Monthly Archives: October 2018

Late to the Party: Spider-Man review

Selfie courtesy of the game’s photo mode.

Late to the Party is a n infrequent feature when I review a game that has been out for a while but I haven’t been able to review it at launch. Today, I’m looking at Spider-Man, on the PlayStation 4, which arrived a day after I had left for vacation in Canada. I was gone for a month.

For me, the Peter Parker in Insomniac’s Spider-Man isn’t the youthful Tom Holland from the most recent Avengers movies (inexperienced and unsure of his abilities), nor Toby Maguire’s Peter Parker (new to the superhero lark), but Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker, a superhero that is comfortable with his abilities and wearing the red-and-blue suit, but a little socially awkward at times.

In Insomniac’s Spider-Man, Peter Parker has been spinning the web for a while now, so he’s come to grips with his abilities and what he is capable of and the narrative features an ensemble cast of well-known villains and characters from Spider-Man lore, including Doctor Otto Octavius (Doc Oct), Martin Li (Mister Negative) Scorpion, Tombstone, Electro, (love interest) Mary Jane, Aunt May and Norman Osborn. The story has Peter defeating crime kingpin Wilson Fisk in the opening moments of the game,  putting him behind bars, only for another crime lord to rise in his place in the form of Martin Li, or Mister Negative.

As I write this, I’ve been back from  Canada for almost a week and have completed about 55 per cent of Spider-Man’s main campaign, collected 50 of the 55 backpacks and done about half a dozen research missions.I’ve also taken on thugs patrolling construction sites, tried to (unsuccessfully) capture wayward pigeons and had my arse kicked (a few times) by men armed with electric whips.

One of the first things that I noticed with Spider-Man is that Insomniac have nailed the swinging mechanic perfectly. Before too long, you’ll be performing acrobatics between skyscrapers towering above the traffic and pedestrian-filled streets and zipping through the air. In fact, the swinging mechanic is so good I didn’t feel the want (or need) to use the game’s fast travel system: It was more fun getting to the location using the old-fashioned Spidey way.

Melee combat is integral to Spider-Man and it’s top-notch, reminding me a lot of the combat in  Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham series, and once I’d got to grips with the plethora of moves and combos, combat was fast and fluid, with me being able to guide Spidey from foe to foe seamlessly, filling up my suit’s focus meter which then let me unleash brutal finishing moves on hapless foes.

I watched my son, who has completed the main story (yeah, yeah, it’ll ruin the story for me. I know), and there were some hallucination sequences that, again, reminded me a heck of a lot of Rocksteady’s Arkham series (you know the segments where a tiny Batman has to sneak around while a giant Scarecrow taunts him). I’m saying that as praise, not a criticism, by the way.

There’s a lot to do in Spider-Man when you’re not doing the main story mission, from collecting backpacks that Peter has left dotted around the city and doing research for Harry Osborn using laboratories he has left around the city to unlocking corrupted communications towers (which is a game mechanic that I think has been done to death in video games) and taking selfies at famous New York landmarks. While some of the busy work seems formulaic, a lot of it was a good break from the hectic moments of the main story.

There’s a benefit to that busywork, too: The more collectibles and side stuff  you complete, the more weapons, gadgets, skills and suit mods you can unlock so there’s a real incentive to do the busy work: The results are well worth it. I mean, what’s not to love about a bomb that explodes, showering all around it with web or electric web that shocks enemies.

One thing I wasn’t a fan of is the wave-based enemy system used when you want to take down construction sites under Fisk’s control and demon bases ruled by Li but defeating bases is essential to unlock in-game Spidey suits, so I tolled away at them, but it was  my least favourite aspect of the game.

Spider-Man doesn’t  invent the wheel when it comes to third-person action games – plenty of other games have done the same thing and Spider-Man does fall into the formulaic overused video game tropes at times  – but Insomniac’s Marvel superhero game is so much bloody fun, with an engaging narrative, well-fleshed out characters and great game mechanics that it’s another reason why, for me, PlayStation is simply owning this console generation hands down.

Now to see if I can complete it before Red Dead Redemption 2 drops this week (I’ve pre-ordered the game: I’m not getting review code). I don’t like my chances.

Reaching for the stars – Starlink: Battle for Atlas review

Ubisoft might be a little late to the party when it comes to toys-that-appear-in-your-games peripherals but with Starlink: Battle for Atlas, the company could have a hit with pint-sized space explorers who like to play with toys as part of the game they’re playing.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas treads the commonly told tale of an evil entity wanting to take over the solar system and it’s up to you to save the day but central to Ubisoft’s space game are the plastic spaceships and figures that use a special mount that fits to your controller then brings the ships to life in-game.

Fox McCloud’s famous starship & the special base that the Joycon’s slot into and the spaceship toy locks into.

I played the Nintendo Switch version (it’s also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One), where you slide a Joycon onto each side of the mount then attach the spaceship toy/ you have. Each craft and pilot has different abilities and weapons. The toy feels a little heavy on the controller to start with but you soon get used to it. As a bonus for Nintendo Switch players, the Switch version has a toy based off  Fox McCloud’s Arwing spaceship and the wily fox himself – and it’s a beauty of a craft, and Fox plays a major role in the game, with Switch exclusive missions focusing on the Star Fox team.

Fox McCloud in the flesh. Well, plastic. Alongside him is pilot Mason Rana.

  If you’re something of a toy collector then things could get expensive if you decide to buy as many ships as you can afford. The starter pack costs around $118 with additional ships setting you back about $58 a pop for a spaceship. Additional weapons packs cost around $30. You snap on the attachments, which appear in-game and you can swap out weapons and modify them on the fly, depending on the enemy you’re squaring off against.

Some of the other spaceships that you can buy for Starlink: Battle for Atlas.

That said, the toys aren’t necessary to actually play the game so you don’t have to buy them if you don’t want to: You can play it without spending a cent on the ships and weapon attachments, if you want. The game takes place on a variety of planets with different fauna and flora, as well as the Atlas star system, and while there is a bit of a grind where you have to explore planets for clues to help you in your missions, mine for resources, form alliances with other alien races and do busy work for locals to move the story forward,  I was surprised how much of a smile it put on my face. Maybe it was the fact that I was controlling the on-screen spaceship with a controller that looked like the on-screen spaceship. The combat is fast and fluid enough, and it seems to hold a pretty consistent frame rate on the Switch, something that is vital for a game that relies on fast reflexes. It’s a lot of fun, too,  swapping out weapons mid-battle when you realise your initial arsenal isn’t up to scratch, but young players might find the intricacies of weapons management mid-battle  a little daunting, though. Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a lot of fun, even with the grinding busy work and some repetitive missions, but the toys add a different dimension to the game play that will appeal to spaceship fans. Parents, just keep in mind that the cost will mount up if your game fan wants more and more ships and weapons. Heck, 10-year-old me would have danced with delight if I’d been able to play a game like Starlink: Battle for Atlas with its snap-on space ships and weapons. Thanks to Five Eight Distribution for the review copy of Starlinke: Battle for Atlas and the toys.