Finally, on November 30th, Spider-Man swings into Marvel’s Avengers. That is, if you are playing on PlayStation. I recently had the chance to spend two hours on the latest platform exclusive addition to Crystal Dynamics’ list and see all that the web slinger has to offer, and was looking forward to putting its skills to use, but was a little apprehensive about what I did actually going to do with them.
Peter Parker’s introduction to Avengers is slightly different from previous DLC characters Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, and Black Panther. Called a “hero event” instead of “operation”, Spidey doesn’t have any story missions of its own, but rather feels like a character joining a hero shooter roster. He’s a skillful friend who is in good company to the dinner party, despite not wanting to bring his own dish or even a bottle of wine for everyone else to enjoy.
Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers – Trailer Screenshots
As with any other Avenger, Spider-Man comes complete with its own unique moveset and fits right in with the hectic action. With a fighting style mostly focused on quick dodging, perfect dodging, and quick melee attacks, it plays like a nimble Black Panther. While many of his punches are your standard punches and kicks, every now and then a more “Spidey-like” contextual animation will be triggered, such as character.
Like each of the Avengers, he has three heroic abilities. Web Bomb inflicts area damage and is of course useful for crowd control, but also inflicts the new Web State effect on enemies. Once this status effects bar is full, a webbed enemy becomes incapacitated and much easier to defeat.
The Spider-Drone is a patrolling AI companion that fires nets at any enemy that wanders within its radius. You can choose to instruct him to roam a specific area of the fight or put him in chase mode, which offers welcome flexibility on the battlefield.
After all, Spider-Man’s ultimate ability is the wrecking ball. Effectively a giant ball of web hitting the ground to damage anyone around it, it works much like Thor’s Bifrost ability, but much less reliable. I found it especially devastating when it hit, but frustratingly it misses the target quite often as it is often quite difficult to aim. Of course, you can tweak all of these skills to suit your play style, with my favorite being an adaptation to the wrecking ball that covers Spidey’s hands and feet in boxing-glove-like netting to inflict additional status damage on each subsequent hit.
Spider-Man feels great in combat, which isn’t entirely surprising. Hero design has never been the problem with Marvel’s Avengers. Unfortunately, the same can’t quite be said about what it feels like to play as Spider-Man outside of combat. In this preview build, I circled the Eastern Seaboard region, closest to Peter’s homeland, Queens, as well as the Future Wasteland biome. Insomniac has set the bar very high when it comes to Spidey’s fluid movement, but even if you allow some headroom, Avengers falls far behind.
Spider-Man chooses the “Swing off of Everything” method and effectively swings from a glass ceiling into the air. To be fair to Crystal Dynamics, this is the only real option as most of Avengers’ locations are rural. Letting Peter Bunny hop over snow and desert is no fun for anyone. The developer also doesn’t have the luxury of being able to design an entire city around the Spider-Man mechanics like Insomniac does. Still, some of the magic is there, especially for the first swing or two after each take off into the air. But this magic often evaporates quickly and without further ado when Parker hits his face against the aforementioned glass ceiling and all momentum is lost.
The lack of real swing is palpable, and while it may be unfair to compare it to the Insomniac version, it’s honestly debatable whether the swing feels better than Spider-Man 2 on the PlayStation 2. All illusions are broken trying to swing moderately high in the air and hit that invisible barrier which also affects the wall run which just keeps you from getting like an out of order elevator over the 15th. Stay low and you can get a decent one Build momentum but be very ambitious and you will face some rather restrictive forces.
Describing Spidey’s arrival as a “hero event” rather than an “operation” is basically code for “don’t expect story missions,” and that’s exactly what you get. Except for a short cutscene in which Spider-Man introduces the rest of the team the rest of what I saw of Peter’s plot about a suspicious chemical company was told through audio files (mostly read-aloud emails and text messages) that were received once certain goals were achieved. These are all standard Avengers tariffs that long-term gamers will be familiar with, such as 25 power attacks or any two missions. There is no new mission content here other than a HARM Room tutorial, although the long-awaited Klaw Raid will be released on the same day. That, of course, requires you to spend dozens of hours leveling up Spider-Man first if you want to use him in the process.
The lack of content is definitely frustrating, and those who expect a new series of Spider-Man story missions to be played will be disappointed. He’s skillfully voiced by Sean Chiplock (Revali from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild), but he doesn’t really have much to do outside of the minimal cutscenes and rare casual lines of speech in combat. It bodes badly for future heroes (if indeed there are) if this is the kind of treatment they are receiving. If, as of this point, new characters are only here to play through the same robot-filled corridors that I’ve played through more than enough already, that won’t be enough to look forward to their arrival.
Marvel’s Avengers Spider-Man costumes
One thing that Spider-Man isn’t missing, however, is outfits. Crystal Dynamics’ latest addition to their Marvel Skinematic Universe comes with around 40 suits that can be purchased with premium currency and earned through their Hero Challenge Card. There’s every color imaginable under the sun, as well as some fan favorites from the comics like the Spider-Noir suit. It is clear that a great deal of care was taken in curating and designing these outfits, so it’s a shame that other missions or Spidey’s traversal didn’t get the same attention, two very big factors if you ask me.
Spider-Man has long been coming to Marvel’s Avengers, and it remains to be seen if it was worth the wait. For now, however, its addition feels more like a promise to be fulfilled through clenched teeth than one with a smile.
Simon Cardy thinks Spider-Ham would have been a bolder direction. Come and talk to him on Twitter about anything ham related @CardySimon.