Originally announced at E3 2016, Marvel’s Spider-Man has easily been one of the most closely followed and anticipated game releases of the generation. It is the latest in a line of exceptional AAA PS4 exclusive single-player titles, made by top-tier developer Insomniac Games, with the full support of both Sony and Marvel, and based on one of the most recognizable characters in all of media, whose franchise hasn’t seen a quality video game release in well over a decade. Regardless of the end result, this game was destined from the start to be one for the books. Amazingly, amidst all of these expectations, Marvel’s Spider-Man is also a truly spectacular game that raises the bar for the character, the genre, and the industry, and is more than worthy of being September’s Game of the Month.
To claim that Spider-Man revolutionizes the third person action game would be an overstatement. Rather, it takes ideas and lessons learned from the genre’s extensive past and contextualizes everything into the Spider-Man universe, so that every piece feels like it belongs. Among other things, the combat is inspired by the Batman Arkham games, but has been sped up and tweaked to emphasize Spidey’s speed and acrobatics over the Dark Knight’s more straightforward style. Collectibles and challenges are staples of the genre, but where other games tend to use them as a means to draw out a game’s length, here they provide appropriate world-building and mini-narratives that further develop the game’s characters.
The main story is delivered with every bit of quality and confidence as anything the MCU has put on the silver screen and sets the groundwork for some ambitious twists in the lives of both Spider-Man and Peter Parker. And the web-swinging, the ultimate Spider-Man fantasy, is better here than it has ever been, feeling smooth, expressive, and most importantly, rad as heck. To top it all off, its absolutely gorgeous visuals can be showcased with the game’s photo mode, complete with its own Spider-Man influenced features. Every corner of this game displays the love Insomniac has for this character and their version of New York.
In short, Spider-Man is the game you always hope for but so rarely receive. It’s what happens when you take a beloved character, and instead of coasting on the name recognition, you put it in the hands of some of the best in the business, back them with a real budget and development timeline, and let them execute a singular, ambitious vision. It proves that you can break sales records without microtransactions, a battle royale mode, 9 deluxe editions, movie tie-in deals, or any other cash-grabbing shortcuts so common in game publishing these days. In an industry that can often feel hostile and cold, Spider-Man is Insomniac’s reminder to the gaming world that we can be greater.