The E3 2018 demo was rather mediocre.
As a highly anticipated PS4 exclusive, Spider-Man by Insomniac Games wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Before I begin explaining why I felt the way I did, it must be noted that this impression is based on a demo at E3 and the final version may be a totally different experience.
At E3, I went hands on with the game and it seems to be a rather bland experience. This is surprising for me because this game is coming from Insomniac, a studio well known for games like Ratchet and Clank, Resistance and Sunset Overdrive. I found the demo build to be quite repetitive, uninspired, and a been-there-done-that feeling that left me a bit confused and wondering whether the hype for this game is justified.
Spider-Man’s New York city is well constructed. When entering the game, it teaches you to swing on your web by holding down R2 and just pointing the analog stick in the direction you want to go. Here I had a chance to explore the open-world in the game for what it was. Besides the robotic feel of the same people and same cars doing the same thing down every street, the city itself is well designed. I recognized some of the more famous monuments, and even had a chance to walk up to them if I so happen to mess up on my web swinging and crash into one of the buildings.
Swinging from building to building, as everyone knows, is Spider-Man’s way of getting around the city. Holding down R2 will allow Spider-Man to release his webbing and swing across whole city blocks in mere seconds. Pressing X during a swing will allow Spider-Man to jump during a swing to gain more air in case you swing too close to the ground, or just need a higher boost; X also allows you’ll be able to zip right towards a building, as well.
As I also mentioned, I crashed into buildings. A lot. I don’t blame the game or the mechanics for this in any way. I blame my own skills and faults for doing so. And when Spider-Man hits a building, he automatically crawls on them. This helped me scale tall buildings pretty quickly… and it looked kind of cool.
The most prevalent locations where many of the missions took place in Spider-Man were around shorter buildings. This made swinging on the web difficult because there usually wasn’t a high point to shoot my web off without having to scrape my knees on the ground, or even land many times only to jump and try to swing again. And to try and add to the realism of the game, the web must land on a building in order to swing. So if you’re higher than the short stack of city blocks I encountered, you’ll have to fall a long way down before making any more traction through the air.
As I headed off toward my first mission, I finally got the swing of… well, the swinging. It isn’t as fluid as it may seem — you’ll be bobbing up and down more often than you’ll be going forward. And when I finally arrived, I found that my first battle was against a team of gangsters trying to collect something. Combat felt good, but it wasn’t anything like we haven’t played before. If you’ve played the Batman Arkham games, it is nearly identical in terms of flow.
There is no combo meter, so losing a combination won’t make Spider-Man lose much. And like Batman when he gets a hint (spider-sense) that an enemy is about to attack. You can zip between areas within the fighting limits to gain more momentum, and turn a losing battle in your favor. There are web tricks as well, including a meter that builds up during fighting, unleashing a volley of web shots around Spider-Man’s location. So yes, the combat is alright but what is concerning is the fact that these types of battles were everywhere. Now this may be a E3 demo, I have a feeling these repetitive battles will be everywhere throughout the final game.
Besides a series of small crimes taking place throughout the city, I also ran into a fetch quest. Where I had to close some vents and then match some shapes up to complete it. Unfortunately, the mini game crashed on me before I could complete it. Luckily I got another chance with the demo and made it to boss fight with Shocker. Here’s a shocker: he’s uninspired and dull. Shocker’s main attacks are simple electrical jolts that come out and try to hit Spider-Man and follow him to an extent. With just a few quick maneuvers and an attack here and there, Shocker was down in no time and the demo was officially over.
As I said before, I was highly anticipating Spider-Man for the PS4, and I am still looking forward to it. But the combat felt okay at best, the combat encounters felt repetetive and the boss battle was disappointing. I’m going to give the developers the benefit of the doubt and hope they wanted to leave the real surprises for the actual release. But for what it was, my time with the demo was rather bland. I really hope that the final game is much more immersive than what I was able to experience. We’ll soon find out. But first, here’s to hoping for a stronger game upon release.