Gregg’s 2018 Game of the Year

As the years have passed, I have drifted significantly from video games and focused that time more on boardgaming. I just find the ability to use my imagination and the skill of critical thinking far more engaging in something like Terraforming Mars or Memoir ’44 as opposed to the button mashing of Mortal Kombat or the run ‘n gun of Call of Duty. Nevertheless, there is that occasional title of pixel fun that just captures my attention and won’t let go. Whereas last year that honor went to the DC Comics street fighting game Injustice 2, this year just happens to be another comic book-influenced title.  No, that is not a requirement.  It’s just that this game was done so incredibly well, I almost want to use the word ‘perfect’ in describing it.

Insomniac Games had worked tirelessly on this much-anticipated title that released on September 7th this year.  I had only seen stills of it and read one or two previews, but something told me to buy this game.  There was a little voice inside my head that kept saying, “You will not be disappointed.  Buy me, buy me, buy me.”  Ehh, “Save your money” said the angel on my shoulder.  So on September 6th I visited a local Game Stop for something completely unrelated, only to have a voice playing on the overhead speakers promoting this game.  That initiated my conversation with the guy behind the counter which then caused me to flick the angel off my shoulder which in turn allowed me to take out my debit card and reserve the game for pick-up later that evening.

My 2018 Game of the Year award goes to none other than Spider-Man, exclusively for the Playstation 4.  I think I’ve tortured you enough with the anticipation of that opening paragraph so let’s get to the crux of this game already.  First, the graphics are nothing short of spectacular, which is a fitting adjective as it’s a partial title of one of the many web-slinging Spidey comics out there.  You have this semi-open world of much of New York City to run, walk, jump, crawl, climb and swing through and it is all so brilliantly displayed here.  From the texturing of buildings and Spider-Man’s various suits, to the changing weather and time of day, the graphics are gorgeous and the animation is right up there to match.  There are actual locales such as Central Park and Madison Square Garden, and fictional Marvel places of interest such as Avengers Tower and Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum.  As a little nod to geekdom, you will even find the Ghostbusters’ firehouse, sans logo (due to licensing issues), but with a creatively spray-painted apparition on the back of the establishment.

Next are the options to further progress Peter Parker’s abilities in the game.  There are a closet full of suits to accumulate through your gameplay as well as gadgets that Parker is so famously known for tinkering with.  These toys provide an extremely helpful arsenal of tools that include web grenades, spider bots, electric web shots and concussive blasts that send enemies flying backward.  The suits are more than just a cosmetic feature too as nearly each one obtained during the base game’s story has a unique ability that comes with it.  The punk rock suit provides a guitar blast that works like a radius version of the aforementioned concussive blast tool.  While the thought of a guitar blast may sound hokey at first mention, I found it to be the most useful of all suit abilities, especially on rooftops.  There is also an ability to temporarily absorb all damage, and another where Spidey goes nuts and starts throwing webs on all enemies in his immediate area and another suit ability.  If you complete 100% of the base game’s objectives, that gives you the equalizer ability, allowing you to take out non-boss enemies with one punch.  It’s a tit-for-tat power though as you’ll get dropped in a blink should you take a single hit as well.  These only begin to scratch the surface in all the variety the game has to offer in advancing Spider-Man’s abilities in the game.

So how’s the story?  In a word, awesome.  If nothing else, it pulls you in like a movie as there becomes a real connection to the characters throughout the game.  You’ll even have moments where you play as future Spider-Man Miles Morales and Parker’s long-time love interest, Mary Jane Watson.  The villains are all here too.  It opens with the pursuit of Kingpin and eventually gives way to Shocker, Rhino, Electro, Black Cat, the Vulture, Scorpion, Silver Sable, Mister Negative and arch-nemesis supreme Doctor Octopus.  The cinematic scenes that introduce, build and support the story are simply engaging, lending themselves to that movie theater feel.  Jumping from them right into the playable action is a transition that is so full of anticipation that it truly makes you feel like you’re part of the action.

Gameplay is user-friendly but challenging, and if you tend to master combat early on, you’ll find three difficulty settings to match your skill level.  There is a degree of button-mashing, but it needs to be articulated with precise timing and paired with a usage of that arsenal of spider gadgets.  You will not beat this game on fists alone.  Combining these things during combat can take a few tries, but it’s worth the education.  Speaking of a class on controls, web-swinging throughout the Big Apple was a little tricky at first as timing is critical in order to keep your momentum up while maximizing distance and speed.  Sometimes you’ll need to address a street thug crime in a hurry.  Fumbling between building movement will only impair you in your goals so it pays to spend some time focused on mastering this.

Lastly for the game content is the DLC that offers three new, in-depth missions and even more suits such as the U.K. Spider-Man threads, the second Scarlet Spider costume and the Spider Armor MK I suit bringing the game’s total to well over two dozen.  While the DLC suits do not offer new abilities, they help keep the game fresh in offering continuously new looks for our hero.  The missions themselves offer more interaction with Black Cat and brings mob boss Hammerhead into the fray as well.  The third and final mission, Silver Lining, will be available later this month.  The three missions (The Heist, Turf Wars, Silver Lining) are well worth the $24.99 as the first two nearly feel like a complete game in and of themselves.

Is Spider-Man worth a buy?  Hello?!  It’s the game of the year!  Of course it’s worth a buy!  This is one of those rare titles where it’s worth it to buy the system just because of one game.  This solo-player keeps offering the crime fighting long after the stories and side missions are done too.  You can always jump back into the main game and continue to rid NYC of its filthy underlings while rescuing those innocents trapped or being kidnapped.  What would I change about this game?  Absolutely nothing.

A couple years ago, Tomb Raider was all the rage, yet, I found it frustrating how I couldn’t do something as basic as leaping to a ledge that was in reach.  It didn’t make sense.  Why do I have to play detective to the landscape when Miss Croft can jump?  That is not an issue here.  You can get to nearly anything you want, and I only use the word ‘nearly’ because the playable world is contained to an extent (you can’t cross the Brooklyn Bridge for instance).  In addition, some have compared this to the Batman Arkham Asylum franchise  as well.  Spider-Man is better, hands down.  The game is not limited to a constant stealth approach.  Sometimes it’s necessary, but mostly it’s your call.  You can sneak up on some warehouse thugs just the same as you can drop on and bring the noise.  Spider-Man is not only a work of art, it has catapulted itself to the top of my all-time favorite video games list.  Well done, Insomniac.  Here’s hoping a sequel matches the brilliance of this title, and on my wishlist is the hopes of brining in a symbiote storyline.



3 Responses to “Gregg’s 2018 Game of the Year”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Good read. Spider-Man is super fun and one of the best superhero games, let alone the best Spider-Man game yet. That said, God of War is GOTY for me, no question.

  2. Brian White

    Man good read as well. Heard so many good things about this title. I’m sure it is amazing. I don’t have any friends in Austin so therefore I require multiplayer and had to buy Call of Duty Black Ops yesterday to join the online community in dialogue, comradeship and fanfare. If I loved single player missions, then this one would definitely be at the top of my list. Truth be told I flirted with it both on Black Friday and yesterday, but my disdain for the solo mission in the new Tomb Raider turned me off as well as when I get to a hard villain I would turn it off. Doesn’t happen in multi-player games for me like Madden or COD and that doesn’t take away from this article either. Good job!

  3. Gregg

    Thanks, guys! Even when the bosses have all been defeated, I still love going back and just cleaning up the streets. It helps that I know what I’m doing now because web-slinging was a task at first. If I were 14 I probably would’ve mastered it in a day but this is the way of things.