Web Mud-Slinging

Dante’s Quest to have fun playing a Spider-Man game, without having to buy a PS4.

Followers of our podcast will know that I, Dante of Rodrigueztown, do not own a PS4. I am an X-Bro, rather than a Sony Pony, as people a lot younger than me say. The main reason for this is that every single PS4 game is some kind of lewd Japanese schoolgirl game (or so I am told) – also trivial things like preferring the X-box controller and backwards compatibility etc.

However, what I also am is a Marvel geek, and this puts me in a tough position as I REALLY want to play the Spider-Man game exclusive to the PS4 (I assume the only non-hentai-porn game on the platform).

So rather than cough up the extra £200 quid to do this (Console exclusivity sucks, at least until Microsoft give me ANY at all I can brag about…) I decided to go on a bit of a last-gen retro mission.

I started where I had the fondest memories, Spider-Man 2 on the PS2. This was an ambitious game at the time, like GTA3 but with web swinging! Playing it again I remembered what was so much fun the first time through. I played through all story missions and loved it again. However things have moved on a bit since the PS2 days, and what with my girlfriend telling me that watching me play this game made her feel sick and that I should go back to playing Assassins Creed, I felt that I should skip ahead to the next console generation, which for me was the 360. I was sure that the graphics would have improved, and the camera following Spidey would be smoother and less vomit inducing during the last gen of consoles.

Hmm PS2 era Spidey….

But herein lies the problem. There was a Spider-Man game released almost once a year throughout this entire console generation (sometimes two), and the general consensus was that the old PS2 game was the best of the bunch. I decided to follow the Dante from the mid-2000s and go straight on to Spider-Man 3, which I seem to remember also enjoying. The graphics were far superior to the PS2 and didn’t look like complete ass when blown up on to a 4K TV. The swinging was great, and the city looked fantastic. Sadly, the storylines were a bit pants and the characters that weren’t in hero outfits looked ridiculous / hilarious in equal measure, so maybe there was something better to be found?

The internet said things got a lot better in Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, and to a certain extent, the internet lied. I skipped games like Spider-Man: Friend or Foe as I was told Web of Shadows was an underrated gem, but for me, it was a bit of a step backwards. The story is actually pretty decent and involves a lot of characters from the wider Marvel universe (Luke Cage, Moon Knight and Wolverine to name only a few).  However, the graphics and textures of the city didn’t feel as impressive as Spider-Man 3. This may have been deliberate to have a more comic book feel, but if that was the case, why couldn’t we have Borderlands style cell shaded graphics, much like the excellent Ultimate Spider-Man game? The characters looked like their suits were made out of tin foil, they were so shiny. The voice acting for Spider-Man himself was pretty awful, and worst of all? The swinging. We were back to webs attaching to nothing, rather than to the buildings like they did in the previous games. I know we are talking about a boy with powers given to him by a radioactive spider bite, so realism shouldn’t really be a worry, but this way of web swinging felt unrealistic to me and broke my immersion with the game. Disappointing, as Web of Shadows is expensive, difficult to come by and actually has a story worth playing.

Surely the further forward I went, the better things would get? The Amazing Spider-Man movie game couldn’t be that bad could it? Well, again the story isn’t bad, but when the web swinging mechanic still seems to think Spidey can attach his webs to thin air. Plus, the camera position is so close to Spider-Man you can barely get a sense of the larger city around you while swinging around. Swing and a miss!

I was desperate. I looked everywhere for a copy of Amazing Spider-Man 2, not realising that I’d gotten drunk and bought it on X-box live several years ago. Initially I was quite happy with this one, mostly because the swinging felt like it had improved and that I was actually attaching my webs to buildings. And for a while, I was happy. However, the “Hero / Menace” system meant that I could not simply enjoy the freedom of swinging around and exploring, I had to actually do some missions. And those missions were TERRIBLE. Some of the absolute worst I’ve played with barely any effort put into their design, and character models in this game were almost as bad as Spider-Man 3. A poor effort all around sadly.

The Rodriguez recommendation? If, like me, you can’t afford a PS4 on top of consoles you already own and you just want a nice environment to swing around in, Spider-Man 3 is about as good as it gets. It still has Spider-Man 2 style web swinging, and it looks fantastic for its day. You can even turn off the story missions and just swing around if you like, which is probably for the best in that game! For a good story, Web of Shadows is worth your time, but let down by being a backwards step with the web swinging. And stay clear of Amazing Spider-Man 2, as it just gets progressively worse as you play it.

I am resigned to the fact that, eventually, I will have to buy a Sony console, whether I get a cheap PS4, or I switch to a PS5 in the next gen and use its backwards compatibility. I don’t like the fact that one of my favourite game series / characters is being ransomed to me in this way, but as Jim Sterling says, single player games that aren’t looking to create “recurrent consumer spending” are only likely to come from console exclusives these days, as the revenue stream they are pursuing is to sell more consoles. So, this incredible looking, well reviewed and Dante-bitter-making game would probably not exist if console exclusives weren’t a thing.

So, to an online auction site or second-hand game shop I must go…

Which would be fine if every single PS4 owner in the world wasn’t some kind of Japanese octopus-porn loving weirdo. I mean, that’s what I assume at least.

So in that respect I’ll probably fit right in?

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