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TAC Reviews...Spider-Man + The City that Never Sleeps DLCs

 

Released in 2018 Spider-Man or Marvel’s Spider-Man is an action-adventure game which takes inspirations from the comics, films and mythology of the long running comic book character Spider-Man.

 

 

Peter Parker was an intelligent nerd that was adopted by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben after his parents died. At the age of 15ish (depending on the continuity) he was bitten by a radioactive or genetically-altered spider whilst on a school field trip which granted him the ability to stick to walls, gave him the proportionate strength of a spider (basically if a spider was person-sized he is as strong as that spider would be, if you follow me), and uniquely a “Spider-Sense” that gives him an almost precognition ability to warn him of danger.

 

Again depending on the continuity Peter basically decided to use his new strength to make a few quick bucks wrestling, but on one fateful night he failed to stop a criminal despite having the power to do so. That criminal went on to murder Peter’s Uncle Ben. Wracked with guilt that he should have stepped in to stop the criminal but didn’t, Peter donned the mantle of Spider-Man vowing to protect his home city of New York from criminals.

 

During his career he has tangled with numerous costumed super-villains like a massive guy in indestructible armour called Rhino, a guy in a suit that shoots shockwaves from his hands called Shocker, and various others that I haven’t got the time or inclination to name.

 

He has had an on-again, off-again relationship with his neighbour Mary-James Watson for years, but has also has a rather complicated relationship with Felicia Hardy aka the Black Cat, a beautiful, and sexy jewel thief that has been both an ally and enemy to Spider-Man over the years.

 

J. Jonah Jameson, the former Head of the Daily Bugle, is a constant thorn in Spider-Man’s side as he believes the Web-Slinger to be a criminal and longs to convince the citizens of New York that “the people’s hero” is no better than the criminals he stops.

 

Okay, I think that is the basic gist.

 

I’m sure you know who Spider-Man is and if you don’t then it begs the question of why you are playing this game in the first place.

 

Below you will find my reviews of the main game as well as the three Episode The City that Never Sleeps DCLs

 

TAC Reviews...Spider-Man

Date Posted: 21/04/19

 

The game was released in 2018 and developed by Insomniac Games in conjunction with Sony Interactive. It has thus far also spawned three tie-in DLCs called The City that Never Sleeps which happen after the main game. Spider-Man is voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, with William Salyers as Dr Otto Octavius and Laura Bailey as Mary Jane Watson.

 

Spider-Man Cover

 

Full disclosure before I go on that as of time of writing I have not completed the game yet and am around 90% of my way through the campaign. I have unlocked all of the side quests and have done the majority of the side missions so feel that I have got a good idea about the game. But, you know the drill, if there are other things that need to be talked about after the game is completed I’ll do them as an Update.

 

This game has been sitting in my downloaded but awaiting to be played list for a while, now that my interest in the endless grind in GTA Online has once again declined as I currently own everything I want in that game, I was looking for something new to play. Initially Doom was in my sights but considering the massive download it needed before I could start playing what was supposed to be a fast-paced action game I instead turned my attention to Spider-Man. Now I have played a few Spider-Man games over the years and whilst I know Spider-Man 2 is the bench mark by which all other games are measured, I played that game, and did enjoy it but didn't think it was the game that everyone else seemed to think it was. It was good but I found a lot of the missions tedious and repetitive, still, the web-swinging was the best it has ever been so maybe that was why so many hold it in high regard. The next one I played was Web of Shadows which was good enough for me to finish but it was very buggy and froze constantly. Then we had the tie-in games with the movies which were considered to be crap by anyone that played them so the Spider-Man games fell out of my interest.

 

However, then this game came along which by all accounts is actually pretty good, but people have told me that games were amazing before (like Uncharted) which I found to be dull, boring and repetitive affairs.

 

Will this be the same??

 

Let's web-swing straight in to find out...

 

This incarnation of Spider-Man has been web-swinging around New York for the better part of a decade (eight years to be exact) and is generally accepted by the police force as a helper and ally to the police chief Yuri Watanabe (voiced by Tara Platt). In the opening sequence Spider-Man is on his way to help with the arrest of Wilson Fisk aka the Kingpin [of Crime]. After an intense battle, Fisk is captured and taken into custody. The fight leaves Spider-Man's suit damaged and late for his job working with Dr Otto Octavius. Peter gets there just as the demonstration of a prosthetic arm and hand goes awry, and after a committee of government financiers’ criticise the failure, Peter returns to the lab after hours to fix his suit. He is discovered by Octavius who leaps to the conclusion that Peter works with Spider-Man developing some of the web-head's technology...

