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Marvel’s Spider-Man review: The best Spider-Man game to date leaves some room for improvement

There’s a lot to love in Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man, which arrives on PS4 this Friday. Swinging around a remarkably rendered New York City is exactly as much fun as you could ever wish. The combat is fluid, varied and lets you lean into whichever fighting style suits you best. Stylistically, Spider-Man nails all the web-slinging details, from the impressive roster of unlockable suits to the friendly neighborhood persona that Peter Parker is known for.

Spider-Man’s production values are spectacular overall. It’s a gorgeous-looking title whether you’re using a PS4 Pro or standard. You can swing across Manhattan without having to wait for anything to load. And all the major NYC landmarks are represented and accounted for — so much so that natives will have an even easier time getting around.

This is the best that playing Spider-Man has ever felt to me. His specific move set has been emulated in a way that captures every iconic acrobatic lunge and stance. If Spider-Man is your thing, this game will play like a love letter to everything that embodies the hero’s aesthetic.

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Marvel

And I presume that for many players and Spider-Man fans, this attention to detail may be worth the price of admission. But for all the things Spider-Man does really well, there are also some blemishes along the way. If you’ve played a lot of open-world tower unlocking games, that rinse-and-repeat gameplay loop is the standard fare almost throughout the campaign. Almost like an old cliché, the game’s map is riddled with icons in a way you’ve probably seen before. But not every side objective is bursting with fun — in fact, some of them are downright unpleasant.

The problem is that there aren’t that many different gameplay experiences to have. A lot of the missions and goals in Spider-Man don’t deviate significantly from a number of core mechanics. A sizeable portion of the game consists of clearing out areas of enemies, web-slinging chase-downs or circuitry puzzles that have you mixing and matching tiles to get electricity to flow correctly. There are occasional detours in light stealth and pattern-matching, but none of them leave you wanting more.

Take Harry Osborn’s environmentally conscious side quests for example. Most of these tasks require you to do things like swing through clouds of pollution, release clogged steam pipes or trace the city’s plumbing system to find the source of a contamination. Then there’s a side mission where you literally chase down pigeons. Sure, every open-world game has collection filler, but the uninspired variety here outstays its welcome.

Spider-Man must complete these non-story missions to earn tokens that are required to unlock suits (along with powers and mods), gadgets and other upgrades. Every time Spidey completes an XP level he earns a skill point that can be spent within three different disciplines. So the incentive to complete some of the side quests is there, but it’s shame that they aren’t so great — and it can make completing them feel like a drag.

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Marvel

If there’s any saving grace when it comes to the game’s underwhelming side quests, it’s that they change throughout the game. New markers will open up on the map as you progress through the story so you’ll still have a need to visit districts you’ve already cleared. It’s worth mentioning that these new items aren’t drastically different from previous quests, but at the very least they provide a change in scenery.


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