I’ve played a lot of Spider-Man games. To this day I nurture the belief that all tutorials should be narrated by Bruce Campbell. I even played Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, which had four different web-dudes and later inspired the Spider-Verse storyline in the comics. Point is, I’m standing on pretty solid ground to judge Spider-Man games. Marvel’s Spider-Man, originally released onto Sonyboxes in 2018, is finally coming to PC in a Remastered form, and let me tell you: it is a great Spidey game.
You know Spider Man. He’s a dude named Peter Parker who was bitten by a radioactive spider and can now climb up walls and punch criminals really well. Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered lets you roleplay being Spidey against the backdrop of a big, living New York city. It is, if you’ll excuse the pun, amazing. Now, is it the best Spidey game? Nah. I reckon that’s its spin-off/sequel Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, but that’s not on PC yet. This means Marvel’s Spider-Man gets to be the best wall-crawler game on PC for another few months, which isn’t a bad consolation prize.
Plus, Spider-Man swung so Miles Morales could fly. The web-swinging in Spider-Man set a new standard for imaginative traversal in games, and it’s still, just, an indescribable amount of fun zipping around New York. I’m told it takes maybe 16 hours to complete Marvel’s Spider-Man, but I padded that by at least another ten by swinging, leaping, boosting and playing free-fall chicken with the concrete. I never used fast travel once. You’ll find yourself taking the long way around to quests, just to enjoy the freedom of being Spider-Man. It’s as amazing being in the air – fwip-ing off a water tower, dive-bombing an alley and leaping at the apex of every swing – as it is awkward being on the ground. On the occasions you accidentally land Spidey feels like a penguin waddling slowly across the tundra, the perfect juxtaposition to how at home he is in the sky.
Not that this is the case every time you’re grounded, though. In combat Spider-Man ain’t so friendly, and the game does a great job of making you feel agile, using your speed and wits against huge groups of enemies or dudes who are way bigger than Peter Parker. Combined with unlockable suits and gadgets, and levels where you’re sneaking around on beams and high ledges doing spidery stealth takedowns, and you sometimes feel more like Batman than the wall-crawler. That’s not bad, though. It makes you feel smart, combining your Arkham-esque dodging and punching with instant takedowns and stun grenades. You can take down the first wave of a bunch of baddies without them knowing you’re there, trigger your suit’s special ability to make decoy holograms, pull a fusebox off the wall and throw it at the group of thugs on your left (electrocuting them all) and then start performing swing kicks, web yank and air-juggles. And at the end, if you do it all right, it feels like a ballet.
Around this is an original Spider-Man story, with all the ingredients you need. It’s classic stuff: Supervillains! Stop break ins! He has a girlfriend – or does he!? He’s late for dinner with Aunt May! Betrayal! Be-who-al? Marvel’s Spider-Man takes the wise step of skipping all the origin story and what have you, starting us in media res. Peter is older now, having graduated and started work for Dr. Octavius as well as volunteering at the local FEAST center for helping the homeless and awkward backronyms. There are dramatic, eight-legged twists that you can see coming a mile off, but that’s a large part of the pleasure. The game knows you know, and it takes enormous fun in pushing and pulling that tension.
It’s all part of the rich tapestry of being Spider-Man. It wouldn’t be a Spidey story if you didn’t face a tough moral decision, feel conflicted about a villain, and juggle your personal life and your masked-superhero work. You really feel this last part as a player, two, because as you’re swinging around you’ll get calls on the police radio asking for assistance in a robbery/car chase/bomb threat. They’re kind of repetitive, but if you ignore them you have to listen to a bystander call in to JJ Jameson’s suddenly-extremely-timely-again talk show, where they complain about you. Ingrates.
Spider-Man has a lot of that kind of hero busywork to do, as it turns out. Cat Woman has left some dolls for you to photograph, some dude has lost his homing pigeons, Harry Osborn wants you to check out a bunch of mobile science labs, and for some reason you really want to collect all your old backpacks that you left webbed around the city years ago. When you zoom out on the map there are a lot of icons, and I imagine it felt a little dated even in 2018. Luckily the web swinging is so fast and fun that I cleared a load of these collectibles sort of accidentally – which is good , ‘cos they’re the in-game currency to unlock new suits and upgrade gadgets. Those are some of the most fun bits, so it’s a shame that they’re so intimately tied to basically doing Spider-Man chores. But it does lend the unlocks themselves a sense of greater worth, I suppose.
Elsewhere in the game you see a lot of fun, world-building details that have a much lighter touch. There’s a sort of version of Twitter that you don’t need to look at all, but if you do you’ll see people sharing tips on how to dissolve Spider-Man webbing if any of it gets stuck on your car. Pete himself is really well written – quippy, but not too quippy, and he just seems like a nice, relatable dude. Marvel’s Spider-Man also has a few bits where you play as the non-superhumans Mary Jane and Miles Morales, which I did find slightly annoying – but they also added some nice character building and set up for the next game.
The existence of Spider-Man: Miles Morales is kind of shame in the context of this review. Marvel’s Spider-Man is a great game, and this version comes packaged with all the extras. Were it not for the existence of Miles Morales, I’d have no qualms recommending you get this Spider Man right now. But I am cursed with the knowledge that Miles Morales exists, is a bit tighter, cleaner, and more dynamic, and is coming to PC very soon. I don’t think you’d regret getting Marvel’s Spider-Man – it is, I must emphasise again, a quality game – but, look. If you can only get one…