 

 

Octavius recognises that Spider-Man does a lot of good in the city and is happy for Peter to keep developing technology to help him fight crime, Octavius even starts to develop additional technology to help as well.

 

In the wake of the power vacuum left by the Kingpin, a new threat begins to arise in the city that is far worse than Wilson Fisk ever was. Spider-Man and his allies must band together to stop this threat releasing a deadly virus in the city.

 

Meanwhile Octavius’ obsession with developing the prosthetic to enhance and even replace human tissues leads him down a dark path from which there may be no return...

 

First things first, this game is not an origin story nor is it a couple of months after Peter Parker got his powers. In the opening sequence the camera pans across numerous front page articles showing well known villains like Rhino, Vulture, Shocker and so on that have all been battled and defeated by Spider-Man. Therefore within the first few seconds of the game we know at all of these villains have tangled with Spider-Man and come off worse at some point in the past. Otto Octavius is the only character that hasn't become his villainous alter-ego at the time of the game beginning but it couldn't really be telegraphed any harder that he will become a villain by the end. Plus for a scientist he seems to sometimes be rather stupid, Peter is regularly late for work and is found working on Spider-Man's suit...isn't Peter and Spider-Man being one and the same kind-of obvious?? But nope, Otto just assumes Peter helps him out and says no more about it. I guess because Peter isn't taking photos of Spider-Man anymore the links between the two are more tenuous but come on Otto!!

 

The graphic are amazing, with the facial animations being top notch. The city looks alive with NPCs and different buildings. If you crawl across buildings you can see into the rooms inside. This feels like a city that people actually live in and is not just one copy-pasted street over and over again. I don’t know how true to life this version of New York is to the actual city, or if it is more like the Marvel version of New York because the Avengers Tower does dominate part of the skyline, but none of the Avengers feature in the game.

 

New York is a massive open world sandbox, and in a move taken straight from the likes of Assassin's Creed, there are vantage points, or towers in this case which the police have set up to monitor crime across the city. Spider-Man has an interface in his mask that can link in to these towers enabling him to get to the scenes of crimes. The towers have been sabotaged at the beginning of the game and it is up to the web-slinger to zip around the city reactivating them, once he does he gains access to more of the map and collectables are shown. You can do a scan-type thing (which echoes very heavily of Batman’s Detective Mode from the Arkham games) that will highlight the location of different crimes and a police scanner will give you reports of on-going incidents around the city. These tend to fall into the usual categories of car chases, muggings, drug deals, and robberies of one form or another.

 

I have said before that I am very sandbox happy and love being able to go anywhere and do anything right from the off. One of the first things that you discover are old backpacks that Spider-Man left around the city presumably when he was transitioning from Parker to Spider-Man and had to just dump the bags wherever. These can be recovered and give you tokens (but I'll talk more about the tokens in a bit). Each bag will contain an item and if you look at them in the Collectables menu, you get a little voice over from Peter explaining a bit more about the item's history. I quickly realised though that as much as I wanted to go racing out into the sandbox world, it was not the thing to do (although you can) because when you start your stats are pretty crap with low level criminals easily able to overwhelm and kill you. However, if you play some of the story missions, more and more side activities and quests open up, plus you are able to upgrade your suit and technologies reducing melee damage, increasing bullet resistance, and stuff like that. The majority of suits you unlock also have bonuses but you don't have to wear that suit to get the bonus, once the suit is unlocked you can equip your favourite perk to your favourite suit.

 

On the subject of suits you have access to quite a wealth of different versions from the Classic Spider-Man outfit to the Scarlett Spider to the suits worn by Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These are unlocked by spending various tokens that you collect from completing different side activities.

 

Foiling crimes grant you crime tokens, taking down the Kingpin's former strongholds grant you stronghold tokens, taking landscape photos unlock landscape tokens, undertaking research tasks...you get the idea. These tokens are then used to buy new suits and gadgets once they have been unlocked by reaching various levels. I was immediately ploughing into the side activities as they unlocked and each section of the city has been separated into different districts with stats showing how much of each activity you have completed.

 

The way Spider-Man gets around is unique and doesn't stop being fun as you learn how to time your swings for maximum distance and use the web-head's phenomenal agility to defeat different enemies. Leaping around does make you really feel like what being Spider-Man must be like and to cement this firmly in Spider-Man media Stan Lee also makes a cameo.

