Marvel’s Avengers: Spider-Man Exclusive Hands-On Preview – IGN
Finally, on November 30, Spider-Man is swinging his way into Marvel’s Avengers. If you’re playing on PlayStation, that is. I recently got the chance to spend two hours hands-on with Crystal Dynamics’ latest platform-exclusive addition to the roster and see everything the web-slinger has to offer, and came away looking forward to using his abilities, but a little worried about what it is I’ll actually be doing with them.
Peter Parker’s introduction to Avengers is slightly different to previous DLC characters Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, and Black Panther. Called a “Hero Event” instead of an “Operation”, Spidey doesn’t have his own story missions, but instead feels more akin to a character joining a hero-shooter roster. He’s an ability-stacked friend who’s good company coming to the dinner party, albeit one who didn’t want to bring a dish of his own or even a bottle of wine for everyone else to enjoy.
As with every other Avenger, Spider-Man comes complete with his own unique moveset and slots right into the frantic action. With a combat style largely centred on quick evades, perfect dodges, and quickfire melee attacks, he plays somewhat similar to a more nimble Black Panther. While a lot of his strikes are your standard punches and kicks, every now and then a more “Spidey-like” contextual animation will trigger, such as a swift swing into an AIM grunt’s chest with both feet that feels entirely in-keeping with the character.
As with any of the Avengers he also has three heroic abilities. Web-Bomb causes area of effect damage and is naturally useful for crowd control, but also inflicts the new webbed status effect onto enemies. Once that status effect bar is full, a webbed enemy becomes incapacitated and much easier to take down.
The Spider-Drone is a patrolling AI companion that fires webs at any foe that wanders into its radius. You can choose whether to instruct it to roam a specific area of the fight, or set it to follow mode, offering some welcome flexibility on the battlefield.
Lastly is Spider-Man’s ultimate ability, the Wrecking Ball. Effectively a giant ball of webs that smashes down onto the ground to damage anyone near it, it works in a similar fashion to Thor’s Bifrost ability but a lot less reliably. I found it to be particularly devastating when it hit, but frustratingly it does miss the target fairly often due to often being quite hard to aim. Of course, you can modify all of these abilities to fit your playstyle, my favourite being a tweak to the Wrecking Ball that covers Spidey’s hands and feet in boxing glove-like webs to inflict extra status damage with each successive hit.
Spider-Man feels great in combat, which is not entirely surprising; hero design has never been Marvel’s Avengers problem. The same, sadly, can’t quite be said for how it feels to play as Spider-Man outside of a fight. In this preview build I got to swing around the Eastern Seaboard region, which is the closest we’re going to get to Peter’s native Queens, as well as the Future Wasteland biome. A very high bar has been set by Insomniac when it comes to the fluid motion of Spidey, but even allowing some headroom, Avengers falls quite some distance short of it.
Opting for the ‘swing off of anything’ method, Spider-Man effectively swings from a glass ceiling in the air. In fairness to Crystal Dynamics this is the only real option, with the majority of Avengers’ locations being rural. Having Peter bunny hop across snow and desert isn’t anyone’s idea of fun. The developer also doesn’t have the luxury of being able to design a whole city around the Spider-Man mechanics like Insomniac has. Despite this, some of the magic is there, especially for the first swing or two after each launch into the air. But that magic often swiftly and unceremoniously evaporates as Parker smacks his face into that aforementioned glass ceiling and all sense of momentum is lost.
The lack of true swinging freedom is noticeable, and while maybe it’s unfair to compare it with the Insomniac version, it’s honestly questionable whether the swinging feels any better than Spider-Man 2 on the PlayStation 2 did. All illusions are broken once you attempt to swing moderately high into the air and hit that invisible barrier, something that also affects the wall-running, which just stops you from ascending past the 15th storey like an out of service elevator. Stay low and you can build up some decent momentum, but show much ambition and you’ll be met with some pretty restrictive forces.
Describing Spidey’s arrival as a “Hero Event” instead of an “Operation” is basically code for “don’t expect any story missions”, and that’s exactly what you’re getting. Apart from a short cutscene introducing Spider-Man to the rest of the team, the rest of what I saw of Peter’s plotline about a suspicious chemical company was told through audio files (mainly emails and text messages read aloud) obtained once certain objectives were completed. These are all standard Avengers fare that long-term players will be familiar with, such as perform 25 power attacks or play any two missions. Apart from a HARM Room tutorial there’s no new mission content here, although the long-awaited Klaw Raid will be dropping the same day. That will, of course, require you to spend dozens of hours levelling up Spider-Man first if you want to use him in that.
The lack of content is definitely frustrating, and those expecting a new set of Spider-Man story missions to play will be left disappointed. He’s voiced proficiently by Sean Chiplock (Revali from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild), but he’s not really given that much to do outside of the minimal cutscenes and infrequent incidental voice lines while in combat. It doesn’t bode well for future heroes to come (if indeed there are any) if this is the sort of treatment they’re getting. If new characters from this point are only here to play through the same robot-filled hallways I’ve already played through more than enough times, that isn’t going to be enough to get me excited for their arrival.
One thing that Spider-Man doesn’t lack, however, is outfits. Crystal Dynamics’ latest addition to their Marvel Skinematic Universe comes with around 40 suits available to purchase with premium currency and earned through his Hero Challenge Card. There’s every colour under the sun imaginable as well as some fan-favourites from the comics such as the Spider-Noir suit. It’s clear that a great deal of care has been taken in curating and designing these outfits, so it’s a shame that the same attention doesn’t seem to have been paid elsewhere regarding new missions or Spidey’s traversal, two quite key factors if you ask me.
Spider-Man has been a long time coming to Marvel’s Avengers, and it remains to be seen whether the wait has been worth it. For the moment, though, his addition feels more like a promise fulfilled through gritted teeth rather than one delivered with a smile.
Simon Cardy thinks that Spider-Ham would have been a bolder direction to take. Come talk to him about all things ham on Twitter at @CardySimon.