We here at Couch Bandits have been thinking of a way to differentiate how we talk about current, hot games. Rather than add yet another review with a score or an attempt at a critique, we want to have a discussion with each of our voices. We’re experimenting with the best way to accomplish this (whether it’s with a podcast or stream in the future), so bear with us as this series adapts.
But today, we’ll be kicking off our “Game Talk” format—a round-table conversation between the three founders of Couch Bandits: Nick Snow, Jake Roundy, and Connor Strader. Today’s topic is Spider-Man PS4, which Connor and Nick have been playing the last few days. Check out our thoughts below!
Connor Strader: Spider-Man PS4 has been a web-slinging good time, and that’s maybe the most exciting feature of this new one, as many people have pointed out. Soaring around New York on web ropes is never not fun. It’s how I’ve spent half my time playing the game so far, just because it’s so damn fun.
Nick Snow: I can attest to that, as well. I hardly touch the main quest until I finish the available side missions and collectibles up to that point, which is something I don’t usually do. And speaking of web-slinging around the Big Apple, let’s focus first on gameplay mechanics. What do you like, what would you change, and what would you lose, Connor?
CS: This game feels heavily inspired by the Spider-Man 2 game, which is, of course, a timeless classic. Like that game, I love that you actually need a physical building in your vicinity for web slinging to work. It feels more real that way. The controls feel really intuitive and natural, so getting around the city feels like muscle memory in terms of what your hands are doing as you traverse New York.
I also feel similarly about the combat, which borrows from the Arkham franchise and is just as polished and fluent. It has a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the combos and fight mechanics down, it becomes super satisfying. You begin to feel like Spider-Man.
I thought Spider-Man 2’s controls (in terms of the web slinging) were actually superior to this game—the slinging here feels almost like the abridged version of those controls. But it still adds up to the same satisfying result. I wouldn’t really lose anything, if I’m being honest. More web!!! More spiders!!! More everything. It’s just been so much fun—I haven’t been able to put it down. How about you, Nick?
NS: Yeah, I agree on most everything you mentioned. The traversal is simply satisfying, though there is something that feels missing when you think back to how you remember 2. It’s been a while, so it might be nostalgia making me feel like 2 played better than I remember, but for some reason, it does feel like this one is lacking a touch of nuance.
In terms of combat, there a few things I’d tweak. We mentioned in earlier discussions how we were both pleasantly surprised at the difficulty of the tutorial boss fight, considering how quickly it puts you into it. I felt then—and still feel the same now, though to a slightly lesser extent—that the spider sense should be more forgiving or at least more noticeable.
CS: That can be pretty brutal, especially in the heat of a big battle.
NS: But as I play and the more used to it I become, the smoother I get at handling encounters.
CS: Yeah, I’m definitely getting better at using it, too, and as you level up Spider-Man, you can gain abilities that help you on that front, as well, so that’s nice. Provides more incentive for gaining XP and making things like that easier on yourself.
NS: To your last point, I wouldn’t lose anything either but rather add something: combos. Something similar to, say, Bayonetta.
CS: Oh yeah, that’d be cool—more like chain combos? There are some I could and should be doing, but usually, I just mash square relentlessly.
NS: Yeah, I find myself relying largely on uppercuts and air attacks or swing kicks. It starts to feel slightly repetitive. It’s still fun, but I am conscious of it. But imagine getting a combo to get a more intricate web attack.
CS: Right, that makes sense. Something it does well that the Arkham series is less successful at is knowing when enough is enough.
NS: If I remember correctly, Ultimate Spider-Man used something similar.
CS: I think you’re right.
NS: Let’s talk about something we have been blown away by: the game’s focus.
CS: Yes, the pacing deserves more celebration than it’s receiving.
CS: It’s refreshing to play a game that doesn’t feel overwhelming and bloated. The side missions and collectibles feel within your reach, even though they’re not a cake walk to complete/gather.
NS: We live in a world where every game is becoming an open world exploration that lasts almost 100 hours.
CS: Right, and I love a bit of that, but my schedule only permits me to love that so much.
