Too Long; Didn't Play: Marvel's Spiderman

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Time web-slinging: I don’t know, I’m like Peter Parker: I completely lose track of time when I’m Spider-Man.

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Yes, they got the swinging right.

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I have never liked Spider-Man, as a character. If you asked me to put my finger on why, it would probably revolve around a number of impressions that either are not accurate or were accurate thirty years ago and no longer apply. Mostly, I found it to be too much soap-opera, not enough action. What do I care about Spider-Man’s money problems? Try taking your job as seriously as your hobby, underoo boy! It’s like when airline attendants tell parents to put the oxygen mask on themselves first. You can’t save anybody if you can’t feed yourself.

However, though I find watching and reading about Spider-Man to be tedious and frustrating, pretending to be Spider-Man is pretty Fantastic. Or maybe it’s Amazing. Spectacular? I don’t know, I lost track of all of the superlative timelines. (Which, incidentally, might be another reason I don’t like Spider-Man. I was trying to follow a storyline in the comic books, but I could never remember which version I was supposed to buy, and I ended up missing the subsequent issue.)

The reason it's great to play as Spider-Man is simple: Grappling-hooks are awesome. We know this because Link, Rico Rodriguez and Batman all use them. Spider-Man is a character that is, basically, a walking grappling hook who lives in a city full of tall buildings. I’d say making a bad game under those circumstances is impossible, except that somehow they managed at least one of them on every gaming platform ever manufactured.

The gold standard of Spider-Man games is, obviously, Spider-Man 2 from the PS2/Gamecube/Xbox generation. The swinging in that game was excellent, tethering the capeless crusader to actual objects in the world, rather than giving him a canned swing animation that worked whether he was next to the Bowery, or in Central Park. I can’t tell if the swinging in Marvel’s Spider-Man is as good or better than Spider-Man 2, because I can’t parse out what’s my rose-colored memory from what’s real. Regardless, the swinging in Marvel’s Spider-Man feels about as good as the swinging in Spider-Man 2, so that’s about as good as you can get.

I’ve heard a lot of podcasters compare the combat to the Arkham games. In a way I can see why, but it feels very different to me. Sure, you’re waiting for an on-screen indicator and hitting a counter button a lot, but I don’t find it useful to ping-pong between enemies in the same way that I did in Batman or Shadow of Mordor. In the first place, he doesn’t seem to hit as hard as Batman or Celebrimborn’s meat puppet, so punching an enemy once to stagger him while you deal with someone else doesn’t actually help much. In the second, moves like the web-swing attack send both you and your target away from the action, which makes switching to a different enemy for the next punch too hard to make that sort of fighting effective.

If I’m being brutally honest, the combat feels more like Extinction than Batman, but since I actually liked Extinction, that’s not the criticism it sounds like.

Of course, there’s more to Spider-Man than punching and web-swinging, and the venue of New York City provides a lot to do. If you don’t want to go fight street crimes or clear out enemy strongholds, you can hunt for towers to unlock the city map. You can collect backpacks that Spider-Man has previously stashed around the city for some reason. You can take photographs of famous landmarks. You can complete various Science! Challenges that are, essentially, time trials. You can hunt for pigeons (yes, really). You can even play pipe dreams as much as you want.

The best part is that the developers drip those side quests out continuously as the game goes on, so instead of getting overwhelmed with a million points of interest on your map, you can get overwhelmed by a few dozen points of interest that show up every few story missions like mushrooms after a week of rain.

Story-wise … meh, it’s Spider-Man. He has money problems and romantic problems and it never once occurs to him to spend more than five minutes wearing clothes that show more of his face than his glutes. At one point something happens that spurs the mayor to hire a band of violent, unaccountable masked people to beat up criminals, and this puts Spidey’s nose out of joint because he’s supposed to be the only violent, unaccountable masked person that beats up criminals in this town.

And what’s worse, they’re better at it than he is.

I’m sure everything will work out, though. It is a superhero game, after all. I’m sure Spider-Man will use his words to talk some sense into everybody. And it that fails, he can just beat everybody unconscious.

Is it my great responsibility to keep playing?

There’s a lot to do in Marvel’s Spider-Man, and just about all of it is fun – except for the pipe dreams mini-games. Those can eat a bag of doorknobs.

I’ll keep playing, and I’ll probably collect all of the myriad collectibles to boot. Pigeon hunting is wicked fun.

Is it the Dark Souls of super hero games?

Early on the combat is fairly limited, and if you progress too far into the story without upgrading your combat skills, you’ll find yourself dying a lot. However, once you’ve filled out some branches on the upgrade tree, nothing will pose much of a problem. There’s a lot of depth to the combat, though, so even though it’s on the easy side you won’t be bored.

Four out of ten dark webs.


I have not played Extinction, but I do appreciate someone else not making the comparison to Arkham. I've felt it more in common with character/spectacle action games like DmC, Bayonetta, etc. but more accessible. A lot more freedom of movement than the Arkham games allow for, where Batman is only acrobatic when you get a good rhythm going.

Interesting all the reasons you dislike Peter. I realized as this game was approaching release that the whole reason I like Peter Parker is because he's a much more human version of Bruce Wayne. Peter is still Peter regardless of the mask, it's just that the mask, if anything, gives him more confidence. Bruce Wayne is the mask, it's really Batman that is the identity now. So you don't get the same drama when he's juggling his personal life with being a criminal. With Spider-Man, you get the sense that personal life is still important and prioritizing the two is a real struggle. With Batman, you get the sense that Bruce Wayne is an inconvenience that he has to tolerate.

Extinction reference made me do a Google search. Man, I already forgot that game existed.

ccesarano wrote:

I have not played Extinction, but I do appreciate someone else not making the comparison to Arkham. I've felt it more in common with character/spectacle action games like DmC, Bayonetta, etc. but more accessible. A lot more freedom of movement than the Arkham games allow for, where Batman is only acrobatic when you get a good rhythm going.

If the combat isn't reactive-based then people shouldn't mention Arkham in the same sentence. Those games have a very particular combat that I don't like, so when the Arhkam references were being made in relation to this game I wrote the game off entirely. Now, however...

The combat is “like Arkham” in the sense that there is a dodge button that does cool stuff if you wait for an indicator to light up your screen. Other than that I didn’t find it to be very similar. It’s like saying that Tetris is similar to Bejewelled because lining things up causes stuff to fall.

I say this as someone who likes both Arkham’s and Spiderman’s combat.

Even then, you're basically saying that it's giving you a visual indicator for dodging that Bayonetta and Transformers: Devastation did not.

I mean, the combat isn't without its issues, but I do think the only time the Arkham comparisons are accurate are for stealth. That part is blatantly ripped off, but honestly, that's also a "if it ain't broke" situation.

I agree with ccesarano that Spider-Man's combat is focused on moving around a lot - you can't just stay in one spot and counter everything. Spidey also seems more proactive, especially with using air launches to isolate a goon and set up combos and web zips to cover distance.

Also, the gadgets are employed differently -- by Arkham Origins, gadgets could be deployed with button presses, without going to the selection menu at all, which is not so with Spidey. Spdiey's gadgets with limited ammo means you have to be more picky when you use them (and can make you forget to use them at all)