Game Ramblings #78 – Spider-man

More Info from Sony

  • Genre: Open World Action
  • Platform: PS4


  • Best example of web slinging that we’ve seen, backed by a gorgeous version of New York City
  • Good use of stealth segments with other characters to break up the pace of the story sections
  • Combat that ranged from frustrating to fantastic, depending on where I was in the skill progression

 The obvious indicator that I really liked the game is that I got a platinum trophy.  Granted, this was an easy platinum to get in the grand scheme of things.  However, the fact that I wanted to literally do everything to unlock it is a clear sign that the game was pretty damn good.  That’s not to say I didn’t have my issues with it here and there, but being able to web sling around Manhattan was often more than enough to just keep me playing.

I start with a video of swinging because quite frankly that is the draw of the game.  Even going back to Spider-man on the PS1 you just wanted to swing around, and this game is as good as it’s ever been.  The base swing is extremely fluid and easy to pull off, but it’s the additional maneuvers that really flesh out the experience.  There’s little web pulls that give you speed boosts and a bit of extra distance while gliding.  There’s diving to build up speed when dropping down off buildings.  There’s points you can latch onto then leap off of to quickly gain height and scale over the top of buildings.  The entire thing is basically all on the shoulder triggers as well, so it’s incredibly easy to pull off the entire time.

If this was the entire game on its own I would still have played it.  The joy of swinging through Manhattan never diminishes as you play the game.  Using it in combat is also a lot of fun, and can be used offensively and defensively in fun ways, particularly in boss fights where rapid movement and quick succession of strike and run maneuvers becomes key.

Combat is also a big draw, even if it is more inconsistent than swinging.

However, the rest of combat was at times more inconsistent, but in ways I wasn’t really expecting.  I went through periods in this game where I hated combat, then loved combat, then went back to hating it, and ultimately really enjoyed it at the end.  The entire wave here came down entirely to the growth of the skills available to me as I went through the game.

Through about the first quarter of the game, I found combat largely annoying due to its early dependence on dodging.  The control scheme has dodge in what I felt was a weird spot on the circle button, placing it furthest away from camera movement.  The quick timing necessary for a lot of dodging meant that I generally either missed dodges or couldn’t really see where I was attacking.  However, as I gained some more offensive abilities, such as improved enemy juggling or electric webs, I found myself not really caring about looking around, and more focusing on controlling the larger enemy group and taking out enemies one or two at a time.  At this point combat felt really fluid and it clicked in a way that made sense given how much emphasis there was on web slinging capabilities.  This continued fine for a while until the introduction of flying enemies and enemies with whips that could pull Spider-Man out of the sky.  For a bit, combat was kind of annoying again until I gained some more improved capabilities, such as chained finisher attacks or trip mines that automatically grab and web enemies.

Ultimately though combat was a lot of fun, even if I would have preferred a bit of a different power curve given to me.  Where it really ended up clicking was in the arenas used for boss fights.  Whereas most group combat took place outdoors, boss arenas were generally in enclosed or at least obviously specific arena-style areas.  The bosses also generally couldn’t be directly hit with melee attacks without first doing other things.  These really emphasized constant movement with webs and the quick use of thrown projectiles to really lock down a boss, enabling you to then web sling directly to the boss for melee chains.  This is where combat really came alive for me, and generally speaking ended up being the best show case for the way the fights really felt the best.

The game isn’t all Spider-Man all the time.  There’s a bunch of stealth segments with other well known characters as well.

The game was also paced really well to not always be high action.  There’s a number of segments that rely purely on stealth mechanics.  These bring in some well known in-universe characters like MJ or Miles Morales to sneak around.  While that may sound a bit fan-servicey, it ends up being a big help in giving these segments a nice change, both to keep the player from always being in high-action stress, as well as to provide a bit of a different voice to the story.

There’s also some minigames that pop up here and there to challenge the mind.

In addition, there’s also a few different style minigames to complete throughout the game.  These range from the sort of hacking-style electricity pathing game above to a game that focuses on color spectrum analysis to a game that focuses on intercepting and manipulating radio waves.  These all serve an important purpose of giving the player a bit of a breather between combat to keep the game from being all high action all the time.

This game was definitely a pretty special experience though.  Zipping around a city as Spider-Man is one of those comic book dreams that people have growing up, and this game is by a long shot the best representation of that.  You are 100% Spider-Man in this game, and despite a few hiccups that I think could be improved in combat, this is the way to go to fulfill that dream.

Game Ramblings #60 – Agents of Mayhem

More Info from Volition

  • Genre: Open-world Action
  • Platform: PS4
  • Also Available On: Xbox One, Windows


  • Great mix of characters with different capabilities, ranging from melee to various ranges of projectile-based weaponry.  Hot swapping of characters leads to good real-time tactical changes.
  • Story is a silly, but fun take on the 80s action cartoon.  Unfortunately ends abruptly in a cliffhanger.
  • Environment severely lacking in variety, particularly with enemy lairs.

