Summary (5/5): OMG OMG OMG OMG SO FUN!  This is a great first game in what I hope will prove to be a really brilliant franchise a la the Arkham Knight series of games.

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After several interruptions due to work travel and life in general, I looked at my calendar on Friday and realized that I needed to stop enjoying Spider-man and just finish up the story because I have two other games (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Shadow of the Tomb Raider) arriving this week. There’s also Red Dead Redemption 2 and then Cyberpunk 2077 is coming out later… anyway, there’s a lot coming up and I just couldn’t spend more time swinging around Manhattan.

WARNING: SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING

As far as I can recall, I never played any of the older Spider-man games, but I’ve heard that none of them really did a very good job of capturing the Spider-man experience and relied less on being a good game than on mere name recognition.  I am happy to report that this game has none of those problems.

The story is really solid, but it’s hard to summarize it without spoilers. Peter is grown and is working as a lab assistant or co-scientist with Dr. Otto Octavius.  Aunt May is working at a homeless shelter/soup kitchen.  MJ is a break out star as an investigative journalist.  And Spider-man has been putting away super-powered bad guys for a little while now.  And then everything goes to hell. And then everything gets a bit worse still.  So, that’s a lot of fun.

Hands down, the best part about the game is swinging around Manhattan like Spider-man.  It took me a little while to get used to the controls, but once I had it, the joy of just moving from point A to point B in the city was nothing short of sublime.  The game does have a fast travel option. I used it exactly once just to see what it’s like — it’s like a cut scene of Spiderman riding the subway — but after that I only ever webbed my way to my destinations.

The fighting controls are decent and can support a variety of fighting styles.  I was able to get by with a pretty basic set of moves, but there are way more options than I ever figured out how to actually use while in the game.

Similarly, Spider-man has lots of gadgets, but I really only ever used two: the tripwires and the blast webs.  My reliance on those gadgets is a reflection of my preferred style of play: stealth.  You can snipe bad guys with the blast webs and knock them off of a roof or stick them to the wall.  And you can plant the tripwires and the baddies get stuck to the wall when they set them off.

Unfortunately, although Spider-man is well-suited to stealth given his abilities, stealth is not a strategy you can rely on much throughout the game.  I often found myself stalking around bad guy bases picking off thugs only to be forced into melee by the game after taking out too many of the baddies.  I could understand if the bad guys would go through some sort of process of increasing alertness as I hunt them down until they discover me, but the way it works in the game is that as soon as I take one guy above an unknown threshold, every bad guy would know exactly where I was.

Another difficulty with stealth is that it’s hard to return to stealth after your cover is blown.  That makes some sense, but not really.  If the bad guys chased me and never lost sight of me, then it would make sense.  Often I would get spotted, knock out the bad guys around me, and then hop off out of sight only to return to find out that every bad guy still knows exactly where I am.

Speaking of stealth, the parts of the missions where you play as Mary Jane or Miles were REALLY lame.  They weren’t actually all that challenging because those characters can’t fight and don’t have much in the way of abilities.  So, I really didn’t want to play those parts at all.

There were a few missions where Spidey sneaks around in the vents, but that seemed to be less about stealth than just trying some new mechanic. And those missions really didn’t give me many options but to follow the path that the game offered.  So, those were not fun, either, but I was hoping they’d be like the vent-sneaking parts of the Arkham Knight games.  I was wrong about that and I hope they improve that part in future games.

Throughout the game, I worried if I would have enough tokens to buy all the gadgets and everything in the game.  I completed all the bases, found all the backpacks, and took all the photos. I did not get “gold” on all the challenges, though, and I didn’t take all the secret photos.  But I was still able to afford all the gadgets and all the suits.  I imagine if you do get gold on all the challenges, you can not only buy the gadgets but fully upgrade them.  But I’m guessing.

Speaking of suits, I love all the different costumes that can choose from in this game.  My favorite was the vintage suit.  I just loved the 2D look in the midst of the 3D game.

With the exception of not being able to remain in stealth, I loved the base fights the most.  They were dynamic and interesting with lots of baddies to fight.  Those are a great place to refine skills and practice tricks.

But the boss battles are pretty robotic.  They reminded me a lot of the boss battles in God of War 3 where you just have to hit the right button or combination of buttons in order to win. I wish they had been more like the Valkyries in the new God of War where you just fight however you can best.

(BTW, I don’t think I wrote a review of the new God of War. HIGHLY recommended. A super fun game.)

Overall, though, my complaints about this game are minor compared to the amount of fun I had playing it, which is why I still wholeheartedly recommend it and give it five stars.

I am SUPER excited for the way it set up a sequel, though.  There was a hint at Green Goblin and Venom on top of Miles Morales gaining his powers.  The game doesn’t go into much detail about Morales’ powers, but they’re slightly different from Parker’s.  He can camouflage himself and has a weird venom blast power.  But his spider-sense isn’t as strong and maybe there are some other disadvantages as well. It would be really cool if you could choose to play as either character in the sequel.

Above, I compared it to the Arkham Knight trilogy of games.  I loved those games and felt like each one was a strong product in its own time. And each new game improved on the one before it and became more and more enjoyable.  That’s what I’d like to see out of this new franchise. This game is really good, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.  So, I can’t wait to see what they come out with next.