'Marvel's Spider-Man' Review: Spidey Gets His Own 'Arkham'-Style Adventure

Marvel's Spider-Man is one of the best superhero video games I've ever played. It's an exciting, expansive adventure with a cinematic story, escalating action, and personal stakes. In short, it's everything I've ever wanted in a Spider-Man game.

Read on for the rest of our Marvel's Spider-Man review, including a description of the gameplay, some story elements, and much more.

Video Review

If you'd rather learn our thoughts about the game while seeing it in action, check out the video review above. Otherwise, read on.

A Familiar Style

If you've ever played any of Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham games, you know exactly what you're in for with this one. Insomniac Games has created an almost identical experience here, but instead of cruising around Gotham in the Batmobile, you're swinging through New York City with webshooters. There are stealth aspects and all-out brawls, huge boss fights with legendary villains and street-level criminals to be dispatched. The combat controls are similar, with Spidey gaining access to more advanced gadgets and fighting techniques to use on enemies as the game progresses. The comparison to the Arkham series is not meant as a slight: those games are great, and so is this one. But this game unquestionably stands on the shoulders of what's come before it, and if you're not a fan of that particular style of gameplay, you may find yourself frustrated with this experience.

The Story

You primarily play as Peter Parker, who has been fighting crime as a superhero for eight years when the game begins. This time jump is a wise decision: it unshackles us from the traditional narrative of Peter as a high-schooler or college student. He's out of college, working as a scientist at a lab (I'm not allowed to tell you who his boss is) and living by himself in a crappy apartment. Aunt May is working at a volunteer shelter called F.E.A.S.T., which becomes a key location throughout the game.

Peter is the main protagonist, but there are a couple of other playable characters as well, one of them being Mary Jane Watson, who's now working as a reporter at the Daily Bugle. The two of them have some baggage as the story begins, and as the action unfolds, their partnership becomes increasingly important.

The story begins with a raid on Wilson Fisk, AKA The Kingpin, with Spider-Man fighting his way through dozens of henchmen and multiple floors of a skyscraper to get to him. Spidey's spent years trying to put Fisk behind bars, but when he finally does in the first few minutes, it opens up a power vacuum in the Big Apple that's arguably worse than Fisk's iron rule.

A mysterious group called the Demons begins battling for Fisk's territory, led by Martin Li (AKA Mister Negative), a seemingly kind man who runs the F.E.A.S.T. shelters where Aunt May works. And with Norman Osborne gearing up for re-election as the Mayor of New York City, he hires Silver Sable and her team of mercenaries as personal protection. Sable's hired guns and Mister Negative's Demons constitute a majority of the low-level bad guys you fight throughout the story, but as revealed in one of the game's trailers, you'll also face down The Sinister Six, which are here comprised of Electro, Rhino, Vulture, Scorpion, Mister Negative, and a sixth mystery member I won't spoil who's pulling all the strings.

The Gameplay

The controls are intuitive, and the combat has some fun variation to it. Spidey has gadgets that can enable different types of approaches to big group fights, whether it's an Impact Web that can render a bad guy useless by sticking him to a wall, or electrified webbing that temporarily shocks villains. The combo potential is incredible, too – if you electrify someone, for example, you can then use your webs to swing them in a huge circle and fling him into a group of oncoming thugs, electrifying everyone he touches.

Further tapping into the science genius angle, the game makes you do mini-challenges to solve tech problems, like fixing a robotic arm by rerouting circuitry. It's a puzzle aspect that's leaned on sparingly, but I appreciated the way it puts Peter Parker's intelligence front and center while most of the game relies more on combat and lighthearted quips.

Spider-Man websSpider-Man feels like a perfect example of a AAA IP-based title in 2018. Its open world exploration reminds me a lot of Assassin's Creed – Spidey even has to climb to great heights to "synchronize" towers across the city to unlock sections of the map – and again, the comparisons to the Arkham games can't be overstated.

There are plenty of opportunities to upgrade gadgets and earn new suits, the latter of which each has special powers associated with them. One offers the ability to refill your focus bar (which in turn allows you to perform finishing moves on bad guys), while another allows you to blast webs in every direction simultaneously if you find yourself getting overpowered. Those are just two options, and there are plenty more where that came from. (And yes, you can unlock the Iron Spider suit from Avengers: Infinity War.)

As you might expect, you can also unlock tons of additional challenges as the game goes on. There are stations sprinkled throughout the city in which Black Cat and Oscorp give you small tasks to accomplish, resulting in experience points which can be used to upgrade suits or gadgets. Years ago, Peter Parker left backpacks scattered throughout New York with tracking beacons on them, and finding those also increases your points to help you in your fight against the city's villains.

Intangibles and Downsides

I can't stress this enough: swinging through the city is amazing. Spidey has parkour moves at his disposal to jump off of obstacles, but the real magic of this game comes with webbing your way across New York City. There are recognizable landmarks like Grand Central Station and Central Park, and there are also some nice nods to a larger Marvel universe with Jessica Jones' Alias Investigations and the Wakandan Embassy. Traversing through the skies is so damn fun, and you can pull off little trick moves like backflips or rolling up into a ball as you hurtle your way from one web sling to another.

For me, one of the only downsides of the game is that even with the high range of combat options, a lot of the fights start to feel the same after a while. During many of the fight sequences, players are offered bonus objectives for extra XP, like using the Web Trip Wire gadget – a proximity mine that catches baddies in a web – on at least five enemies. I eventually started to force similar requirements on myself just to keep things interesting. And to be fair, the combat in almost all of these types of games eventually begins to feel the same, so the problem is not exclusive to this title.

Marvel's Spider-Man is a terrific addition to the superhero video game canon and an addicting, thrilling experience that already has me itching to jump back in and swing through the city once again./Film Rating: 9 out of 10