Game Preview: Spider-Man

Confession: ever since 2004, right around puberty, we’ve been into tight outfits that leave little to the imagination, and the swinging scene in general. Spider-Man 2 on PS2 really was a great game. The sheer magic of that first opportunity to web-sling through an open world has never left us. You can keep your GTA V: as far as emergent fun in sandbox gaming goes, Treyarch delivered the sticky white stuff of dreams years ago.

Fast forward to 2017 and hardcore Spidey fans have got a new tingling sensation in their arachnads. Insomniac rocked up to E3 2017 with no less than nine minutes of gameplay footage, and it proved to be the game of Sony’s conference. Because how could you not get behind beating the shit out of Kingpin’s goons on a New York rooftop in glorious 4K?

It wasn’t just fisticuffs on offer, either. Players can expect to leverage Peter Parker’s impressive web abilities, like webbing a dude to the floor; leaving another to hang upside down; and remotely triggering a web line tho send some spatially-unaware mook crashing into industrial crates when the hits the tripwire. Sorry, friend-o, no trigger warnings for you.

According to the talented team at Insomniac, the three core pillars of this experience will be improvisational combat, screen-shaking set-pieces, and most importantly, a slick web-slinging system.

The first we’ve covered – uppance will come to your enemies in a variety of player-pleasing ways. The second pillar – quick-time-heavy blockbuster moments – give us cause for a few concerns (which we’ll address in a minute). The latter pillar seems to be nailing that feel of fluid momentum, and requires a sense of skill and mastery. Anything less and the window washers will be scrapping you off 30 Rock tomorrow morning.

If you’re skeptical of Insomniac’s ability to achieve this, here are two points to consider: Creative Director Bryan Allgeier is a huge fan of Spider-man on PS2 (the game that got this right) and his team was responsible for the traversal-happy shootouts in Sunset Overdrive. They’re in possession of the correct blueprint, and have some experience in the field: conditions could not be more perfect.

Speaking of experience, this particular Parker has been around the (NYC) block a few times. He’s 23 years old, and has already been Spider-Man for a year when you start the game – an athlete in the prime of his career, basically. This is no boring origin story that takes you five hours of bullshit, Ubisoftesque grinding before you become effective.

This adventure also isn’t tied to any existing comic book plot-line, nor the insanely successful Spider-Man Homecoming film that’s doing the rounds now. This is a fresh, off-the-wall Spidey with no strings attached… so to speak.

Everything is in place, except for those dreaded QTE moments. Matching on-screen prompts up with controller inputs was fun in the first God of War, for an hour, and then it was tolerated. No matter how extravagant the Michael Bay explosions get onscreen, if the game insists on wrestling control away too often, it’ll be annoying.

If the fail-states for the actions are either too harsh or non-existent, it’ll be annoying. Insomniac is walking a tightrope thinner than an unplanned, prematurely ejaculated web line here.

That said, if this talented team can manage to not push our buttons by…well, making us push our buttons, Spider-Man could become one web worth getting caught up in. Fingers crossed.

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