NS: To complete all the content in Assassin’s Creed Origins, I needed to spend around 80 hours with that game. I don’t have that time for every game, and it started feeling like a chore.
CS: No way, it’s just too difficult, and while I appreciate devs wanting to give us as much bang for our buck as possible, the whole “more is more” mentality can backfire. Chore is a great word to use. You just feel like you have to play it—not like you want to.
NS: But this game, as you said, knows when enough is enough. Both of us have mentioned how we feel drawn to Spider-Man after starting it. You mentioned the side missions earlier, which reminded me of our discussion on story pacing.
CS: Yeah, this game feels so concise; all the fat has been trimmed. I feel like in the roughly 3 hours of the game I’ve played, I’ve already accomplished so much, and it makes it feel like I’m doing more with my gaming time. I’m feeling more fulfilled playing this game than I usually do when I play something for a couple hours at a time.
NS: I agree completely.
CS: And yes, main story lines in games like this are usually hit or miss, but this—by far—feels like the best central plot in a Spider-Man game we’ve seen yet.
NS: Now, one way we’re finally going to diverge a bit is in how we’ve been playing it.
CS: Oh yeah, it’s been interesting hearing how you’ve approached it so far versus how I’ve been tackling it.
NS: I’ve focused almost exclusively on side content. I am fairly early in the story at this point. I’ve collected all the bags, did all the towers the night it released, and finished all the Fisk bases.
CS: I’ve done a good chunk of the story, and I’ve only just begun focusing on completing some side stuff, but one thing that has surprised me is how enjoyable the side content actually is. It doesn’t feel tedious or exhausting.
NS: It really is just a joy.
CS: It’s been super engaging and fun to do, even the Fisk bases, which once again, I feel like that’s a feature a series like Arkham might overdo. The number of Fisk bases is so manageable, and because of that, each one feels fun. It never got tiring for me.
NS: It feels satisfying to be able to tackle each one with the grace you’d imagine Spider-Man would have. There have been plenty of side content collectibles, but no one thing is overwhelming.
CS: Same goes for the backpacks and landmark photos—it’s all blended together and balanced well. You never feel any amount of pressure from the game to complete any of it. The game is like the stoner of video games. It’s just like, “It’s cool, man, do this when you get around to it, my dude.”
NS: Only 55 bags, 2 or 3 towers in each borough (which take maybe an hour to finish), 1 base per borough. I will admit to enjoying the arcade fight modes of the Arkham series, particularly Arkham City. I loved playing as Nightwing. But this game is scratching that same itch. You get a great feeling about being efficient and precise in each encounter.
CS: Yeah, don’t get me wrong, I love the Arkham games. I would consider myself more of a Batman fan than a Spider-Man fan, but this game has almost perfected mechanics invented by that series.
NS: I agree. It’s not so much about finishing it, as it is how well you finish each fight. How few hits you take, how big the combo multiplier is, etc. If I could add another mode, it would be that arcade wave fight mode City and Knight have, specifically with letting you play as other Spidey characters.
CS: That would rule! But also, this is a good way to transition into something you called out that I’d love to highlight: the fact that the different suits in this game actually have practical use, not just cosmetic.
NS: Yes! The suit powers. I actually wish they stuck more to their guns with this mechanic now that I got to experience it. For anyone who hasn’t played yet, each time you unlock a suit, you unlock a suit power with it. Each power is unique to the suit, though once unlocked can be used in any combination. I wish you had to wear that specific suit each time you wanted the suit power.
CS: Agreed, that would be a great touch.
NS: In fact, I still usually pair them. Whenever I am being sneaky and picking off one person at a time, I make sure to equip the noir skin. And when I want the robot arms, I always wear the Iron Spider suit.
CS: I really like the diversity of the pool of suits, and I absolutely love the robot arms. I am always down for a good set of robot arms in a game.
NS: I am a sucker for robot arms and double jumping. Unless you have anything else to say about things, I think we can starting talking about the pacing of the story missions themselves. We’ll keep everything vague and more about hitting story beats than specific details. Plus, I haven’t even met the main antagonist of the game yet. These are just are first impressions!
