After our tantalisingly brief hands-on during E3, we took a trip to Berlin to get a closer look at the latest adventures of the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. During our time with the game we got to play the first two hours of the PS4 exclusive, but in preparation for that we dug out the old Nintendo GameCube and fired up Spider-Man 2 once again - still one of the best licensed games ever made. Nowadays players can only laugh at many of the old peculiarities, but the game still remains a reference point for many when it comes to Peter Parker.
According to creative director Bryan Intihar, the plot is loosely inspired by the TV series The Ultimate Spider-Man, and so here we get to deal with an experienced character; Parker in his early to mid-20s. This approach will be reflected in Spidey's development, because our hero must learn to trust others and ask his friends for help, but on the other side stands the character Peter, who can no longer put up with his alter ego. This inner conflict should determine large parts of the story, because the young man will be given just as much space as the superhero in the red-blue suit, at least according to the studio manager.
Peter is looking for role models to look up to and learn from, and in his missions we take care of people and deal with normal problems. In a playable lab sequence we have to solve super simple mini-games, for example, while later on we visited our Aunt May, who serves food at a homeless centre. Of course, the relationship with Mary Jane is also important, because she'll be another playable character. In one of their early scenes we experienced a short flashback through MJ's eyes, with the action taking place in a confined area, for instance, providing us with some stealth gameplay and detective work to explore.
Spider-Man still plays similarly to what we remember from our days on the GameCube, as we beat up bad guys, avoid danger with our spider sense, and help the NYPD with our special abilities in the fight against crime. The combat is strongly reminiscent of the Arkham games, for better and for worse, as the combos are wonderfully fluid and build in complexity with growing power and new gadgets. An early boss fight was charming and beautifully staged even without an exaggerated interface.
Different classes of opponents challenge us to use the environment creatively, and carefully-considered action is rewarded in the missions planned for it. In one museum we had to be entirely stealthy as we took out guards, for example, and although this mission was very linear, Insomniac's vision and inspiration is very clear and - at least so far - cleanly implemented.
When you swing through Manhattan you'll see colourful scenery too. Insomniac's New York is divided into eight districts, which are supposed to be visually and playfully different from each other, however, the session was far too short to be able to examine this in detail. Marvel fans will find some nice surprises, however, because among New York's landmarks fans will also find peculiarities from the comic world, such as Stark Tower (from Iron Man).