Spider-Man: Game Of The Year Edition is a third-person open-world game developed by Insomniac Games. It is available on PlayStation 4. Joseph Pugh conducted this review on a standard PlayStation 4 console.
Spider-Man: Game Of The Year Edition is an open-world action game where you play as everyone’s favorite web-slinger. You traverse New York City in true Spider-Man style, swinging and zipping around, between and over buildings. Stopping every now and then to pummel some bad guys, pick up a collectible or solve a puzzle.
This particular edition includes three episodes of the DLC titled “The City That Never Sleeps”. A story addition that takes place after the end of the main campaign. The game itself does a great job of making you feel like you are in Spideys shoes. However, it flops a bit when it takes you out of them.
The story is interesting and the voice acting is solid. Peter Parker is portrayed well, complete with a silly sense of humor and cringy one-liners. If you cut out the fluff, the story itself could easily sit alongside the various Spider-Man movies. It can be predictable if your a fan of Marvel and Spider-Man in general, but it is fun even then.
You play as an experienced Peter who has already been Spider-Man for several years, so no origin story (thank goodness) and he already has a lot of history in place. This is an interesting angle to explore in a new game that is set in an established universe and it serves the experience quite well.
It has a bit of a hang-up at the beginning where it portrays the struggle of Peter trying to balance his time between being Spider-Man and the normal guy, Peter Parker. Then the game does literally nothing with that balance after the initial part. However, that’s probably for the best as the moments out of the suit are a lot less interesting in general.
The Amazing Spider-Man
Swinging through New York is incredibly simple, so much so, that you will instantly feel as experienced as Spider-Man the first time you pick up the controller. You time your swings from nearby objects and let the momentum carry you before letting go and swinging again. In between swings you can do use webbing to pull yourself forward or point zip and bounce off the landing without losing speed.
You can run across and up buildings and Spidey-parkour over objects and it’s all very easy to do. You can unlock more traversal skills later, but it always remains fluid. That word is really at the heart of the whole game. From swinging around New York, to beating down bad guys, it all feels and looks fluid.
Despite its simplicity, there is a lot of nuance in the physics and execution of the movement that allows your skill to grow as a web-slinger. Learning the intricacies of it will allow you to travel faster, land where you want and look even more awesome doing it. The system is a great example of easy to learn, difficult to master. It is nice that such mastery can be obtained without sacrificing its pick up and play nature.
That said, outside of chases or specific challenges, the traversal is really just used to move you along to your destination. There is nothing to really challenge you while you swing about. Any danger that you encounter, you do so at your own discretion. There are, of course, collectibles to find. You also can take pictures of various landmarks, some of which are specific to Marvels New York which is super cool.
If your feet ever hit the ground you can high five and interact with the residents of New York like a true friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Chasing collectibles usually isn’t fun, I can’t say that it is in Spider-Man either. But the fun of swinging around New York at least makes it painless.
Bad Guy Beat Down
Watching the combat play out as an outsider doesn’t do it justice. It isn’t something you really understand until you are the one doing it. I played on hard and you can unlock an even higher setting after beating the game. The combat for most of the game required me to not only move fast and stay on my toes but to use my head during the fight. You know? Just like Spider-Man?
You have a basic combo of attacks both on the ground and in the air, but you also have unlock-able gadgets and combat skills. You are nearly always outnumbered and crowd control is the name of the game. The combat is incredibly physical. You can swing objects into foes or even them into each other. Snatch away someone’s gun and beat them with it. Web a guy and swing kick him and he might stick to the wall.
The environment is mostly destructible and it feels satisfying to slam and throw bad guys into crates or use the environment, such as pulling down a shelf. You feel the power of Spider-Mans strength and speed. Able to dodge bullets and bounce around the field while also sending people flying with his powerful attacks.
The sound and visual effects go a long way toward making the combat feel good. The thud and poof of dust when a bad guy slams into a wall for example. The combat is incredibly dynamic and interactive, you look like a total bad ass doing it. When you link a variety of attacks together and keep the crowd control going, it feels great.
As you fight you build up a focus meter you can consume to regain health or to perform flashy instant knock out finishers. It is implemented in a way that makes you choose between the risk and reward mid-fight. You will unlock gadgets such as an impact web that sends a bad guy flying away, drones, electric webs and more.
Most types of suits have a special power too. Many of them incredibly powerful, too much so in some cases. I’ve jumped into some fights and ended them with a single button press.
On lower difficulties, you could probably get by with just button mashing, but you would be doing yourself a disservice. The combat is elegant, thoughtful and entertaining. It feels really good to web up a group, slam one guy into another, swing kick another one off a building before dodging a bullet, and hitting the gunner in the face with his own rifle. The combat itself isn’t complex so you would miss out on all that by simply mashing the square button.
The enemy variety is a bit lacking, you do fight different types and each one has quirks to it. Shield guys, gunners, rockets guys, and each one adds flavor to the battle, but it can get repetitive. Each faction takes the same template and puts a bit of twist on it and not much more.
