Marvel's Spider-Man on PS4: What you need to know about Spidey's new game

We've spent a few hours with the PlayStation 4-exclusive Spider-Man game, and it looks amazing. You'll be playing it this September. Here's what you need to know.

Sean Buckley Social Media Producer
8 min read

Update: Read CNET's full review of Marvel's Spider-Man.

Marvel's Spider-Man on PS4 is almost here -- and boy, has it been a long wait. The game was announced over two years ago, and for most of that time, we've known almost nothing about it. We knew that it was a PlayStation 4-exclusive take on the iconic hero made by Insomniac Games -- the studio behind Sunset Overdrive, Ratchet and Clank and the upcoming Spyro the Dragon remake, that it starred Marvel's iconic wall-crawler and ... that was about it.

Now, the game is finally gearing up for release -- Sony brought the game out for its E3 press conferences and debuted a new story trailer for the game at Comic-Con 2018. Finally, in early August, Insomniac invited us to actually play the game.
Can it live up to the legendary swing mechanics of Spider-Man 2? Will it ride on the success of Tom Holland's Spider-Man film? Will we play as Peter Parker, or Miles Morales? Let's talk about what we've learned.

It's not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Insomniac's new take on Spider-Man is all new — which is to say that it's not directly connected to any Spider-Man story told in past video-games or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When it was announced, however, there was some confusion: the E3 2016 reveal took place just a month after Tom Holland wore the Spidey-suit in Captain America: Civil War.

This version of Spidey may not be connected to the MCU, but Polygon reports that he will be integrated into the comics continuity in the upcoming "Spidergeddon" even, a follow-up to 2014's popular Spider-Verse storyline.

You won't need that to enjoy the game, though. Instead, Marvel is giving Insomniac the freedom to tell an all-new story about Peter Parker's life as a hero.

And that's a good thing, because…

This is an older, more experienced Spider-Man

If you're tired of hearing about how much responsibility comes with great power, than this might be the Spider-Man game for you. Insomniac says Peter Parker's origin story isn't part of the new game — in fact, it's ancient history. In Marvel's Spider-Man for PS4, our hero is 23 years old, and has been swinging through through downtown New York City for about eight years.

It has a ton of iconic Spider-Man villains

Eight years of fighting crime earns you a lot of enemies -- and some of Peter Parker's most iconic nemeses showed up in the game's E3 trailer, including The Scorpion, The Vulture, Electro, Rhino and Negative Man. There will probably be more villains in the game, too: in a subsequent gameplay trailer, you can see "Fisk" written on the side of some buildings, the name behind another Spider-man nemesis: The Kingpin. 

Considering the fact that Electro unleashed pretty much all the inhabitants of the RAFT Prison in the above trailer, almost any Spider-Man villain is possible.

Insomniac is dedicated to getting web-swinging right

Insomniac Games

Talk to any web-head about Spider-Man games, and a single title comes up: 2004's Spider-Man 2. A tie-in for the Tobey Maguire film of the same name, the game nailed the feeling of web-swinging -- and Spider-Man games have been chasing that dragon ever since. That's why Insomniac Games has been adamant in interviews that it's going to get this crucial feeling of movement right. Earlier this year, GameInformer asked creative director Bryan Intihar if webs would stick to buildings. His answer said it all: "They better if I want this game to sell at all."  

The question and answer may be a gag, but the gameplay mechanics aren't. Past Spidey games have shown that having semi-realistic physics is essential to giving a game an authentic Spider-Man feel. Webs have to attach to real points in the world, Spidey's momentum needs to be dictated by how the player swings and when they let go of their webbing, and movement needs to be fast, fluid and non-stop. According to early impressions, Marvel's Spider-Man for PS4 has all of that in spades -- featuring a movement system that's easy to learn, but offers players nuanced control of the game's titular hero.

In short, movement might be enough fun to be a game itself. And it has to be.

Finding Collectables won't be a chore

Dread the chore of aimlessly wandering New York City in search of a tack-on collectathon? Then breathe easy. Marvel's Spider-Man makes use of Peter Parker's spider-sense to help point out if hidden items are nearby -- making them less of a tedious search and more of a fun bonus you stumble across as you explore the city. Better yet, a lot of the collectables are character driven: swing around town enough, and you'll stumble across backpacks Peter had to leave behind and web to rooftops when he changed into Spider-man. Each one is like picking up a piece of the hero's past.

Finding these items will nab you Tokens, which you can use to buy upgrades or alternative costumes.

New York City is huge, but it's not a perfect replica

If you've been waiting for a game to finally create an exact, street for street replica of the Big Apple, keep waiting: Insomniac said that the New York City you'll swing through as Spider-Man isn't an exact replica of the real metropolis. Instead, the company says it worked hard to bring Peter Parker's NYC to life, tailor-making a city that worked best for telling a Spider-Man story. And hiding a ton of Marvel easter-eggs, of course.

