The first Spider-Man game dates all the way back to 1982. It was by Parker Bros, designed for the Atari 2600, and offered simple gameplay via scaling the side of a building. Since then, over 30 game studios have taken a crack at ol' Spidey, with varying levels of success.
Now, it's Insomniac Games' turn at bat... and hoo boy, did it swing for the fences.
I recently spent the better part of an afternoon playing Spider-Man, and after it was over, the wait until 7 Sept. seemed like an eternity. Y'all, this game is good.
One of Insomniac's best choices was to create its own, standalone Spider-Man game. It's not tied to the series of films starring Tom Holland. In fact, it's not based on any one specific movie or comic arc, but there's still a deep reverence of the character's DNA.
In this go-round, Peter is 23. He's been Spider-Man for a while and the city knows him. Mary Jane's around too, but she and Peter are on a break. (Aunt May can't help but remind Peter she's fond of MJ -- classic Aunt May.) Since I'm not one to spoil anything for you, you'll definitely see some other familiar faces in this game - but that's all I'll say about it!
What I'm happy to talk about (and never stop talking about, if we're being honest) is how Insomniac absolutely nailed traveling around New York as Spider-Man. It took a while to get used to the controls -- not unlike my time spent playing Sunset Overdrive, the game that obviously inspired some of this game's fast-flinging movement -- but once I got the hang of it, swinging through the city felt downright blissful.
And it's a beautiful city. Exploration is seamless and vast, something that will delight you over and over again as you fight crime and discover easter eggs. It's not a 1:1 replica of NYC, but I don't think it should be. This is Peter's New York, not ours, and it's reflected in every citizen and skyscraper. Insomniac put a lot of emphasis on how good travel should look and feel in this game, and it pays off in spades.
Once I got my fill of flinging myself around the city, I got down to the main story and some crime fighting on the side. The word Insomniac used to describe combat was "improvisational," and that's super accurate. You'll use melee punches and kicks, fancy gadgets and even the environment around you to take down bad guys. The skill trees are filled with all kinds of combos and abilities, and I have a feeling everyone will figure out what mostly works for them and sticks with it -- though I might be wrong about this as you progress into later stages of the game.
It looks like there's a wide variety of skills, tech and suits to unlock throughout the game, so it looks like anyone hoping for a mountain of Spider-Man goodness will have their wish granted. I saw all kinds of suit silhouettes and descriptions in the menus. Again, I won't spoil it for you, you won't be disappointed by your options.
As you swing carefree through Manhattan, you'll get random calls and information - the city is full of optional side questing like clearing out hideouts and stopping crime in its tracks. Collectible tokens (base, backpack, crime, landmark, research and challenge) are awarded for completing different tasks, so there's no shortage of item hunting for you Insomniac collectible freaks and completionists out there. And yes, that would be me.
Overall, I'm really excited for this installment in Peter Parker's story. It's clear Insomniac loves both Peter and Spider-Man in equal parts, and the time I spent playing made that crystal clear. If the rest of the game is anything like the first four hours, we're all in for an immensely friendly neighborhood Spider-Man game when it hits PlayStation 4 on 7 Sept.
: First chess, then Go, now Dota 2?
: So much for being a Cool Dad.