My new favorite superhero game

User Rating: 9 | Marvel's Spider-Man - Game of the Year Edition PS4

This game is so well-crafted it accomplished something entirely unexpected: it made me reevaluate my view of Spider-Man. Although he wasn't my favorite hero coming in, I left this 20-hour experience (about 25 including the City that Never Sleeps DLC) eager to learn more about the character and genuinely moved by the plight of this young man torn between his sense of duty and the problems that it causes him in his personal life.

It's a bit of a cliche at this point, but the developers truly manage to put you in Spider-Man's shoes (web shooters?). The swinging mechanic makes the simple act of traversing the city into a delight, even if I did end up making liberal use of fast travel when I wanted to keep the story moving. Combat also feels faithful to the character, with an emphasis on using stealth and gadgets to even the odds. Unlike other heroes, Spider-Man doesn't feel like a god-like figure, and he shouldn't. He's a really smart kid with some superhuman abilities but who remains vulnerable enough that his wits still matter as much as his fists.

But the best part of this title is the central narrative, which weaves in a surprising number of iconic comic villains without overdoing it. The highlights include Otto Octavius, who starts out as a father figure and mentor to Peter but traces out a tragic arc that ends with his transformation into Doc Oc. For whatever reason, video game studios have struggled to translate the magic of superhero narratives, especially contrasted against Marvel's spectacular success with bringing their characters from the page to the big screen. Insomniac deserves credit for nailing the most critical aspect of a game.

That isn't to say this is a perfect title. The side collectibles, which yield resources that you need to upgrade your equipment and buy new gadgets, is a little repetitive. Those design elements feel more like iPad/mobile mini-games that got tacked on as filler content. There are also some forced stealth missions where you take control of Mary Jane or Miles Morales (pre-bite), which don't add much to the game. It might have been to the game's benefit to stick to the 12 hours of content that everyone would get a thrill playing. Oh, and one final complaint: this entire game takes place in Manhattan! That's just not right for a Spidey game.

Nonetheless, this is one of the PS4's genuine must-play titles.