Spider-Man is the perfect superhero, at least when it comes to video games. During eras when licensed games were rushed and poor, those starring our Friendly Neighbourhood Webcrawler stood out. Titles like Maximum Carnage, Symbiote Anxiety, the N64/PlayStation games and even the one based off of the first Sam Raimi movie were all better than most of their licensed counterparts. Then there was Spider-Man 2, which many people adored to the point that it became one of their all-time favourite games. After that? Well, Spider-Man 3 was better than it got credit for, and the other Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 games were pretty fun, although they lacked polish. That is, outside of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, which was a fantastic game that quickly became a personal favourite, and Beenox’s The Amazing Spider-Man. The latter was also really good, but for whatever reason its sequel wasn’t nearly as well made. I still beat it twice, though, and on different platforms.
Fast forward to 2018, where we were spoiled by the return of Stan Lee’s man-spider, thanks to Insomniac Games’ PlayStation 4 exclusive, Marvel’s Spider-Man. I believe I reviewed it back then and gushed about it, but now that I’ve had another chance to play through it, I’m even more of a fan. Of course, I’m talking about the updated re-release, which just so happens to be a PlayStation 5 digital exclusive. They unsurprisingly call it Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered.
Side-note: If you’re unaware, you’re able to get Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered with the Ultimate Launch Edition of Spider-Man: Miles Morales. It’s included as a redeemable code, and is simply printed on a piece of paper. There are rumours circling about it becoming a standalone release, though, which would mean that one could purchase it by itself through the PlayStation Store.
Unlike some other superhero video games, Marvel’s Spider-Man is not an origins story. Instead, it picks up years into Peter Parker’s role as the Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man. There, we find him strapped for cash and on the verge of being evicted, as he tries to juggle looking after the city and holding down a robotics job at Doctor Otto Octavius’ lab. Battle hardened and comfortable in his webbed skin, he’s ready for what comes at him, but doesn’t have any idea of how big it will all be.
At the same time, some of New York’s most heinous villains have been moved to the Raft; an aquatic super prison for those who need it. Kingpin is the next in line, and serves as an introductory battle. However, even with Kingpin removed from his swanky headquarters, his presence is still felt within the city, thanks to his gangs, fake construction sites and other illegal dealings.
Thus begins a surprisingly fantastic narrative, which is full of more depth, feeling and quality writing than almost any other video game I’ve ever played. This is a game that makes it feel like you truly are Spider-Man, and one that also feels like a big budget Hollywood movie. A good one, though. Not the middling, over-hyped and dime a dozen superhero movies we’ve received in recent years.
It’s hard not to be sick of the superhero movie phenomenon by now, especially when it’s all you hear about online whenever one of those movies is announced or released. I haven’t paid to see one in a while, and don’t plan to anytime soon. I’d like more superhero video games, but less movies. That’d be nice.
To put it simply, Marvel’s Spider-Man (and Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered, by extension) is a nearly perfect superhero game, and a great video game overall. It’s so easy to pick up and play, so simple to get lost in, and so difficult to find flaws in. Sure, there are some minor issues, but for the most part this is a fantastic and highly polished experience that stands out above most of what this medium has to offer.
You’ll start out small, as is usually the case, and will deal with Kingpin and his goons. Things will eventually get worse and more chaotic, though, as a new villain decides to try to cause chaos within New York City. By the end of the game, the shit has really hit the proverbial fan, and the stakes have been raised past their perceived limit. It all makes for a very tense and harrowing story, which is full of numerous missions that involve Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Mary Jane and Miles.
While most of Peter’s quests involve combat, the others’ are stealth focused and slow things down. Thus, they aren’t the highlight of this campaign. They’re not bad, but can be a bit tedious, which led to me hoping to get through them as quickly as possible. Stealth has never been my thing, though, and I’m glad that there are only a small amount of these missions to be found in Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered.
That said, by stealth standards they’re above average and don’t detract from the game much. They just slow things down quite a bit, as one would expect. It can be difficult to go from swinging through the city of New York, beating up bad guys and stopping moving stolen vehicles to forced stealth.