 

Whilst the game does establish that Parker has been Spider-Man for eight years, and numerous villains have appeared in the past, I am not really sure what timeline we are in. There are clearly influences from the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the suit Spider-Man wears in that is present in game so are we in the MCU timeline?? The Avengers tower is in the game and Parker mentions the Avengers but says they are never around. Is this a new timeline?? If so then the suit Spider-Man wears seems to be pretty high tech like the one created for him by Tony Stark in the MCU. Having said that there were numerous references to other Spider-Man media from films to cartoons including The Animated Series and Spectacular Spider-Man as well as comment when trying to stop a train that references the Toby Maguire Spiderman 2 film. As a result I decided to stop trying to work out the canon and just get back to the web-swinging fun.

 

Unfortunately the game does include missions in which you have to play as non-Spider-Man characters like Mary Jane which are forced stealth sections. In the game, MJ and Parker have split up six months previously, with her now working as a reporter for the Daily Bugle. She decides to follow the Lois Lane school of reporting which involves getting herself into one dangerous situation after another and Spider-Man having to rescue her. The first time they meet he is in the outfit and she greets him as "Pete" so she obviously knows that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are the same person. These sections were probably supposed to break up the game play a bit but unfortunately why would I want to take a break from swinging through the city at break neck pace, leaping into the fray against enemies and taking them down with various gadgets so I can do forced stealth sections in which we play as other characters?? It is a strange design choice and does serve to slow the game down to a crawl whenever one of these pops up. I honestly started dreading these sections and when the cut scene flicked to another character I would groan as I knew that another boring stealth section with instant failure stakes was fast approaching.

 

As this game came out on 2018 it is possibly to see the family tree of sandbox games that have lead to the creation of this one. Like I said unlocking the observation powers is exactly the same as the vantage points from Assassin's Creed, the camera even does that slow 360 degree panning shot to show off the city around you. I could see influences from games like Saints Row IV and basically every other open world sandbox that has ever existed. The most blatant of the parental games is the Batman Arkham series with elements lifted directly from those game, such as the ability to scan the environment, do stealth take downs, and show up objectives on a mini-map.

 

The combat is also completely ripped off from the Batman Arkham games, and couldn't be more obvious with moves like the ledge takedown as well as missions in which you must pick off enemies from the shadows. Spider-Man is not a character that seems to blend well with stealth as he is dressed in a brightly coloured suit that is not akin to a shadow in the night, unlike Batman.  Now I get that the lightening thing that used to appear above Batman's head to warn him of an impending attack so he could counter was basically the same as Spider-Man's spider sense, but in this game the dodge option is mapped to the circle button on the controller when I swear it was the triangle button for Arkham. As a result I kept getting hit because I was hitting triangle instead of circle, the combat seemed to just flow so much better in Arkham than it does here which resulted in me button mashing more often than not. I wasn’t a massive fan of the combat in Arkham but when the lightening thing popped up in those games Batman would do a counter move. All Spider-Man can do is a dodge move which can leave those enemies open to continue to attack. Sadly the controls could not be remapped to your own specifications so you have to do things the way the game wants you too. What I found annoying about the combat in this game compared to Arkham was that in those games you are playing a human in a suit of armour, a man at the peak of physical strength, but a man none-the-less. It states in Spider-Man's own in-game bio that he is capable of lifting 10 tonnes so could someone explain to me how it can take more than one punch to knock out an enemy?? There is an episode of The New Adventures of Superman where this guy challenges the man of steel to a boxing match and is taken out when Superman literally flicks his forehead knocking him out cold. Why isn't Spider-Man capable of doing the same??

 