You'll have to unlock areas of the city with towers, though

If you've ever played games like Assassin's Creed and Far Cry, you're probably familiar with the tower reveals -- a game mechanic that requires the player to find and activate certain points of interest before the game will show you that area on your map. Each one of Manhattan's neighborhoods has one of these. That's kind of weird.

The lore of this world pitches us a Spider-man who's been in the hero business for a few years now -- the notion that Peter has never swung through the Upper West Side or Times Square is just, well, a bit silly.

The Avengers might be in the game. Maybe. 

Look carefully at in-game footage of Spider-Man swinging through Manhatten, and you might spot Avengers tower in the background. On its own, that might just be a sly nod to the rest of the Marvel comics universe, but at E3, there were other hints. Specifically, a display featuring a prop newspaper had real-estate advertisements for the property that holds the Avenger's mansion in the comics, There's also reference to Daredevil's law firm. 

The game has a photo mode. And a selfie mode.

Insomniac Games

If you could climb the tallest building in New York, you'd probably snap a selfie, too. Now you can: Peter Parker's day job has made the transition to an in-game photo mode -- letting you compose carefully crafted pictures of the wall-crawler in action or stop and take a selfie with a civilian. Nice.

You'll spend time out of the Spidey-suit

The game might be called Marvel's Spider-Man, but underneath that spandex suit is Marvel's Peter Parker. The game's story will take the player through Peter's life as both a hero, and a normal person -- asking them to both swing from his webs and walk in his shoes. You'll interact with Peter's friends and family and even do Peter's job... and it's all just as important to the game's narrative as his alter-ego.

Spider-Man isn't the only playable character

No, we're not talking about the fact that you get to play as Spider-Man's alter-ego, Peter Parker -- according to a Game Informer interview, Spider-Man's on-again/off-again girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson will also be playable. How the Mary Jane missions will shape up still haven't been revealed yet, but creative director Bryan Intihar says she'll be something of an investigative reporter. "Mary Jane's going to surprise a lot of people in this game," he says.

There might be one more playable character, too…

Miles Morales is in the game

Insomniac Games

The game's E3 2017 trailer ended by revealing a fan-favorite character: Miles Morales. This character hasn't appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but in the comics, he takes on the role of a second, younger Spider-Man who's originally from an alternative universe. Yes, comic books are weird and complicated. Insomniac hasn't revealed if he's going to be playable in the final game, or if this is just a fun Easter egg.  According to marketing at E3, Miles will have a knack for robotics too, suggesting he plays a key role in the story. Either way, his presence in the trailer is definitely intriguing.

It's coming at a good time, too -- just a few months after the game's launch, Miles Morales is getting his own movie: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse. That's not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe either, but it is a gorgeous looking animated film that looks like it's taking some deep dives into Marvel lore.

The Story looks intense!

Details on the game's story have been pretty scarce. We know Spider-man has been in the hero game for a few years, and that Negative Man is one of the primary villains -- but what's actually at stake in the game hasn't been made clear. We do know, at least, that it'll be action packed! In a new story trailer released during San Diego Comic-con 2018, we see Spider-man swinging through explosions, in life-and death struggles with super-villains and and dropping vague references to how the entire city needs his help. The stakes are high. Whatever they are.

Combat is fluid, nuanced and thrilling

Batman: Arkham Asylum set a standard for free, natural looking combat that naturally flows between attacks, defense and movement -- and it kind of became a gold standard for super-hero games. Spider-Man follows suit: early previews of the combat showcase a complex, natural feeling system that sometimes looks less like gameplay, and more like a choreographed cartoon. Watching Spider-Man chain his attacks together and pull combos on enemies is a little breathtaking.

Unlike Batman, however, Spider-man's combat is less delicate about timing. That is to say, you don't have to land a hit perfectly to extend a combo, which makes it much easier to compose a fluid fight that, well, makes you feel like a super hero. Spider-Man also has a "focus bar" that fills up when he fights -- which can be used to execute special attacks or heal. We also know the game works on a progression system that will allow you to get more attacks and movement abilities as the game progresses. That's not the only thing you can unlock, either...

Spider-Man has a lot of costumes, and they come with abilities

Don't like Spider-Man's new look? No problem. Insomniac has confirmed that Parker will have a whole closet of alternative costumes to change into — including a punk rock Spider-Man outfit (complete with a denim vest and, apparently, an electric guitar) and a costume based on Tom Holland's Iron Spider suit from Avengers: Infinity War.

Each costume comes with its own abilities too, which can increase your stats, give you new moves or protect you from certain kinds of attacks. Oh, and you don't have to wear a suit to use its ability either, you just need to have the suit in your inventory.

Better still? You won't have to pay for them, either. Intihar says the game has no microtransactions.

You can play it on a limited edition Spider-Man PS4

Sure, the game will technically play on any PS4, but if you aren't playing Spider-Man on red, logo-covered hardware, are you really playing Spider-man at all?

You'll be able to play it this year

Marvel's Spider-Man for PlayStation 4 hits stores on Sept. 7, 2018.

You can also check out GameSpot's coverage of Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4) and Giant Bomb's coverage of Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4).