Sony recently held their E3 press conference, during which gameplay was shown for The Last of Us Part II, Ghost of Tsushima, Death Stranding and Marvel’s Spider-Man, among other announcements and reveals. After the presentation, which had attendees travel to different set pieces based off of the four main games that were showcased, stations were set up with a demo for Spider-Man. So, naturally, I took the opportunity to check out how the game plays.
First things first: The web-swinging is great. Though Spider-Man can only swing by attaching a web to a building, pressing R2 will automatically send a web out to the most conveniently located structure, so you’ll very rarely, if ever, have to worry about things like being too high up to swing or not being close enough to buildings. Having the swinging mechanic connected to the R2 button also allows players to control both the movement stick and camera stick while swinging through the city, allowing for maximum mobility. But technical stuff aside, web-swinging is just flat-out fun. The whole game could have been just swinging around and I probably would have been satisfied. It feels great letting go of a web right at the height of a swing, allowing yourself to fly through the air for a little and then shooting another web to continue your flight through the city. You can also use some of the face buttons to shoot a web straight ahead of you, rather than above you, to pull yourself right toward a destination instead of swinging over to it. Combine all this with the ability to run up and across buildings, and you have one of the best ways to travel around an open world that I’ve ever experienced.
So now let’s move on to the combat. There isn’t much else that you can ask for in an action game that isn’t provided in Spider-Man. The X button jumps, and seeing as how you’re playing as Spidey, you can jump pretty high; Square is your combat button, which you can use to pull off combos, including holding it down to hit enemies into the air before jumping up with them to continue beating them up before they even hit the ground; Circle is used to dodge, a necessity in any good action game as far as I’m concerned; and Triangle shoots webs at enemies while in combat. Webs shot at enemies can be utilized in a number of different ways. You can use them to pull your enemy toward you, throwing them off balance for a moment and giving you an opportunity to strike. Or you can do the opposite and pull yourself closer to them, allowing you to get in quick and knock them out. You can also shoot a web at an enemy a latch onto whatever weapon they may be holding before pulling it out of their hands and swinging it all around, damaging enemies around you that are close enough to be hit by it. You even have the ability to use the environment to your advantage, as there are various objects you can use in combat. For example, there might be a barrel that you can shoot a web at and fling at and enemy. Or you can shoot a web at a shelf and bring it down on your opponent. There are also various items, like Web Bombs, that you can throw into the mix. There’s even a healing mechanic, though in my short time with the game I couldn’t figure out what determines how much health you regain with this feature.
The combat in this demo peaked when I got to the Shocker boss fight. Shocker had all the makings of a classic boss: A number of attacks that he uses in a specific pattern, which may appear difficult to get through at first but gets easier as you learn his pattern; normal combat won’t affect him, so you have to figure out his weakness before getting your hits in; he even has several phases, and he starts using different attacks and patterns with each phase. It was a fun and clever boss fight that reminded me of bosses in action or platform games in the 80s and 90s, who all also have their own gimmicks and patterns. The one criticism I have about the Shocker fight is that, while his moves and patterns change with each phase, they don’t change super significantly, with each phase still feeling about 70% the same as the previous phase, so by the time you get to the final phase you’re kind of like, “Okay, I get it, let’s just wrap this up.” But overall, it was a cool boss battle and it was a great demo.
Marvel’s Spider-Man launches exclusively on the PlayStation 4 on September 7.