Plus there are enemies that have riot shields or bats/crowbars and for some reason Spider-Man is unable to beat them because they can defend his attacks. Isn't that like a toddler going up against a UFC fighter and being able to defend themselves successfully using their teddy bear?? Similarly the larger brute type enemies also can block Spider-Man's strikes so have to be taken down from behind or webbed up so they cannot defend or fight back before they can defeated. Wilson Fisk was a difficult opponent because his body was made up of three-hundred pounds of muscle, but all the criminals on the street have to do is hold up a crowbar and the web-slinger is powerless to beat them without switching up his fighting techniques. Even as I started to get to grips with the combat later in the game it was still possible for a brute-type enemy to completely wreck my health bar and I don’t really understand why. During the game Spider-Man is thrown around violently enough that a normal human would easily be killed, but Spider-Man is largely unhurt. Therefore his muscle mass means that he is capable of taking a huge amount of damage, why then can a brute enemy swing a couple of punches and knock a third of your health bar off in one hit?? Standard enemies should be more irritating then a serious threat. Like the Necromorphs in Dead Space 3. You also have a combo meter that builds as you battle enemies, in games like Metal Gear Rising Revengence, you have a combo counter in the upper corner of the screen, the more moves you string together the higher your combo, but all it takes is a bullet from one of numerous enemies with guns hitting you and your combo count is reset. Sometimes the game tasks you with getting ridiculously high combo counts but all it takes it a bullet to graze your suit and you must start again.

 

In addition Spider-Man games naturally have a lot of verticality in them and criminals are often found lurking on rooftops, but during combat it is easily possible to knock them off rooftops where they plunge to their deaths on the pavement below.

 

Er...Spidy you do know that knocking a person off a building is going to kill them right??

 

Spider-Man is the hero of the people but there were times when I thought Jameson might have a point when I was watching the web-head casually knocking criminals off rooftops and happily allowing them to fall to their doom. Often these fights would end with Spider-Man saying that the police would be along soon to arrest the unconscious perps, but I'm pretty sure those people are dead not unconscious. Still in Batman Arkham Knight the Batmobile fired "non-lethal" beanbag rounds and had an electrical skin on the body which safely deflected goons if the vehicle charged through a crowd of them at full speed, both of which apparently left the unfortunate goon unconscious but alive. Perhaps Spider-Man is assuming that the pavement will not kill anyone smashing into it and will safely just render them unconscious. I did watch a perp plummet towards the ground only for him to be inexplicably webbed to the side of a building, so maybe everyone that gets flung off a rooftop somehow ends up stuck to a wall somewhere which is why the web-head throws them so casually off a rooftop.

 

The game was for the most part ridiculously fun and whilst some of the side activities did start to get repetitive after a while, the game made an attempt to reduce the repetition of simply fighting waves and waves of enemies by tasking you with a variety of other things to do if you wanted to reap the full benefits of these side activities.

 

As you play you will level up and the higher your level the more suits you can unlock, when you level up you often get a boosts to health, melee damage, and skill points that can be invested in better combat moves.

 

The main means by which you get these extra suits and gadgets is through the use of tokens which as I mentioned can be earned by finding backpacks, photographing landmarks, stopping crimes and so on. I actively liked doing most of these tasks as there is a purpose to leaping in and stopping a crime, you aren’t just leaping into one fight after another without really accomplishing anything. However, I have to say that I was really not a fan of the Challenges. A guy called Taskmaster has set up a series of challenges around the map to test Spider-Man’s skills. These take the form of stealth, bomb disposal, destroying drones, and combat tasks. What I found irritating about these was that they are rated bronze, silver and gold, and sometimes I had absolutely no idea how I was supposed to get the higher level awards. More often than not it seemed to be down to luck rather than skill. A mistimed web-swing could mean the difference between success and failure, to make things worse there doesn’t seem to be a means of quickly restarting a challenge if you want to abandon it to try again. Each time you start again you have to sit through a loading screen before you can have another bash at it. Some like the stealth missions need to be done silently but quickly, as a result there is a sequence to take out the enemies but again, one mistimed stealth knock out, and you’re spotted. Having to be quick but stealthy can just be an exercise in frustration as you try to take down the enemies rapidly but without getting spotted. I attempted to do the Saints Row IV trick of dropping the difficulty down whilst doing these challenges but unfortunately it made no difference so there is no work around to get the higher scores without trying over and over again.

 

All in all the game is a phenomenal achievement with beautiful graphics that is superbly voice acted by all its cast. I have absolutely no doubt that I will be getting the DLCs just so once I have completed the game I can continue to play some more. I also strongly suspect that there is a +game mode, and if there is that will just encourage me to dive back in once again.

 

The game is getting my rare 2 Thumbs Up because it was a great game to play through, however, the forced stealth sections and frustrating challenges prevent me from giving the game a perfect rating.

 

 

9.5/10 – Whilst this is easily the best Spider-Man game to date, it can easily be dissected to see where all of its inspirations have come from. Still, it manages to take all of the elements from other titles and make them its own, yes the challenges can be frustrating and the forced stealth section hurt the overall experience but web-swinging through the city as Spider-Man doesn’t stop being great fun.

