With 2019 underway, I was reflecting back on 2018 and some of my favorite video games of the year. One that immediately sticks out is Spider-Man. The gameplay mechanics were great, the story was wonderful and touching, but I can’t help but think it’s exactly like any Batman Arkham game, except you are controlling a more athletic, web-slinging Spider-Man instead of the Dark Knight.
The Spider-Man combat relies heavily on combos, many of which you earn and unlock as you level up throughout the game. You can also rally these combos together into a multiplier where you can then knock out opponents with a single hit if you reach a certain point on the multiplier scale. If there is a big dude, you have to web him
The Batman Arkham games also have brutes that you have to stun with a cape or gadget first. They have enemies with shields that you have to hit from behind, and the list goes on and on. Even the upgrade systems are similar. As you level up, you can improve Spidey’s web abilities, defense/combos, and gadgets. It is the same exact formula with the Arkham games. One fun thing about playing as Spider-Man is his quickness and nimbleness. Aerial combat is a really cool feature and I enjoy spending loads of time in combat in the air. I like to take an opponent into the air with me, zip up another, finish him off, then
Spider-Man also employs the concept of stealth combat used in the Arkham series, where the character sneaks around from up above and can stealthily plot their attacks from out of site. The goal is to isolate the baddies and take them out one by one without the others knowing. I feel like the Arkham games achieved this better than Spider-Man.
The fear system that Arkham used felt great as the enemies would become increasing scared and hurl insults at you as you took out everyone. They would also shoot out the gargoyles that Batman would perch on which made it more difficult and you had to think more creatively on how to take out the next few enemies. You can take out enemies from underneath, from in vents, around corners, etc. Some enemies would also have devices that would beep when you took them out that alerted others of your whereabouts. Spider-Man is missing this. There is no sense of fear or anything for that matter. There don’t seem to be any stakes, which is a problem. The enemies should be intimidated and that is absent in this.
While playing Spider-Man, the stealth combat felt kind of stale and boring. I could take out a few enemies and then realize I could finish them off quicker if I reveal myself and take on the group all at once. There was no real motivation to use stealth mode. It was also tough to crouch and sneak up on enemies as Spider-Man and I would often find my cover blown when trying to stealthily take out an enemy from behind. I never really ran into that problem while dealing with Batman. Although not as fun, the stealth mode in Spider-Man was solid when incorporating gadgets. I would load the place up with trip mines and couldn’t help but smile whenever a clueless thug would walk right into one.
Some of the gadgets that Spider-Man uses are all to those who have played Batman Arkham Knight. Spider-Man can shoot electric webs that stun enemies and similarly Batman had the remote electrical charge. Spider-Man had the web bomb that briefly immobilizes enemies, while Batman had the freeze blast that could do the same. Batman had the cryptographic sequencer to get into certain buildings and areas, where you had to use to control sticks to find the specific point to break in. In Spider-Man, to activate all the towers you do the same thing with the control sticks, except find a certain wavelength pattern to hack in.
Both games had things in your environment that you had to either scan or take pictures of if you wanted to complete them in their entirety. Batman had the Riddler Challenges where you were given a riddle and had to find and scan the answer in the vicinity of the area. Spider-Man had landmarks (both hidden and unhidden) that you had to take pictures of with Peter Parker’s camera (which was a pretty cool touch). I have to say, I enjoyed getting to sling across the rooftops and streets of New York and see real landmarks that actually exist, as well as fictional landmarks like Avengers Tower. However, I felt more satisfied in the Arkham games, where I had to put my detective cap on and think like Batman and scour the area to find anything that might look like a clue to the riddle. That’s just my opinion.
These games also incorporate random violence/events that occur in real time as you are traversing the city. You’ll be roaming around and be alerted that something is going on and then feel inclined to swoop down to that spot and take out some thugs or whatever task is at hand. I will say that I thought Spider-Man did a good job at diversifying these events, and no matter how many times I would zip onto a car and stop it mid high-speed chase, it still felt gratifying. Spider-Man also did a solid job of providing mini challenges/goals for these random events. It could be something like reaching a specific combo number, webbing a certain number of thugs to walls, and things of that nature (although this concept is used in Assassin’s Creed). This idea challenged me to try out a bunch of different gadgets and combos and it really helped me to get more fluid with the controls of the game.
I really enjoyed playing Spider-Man, and I am looking forward to going back into New Game Plus (which is another feature used in Arkham). I am looking forward to a sequel and hoping that the Arkham series makes a comeback in the future as well.