Thursday, October 4, 2018

Spider-Man for PS4

Here's my nickel review of Spider-Man for PS4. My Spider-Man is seen here overlooking Washington Square Park, near where my son Nick goes to school.
I generally don't like superhero stories much, unless they're played for laughs and acknowledge how ridiculous the situations are (c.f. Deadpool, Guardians, Avengers I, Thor: Ragnarok). I haven't found their stories compelling, their settings or cultures realistic, or their heroes human and interesting, and I have come to hate that they nearly all end with one side with arbitrary superpowers battling another side with arbitrary superpowers, leading to an arbitrary-squared resolution that I really don't care much about.
I love video games, but I don't see them usually as a great way to tell stories. There are some exceptions (e.g. Mass Effect I, Gone Home), but most of the stories, even the engaging ones, are pretty bland.
So, my expectations for a superhero videogame were pretty low, so much so that I wasn't even going to buy it. But the reviews were good, and I'm on sabbatical, so it seemed like I had time to try it. In a word, wow.
The gameplay is enjoyable. It's really fun swinging around, and the fighting and the powers and gadgets are fun, if a little repetitive. I'm not terribly familiar with the Spiderverse, although I know the main players well enough to recognize most of them in broad strokes (e.g. I'd never heard of most of the supervillains). New York City is presented at a condensed but real-seeming scale, and with many places I've been to represented with great geometric precision.
What elevates the game way above this is the story and the voice acting. It's far beyond the cardboardy quest-chain stuff of most games. Peter is human, funny, sincere, and a good soul. His human counterparts are deeply constructed and well-portrayed. You get to play as some of them, as a brave but normal person, for many parts of the game, which is great as a change of perspective and character. The plot is tainted by the usual super-silliness, but the non-silly parts are really, really well done, and even the silly parts are good.
Definitely worth a look. Even if you think superheroes are dumb and played out, which I totally still do. I really liked this one.

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