He treasured his fans, respected them, and they all did the same for him. It can’t be argued that he wasn’t just one of the biggest names in comics; he was also one of the most kindest men to ever live.

Stan Lee is the kind of person I aspire to be. He has been ever since I was a kid. Silly as it may sound, both he and Spider-Man have been huge parts of my life for as long as I can remember. Without either of them, I don’t know if I’d be where I am today, or who I am for that matter. He touched my life in a way that no other ever has or ever will.

No matter how sad I may be that he’s gone, I can’t help but smile knowing how happy he’d be if he were still with us. The last few years have been some of the best in Spider-Man’s history, and the products released in that time have made the fans of the character happier than anything that came before it. I know that, if he were still with us, Stan would be smiling from ear to ear.

Rest in peace, Stan Lee. And thank you for everything you’ve done over the years.

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