After Sony’s PlayStation E3 2018 conference concluded, we were able to get hands-on with one of the studio’s most anticipated games: Spider-Man. While the earlier demo seen during the conference was focused on welcoming Spider-Man’s iconic villains into the fold, the gameplay demo gave a better impression of how the game will function moment to moment.
The demo opened by dropping us into New York City and offering a chance to get accustomed to the controls. Swinging around feels as good as one might expect, and every swing has a purpose to it. Spider-Man can’t simply swing through the city without considering the environment. If a building isn’t nearby to latch Spidey’s web to then he will fall to the ground and lose all momentum.
Of course, there is a web zip ability as well, which will let Spider-Man pull himself forward and then launch into the air. There is a lot of freedom in the traversal and the mechanics felt refined and well tuned. It was only about a 20-minute demo, but we definitely got better at moving from point A to point B by the time things concluded.
After the initial traversal intro, the demo gave a brief overview of the combat. Like with the web-swinging, there is a surprising amount of depth to the combat. Yes, this is a combo-based fighter not unlike a Batman game, but Spider-Man’s agility and gadgets help speed up the pace of fights and add variety to the mix. Items like the web mine allow Spider-Man to keep certain enemies at bay, or outright eliminate them from the engagement, while focusing on others. He also has a suit power that can incapacitate a large radius of enemies, should the player get overwhelmed.
At a glance, Spider-Man it may feel like developer Insomniac Games is going for Batman-style combat, focused on attacks and quick counters. But this game feels more proactive. The spidey-sense symbol warns the player of an incoming attack, but the best response is to change up the pace of combat rather than simply press a button. It says a lot that the combat left us wanting to experience more of it, even though these were basic enemy encounters.
Once players get familiar with the traversal and combat, the Spider-Man demo offered up a small slice of open world New York. Spider-Man can scan the world looking for side quests to complete, each with their own objectives and rewards. Some were fairly straightforward, like fending off waves of enemies in a given area, while others were a little more unique.
For example, one side quest had Spider-Man swinging around the city sealing up holes in water towers. It was a change of pace for a Spider-Man game whose trailers and gameplay demos have largely been focused on big combat encounters, epic web-swinging moments, and villain reveals.
The demo did conclude with one of those moments, though, as Spider-Man throws down with The Shocker in a bank. Whereas regular enemy combat has its own flow and feel, this boss encounter was completely different. It functioned a lot like a puzzle, with players dodging Shocker’s attacks, using an opening to weaken him, and then striking.
If nothing else, this boss fight suggests that Spider-Man’s combat will be varied the whole way through and that there will be more self-contained levels for players to explore and fight in addition to the open world.
Overall, the Spider-Man demo convinced us that Insomniac Games understands the spirit of the character and has brought him to life in stunning fashion. The world, the combat, and most importantly the web-swinging feel innately Spider-Man and nothing was repetitive. And as an added bonus the game already feels polished, which is a good sign considering its release date is only a few months away.
Spider-Man releases September 7, 2018 for PS4.