Spider-Man! Spider-Man! Does whatever a spider can! Well, besides star in a ton of good games. It's no secret that there hasn't been much in the way of notable Spider-Man video games since Spider-Man 2. However, it seems like it's time for things to change. Sony gave us 15 minutes to play their new Spider-Man game, and I came away extremely impressed and ready for launch.
The demo opened up with Spider-Man swinging around the city and talking to Yuri Watanbe, the captain of the police. It gave me a chance to get used to the swinging controls. First, to confirm, you do have to have an actual surface to swing to. You can't just grab onto the sky and go wherever you want. In addition to this, you have multiple ways to swing. Instead of just swinging, you can also pull yourself forward, zipping past buildings and vehicles. My goal was to get to a waypoint as instructed.
Once I got there Spider-Man ran into some bad guys. While the game wasn't really specific on what they were doing (or more likely I missed it. The headphones really couldn't drown out the thumping party music at the event I played at.), I did know I needed to fight them. For those concerned, the game doesn't play like the Arkham series entirely. There are some basics, like using spidey-sense to know when enemies are going to attack and dodging them. However, there's no quick counter ability that sees me flying across an arena to knock an enemy out. Instead, I had to use a different skill to hit them with a web and pull myself to them, and even then it was only a simple punch.
Thankfully, Spider-Man has a ton of offensive abilities available to him. Of course, you can shoot enemies with your webs, but a radial menu allowed Spider-Man to pull out web grenades or trip lines to attack. In addition to this, I could knock enemies into the air, jump up to where they are, smack them around a bit, then knock them into another enemy. Each suit in the game also has its own unique power, and the one I had in the demo let Spider-Man jump into the air and web multiple enemies to the ground. Finally, the environment played a large role in combat. I could find barrels, car doors, manhole covers, and more that I could rip out of the ground or out of cars and throw at enemies. A fight in a construction yard allowed me to grab and pull over scaffolding to crush a guy underneath it. I also could pick up enemy grenades and toss them back. There are tons of options available, and I feel like I barely scratched the surface.
A big factor in combat is the focus bar. As you hit enemies and dodge attacks you'll fill it up. Eventually, you can choose to expend this bar in one big attack that instantly takes down an enemy. However, if you get hurt in combat you can instead spend some of the bars to heal up. It makes this a simple yet fantastic risk vs. reward system that gives you an option to either play offensively or defensively.
Once I was done with the combat, I had about ten minutes to explore the world of Spider-Man and do some side content. The city of New York has never felt so alive in a game. The first thing I did was take to the ground and walk among the citizens. People saw Spider-Man, asked him why he wasn't swinging, took out their cameras to get a picture, and reacted like they were in the presence of a celebrity. At one point I saw an "interact" button over someone's head and hitting it caused Spider-Man to give the random citizen a cheerful high five. It's awesome seeing these little interactions in the game world.
During my wanderings, I saw some criminals attempt to rob a store. I was able to swing down, kicking a guy as I did so, and stop the robbery. Little events like these peppered the world map, and I was always alerted when one was close by. I also managed to find a collectible backpack, which was neat. I decided to try my hand at an actual side quest. Here I found a small research laboratory run by Harry Osborn, who appears to be good friends with Spider-Man. While I can't be certain on the exact contents of their conversation (again, loud music drowned out fine details), the general gist was that he needed me to check on some water pressure problem. Unfortunately, Spider-Man's attempts to mess with a valve only made it worse, causing several water towers to leak. This put me in a timed mission, having me race around New York to use webbing to plug all the new holes in the water towers. It was quick yet fun, making good use of the mechanics.
The demo ended with Spider-Man getting a call about Shocker robbing a bank and going to confront him. Here I got a chance to play out a boss fight making use of all these mechanics. Shocker had a shield that stopped Spider-Man from actually hitting him. Instead, I had to dodge his attacks and wait for an opening that allowed me to grab and swing around giant chunks of rubble that he was creating during combat. Doing so gave me an opening to score a few hits of my own. It may not be overly complicated, but it's a simple and fun fight that I genuinely enjoyed.
With that, my demo of Spider-Man ended. I find myself totally in love with the city of New York once again, along with its friendly neighborhood web swinger. As I left Sony's little party, all I could think of is when I could next get my hands on the game. Well, that, and watching the buildings to find some effective swing spots. What can I say, I wouldn't mind seeing LA's Spider-Man.