GOTY 18 Countdown: Spider-Man

Insomniac give Spidey the game fans have been longing for.

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If you were to lay out a timeline of Spider-Man games, you might see a big deficit of quality after Spider-Man 2. That was a game that won the hearts and minds of webslinging enthusiasts with its large world and swinging mechanics, and this year this same underserved group got another game to rave about with Sony and Insomniac's Spider-Man, once again giving the hero the time and love he deserves, without complicating it was Shattered Dimensions or time travel.

Something that was always consistently brought up before release was the swinging mechanics because that's a key part of any good Spidey adventure, and yes, that's a big reason why Insomniac nailed this game. In one of the most memorable gaming moments of the year, the game opens by launching you off a building and sending you instantly on your way, and with a few button prompts to swing and zip, you instinctively find yourself slinging and swinging your way around the city as if you were the experienced superhero yourself.

In terms of the narrative - an important part of any superhero game - this isn't the origins story we've seen time and time again. This is an experienced Spider-Man who has been in the suit for years, rather than a naive teenager finding his feet, and right from the start, we're thrown into a story in media res where we're taking down the Kingpin. We won't spoil exactly what happens, but the power vacuum that comes from his downfall sets off a chain of events that could spell big trouble for Peter Parker.

This is a story as much about Parker as it is about Spider-Man. By showing us his relationships with Aunt May, his employer Doctor Otto Octavius (our hero is a scientist now, you see), and of course Mary Jane (his now ex-girlfriend), we get to see behind the mask quite literally. This is a man who can save the world with his research rather than his fists, and that duality between the two is explored to great effect as events unfold.

What's more is that we even get to play as other characters too. In a refreshing turn of events, we find out that Spidey can't save the day on his own, and so you walk in the shoes of Mary Jane and new buddy Miles Morales. These sections aren't as packed full of action and fistfights, but they're a nice change of pace and they also give us access to new story events that Parker simply can't see.

When you do play as Spidey though there's plenty of fun to be had, especially when combat kicks off. As well as your expected flurry of punches and kicks your Spidey Sense also allows you to dodge at key moments, and by mixing all of this with web attacks, gadgets, and environmental hazards, this really is the ultimate Spider-Man power fantasy. There's no better feeling than finishing an intense battle without being hit once, and the combat is something that consistently feels rewarding even after 20 hours.

You'll be doing plenty of swinging and fighting in the main storyline, but there are tons of extras hidden around Manhattan for you to discover. Challenges from the Taskmaster have you doing everything from defusing bombs to chasing drones, but then you also have Harry Osborne's science stations - where you can do experiments such as analysing smoke - not to mention strongholds to take down, photos to take around the city, and backpacks to collect. Emergent crimes also appear as you explore, so you can save the citizens on your daily travels.

As we alluded to earlier, the key to any good superhero game is the story it tells, and by extension the villains who oppose you. Mr Negative wasn't always going to be people's first choice, but the good news is that he offers his own unique story arc and is complemented by a whole host of other baddies like Shocker, Electro, Vulture, and some more that we don't want to spoil even now. There are plenty of baddies in there but it doesn't end up feeling bloated, and their relationships work well together without overshadowing the central threat.

Once upon a time, people may have thought that Rocksteady's Batman games were the only good superhero titles around, but Insomniac swung in and saved the day for Spider-Man this year. Not only is it incredibly fun to play, but it retains the essence of what made classics like Spider-Man 2 and Neversoft's PlayStation game so fun. The combat, the swinging, the personality, and the villains are all here to enjoy, and it's the ideal playground for any friendly neighbourhood webslinger.


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