Insomniac Games’ latest looks and feels special but is it the best looking open world exclusive on the PS4?
He’s back and he’s back with a bang. Marvel’s Spider-Man is arguably the best Spider-Man game ever made and although it has some gameplay issues that may not sit well with some people like the abundant QTEs, no one can deny how impressive it can look on the PlayStation 4, specially on the PS4 PRO. Developed by the talented developers at Insomniac Games, the people behind the Xbox One hit Sunset Overdrive and PlayStation’s Ratchet and Clank series, Spider-Man uses the best of both worlds along with the themes that make a compelling Spider-Man game. As admitted by Insomniac Games themselves, Sunset Overdrive’s gameplay systems had an effect on Spider-Man which is kind of intriguing because an Xbox One exclusive helped a major PlayStation 4 exclusive but that’s how game development is. The studios learn from their past developments and iterate over existing blueprints and try and make it for better for their next release.
Swinging in Spider-Man games is of pivotal importance and it was of extreme significance that Insomniac got it right. We are very pleased to report that Spider-Man has never controlled better. His navigation and movement don’t have any sort of sluggishness to them. Furthermore, the swinging is completely momentum and physics based. This essentially means that if you want to swing further, Spider-Man has to first sprint and then take a swing. Failure to do so will get you that first swing but Spider-Man won’t be able to push his body ahead. Once you are in the air, controlling Spidey is an absolute blast.
Running on Sunset Overdrive’s modified game engine, swinging in this game isn’t static, you are supposed to be in a rhythm to swing…releasing the R2 button and then pressing it at the same time while you zip through the busy streets is an absolute sight to behold. Swinging right the tip of the streets and lifting off right at the end moment is an experience that never gets old. Regardless of your opinion on the new Spider-Man game, one cannot possibly deny the genuine awesomeness of swinging mechanics. Insomniac Games have absolutely nailed this aspect of the game and kudos to them for doing so!
What makes swinging such a treat is the environmental design and the city structure. The city looks richly detailed, the buildings are smartly placed allowing Spider-Man to carry out some insane acrobatic moves as he swings from one place to another. Furthermore, the interiors of the buildings can be seen through the glass and although they are mostly repeated assets, it does add a bit to overall detailing factor. The city is bustling with activities with pedestrians (with low poly count) going about their job and congested vehicular traffic. Heck, some NPCs may even give you a high five and pass random comments at you. However, there is one minor complain that I have with it and that is the strange blur effect that affects distant buildings. It’s kind of distracting and it’s hard not to notice it.
Unfortunately, the game does not have a dynamic day night cycle. I find this decision quite surprising as most open world games have this as a basic feature. I understand the need to show off certain moments during particular periods of the day but for us, it affected our immersion factor. I know, you can change the day night cycle after you finish the main campaign but what is the point? It makes no sense according to us. Look at Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain where most cinematics take place in in-game time so it’s not something new at this point. Hopefully this can be fixed through a patch but according to us, this seems to be an issue with how the assets for cinematics were created and our assumption is that they were developed for specific times. This is not a game breaking issue but I would have loved to see those insane chases and explosions in all their glory during night times!
As expected the star of the show is Spider-Man himself. From his swinging animations to his fantastic voice acting, to play as the Spider-Man in this game is one of the most satisfying things we have done in this generation. The motion capture across the board is simply phenomenal with fantastic facial animations across all main characters which exhibit a wide range of emotions. The game allows you to wear different kinds of suits and seeing Peter Parker donning one of them is simply a sight to behold. One of the wonders of current generation consoles is the support of physical based lighting and Insomniac have used it in full effect, right from intricately detailed in game architectures on the streets to the shine on Spidey’s armor which further uses complex shader combinations so that each stitch is clearly visible.
Another point that is worth mentioning are the fantastic cinematics which have been expertly directed and they have implemented using the best combination of a high-quality motion blur, depth of field and fantastic lighting overall. The cutscenes have nailed the look and feel of the Spider-Man brand and again, we would have loved the dynamic day night cycles during these cutscenes, but they look amazing regardless. It must be noted that cutscenes employ enhanced post processing and better anti-aliasing to deliver an extremely crisp image quality, something that gets reduced by a bit during actual gameplay.
Spider-Man uses a lot of gadgets in this game and they are backed up by some great looking particle effects. Explosions caused by Spider bomb have an impressive effect on the surrounding and the general quality of complex effects like explosions looks spectacular. The game also features a decent amount of destruction physics which allows Spider-Man to pick objects and beat the living lights out of his enemies.
Texture quality for the most part is mid to high budget but the quality of the web itself is somewhat mediocre. Speaking about the web…it seems that Insomniac have added dynamic custom properties of elasticity and a breaking point. We are not sure how dynamic this is in nature or whether it is dependent on the quantity of web shots, but we found this feature quite intriguing to observe.
Being a major title for the PlayStation 4, Insomniac Games have also included support for the PlayStation 4 Pro players. Using a solution similar to the superb 2016’s Ratchet and Clank, the developers are using temporal injection. Mind you, this is not a native 4K presentation but it looks crisp with very few artefacts. On the base PS4, we have a game that is running in HD so PS4 Pro owners are definitely getting the better deal here with an almost four-fold increase in pixels. Both versions target a 30fps cap which is perfectly acceptable given the setting Spider-Man is aiming for. Other improvements include better shadow quality and slightly better draw distances on the PS4 Pro. So, overall PS4 Pro is the best place to play the game as expected.
Overall, Spider-Man looks great, specially on the PS4 Pro but the bigger question to ask here is whether this is the best-looking open world exclusive on the PS4. Note that we are only talking from an exclusives point of view and that too only on the PS4, so please keep this in mind.
You see, Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn used a complex set of technology tools with varied environments and far more advanced NPC AI behaviors which is simply not present in Spider-Man due to obvious reasons. Furthermore, the quality of shaders, the rich world and the completely dynamic weather and day, night cycle sets Horizon Zero Dawn apart from Spider-Man. The character models are also more complex, and more detailed than what we have in Spider-Man, not to mention the tress effects are absolutely amazing in Horizon Zero Dawn. So, the crown of best looking open world PS4 exclusive still belongs to Horizon Zero Dawn but that doesn’t mean Spider-Man is incompetent in any way. Most importantly, it remains true to its themes, its roots…it remains true to what actually makes Peter Parker Spider-Man. And in that fact alone, Spider-Man fans can find appreciation for what is one of the greatest Spider-Man games out there.