“The story is the best part,” is something that I personally don’t like saying as a compliment about video games. Yes, I am someone who values a good story, but that’s not something that should be valued most in a video game. The game play is the thing. And despite the fact that there is a surprisingly well written Spider-Man story that incorporates so many villains into a fairly coherent plot, most of the time the player spends in Spider-Man (PS4) is in all of the other stuff.
The other stuff is traversing the city and combat.
It’s said that this game has the best web-swinging since the Spider-Man 2 game released by Activision following the film of the same name. Not having played that one yet, I can’t say for sure, but swinging feels fine in this game. What’s most interesting about it is how Spidey reacts to the environment around him, such as occasionally shooting webs out of both wrists at opposing wrists to slingshot himself forward, or running up a fire escape like each landing is a giant step on a staircase while he pulls himself up with webs. When those things happen, they make you feel like you’re doing something cool when it’s really the game doing the whole thing. But I can’t say that Spidey’s more finite movements aren’t as well compensated for by the game, so swinging loses something when it matters most. And, to be honest, when fast travel is unlocked it’s just more efficient to catch the train than swing.
Then there’s combat, which accounts for nearly half of what players do in the game. It starts out incredibly interesting, what with the common modern combat approach getting a Spider-Man touch. Instead of a button to counter, it’s a dodge that can then lead to a counter — and the dodge might pop Spidey onto a wall that he can then launch off of. And then there’s varioud types of web gadgets and other gadgets. But as you play, and especially as common enemies grow more powerful, the options actually become pretty limited. Certain attacks are more effective, and there’s little reason to stray from basic combos unless you want the bonuses offered for that particular battle. (“Perform a Swing Kick 8 times,” for example.) Despite that complaint, boss fights change things completely by incorporating quick time events. While Spidey isn’t doing the same things over and over again, the player doesn’t exactly have control of the cool unique things he’s doing.
The story is fantastic, though. Most Spider-Man games that I’ve played have some sort of hodgepodge plot or try to expand on a fairly narrow storyline. This one has a nice build to it with performances that help elevate the material that little bit more. But I didn’t play the game to watch a story, as that is not the main thrust of a video game. While it is remarkable whenever a game has a story that’s worth talking about, that’s not enough. We should aim for the whole package. Great game play first and foremost and a story that supports it in a memorable way. That’s where the bar needs to be set; that’s why I can say that I enjoyed Spider-Man (PS4) but was ultimately left unsatisfied.
And don’t get me started on the music. That was completely unremarkable and disappointing.