Insomniac's Spider-Man video game for the PS4 doesn't hit stores until Friday, but initial reviews are now making their way online and it sounds like the title was totally worth the long development period. Well, it was worth it for the most part.
Critics are saying that freedom to explore Manhattan via the game's open world/sanbox element is an excercise in fantasy-fulfilment that turns the superhero game into the enterprising and creative world of Grand Theft Auto. Not only that, but the bad guys (the usual roster of Spidey villains) have depth and motivation, much like Adrien Toomes's Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Sure, we've seen a lot of it before, but you're lying to yourself if you never fantasized about swinging around New York City like Peter Parker. With the MTA always delaying trains, it's the best way to get around!
Here's what game critics are saying...
"Spider-Man aims for the biggest audience with an accessible roller coaster storyline. It offers the thrill of swinging between astonishingly realistic skyscrapers across an uninterrupted Manhattan skyline, but also relies on relics of open-world gameplay that feel jarring and dated. Its world brims with elaborate set-pieces, and yet, like so many flashy blockbusters, it never quite finds the beat in its heart-pounding action. For better and worse, Spider-Man is a meticulously rendered throwback to old Spidey films and games, to the last decade of open-world game design and to an easy style of superhero storytelling we rarely get to see anymore." -Chelsea Stark, Polygon
"The game really nails what it feels like to be Spidey (or at least what I imagine it would feel like). Twisting through the air and tossing out a line of webs at just the right time never gets old. That’s good because, aside from the lead character, Spider-Man feels a lot like every other sprawling open-world action game — for better and for worse. It can be bloated and repetitive, with a story that feels at odds with its structure." -Andrew Webster, The Verge
"Spider-Man’s New York is an absolute blast to swing around, in part thanks to how gorgeous the shiny skyscrapers of the city look. Spider-Man does have its graphical hiccups — for example, the faces of Peter and other key characters are spectacularly animated while less notable characters are flat and often out of sync with dialogue. But its New York City is undeniably gorgeous, particularly on a PS4 Pro. Swinging around at dusk as the calm oranges of the setting sun hit the reflective glass of New York’s skyscrapers at just the right angle evoked some of the most calming, zen-like gameplay sessions I’ve experienced in awhile." -Jonathan Dornbush, IGN
"Repetitive activities are made not only bearable, but in fact breathtaking, by just how great it feels to be Spider-Man in Spider-Man. The game is a sandbox platformer that emphasizes learning how to utilize incredible gymnastic abilities with deft ease so the titular hero can be the godlike janitor Insomniac’s New York needs. While that’s not all the game could be, it is, frankly, enough. I’ve never been much for completionism before, but the running, jumping, and web slinging in this game made me a temporary convert." -Ethan Gach, Kotaku
"You've been introduced to most of the villains you'll encounter in Marvel's Spider-Man, but believe me when I say that the best parts of this story definitely were not shown in the trailers. There are major shocks and surprises coming your way, and long-time Marvel fans have what will seem to be an endless trove of collectibles and secrets to mine." -Matthew Hayes, ComicBook.com
"What truly stands out from this story compared to past superhero games is that it takes the time to explain why each villain is part of Spidey's rogues' gallery. They aren't fighting him blindly or for megalomaniacal reasons, but instead for personal reasons that epitomize why they are villains in the first place. It's refreshing, to say the least, and also unnerving to feel some sort of empathy for people who want to destroy New York City (and, at times, the world)." -Mansoor Mithaiwala, ScreenRant
"It's obvious to point out that a lot of the ideas in Marvel's Spider-Man have already appeared in a number of existing video game interpretations of the character--surely one of the pitfalls of revisiting something so perennially popular. But where Insomniac's version elevates itself, and where it makes an immediate impact, is in the slick presentation that neatly wraps major parts of the experience. It's obvious that the last decade of Marvel Cinematic Universe releases has had an effect here--its photorealistic slant shies away from any overt association to comic books. Bright, saturated colors and stirring orchestral hooks are ever-present, and sweeping angles with camera effects majestically frame Spidey's signature combat style and acrobatics around the city, emphasizing them as the hyperreal feats they are." -Edmond Tran, GameSpot
"In many ways, an open-world Spider-Man lives or dies by its free-roaming mechanics. If New York feels either empty or exhaustive, there’s no intrinsic motivation to get out and explore, and thus, no reason for Spidey to save the day. Not only is this city crafted in laboriously lavish detail, it is so densely populated with meaningful activities that you can’t help but love the overwhelming scope of it all." -AJ Moser, The Daily Dot
"Marvel’s Spider-Man is a rock-solid adventure game. If you loved the comic book beat ‘em up vibe of the Batman: Arkham games you’ll swoon for Spidey. If you’re a more casual action fan you’re in good hands; Insomniac Games designed a thrilling gameplay loop that slides along a balanced difficulty scale anyone can enjoy." -Mo Mozuch, Newsweek
"There’s a clear attempt by developer Insomniac, makers of Ratchet & Clank, to create a more grounded story, with numerous sequences where you’re going about your relatively ordinary day as Peter Parker. It’s an understandable attempt to break up the action and create some moments of reflection but it doesn’t engage fully with the comic book melodrama and most of the cut scenes that result end up feeling rather ponderous and predictable." -Metro Gaming
Marvel's Spider-Man goes on sale everywhere this Friday, Sep. 7.