Granted, Spider-Man does have some stealth elements to his missions. There are times where you need to quietly go through vents, take pictures of things, and take enemies out silently, similarly to Batman: Arkham Asylum. However, that’s more fun. I enjoyed trying to take as many enemies as I could out without making a sound and alerting the others, but admittedly wasn’t the best at it.
Put simply, Marvel’s Spider-Man has a mostly great, memorable and surprisingly long campaign. I never expected it to be as lengthy as it ended up being, but I also added to the experience by doing most of the side content both times I played it. Hell, there were numerous times where I put actual story missions off in favour of just swinging around New York and finding collectibles.
Speaking of collectibles, it’s important to note that there are a ton to be found here. More than your average game for sure.
The first type of hidden item you’ll hear about is backpacks, of which Peter has lost(?) many. You’ll find them webbed to different buildings, and must use the map and Spidey sense to locate them. Doing so will unearth lost mementos, artwork and documents. At the same time, though, you’ll also be tasked with going to police stations and unscrambling their network towers, through a mini-game that involves moving both joysticks to get the right frequency shape. Both of these were pretty easy and fun to do together.
The game doesn’t tell you this, but there are also a plethora of Daily Bugle issues to read, and those are found at paper dispensaries on almost every street.
As you progress through the campaign, more and more secondary markers will appear on the map. The aforementioned backpacks and towers will be the start of it all, but soon you’ll have Kingpin (and other bad guy) bases to tackle, scored Screwball (stealth, combat, bomb disposal and drone following) challenges to complete, Black Cat crimes to track and Oscorp research stations to bring back to life. The latter are located on rooftops, and involve doing things like swinging through smog clouds to test air quality, alleviating water system pressure, vaccinating fish and pigeons from disease, and more.
Of course, there are also crimes-in-progress that can be stopped, leading to crime tokens (which are a lot like the base tokens and other types of tokens you unlock for trying to do everything). These crimes start with simple break-ins, stolen vehicle chases, drug deals and gunfights between crooks and coppers, then evolve over time. Later on, and in the DLC, you’ll be tackling much tougher enemies and more advanced types of crimes.
Needless to say, there’s a lot of bonus content to be found here. Things that add up after a while. We haven’t even discussed the side missions, either, and there’s a decent amount of those to be found in-game, along with puzzles in Octavius’ lab. In fact, you’ll find yourself completing a good amount of puzzles regardless of whether you tackle the secondary content or not. Some will involve rerouting circuits by using straight and corner pieces to move electricity from one amp to another, whereas others will task you with using slides with lines on them to recreate chemical DNA. Well, something like that.
During my twenty or more hours with Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered, I completed all of its side quests, found all the backpacks, revived all of the research stations and completed almost all of Screwball’s challenges. However, I did not end up completing all of the bases, of which there are a surprising amount. Reason being is that the later ones became insane, especially during the DLC. I could probably complete them if I went back and devoted myself to them, but I was kind of burned out on difficult fights at the time.
Speaking of fighting, I now realize that I forgot to talk about the combat itself, which is pretty important. After all, Spider-Man is required to beat up a lot of bad guys in this game.
Thankfully, the combat found in Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered is fast, fluid and fun. It certainly borrows from the Batman: Arkham series, though, and does so by using Spidey sense to tell you when to dodge an incoming attack. Leveling up (through three different skill trees) will also unlock new skills for Spider-Man, including being able to yank weapons out of enemies’ hands, send rockets back to their senders by web, and powerful slam attacks.
The thing is that Spider-Man is always outnumbered, especially later on in the game when the enemies become pretty crazy, thanks to jetpacks, armor, miniguns and more. As such you’ll need to manage combat situations effectively, and try to take guys out as quickly as possible. Building up your focus will allow you to knock a guy out in one hit, and this becomes especially important later on. However, that same focus is used to heal, which is accomplished by pressing down on the d-pad, so it’s important to manage it well. Thankfully one of the earliest suit powers you can unlock (of which there are quite a few) allows you to generate focus quickly. I almost exclusively used it during both play throughs, and found it to be a godsend at times.
There are tons of suits to unlock, purchase (with tokens) and wear, and some of them have some pretty neat powers. Others are just a change of aesthetics, which is also fine. If you’re like me you’ll change your suit quite often. At least, I did until I unlocked the cel-shaded comic suit.