 

TAC Reviews...Spider-Man: The City that Never Sleeps DLCs

Date Posted: 19/05/19

 

Following the massive success of Spider-Man it was inevitable that DLC would be released and so it was in three Episodes towards the end of 2018. The version I have of the game was the digital deluxe edition which means the three DLCs were downloadable for free once they were released. They were staggered in their release dates in the later part of 2018 however by the time I got round to them all three are available to play.

 

Spider-Man: The City that Never Sleeps DLC Artwork

 

Now I am going to try as much as possible to leave things spoiler free regarding both the events of the main game and the events of the DLCs, naturally though I'll drop my spoiler warning if I’m in danger of giving anything away.

 

In the first of the three stories, The Heist, Felicia Hardy aka the Black Cat has returned to New York. There was a side mission in the main game involving her but she never physically appeared so it was perhaps inevitable that she'd pop up either in DLC or any sequel Insomniac planned on making. Anyway, she is working for crime boss Hammerhead, Spider-Man is needless to say surprised by her allegiance to a crime lord as she was usually just a thief working for herself. He learns that there is something bigger at stake which is forcing Felicia's hand, something that he has a vested interest in as well...

 

In the second story Turf Wars, Hammerhead is trying to wipe out the Maggia Dons so that he can take over himself. For our Web-slinging hero Hammerhead and his goons have managed to get their hands on Sable Tech left behind when Sable International, the PMC from the main game, evacuated the city. The former mafia family is becoming a far more dangerous threat as they are using the high tech equipment to turn New York into a war zone. Spider-Man's ally in the Police Force, Captain Yuri Watanabe also starts down a path from which there may be no return when her men are killed on Hammerhead's orders...

 

Finally Silver Linings, Silver Sable, the Head of Sable International returns to New York. She is more than a little angry that her technology has been stolen by thugs and is determined to get it back regardless of the cost. She is forced to reluctantly join forces with Spider-Man as Hammerhead turns himself into something beyond human...

 

Okay now right off the bat as I rated the main game so highly, you can imagine that I was really looking forward to playing the DLCs. I did all of the side activities in the main game, I even found the hidden landmarks which you can only see on your mini-map after reaching level 50 and using a new ability for your Spider-suit. I was more than happy to 100% the game because there was so much variety in the things you could do. Even the mini-games like improving the prosthetic by completing various puzzles in Octavius' lab I did because I wanted to get everything I possibly could out of the game. I have dived into a +game as well so am currently working my way through that too as now I have all the suits and gadget upgrades which I didn't have on my first play through. 

 

As far as the DLCs are concerned I have to say that I did like the story. Similarly to the main game Felicia Hardy is already established and during conversations with Spider-Man it is revealed that the two had a relationship which didn't last when she went back to her old ways. I don't know how true this is to the comics because my main knowledge of Black Cat was from Spider-Man: The Animated Series where the two got closer to having a relationship but never actually did. I have also seen her in various games but again she seems to have that flirty, sexy, teasing relationship with Spider-Man which she uses to distract him so he won't take her to jail. It was interesting to see that the usual flirty dialogue was still there but it did have an undercurrent of a more serious emotional attachment that the two have to one another and whilst it is never directly stated it is incredibly likely that Felicia knows that Spider-Man is Peter Parker. In the first episode there was also a Side Mission based upon recovering stolen paintings, and when I realised the reason behind it, it did make me smile.

 

Hammerhead doesn't physically appear in the first episode but takes a more central position in Turf Wars. Whilst he is a pretty intimidating villain he is one of those characters that I’m not a 100% sure why Spider-Man can't knock him out in one hit. As I mentioned in my review of the main game, Spider-Man can apparently lift 10 tonnes, so he should be able to layout pretty much anyone in a single hit. Some enemies like the Green Goblin, or Electro may be enhanced in some way so they can take his punches better, or have suits that can absorb some of his attack power like Shocker or Rhino but Hammerhead is just a guy with a metal plate in his head, so I'm not really sure why Spider-Man has so much trouble with him. Presumably his jaw isn't metal so just swing a punch when he is chatting away about how he's going to crush you like a bug and so on, knock him out and job done. I've never really followed the logic that a man with a metal plate for a forehead, or maybe for the top of his skull, is such a dangerous enemy. He's clearly insane and is prepared to murder anyone that stands in his way, so in that sense he is a good villain. But as far as being difficult to take on, nah, I don't really understand why when Spider-Man should just be able to web his legs together and dangle him off a building until the police show up.