In a lot of ways this feels like a natural (if not subdued) extension of where the Saints Row series had been moving in IV and Gat Out of Hell.  You play a series of more or less super powered humans, some of which have unnatural abilities, and some of which are simply taking advantage of unrealistic technology.  The action itself is still all there, with a large variety of weapons to take advantage of.   The open world is there, filled with missions, small side tasks, and a bunch of things to collect.  The over the top plot is there, where you’re trying to stop an evil doctor from recreating the world.  However, despite the core of the game being really solid, it never quite reaches the heights of the Saints Row games.  I couldn’t quite place my finger on what happened – perhaps being their first game designed for the PS4/Xbone generation, perhaps they just ran out of time to release – but the experience never really coalesced into a strong whole.

One of the first signs of restricted content is this hallway. You see this theme about every 10 minutes for every enemy lair.

In general, there’s just a lot of signs that something caused a severe cut or restriction in content in the game.

One of the core pieces of the game’s progress loop is that missions will invariably send you to invade and disrupt LEGION lairs, the hiding places for the game’s primary antagonist group.  However, apart from a few that were carefully constructed for particular story reasons, the rest all follow the same visual theme.  I couldn’t tell you how many times you enter the same hallway, go through the same half dozen rooms and connecting pieces, find treasure chests in the exact same room 100 different times, fight the same half dozen trash enemies in each one.  It just feels like they got the gameplay loop in place, then ran out of time before fleshing out the rest of the system.

This also to some extent extends to the story.  I’d estimate roughly the first 75% of the game follows a pattern of recruit new story-relevant agent through a few missions -> find and capture/kill an enemy lieutenant through a few missions.  There are also some side agents to recruit, and each one has a dedicated secondary mission, but those agents fill more of a gameplay gap than a story one. However, the last three lieutenants simply go back to back to back in a set of missions that starts fantastically, but starts to feel like it falls off.  By the time you get to the ultimate baddy, the game drops you into a fantastically cool new environment filled with very little to do but kill some trash enemies, then a boss fight that abruptly ends mid-fight and throws you into a cliffhanger story cutscene.  It was another case where it just felt like they had the core in place, then ran out of time and had to patch everything together to get the game out the door.

The boss fights are some of the best parts of the game, including this one against a giant ass robot.

Luckily the gameplay does to some extent redeem the game.  While the combat isn’t in practice that much different than Saints Row, the practice of swapping entire characters instead of swapping weapon inventory feels really powerful.  Each character is basically the combination of a personality, a weapon, and two special abilities, and running out into the city becomes a practice of finding the right mix of these to flesh out your party enough to be successful.  You’ve got your general gun-based characters running from short-range shotguns to pistols to SMGs to assault rifles.  There’s also some a really satisfying to use archer hijacking the name Rama, a melee-based assassin that is a ton of fun, and a ice-powered Russian that can freeze and shatter enemies.  Probably my favorite character ended up being a female engineer that could lay down turrets while she went through firing a plasma stream weapon, giving me a lot of flexibility in attacking enemies from two directions.

The flexibility here is really important in keeping the combat fresh.  Despite fighting the same enemies repeatedly, I could switch out to different characters based on the tactical advantages of the environment.  If I’m climbing a tower, I could switch to a long-range gun or archer to pick off enemies one by one from far away.  If I’m in close quarters, a shotgun could wreak havoc to enemies.  If I needed to sneak around and distract enemies while hacking consoles, the turret engineer was a great call.  By being able to form my team in this way, I could fit the team to multiple styles, while still being able to play how I wanted at any one time.  Without fail, the characters also felt fun to use, so it was never a chore to go around sending baddies to their doom.

This all takes place in a relatively compact, but extremely full version of Seoul.  Beside the actual missions to do, there’s a ton of side content.  On the simple end, this is simple vehicle races, patrol take outs, and hostage rescues.  The complexity moves up a bit in taking out a variety of large weaponry, from ice cannons to gravity portals.  Ultimately, you can also invade and take over a handful of enemy strong holds.  The city is also scattered with treasure chests filled with money, resources, and cosmetics, as well as a ton of crystals that can be used to buy further upgrades for the agents.  Basically, you’ll never be out of things to do as there’s always something around the next corner to keep you happily distracted.

While some of the outfits are probably legally questionable, you can always be ready to cruise the city in style.

Ultimately, the downfall of this game isn’t the quality of the gameplay, it’s that it feels incomplete.  What is there is a lot of fun and basically plays out like a videogame version of every stupid 80s action cartoon that I used to watch as a kid.  As a natural extension of the Saints Row universe, it also feels entirely in place to the style and attitude of those games.  I can only speculate as to what happened to get the game shipped in this state, but hopefully it doesn’t prevent from further use of the IP.  Given a second chance, I suspect we’d be looking at a game that a lot of people would remember for quite a while.