WarningMight contain spoilers.

A triumph of a game with distractingly good visuals, notwithstanding the usual trick of less detailed secondary characters and locations. Older characters and people of colour fare even better; adding rain and other effects heightens the authenticity. Eyes look practically real. This is one of the only games, if not the only game, I’ve ever worked to get every achievement in (including New Game+ and the highest difficulty), probably because of its relatively short length and objectively—not subjectively—low level of difficulty.

Some repetition in dialogue, incorrect lip syncing, pauses when it appears to be loading audio (even as the subtitle is shown), lines that are meant to overlap but can’t because of what I assume are inexplicable technical limitations, and other small flaws can be forgiven thanks to the large amount of detail and near-absence of pauses in general. (What I can’t forgive is the use of asterisks and ASCII punctuation in a big-budget game released in 2020.)

The animation is a touch disappointing considering the fidelity of the lighting and models, but the nuances of the dialogue, the mannerisms, and the motion-captured movements often render that irrelevant; the actual photos that show up in a handful of spots are jarring. NVIDIA’s DLSS certainly improves performance, but with rare, unmistakable artefacts: trails following birds, some flickering around fringes or foreheads in cutscenes, haloing and oversharpening, solid white cones for drone lights in reflections (which are generally good by game standards). I think these became worse and more frequent in v1.831.2.0.

The web-slinging is first rate. The fluid movement and combat are a joy to experience. Funnily enough, I found playing with a keyboard easier than with a controller, because it required fewer contortions. I did not enjoy the sheer number of repetitive side quests—nor my least favourite, the mildly less repetitive research stations—and I still can’t believe the DLC adds more. I loathe the Screwball challenges. On the other hand, I enjoyed the Taskmaster challenges and in fact wish the frustrating but satisfying drone challenges came earlier. Thank goodness the annoying minigames like circuits and spectrography can be skipped.

While I like Yuri Lowenthal and Laura Bailey as Peter[1] and MJ respectively, their breathy style is out of place here. William Salyers is superb as Otto and Stephen Oyoung is convincing as Martin Li. The acting is generally better early on, or perhaps better in the main campaign, and Yuri is a prime example. I like her despite an unremarkable performance; it’s sad to see her go rogue in the end.

The engrossing, captivating story is told with skill and flair. Everything about Otto’s downfall is handled masterfully.[2] His first proper test of the neural interface, using the arms to juggle, is beautifully done. Miles’s origin is cleverly woven in, culminating in the DLC’s memorable last scenes of him starting his lessons in superheroics.

Osborn’s campaign rally is outstanding: MJ’s silent, disbelieving smile at Peter when he suggests cooking at her place rather than getting coffee; Li’s attack; and the way Officer Davis is a hero to the very end. May’s death is heartrending, but Jefferson Davis deserves the award for most endearing-yet-short-lived character. On a tangentially related note, it’s annoying to hear Peter repeatedly tell Martin and Otto it isn’t too late for them to step away, after they’ve killed countless innocents and conspidered— pardon me, conspired to infect a city with the plague. His friendship with them isn’t sufficient to redeem them.

The Heist DLC is fun. It’s obvious in one of the side quests that the detective is Felicia’s father, and she tricks Peter all too easily, but it makes for an interesting relationship. The police officer showing Spider-Man his watch at the beginning of Turf Wars is sweet; his death is predictable. I’m unmoved by how these quests portray the mafia as the good old boys everyone wants back, though.

My favourite quip from a game with a steady stream of good ones is, When there was just one set of footprints, that’s when I webbed you. The subway vignettes made me laugh again and again too. In contrast, J. Jonah Jameson is amusing but the writing lacks subtlety, and his broadcasts become tedious since he serves as the voice of the city throughout. Not having Peter react to him is a missed opportunity. At least there’s the fantastic ersatz Twitter with its hilariously believable ‘hot takes’.

Miles lights up every scene he’s in (as a non-player character); I can’t wait for his game to be released for PC in a few months, because playing as him without his powers is rather boring. Playing as MJ is extremely boring. All I wanted was for those sections to be over so I could get back to Peter.

The last third of the game is a nightmare to navigate, with Sable soldiers and prison escapees alike carrying rocket launchers and sniper rifles, stealing half my health every time I crossed the city. That said, I may be in love with Silver Sable herself. There ought to have been much more of her. Spider-Man being caught off-guard by the blast from her hovercraft and exclaiming as he falls off the rooftop had me in splits.

There are many great boss fights, although most of them are somewhat confusing. This seems to be something games must grapple with as graphics improve: when everything is so detailed, it can be hard to tell what’s interactive and what isn’t, what’s part of the gameplay and what’s just part of the story. It requires the developer to strike a delicate balance between game and spectacle. At any rate, the forced perspective on some fights is an ingenious choice, most of all in the marvelous climactic battle against Doc Ock: the way the camera closes in behind Peter makes it feel like controlling a movie.

It’s hard to watch the Sinister Six team up against Spider-Man at the Raft. Otto revealing himself as Doc Ock creates a powerful impression. Spider-Man stopping Rhino’s giant fist is a good reminder of his strength, too, even if he ultimately can’t stand up to all of them together.

I can’t say I care much about New York City: I’ve never been there and can think of it here only as an arena for swinging. The citizens of this game are quite casual and relaxed for a city inflicted with a plague, menaced by roving gangs of thugs, and occupied by a private army. However, a few exceptional pieces from the score interestingly remind me of being excited about 2015’s Daredevil, presumably because of the setting.

My favourite suit by far is the Vintage Comic Book Suit, followed by the Iron Spider. I’m very fond of the Spider-Clan suit with its dynamic eyes as well. And then there are a host of meticulously detailed and stunningly realistic alternatives to choose from when I crave something different.

A visual sampling

  1. The modification of whose face may have been meant to better match it to Lowenthal’s but makes it look alien compared to the original design.
  2. I don’t know how he isn’t infected with Devil’s Breath, though, considering he breaks the canister apart with no visible protection.