The general idea of most combat situations is that you’ll face off against a mix of grunts, weapon carrying grunts and at least one heavy. Sometimes even a guy with a shield or jet pack or armor. The grunts can be taken out pretty easily, the shielded guys need to be slid underneath and hit from behind, and the heavies need to be webbed or tired out. The latter can be a real pain at times, especially when it comes to the DLC episodes, which introduce enemies with incredibly powerful mini-guns. Not only are they heavies, themselves, but their guns cause a lot of pain.
I question the decision to add these mafioso mini-gunners into the mix, because they really hurt the balance of combat and make things frustrating. I always hated seeing them.
Thankfully Spider-Man has a lot of gadgets up his sleeve, including multiple types of web projectiles that can be researched, unlocked and upgraded. There’s his basic web, which is good for stunning enemies or sticking them to nearby walls or sidewalks, then there’s the projectile web that pushes them in a direction. These are accentuated by web bombs, trip webs (that can attach two enemies together if used well), electric webbing, Spider drones (complete with guns) and more. Using all of your gadgets well is a big key to victory, and is quite important. This isn’t exactly an easy game when it ramps up, because combat can get quite hectic.
As previously mentioned, all previously released downloadable content is included in this Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered package. This includes, and is mostly limited to, three post-story add-ons. Released as a three part story called ‘The City That Never Sleeps,’ it has to do with Black Cat, mafiosos and Hammerhead. For the most part, these add-ons are almost as good as the main campaign, albeit more frustrating because of their mini-gunners. They also add a good amount of bonus content, through new/more difficult bases and more Screwball challenges.
The DLC’s final boss battle is especially fun and memorable, although it’s not the only great one to be found within this lengthy game. In fact, all of the boss battles are above average, if not great. Some of the latter ones — especially those involving more than one bad guy — will be tough to forget.
Needless to say it’s tough to go wrong with this game, considering all it has to offer. It may be a couple of years old, but it looks absolutely fantastic on PlayStation 5, and truly pops. It felt like a current gen launch title from start to finish, and I caught myself thinking that it was even though I knew otherwise. It’s simply that polished, pretty and seamless. The cutscenes have always looked amazing, but they look even better now, as does the core gameplay with its fantastic lighting. Things look especially great once you don the comic suit.
This PlayStation 5 version provides ray tracing technology, which shows prominently whenever you swing by shiny buildings, crawl on similar surfaces or anything like that. It looks great, too; much like the new version of Peter Parker, whose face has been changed. I know a lot of people complained about this, but I honestly don’t understand why. Not at all.
As I mentioned above, this is a really moving and touching story. I haven’t felt this much while playing a video game in quite a while, and few games have moved me as much as this one — a superhero game of all things — did. I really became invested with the characters, and enjoyed revisiting their stories and lives. The voice acting, writing and sound effects are simply fantastic, as is the music. It’s hard to gripe about anything.
In all honesty, I was dealing with a bit of burnout when I first played Marvel’s Spider-Man on PlayStation 4 Pro. Looking back I feel as if I may have under-appreciated it and scored it too low; two things I’m not too proud to admit. Playing it again made me truly fall in love with it, and I ended up appreciating it more than ever before. As great as I thought it was the first time, it was still better than I gave it credit for. Now I feel as if it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played. I may hold a special place in my heart for Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, and may sometimes say that’s my favourite Spider-Man game, but this one is certainly more polished and has quite a bit more to offer.
At the end of the day, you absolutely cannot go wrong with Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered. It’s a wonderful upgrade to an already great game, and offers a lot of content at a good price. If you’ve never played it you’re in for a treat. Meanwhile, anyone who’s looking for something else to play on their new PlayStation 5 should give it a shot, provided they’re into this type of experience. It’s a masterclass in superhero gaming.
I look forward to playing Spider-Man: Miles Morales soon, but need to take a bit of a break from that type of game, as you can surely understand. I played so much Spider-Man that I need a bit of a palate cleanser, no matter how great it was!
This review is based on the PlayStation 5 digital exclusive, which I purchased.
- Stunning, plus it offers a great story
- Lots of content
- Perhaps the best superhero game ever made
- Combat can get a bit tedious
- The forced stealth missions aren't the best