10th of September 2023
As a Spider-Man fan since 1991 or so (the Finnish Spider-Man comic book was then publishing stories that had been published in America about 2 years before), I've been waiting for a good Spider-Man game since Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade's Revenge. Hell, as a kid we didn't even have Spider-Man figures in Finland until the animated Spider-Man started airing here in 1996, so I spent most of my childhood as a Spidey fan without any Spidey toys. (But my mother did make me two Spider-Man costumes - one black, the other traditional red-blue.) It was then rather cruel that when the anticipated Arkham-quality Spider-Man was finally released in 2018, it was only for Playstation 4. Five years later and here we are: Spider-Man is now finally on the PC (or has been for about a year).
It's rare to find a game that doesn't really have anything annoying or tedious about it, especially an open-world game, a genre that's built on tedium. The game moves at a fast pace. Some missions take just a few minutes, others half an hour. There are many cutscenes, but they never overstay their welcome. There's always stuff to do, new gadgets to unlock, new suits to find. (Most suits come with new special abilities, but in a fair move they can, once unlocked, be used with any suit, so you can pick whichever suit you want without handicapping yourself.) All the sidequests are easy (some challenges require maybe an inch of effort) and often just rewarding enough to be worth your trouble. Moving around Manhattan is fast and convenient; I rarely felt like I needed the fast travel ability (which also tended to crash my game, so there's that).
Spidey's incessant talking can sometimes get to you. For sure, he's been like that forever, but it's more annoying when it's actually voiced by a person rather than your inner voice. (All the "Spider-Cop" stuff is cringe, but I suppose that's the point.) They "updated" Peter's face for the remaster to make it look more like Tom Holland's (although that's not the reason they gave). I have a problem with this, as the new face looks too young even though this iteration of Peter is not meant to be a teenager anymore. I started reading Spider-Man right after Peter and MJ got married, so to me Peter has always been an adult. (This is also why I've never been that impressed by the movies, as they all feature a teenage Spider-Man.)
The story is satisfying enough with many major characters making an appearance. It's got all the cliches from
Peter being constantly late to losing his apartment because he's broke, etc. Normal Osborn is there but not as the Green Goblin; they're
definitely saving this one for the inevitable sequels. Otto Octavius is the main villain, but he starts off as Peter's mentor:
You get to witness his mental collapse from up close. Doc Ock is always a solid choice for a villain, and he's been generally speaking a
more interesting character since the awesome Superior Spider-Man storyline.
Mary Jane has been modernized; apparently the developers don't consider being a supermodel a respectable occupation these days, so they turned her into a bland Lois Lane clone who lacks the sassiness of the '90s animated Lois Lane. But her nasty habit of sneaking into areas guarded by armies of heavily armed men (and then getting mad at Peter for daring to rescue her) is grounds for some stealth gameplay. These segments seem rather divisive, but I liked them. Not that they're anything new, but they're often a welcome break from all the web-slinging and Peter. For some stealth segments you get to play as Miles Morales, originally an alternate dimension Spider-Man who's since been integrated into the "main" Marvel universe. (Some say this was done out of political correctness, but then again Marvel has always been progressive). His role is more like a build up for the Miles Morales spinoff (now also available on the PC).
Web-slinging around Manhattan is a lot of fun and pretty easy to get good at. (The game was made for consoles after all, so how hard can it be?)
There are some more "advanced" techniques that may need a bit more practice, but you'll be swinging around so much that you'll quickly
get all the practice you need. Combat is like Arkham; it plays like a 3D beat 'em up. Things start off simple but get more complicated as
more and more techniques and gadgets are thrown into the mix. Some optional base/outpost battles are challenging, but overall the game is easy even on hard
so long as you dodge when your Spider-sense tells you to dodge, make the most out of your special suit ability and use your gadgets sparingly (it's easy to run out of all the good ones during
long battles). Still, they should have tinkered more with the keyboard & mouse controls, as aiming is a bit wonky sometimes because it was designed
for players who handicap themselves with a controller. So, just be aware that the game often does the aiming for you. There are plenty of QTEs, but
you can turn these off in the options menu (I didn't mind them though).