CS: Cool, I’m going to take a break to eat pizza first.
Jake Roundy: I’ll put in my two cents then as someone who hasn’t played the game yet but enjoyed the older Spider-Man games: From my outside perspective, I’ve really admired the detailed environments I’ve seen in video footage. It’s clear they put a lot of effort into creating hyper-realistic environments for the player to explore, and as someone who isn’t super into the comics, I feel like that’s what I would dedicate the majority of my time to—exploring every nook and cranny in the city and climbing to the tallest heights! My favorite aspect of the old games was swinging around and enjoying the freedom of being Spider-Man, and I feel like this game captures that spirit perfectly.
NS: Yes, one of the first things I did was climb the Freedom Tower. And, of course, as in any Spider-Man game, you always have to make a point to visit Times Square.
CS: That’s a really good point, Jake, and exactly right—I was going to mention how you can even look into individual windows and see inside offices and apartments…it’s so detailed. The amount of work that must’ve gone into building the city is staggering. It feels real.
JR: I feel like swinging in this game equates to the pure fun of exploring New Donk City in Super Mario Odyssey…only in this game, you’re not a pudgy Italian plumber.
CS: (with a laugh) Yes, actually! It’s a similar feeling of wonder and amazement as you first encounter that level. That’s a good comparison.
NS: New Donk is still both the best and most bizarre Mario experience of my life.
JR: Absolutely, and in the best way.
NS: It’s a better analogy than you probably think, Jake. But to that apartment window point, Connor, those are almost all randomized and copy/paste.
CS: Right, of course. But at least it’s there!
NS: Oh, for sure.
CS: That’s an element I feel like would just be traded in for cheap, “lights” in most games. I was just impressed I could look into the windows and see something instead of a flat texture.
NS: I like when games actually use small workarounds to give detail without devoting hours of resources to it that are better used other places.
CS: Right, absolutely. And Jake, I similarly like Spider-Man video games for the same reasons you outlined: I love exploring in games, and I love when a mechanic makes the exploring that much more fun, and this game perfects that idea. It takes elements from many previous Spider-Man games and expands on them, fine-tunes them. I’ve read maybe three Spider-Man comics, and I love the movies, but I wouldn’t consider myself an avid fan by any means, but I’ve always really enjoyed the games, this one especially.
NS: The only Spider-Man comics I’ve read are the ones about the original Civil War story. But I loved the Raimi movies and Homecoming. And I am PUMPED for Into the Spider-Verse.
CS: Absolutely, I would love to see this expanded into a franchise of games, and it would seem that is in the cards for the future given the reception of this game.
NS: Insomniac is a great developer to handle that task. While I’m glad Venom isn’t in this game (as far as I know), I wouldn’t mind a sequel including the symbiote. I was a huge fan of Ultimate Spider-Man, getting a chance to play as Venom and eat people.
CS: I find myself already craving a sequel, which is something I don’t usually experience so early on in a playthrough of a game. I’m so excited by the world that’s been developed and the way the game flows that I am ready to be thrown into another crazy scenario with an evil genius, even though this game is scratching that itch already. I can’t say enough good things about it honestly, and I’m so thrilled to continue with it and see where it takes me. You can feel the love and effort that was poured into this game. It’s just so well executed.
NS: I agree on all those points. In a way, I wish we disagreed on this game more, if only because this has turned into the two of us (three on the points Jake brought up) agreeing with each other. But we do honestly love this game—much more than we anticipated.
CS: It’s really nice to see a game hyped up and live up to that hype, in a similar way God of War worked out. The devs who put in so much care and time deserve to be praised and celebrated. It’s important, especially in a day and age where people are much quicker to criticize and denounce. Insomniac had a lot of people to please and a lot of people to cater to, and they’ve managed to cover most of those bases.
That’s all we’ve got for today! We hope you enjoyed the discussion. If you have any thoughts on the game, whether you’ve beaten it or not, feel free to share!