 

By the time we hit Silver Linings Hammerhead as used Sable technology to turn himself into some kind of love child between RoboCop and the Terminator. There is a pretty decent boss fight with him in which Sable and Spider-Man must kind-of work together to take him down but for me this was stretching the realism of the gritty crime story a smidge. Plus the boss fight is broken up by various little minions that turn up just to distract you from taking down their Cyborg boss.

 

The game world is reduced down in the episodes and whilst you can still freely roam New York picking up any backpacks, photographing any landmarks, hidden or otherwise left from the main story in the rest of the city, there is no other reason to go anywhere else if you have already done those activities in the main game. The episodes tend to limit themselves to three or four districts so there is not much point in swinging around the areas where nothing is happening. The Research Stations are not available as fast-track points so you cannot just move quickly from place to place if you fancy a break from web-swinging.

 

Unfortunately in my opinion the DLCs all took the worst parts of the main game and decided to focus on them as side activities...namely the Challenges and the Strongholds.

 

The strongholds were one of the things that I was not overly keen on in the main game because they basically consisted of going to a location and fighting wave after wave after wave of enemies. As you moved through the waves, the tech of the goons increased. You'd start off fighting men with pistols and by the end be fighting people with rocket launchers. In this DLC those stronghold missions are back but they are worse than the ones in the main game. What I don't understand is that especially in Turf Wars you are looking for evidence against Hammerhead that Mary-Jane can use for a story, after defeating the goons there; you enter an office or something to find the evidence. My question is though: why can't you choose how to approach these missions?? If you jump in fists flying and alert everyone then sure have waves of men attack but if you go in quietly, take out all the guards without raising the alarm, why can't you web up the doors the reinforcements would have come out of and sneak into the office to recover the evidence?? Most of the enemies seem to race out of side rooms or containers of some sort so presumably it wouldn't be any harder to trap them in there than it would be to web them up, but you cannot do that. Take out every enemy in total silence and the second wave will still spawn, instantly know where you are and open fire.

 

I wasn't a fan of the combat in the main game because to me it felt a little wonky (and yes that is the technical term), the Spider-Sense mechanic gave you some warning of attack but you weren't able to dodge things like the whip-enemies who could snatch you from the air and if a rocket launcher guy was standing two feet from you and fired you'd be hit before you could get out of the way. In this DLC brute-type enemies have mini-guns which they fire for a few second then there is a brief cool down before they can fire again. But those mini-guns shred your health bar in seconds. In the main game the enemies with better tech like the guys with the jet packs or the annoying-as-hell rocket launcher dudes could be taken down in one hit if you'd filled one of the bars on your focus metre. So whilst they were harder to fight you could still take them down in one strike or engage them one on one without too much difficulty. Even the whip-enemies could be knocked down with a concussive blast and shot with Web-Bombs or Impact Web. But the mini-gunners are so strong that are very difficult to fight one on one because they do three strikes one after another and if you fail to dodge one of them then there goes about a third of your health bar. So you have powerful enemies with massively powerful guns in amongst a medley of guys shooting at you, guys firing rockets at you, whip-guys snatching you out of the air to slam you into the ground and there is nowhere you can go to escape for a few seconds. I found that like the Batman Arkham games if I got hit during combat it would throw me off for the rest of it, and one hit always resulted in another and another until I was scraping through with only minimal health by the end. It was the same here. Waves and waves of inexhaustible enemies and if I got hit once then I waved goodbye to my health bar. The worst thing about the combat is that you gain Focus as you fight, you have three bars and once one is filed you can take down two enemies in rapid succession with a Finisher move, if you have two bars filled, you can take down a brute. The Focus bar can also be used to regain health but then you end up in a catch-22 situation in which you are in the heat of a fight getting overwhelmed on all sides and have to decide between using your focus to take down enemies to thin the ranks of those attacking you or use it to gain back some precious health but leaving you to fight the armies of men swarming around you. 

 

Whilst I wasn't a massive fan of the combat in the main game I was able to find my feet with it eventually. Sadly this DLC reminded me of games like Uncharted in which the only way the game can raise the challenge is to send more and more men after you. I have questioned before where the bosses of these organisations get all these people because they have an army at their disposal to rival that of the United States which can only work in video game land. The problem is that you are in a situation in which it doesn't matter how powerful a character you are because you will be overwhelmed sooner or later. I have noted this in numerous superhero games like Crackdown, Infamous and even Prototype because when enemies just keep spawning, and spawning, and spawning there isn't much you can do about it but hope you survive until you're the last one standing.