Boss battles are pretty fun too, being a mix of punching, web-slinging, QTEs and chase sequences. Villains that make an appearance are Vulture (B tier), the Shocker (C tier), the Scorpion (C tier), Electro (B tier), Doc Ock (A tier), Rhino (C tier), Mister Negative (B/C tier) and Kingpin (B tier; A if you're Daredevil). A few others like Screwball & Tombstone have more peripheral roles confined to the game's sidequests.
The game's Manhattan is compressed. For example, everything to the north of Harlem doesn't exist. Still, you'd have to live in Manhattan in order
to realize the game's Manhattan is maybe like half the size of the real one. But that's alright, as adding size just because would just result in more tedium.
As it is, you can get almost anywhere in less than a minute.
The game looks good and plays well with a rather good framerate. At first I wasn't the biggest fan of the day-night cycle being dictated by
story/progression rather than by the clock, but it kinda makes sense considering the game's rather quick pace. You'll be taking plenty of screenshots,
and the city (not to mention the horizon) looks just plain amazing from the tops of the tallest skyscrapers.
However, the game is unfortunately very prone to crashing. Judging by activity on the Steam forum, this seems to be a relatively recent development. At first I'd get crashes every 15-20 minutes or so, but weirdly enough crashing had basically ceased by the end of the game, and I experienced none on my 2nd playthrough. (The game had not been updated during that time, and driver updates & messing with the game's settings never seemed to have any effect.) In any case, it's not as bad as it sounds, as the game is autosaving constantly and it takes like 20 seconds after a crash to get back to where you were (at least on an SSD). Oh, it's also a bit too common for enemies to get stuck behind walls, preventing you from progressing unless you load a save or find a way to inflict AoE damage.
There are also three DLCs bundled with the remastered version, each around 3-4 hours long. They comprise a spinoff story (The City That Never Sleeps) that takes place after the main game's events, focusing on the Black Cat, Silver Sable and the villain Hammerhead. It's an entertaining and satisfying send-off story with a few new locations, good characters and some fresh gameplay. I also speed-ran through the game on the unlocked Ultimate difficulty in New Game+ after I finished the main story. Can't say it was challenging, as you get to keep your character progress and you'll be better at the game by that point anyway. Skipping cutscenes whenever I could, this second playthrough took just 6.5 hours (compared to around 25 hours for the first playthrough of the main game).
My only bigger complaint is that Aunt May is still around. Seriously, she's such a dull one-dimensional character and the only thing that's preventing Peter from developing into a fully grown man. In the comics she has died or nearly died several times but keeps coming back for no other reason but to piss me off. The last time they got anything interesting out of her was when Mister Negative turned her into a nasty old cunt for a while. (Not to mention she's just TOO OLD to be Peter's AUNT. Say what you want, but Marisa Tomei as Aunt May made 100% sense, as your aunt isn't meant to look like your grandmother when you're just a teenager.) Oh well, at least this story has a happy ending...
Conclusion: I'm not gonna say Spider-Man 2018 was worth waiting 30 years for, but it's still a damn good game. It's got everything a Spider-Man fan needs from fun & fluid web-slinging mechanics to Peter missing his date because a crime got in the way. It's got good voice acting, a fun story that moves forward at a relentless pace, great graphics and is overall a very inoffensive experience with none of the tedium you've grown to expect from open-world games. Aside from technical issues related to crashing, my complaints concerning Peter's looks and MJ's blandness are mostly minor. One thing to note is that overall the game's tone is somewhat "light", something many would expect from Spider-Man. All that is totally fine, but I grew up with '90s Spider-Man (J.M. DeMatteis, Maximum Carnage, the thing with Peter's "parents", the Clone Saga with its bitter end, etc.), so maybe I personally would have preferred a bit darker tone, even if that's not what Spider-Man is widely known for.