There have been a plethora of Spider-Man games over the years, and while some of them have succeeded in bringing the acrobatic, web-slinging hero to life, others have… not. Insomniac Games’ latest attempt is one of the biggest games Sony had to show off at this year’s E3, and though I had a limited amount of time with the demo, it convinced me that this is going to be one of those games that succeeds.
I got my chance to try Spider-Man at Sony’s PlayStation Media Arcade at E3 2018. I picked up in the middle of the demo where another player had left off, so I started in the middle of the city with no idea of what I was doing or what the controls were. It was easy enough to pick up, though—pressing the right trigger button has Spider-Man shoot a line of web towards the nearest building or fence, and propels him into the air. Other commands can cause him to jet forwards through the air to cross gaps between buildings, to sprint, and to soften his landing, should he need to touch down on a rooftop momentarily.
The rhythm of web-slinging was pretty easy to figure out, but even in the first minute or so that I was struggling, it was clear how much Insomniac tailored the experience around getting up off the ground and staying in motion. If you misjudge your swing and go smack into the side of a building, Spider-Man automatically runs alongside the wall for a few moments, keeping his momentum and letting the player reorient and latch on to a different point. It’s a small thing, but the choice to turn what could have been a dead stop into something that continues to drive the player forward is one that helps make the difference between a Spider-Man that’s heroic and one that can’t go twenty feet without getting squished by a bug.
There are many other small adjustments to how players can move through the city, and all of them are intuitive. If you want to scale a building, Spider-Man will do that. Land on a long flat rooftop with no other buildings in sight, and your web-slinging button turns into a sprint button. If you want to get fancy, it’s possible to dive in mid-air to move even faster, cutting out some of the time in between each swing. It doesn’t take a super-skilled player to use super powers; in every way it can, the game itself makes it easier on the player
While there are plenty of events and challenges scattered around the city, and I tried my hand at one—a rooftop fight with waves of enemies continually arriving on the scene—Spider-Man makes simply running around and getting to them fun. Nothing captures the essence of the web-slinging hero better than that.