 

As much as I don't like the Strongholds they at least serve a purpose for story reasons, you are attacking Hammerhead's weapon supplies to limit what he can take onto the streets or recovering humanitarian supplies to ship back to Silver Sable’s home country. This was the same principal with the Fisk, Demon and Inmates strongholds in the main game. You are forcing them out of different areas of the city and shutting down illegal fronts or storage facilities or whatever. So it is kind-of fair enough that you'd have to do this in the DLCs too. 

 

But what I could have done without were the return of the Challenges.

 

I was initially looking forward to the Challenges in the main game as I figured there'd be the usual races, combat, stealth and so on, unfortunately they left me disappointed. The missions themselves were generally not too bad but what I really disliked about them was that there didn't exist a quick restart function. The majority of games that I have played you can restart a mission in a second or two if you have cocked it up, but with these you have to sit through a loading screen, sit there whilst the game gives you the same tips on how to complete the mission before you can have another bash at it. Plus lowering the game difficulty didn't help like it did in Saints Row IV so if you want to succeed you have to do it perfectly or fail. 

 

Still having said all that the challenges set up by Taskmaster in the main game served some purpose, Taskmaster was working for someone else that was potentially looking to recruit Spider-Man into their ranks, it was a side story that could be expanded on in later DLCs or sequels. Yes it was ripped straight off from Azrael in Batman Arkham City, but then every creation Stan Lee ever came up with was ripped off from somewhere else. Don't believe me then do your research, DC came up with Catwoman, a beautiful femme fatal jewel thief who walks the line between being an ally and enemy of the main character, a woman that oozes sex appeal. Then Black Cat is created, a beautiful femme fatal thief that walks the line between being an ally and enemy. Batman is a rich guy in a suit of armour that fights crime, Iron Man is a rich guy in a suit of armour that fights crime...can you see where I'm going with this?? Anyway, now is not the time to discuss why plagiarism laws didn't seem to exist when Marvel comics were created. My point is that those Challenge missions were created by a sinister figure in the shadows that was using some high tech equipment and the gangs of the city to test the Web-Head's abilities. In The City that Never Sleeps DLC the Challenges make a return, only this time they have been set up by someone else. Someone that appeared in the main game, you may remember an irritating woman obsessed with social media that staged a kidnapping so that Spider-Man would be forced to complete tasks to rescue the hostage. The hostage then turned out to be none other than the irritatingly voiced host of the show herself. Well, guess who's back.

 

Yes, Screwball.

 

 

Why The City that Never Sleeps, why????

 

As before the challenges pop up around the map only this time the scale of them has increased and whilst most of them are ripped straight from the ones created by Taskmaster like Bomb Disposal, Stealth or Combat there are others like Gadgets or shutting off reactors or something in a specific order. Now the challenges themselves I wouldn't mind too much if it weren't for the immensely irritating voice over from Screwball herself. Plus you have to do certain moves in certain areas for PhotoBombs to gain additional points. I honestly loathed doing these missions and only pushed myself through them because I am a 100% completion nutter and wanted to unlock the additional suits for completing everything in the DLC, plus I was trophy hunting and needed silver (or Spectacular) or better in all events to unlock the trophy. Having some shady figure working in the background to set up these challenges was one thing but someone explain to me where the donkey-bolloking hell Screwball's "fans" were able to get their hands on all of the equipment she uses in these challenges. I'm as big a fan of Markiplier or Outside Xbox or Angry Joe as the next guy but I wouldn't take on a super-hero for them. How and where did Screwball recruit this army of men who are willing to take on the Web-Head instead of vanishing into society without going back to prison?? What was she doing?? Sucking each one off or gang banging them twenty at a time?? Was that how she managed to gain their support?? Is that why Spider-Man doesn't remove her helmet because it is literally stuck to her head by the amount of jizz fired at her face before anyone agreed to participate in her insane challenges??? These men being her “fans” was just a contrived reason for there to be an seemingly endless supply of men for you to have to deal with in these challenges.

 

The ONLY good thing were the Gadget challenges in which you were forced to only use two gadgets from your arsenal which did demonstrate that some of the tools I was ignoring could be potentially very useful in combat. Like using the concussion wave to knock lesser enemies off their feet and throwing a Web-Bomb at them, or using the same blast to just knock a group off a skyscraper. 

