Also available on PlayStation 4
Review written by Stephen Deck; first published 12/07/2020 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Since it first came out on PS4 two years ago, Spider-Man is a game that I’d been meaning to pick up. It looked like Arkham style combat, and as a huge Arkham fan, that naturally appealed to me. I’ve never been big into comic books and superheroes, though, so it stayed pretty mid-tier on my priority list. When I saw that the follow-up, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, was launching with the PS5 and included the remastered version of the first game if you bought the Ultimate Edition, I figured that was a good time to get it and finally play. I think that was the right call, too, as this not only includes all of the DLC but some seriously impressive enhancements courtesy of the PS5’s extra horsepower. Now keep in mind that I’m approaching this review from a position of general apathy regarding Spider-Man and comic book heroes in general, so my take will likely differ from a long-time Spider-Man fan’s.
The first thing that jumped out to me with this game is just how good the characters are. Obviously, Peter Parker is a likable character, but his portrayal here is top-notch and super relatable. His quips in fights are hilarious, the voice acting is absolutely perfect, and the character model is fantastic. I honestly have no idea why the internet hated the new face. The dude is 23, and in this version, he actually looks 23; I’ve seen the original face used for the character model, and he looked like he was in his 30s. Definitely a good move with the new face. The world itself also looks stunning especially with the enhancements that the PS5 remaster gets. You get two visual modes, Performance and Fidelity. Fidelity has the game running in 4K with some spiffy visual effects like ray tracing with a 30 fps target, and good god, this mode looks phenomenal. The detail on the gym floor in the FEAST location where Aunt May works is detailed to the point of irrelevance – reflections, random bits of debris, dust, life-like sun rays, the whole nine yards. Performance, which is the mode I played the game with, sacrifices those extra effects in favor of a solid and unbroken 60 fps. Normally I would have been really torn between the two, but with the fluidity of the combat and the speed and acrobatic nature of the movement in the game, I felt that the experience would be better enhanced by a higher frame rate than by spiffier visuals. The choice, however, is incredible, and it’s a trend I’m glad to see becoming a mainstream feature so that each player can set it based on their own performance and visual priorities.
So, as I mentioned, you play as Peter Parker, a 23-year-old dude working as a research assistant for Dr. Otto Octavius and who is in a committed relationship with chronic tardiness to work and routinely flirts with homelessness from rent delinquency. Norman Osborn, the mayor of New York and CEO of the massive corporation, Oscorp, comes in being a typical capitalist pig and flaunting his money and power around to get his way. That’s strike number one against the game; there’s a distinct lack of guillotines despite the perfect narrative opportunity. I’m kidding, of course. Mostly. Anyway, you work for Octavius, you help out your Aunt May at FEAST, a homeless shelter established by the always-in-a-spiffy-suit Martin Li, and the beat the hell out of thugs working for Fisk, the crime boss you bust and send to prison in the beginning of the game. From there, multiple webs start to spread (no pun intended, I swear) as the city slowly but surely devolves into chaos. After slowly devolving into chaos for a while, it sprints to the edge of the cliff and leaps headfirst into anarchy. Also, pro-tip for life: get you someone who looks at you the way Peter Parker looks at a pizza.
When I first started, I figured, “I’ll spend a few nights on this, power through the main story, maybe do a side quest or two, and be done with it.” Rome was like, “Na man, you’re gonna end up doing everything and get hooked for a straight week.” I snorted at the ridiculous notion. Here I am, a week later, things having played out exactly as Rome predicted. Once I started playing, it was a compulsion. I couldn’t stop. I’d play till 3 am just to get up at 8 for work. Then I’d do it again. By the time I was actually done, I’d gotten 100% on the main game (including the Platinum trophy) and 100% in all three of the DLC stories. In the whole game, I’m only missing two trophies, and they’re both side trophies that got added for the remaster and (obviously) aren’t counted for the Platinum trophy. I was hooked completely and totally, and that’s how you know a game is good. A big part of that addicting gameplay is relatively small stuff. The photo mode that lets you take pictures with different poses and effects and frames in the game world. The wide array of costume choices for you to unlock. The tokens needed to unlock and upgrade gadgets. The little bits of story elements and character development that you get through the optional side stuff. It’s the open-world action game equivalent of Civilization’s “just one more turn” compulsion.
That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, though. The combat, while extremely fun, doesn’t quite match Arkham’s gloriously smooth flow in my opinion. There are some bugs, too, that force you to reload the last checkpoint; I once accidentally used a web power in the air while chasing a pigeon for a side mission and ended up freezing that pigeon in the air. That pigeon then attracted a swarm of pigeons flying around it at high speeds, so I basically created a pigeon solar system. Since I needed to catch that pigeon, I had to reload the last checkpoint. Little bugs like that mostly. Sometimes the controls and mechanics can be a bit overly finicky with being close enough to a ledge to perch but not so close that you fall off or enemies that rapidly shift back and forth from “Safe” for a stealth kill to “Danger” (like, shifting back and four five or six times per second). All in all, though, the game is damn near a masterpiece.
Spider-Man is an absolutely brilliant game, and that’s especially true of the PS5 remaster. The writing is fantastic, the voice casting is phenomenal, and the visual world and character designs are works of art. Combat is fun and addicting, and while it’s not quite as buttery smooth as Arkham, the open-world feels significantly more alive and interesting than it did in the open-world Arkham games, so that more than makes up for it. I couldn’t care less about comic book heroes, so for me to get sucked so hard into this game and become so bent on 100% completing it is a testament to good game design; actual Spider-Man fans will likely be over the moon with this game, although I suspect most had already played long before I did. Even if you’re just a fan of action games but not comic book heroes like me, this is still a game with an enormous amount of fun and content to offer, and the PS5 remaster contains all of the DLC. All of that plus Miles Morales for $70? Yeah, that’s not even a choice. If you’ve got a PS5, you really need this on your shelf (or on your SSD).