LOS ANGELES – During the 20 or so minutes I got to play Spider-Man PS4, I couldn’t help but crack a big, dumb grin the entire time.
Between its tight combat, gorgeous visuals, and the way it makes swinging through New York City feel like an absolute joy, Insomniac’s upcoming open-world superhero romp is shaping up to be the Spidey game I’ve always wanted.
You can’t have a great Spider-Man game without great web-swinging, and that’s easily the best part of Spider-Man PS4 so far. Swinging from building to building is feels incredibly intuitive (just hold the R2 button, and you’re good to go). It wasn’t long before I was catching serious air, running on walls and zipping from perch to perch, and I could have easily spent hours just doing that. But the mechanics also seem deep and nuanced enough to be something you’ll actually have to get good at in order to truly soar like Spidey.
Unlike some of the less faithful Spider-Man games, you’ll have to attach your webs to actual buildings and can’t magically swing from the sky. Between moves like web swings, wall runs and web zips, there are a ton of movement mechanics to sink your teeth into, and I’m looking forward to spending a long time honing my swinging skills in order to traverse New York with maximum momentum.
My demo allowed me to freely explore the city while taking on missions and side activities, which gave me ample opportunity to get into a few brawls with some thugs. If you’ve ever played the Batman Arkham games, you’ll feel right at home with Spider-Man, which has a very similar rhythm of punching, dodging and building up your combo meter to perform special moves.
That said, the action is significantly faster and more acrobatic than that of the Batman games, as you can leap onto walls, knock enemies into the air, perform air combos and, of course, web up your enemies to render them immobile. One of my favorite mechanics is the ability to toss environmental objects at your foes, whether you’re toppling the bad guys with debris or throwing their grenades right back at them for a big knockdown. Spider-Man also has a healthy arsenal of gadgets (once again, much like Arkham), including web mines and web bombs that explode on impact.
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It didn’t take me long to start putting together stylish combos with Spidey’s plethora of different moves, and I can’t wait to see what other techniques I’ll be able to use in the final game. My one gripe with the combat is that it almost felt too frenetic at times — there were moments where Spidey felt too slippery for my liking, and also instances when the game’s camera seemed to have a mind of its own.
My demo ended with an epic boss fight against perennial Spidey villain Shocker, which consisted of an ebb-and-flow of dodging his charged electricity attacks, tossing debris at him to lower his shield, and going in for a few punches. The action was fast and satisfying, and like any great battle between Peter Parker and his villains, was filled with corny quips galore.
Calling a first-party PlayStation game gorgeous is pretty much redundant at this point, but Spider-Man really is a looker. The game’s recreation of New York City is vibrant, vast and painstakingly authentic-looking, and the suits of characters like Spider-Man and Shocker were incredibly detailed and bursting with color. I’ve been pretty content with my launch PS4 thus far, but this is the rare game to make me consider upgrading to a PS4 Pro.
After getting my hands on Spider-Man, all I know is that I’m aching to play more. I look forward to losing a ton of hours swinging through New York City (and fighting my way through the game’s rogues gallery of villains) when it hits PS4 on Sept. 7.