Spider-Man brings cinematic action worthy of the character to PS4
One of 2018's most anticipated PlayStation 4 exclusives is Spider-Man. In development by Insomniac Games, the superhero action-adventure title tells an original story starring the famous comic book character. Though Sony wasn't offering hands-on time with the upcoming game, I was able to sit in on a live demo presentation.
Watching a game like Spider-Man being played by someone else obviously isn't as awesome as playing it for yourself, but at the very least I got a close-up look at exactly what Insomniac is doing with the license. And from what I got to see – brief as it was – it would appear that the Spider-Man franchise is in good hands, as Insomniac is clearly striving to deliver a cinematic experience true to the series without sacrificing fun and exhilarating gameplay.
The Kingpin's Back, But What's His Role?
As Spider-Man isn't tied to the comic books or movies, it's allowed Insomniac to create a more original standalone story. At the start, Spider-Man gets in contact with the Kingpin, whose territory is being taken over by a new villainous entity known as the Inner Demons. At one point in the demo, Spider-Man remarks in an almost defeated tone that he’s “saving bad guys from other bad guys.”
At this point it's impossible to know where Kingpin's loyalties will lie. He may or may not turn on Spidey down the road, but we won't know for sure until we actually get our hands on the title next year. For now, the Inner Demons are being set up to be big players in this story.
One thing the Spider-Man franchise is known for — from both the comic books and the movies — is adding a cinematic flair to all of its heavy action scenes. Insomniac is well aware of that. Spider-Man aims to deliver plenty stylish, seemingly choreographed sequences. Obviously, because players will be taking control of Spider-Man, people's experiences won't be identical. That said, it definitely seems as if the studio is dropping the web-swinging hero into situations that will encourage players to pull off slick moves as they take down bad guys and keep New York City safe.
While watching the live demo of the game, all I wanted to do was grab the controller from the presenter's hands and start playing. It was rad seeing Peter Parker single-handedly defeat groups of thugs and literally save the city from a wrecking ball-wielding helicopter. Spidey was swinging through the sky, running across skyscrapers, and avoiding certain death while in pursuit of the deadly helicopter. Suffice it to say, it all looked really cool.
Some of the more movie-like action is made possible through the use of QTEs. While this mechanic has long become more of a cliché than anything, Spider-Man seems to utilize QTEs in smart ways. You're not just tapping a button to win a tug-of-war battle or pressing different combinations in order to complete what would normally be a basic action. Instead, button prompts will pop up onscreen so that you can continuously perform cool-looking acrobatics that keep the big action moments flowing smoothly. At least that's what I gathered from seeing the game in action briefly.
Thankfully, QTEs didn't take over the helicopter chase. Aside from the few button commands that appeared on screen, the pursuit itself was full of high-speed thrills. Spider-Man wasn't just swinging between buildings; he was also running along the sides of them. Forcing Spidey to keep up with the helicopter created a hectic-looking visual not unlike something you'd see in a movie. It's worth noting that the chase didn't look particularly easy, as cool as it seemed. That's due to the frantic speed, which required the presenter — who's obviously used to the demo by now — to play catch-up while avoiding flying debris.
I'm glad that the action in Spider-Man looks great, but hope that it doesn't sacrifice challenge in favor of flashy moments. Judging from the way this particular bit of gameplay looked, it definitely seems like players will still have to try hard to pull off even the easier looking feats.
Webs, Fists, and Feet
As fun as it looked to guide Spider-Man through the city, the combat seemed just as entertaining. Taking cues from the Arkham series of Batman titles, Spider-Man will pit you against large gangs of criminals. Spidey can perform various punch-and-kick combos as well as use his web to tie enemies up. There are also environmental takedowns, which add plenty of variety to the combat. Interactive objects are highlighted during battles, allowing you to see exactly what tools you have at your disposal to make short work of New York's petty thugs.
Spider-Man isn't just about pounding bad dudes into submission, however. You can use the titular hero's ability to stick to walls, and gymnast-like agility to quietly remove enemies from the area. Spider-Man's movements are fairly quiet, allowing you to sneak up behind enemies before you wrap them up in webbing and smash their faces into the ground.
It certainly appears as if variety is what Spider-Man will thrive on when it launches on PlayStation 4 in 2018. Though short, the demo showcased combat, stealth, and web-swinging all in the same mission. The action parts were heavy with Batman-esque battles, and seeing Spider-Man chase the helicopter was appropriately film-like. As long as the game can properly balance all of these gameplay mechanics, it should prove to be an adrenaline-fueled experience worthy of both the Spider-Man name and Insomniac’s reputation.