Battles against the super-powered villains really should be the highlight, and they are fun yet disappointing. Where the normal combat is dynamic and full of player choice, the boss fights mostly follow a formula. They are cinematic and entertaining, but they feel disconnected from normal combat.
In Spider-Man: Game Of The Year Edition, you accumulate experience as you play. When you level up you can spend skill points in various trees to unlock new attacks and abilities. Each one does a good job of adding to your arsenal, but the trees are a bit small. I would have liked to have seen the combat move list expanded to some degree.
You also can unlock a variety of gadgets, suits modifications. Many suits are cosmetic but others have special suit powers. Once you unlock any given suit, you can then apply its power to a different suit. You aren’t locked into a look you don’t like. You can also craft and apply modifications to the suit that are usually passive buffs of some kind.
Only skills are unlocked with experience, for the rest you need tokens. Nearly every activity in the game has its own token. Stopping crimes will grant you crime tokens, clearing bases rewards you with base tokens. Different gadget upgrades, suits, and mods require different tokens to unlock them.
It’s honestly a really smooth progression system that incentivizes you to do the various activities rather than just the flat XP gain for doing anything. Considering some of the side activities lead to additional story-lines and optional bosses, it is a clever setup. On the downside, if you happen to hate any singular particular activity and need the tokens from it to unlock that next goodie, you’re out of luck.
The activities are varied though. You will run across random crimes you can stop, clear out waves of foes at bases, solves puzzles for research tokens and even chase pigeons, in case that was ever on your bucket list.
The Less Than Amazing
There are several types of puzzle minigames present in the game, some times optional, sometimes not. They are fun in their own way. But also incredibly simple, to the point that they become a kind of stop-gap you need to cross before you get to be Spider-Man again. I am notoriously bad at puzzles but had almost no issue solving them. They kind of became an annoyance really.
There is an accessibility option that allows you to skip them, so I’m not sure why the puzzles are so simple to solve when that option exists. There is nothing wrong with the mechanics of the puzzles exactly, but I’m not sure anyone is picking up a Spider-Man game, to play the connect the pipes minigame.
You are also forced several times to play characters that aren’t Spider-Man in forced stealth sections. Again, they aren’t particularly challenging, but neither are they interesting. The stealth mechanics aren’t fleshed out for them and again, they serve as a kind of time suck before you can get back to the real game. Stealth as Spidey works just fine, the mechanics for him are in place. No one is buying a superhero game, to play as a normal person with shallow stealth gameplay.
It advances the plot sure, but the gameplay should never suffer to advance the narrative. It doesn’t come up too often, but when it does, you just want to get through it. Never a good feeling to have in a game.
The City That Never Sleeps
Spider-Man Game Of The Year Edition comes with The City That Never Sleeps DLC. Three episodes of additional story content that takes place after the main games storyline. Each episode adds new story missions, cosmetic suits and side activities to complete.
I found the DLC underwhelming, the storyline was fine and it was nice to see a couple more characters from the universe. But after the epic final portions of the main game, it just kind of fell flat. The DLC’s did very little to change it up, a couple of new enemy types do appear, but you’re largely fighting the same kind of thugs you already fought.
This is compounded by the fact that it takes place after the main story and if you wait until then to begin. You are probably at the max level and tough as nails, so you won’t get much challenge from the DLC, even on hard.
The suits are cosmetic and no new skills or gadgets are added. For better or worse, it’s simply more Spider-Man. It isn’t horrible, but I’d like to have seen more core additions to the game.
The traversal and combat are as smooth as butter and incredibly fun to play. The game does a stellar job of making you feel like Spider-Man and everything that comes with that. The open-world has a ton of activities for you to play and there is a lot to unlock. I was super impressed with the amount of suits available. The progression system rewards exploring everything the game has to offer seamlessly.
The puzzles and sections where you don’t play as Spider-man are lame and the boss battles could have been so much better but the game still succeeds overall.
The incredibly dynamic combat and simple to learn, yet intricate web-swinging will keep you entertained throughout your entire visit to Marvel’s version of New York despite its shortcomings elsewhere.
Its strengths are polished to a shine, which just makes its rough spots stick out more. It’s still very likely the best superhero game you can get your hands on and a solid open-world action game outside of that. The DLC featured in Spider-Man: Game Of The Year Edition may not be a game-changer, but it still offers more of a great game.
You might also be interested in my review of Avengers.
- Fluid and easy to learn traversal system
- Dynamic, fun and fluid combat
- Lots of unlockable suits
- Difficulty settings present
- Tons of open-world activities
- A smooth and interesting progression system
- Puzzle mini-games aren’t interesting
- Forced sections where you aren’t Spider-Man are not fun
- The highest difficulty is not unlocked until you beat the game
- Boss battles follow a formula and feel disconnected from the standard combat
- Could have used more skill and enemy variety
- DLC is not as good as it could have been