 

When you finally catch up to Screwball herself you have a massively aggravating chase through the city in which you still have to perform PhotoBombs at various points or you fail and must restart. Again one mistimed swing or one missed PhotoBomb and Mission Failed, a pissing loading screen, before you can try (from the start) over again. In this sequence Screwball has access to drones and is able to leap around the city with the agility of Spider-Man himself, no explanation is given to how she can do this, she just can.

 

Screwball's incessant commentating and criticising when I didn't get that Ultimate (or Gold) rating also added to my aggravation until I was sitting there with this expression on my face...

 

 

I don't want to be playing a game I like with that expression etched into my face.

 

What these DLCs showed me was that I love this game when I get to be Spider-Man, web-swinging through the city leaping in to stop robberies or help people trapped in their cars after accidents. Or undertaking Research Tasks because lest we forget Peter Parker does have a genius level intellect, he isn't just a mindless muscle man. I spent ages zipping through the city in the main game collecting the backpacks just so I could hear all the trivia tied to them, or leaping through the air taking landscape photos before I hit the ground. The main game was crammed full of extra stuff that you could do most of it as Spider-Man but some as Peter Parker. The strongholds and challenges irritated me then but when I got tired of them I could blow off any irritation by doing a research station task or a side mission or just webbing around the city jumping into foil various crimes. The City that Never Sleeps DLC stripped away the best of the main game's side activities leaving only the two dullest and most annoying to be forced through in the same painful way you'd get if you tried to squeeze your head through a letter box. 

 

Plus there was also a massive missed opportunity which might be being saved for a sequel but it still could have been utilised. Again I'll try not to spoil but in the main game someone else manages to acquire powers similar to Peter, and that someone is keen to help out fighting crime alongside Spider-Man. Now yes I understand that Peter is reluctant to put any one else at risk, Uncle Ben, with Great Power, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, however when you are up to your eyeballs in endless goons fighting men armed with shields, rocket packs, mini-guns, rocket launchers, whips and so on, wouldn't it be useful to have a little back up now and again?? In The Heist there are a couple of instances where Spider-Man and Felicia work together so why couldn't that have been done in the rest of the DLC too?? Hell, Spider-Man has already carved out so much from the Batman Arkham games that it is danger of looking like Batman with a beautifully designed Spider-Man suit draped over the top. As a result Insomniac could have easily taken the bits from Arkham Knight in which Batman teams up with Robin, Nightwing or Catwoman, allowing the player to freely switch between the two during combat. Sadly this doesn't happen and the teaser ending from the main game that we might be seeing more than one Spider-person in the future is not followed up on here except right at the very end.

 

You may have noticed that this review is quite a lot longer than my previous one and that was because the sheer fun of the main game disguised the stuff that was annoying or not much fun to do. Sadly here the tedious stuff takes more of a centre stage so it is harder for the game to hide those things behind far more enjoyable activities like the Research Stations or Backpack finding. 

 

Also whilst there were side activities, there were previous few side missions. The Heist had a single side mission, Turf Wars didn't have any at all thankfully Silver Linings had a couple which I think may have saved the DLC a little for me. One of these side missions involved swinging through the city investigating crimes scenes, looking for evidence and recordings. This was great fun because like I said above this is what it feels like to be Spider-Man and seeing characters that we have become familiar with slipping further and further from the right side of the law was incredibly forbidding, if a little sequel-bate-y 

 

In the main game the annoying stuff was buried under a wealth of other activities and side quests that were great fun to take part in, yes you were rewarded with tokens to use on gadgets and suit upgrades but in all honesty I would have done them just for the fun of it. In The City that Never Sleeps the majority of the fun side stuff (especially in Turf Wars) has been lost leaving way for Strongholds and Challenges, however, I was invested enough in the story and the characters to want to know how it ended so the story itself was a big enough draw for me to want to continue. I am giving the DLC a Thumbs Up because it does give you more of an opportunity to be Spider-Man but looses a lot of the activities that made the main game so ridiculously fun.

 

 

8/10 - The Strongholds are tedious and the Challenges can be infuriating with you wanting to smash Screwball's face into a wall until it resembles a pancake just so she will shut the fuck up. However the Episodes are good editions to the game's universe and I can recommend getting the DLC for those alone although like me you will probably be disappointed that there weren't a few more new side activities to play through.

 

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© Chris Sharman