The weirdness around Peter’s face and its proximity to the movies is worth noting because Marvel’s Spider-Man is so clearly aiming to play in the same space as the recent films, but on a frankly much more impressive scale. As voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, this version of Peter Parker feels like a fully formed person whose history as a superhero is felt throughout, whether it’s how he interacts with the people of New York or through collectibles scattered around the city. Even the Spider-Cop gag (which was bad then and gotten considerably worse over time) feels like something you can see him developing as opposed to being for this particular game. There’s an interiority to the game’s primary characters that makes it feel like we’ve been around with these specific versions for years, something that hasn’t really been felt since Spectacular Spider-Man, if not Sam Raimi’s original trilogy.
That care into the character work is part of why the relationship between Peter and his mentor Otto Octavius works so well. We’ve seen Peter make mentors out of men who will inevitably try to kill him time and again, especially in the movies, for better and worse. But the game takes careful time to make the relationship with him and Otto feel real. The frequent trips back to Otto’s lab work to underline how he’s hit the breaking point and loves Peter, but is also willing to manipulate him so he can get his revenge on Norman Osborn. This is a game that understands how the best Spider-Man stories have the dual parts of Peter’s lives go on a collision course, and goes about it in some fairly novel ways that feel like real change for a character often locked in stasis of some form or another.
On either a story or gameplay level, Marvel’s Spider-Man doesn’t do anything wholly new. But much like the Spider-Verse franchise–which hit a few months after this game did–it’s clear Insomniac Games is drawing on the decades-old history of these characters to hone in on what they think makes him and others in his orbit so beloved. In that sense, there is something about it that can’t help but be kind of special–maybe not amazing, but important nonetheless.
Marvel’s Spider-Manis available on PlayStation 4 and 5, and PC.
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