Despite being a headlong engine of triple-A entertainment, Spider-Man has no shortage of impromptu moments of wonder and welcome slivers of quietude. Insomniac's PS4-exclusive chucks a little bit of everything into its towering New York, a dazzling - often literally, if the sunset or sunrise catches the glass-skinned skyscrapers just so - simulacrum that feels near-mythic. This NYC manages to seem hyper-real even while allowing your Spidey to rather implausibly survive ricocheting off walls and (a few skill tree unlocks later) do some unnatural roly-poly charged jumps along the ground. It's not so much a sandbox game as an airbox: a crash course in physics, momentum, stickiness and gravity.
The cascade of little thrills in Spider-Man are countless: twanging yourself like a rubber band across rooftops; clonking late-arriving baddies with their own car doors; strutting along at street-level and doing high-fives with gleeful pedestrians. Any of these snapshots - from selfies on top of Stark Tower to pirouetting at speed through the gaps in exterior fire escapes - could be a standout moment in one of the most enjoyable and streamlined blockbusters of the year. In second place, I might even nominate the sweet interstitial animations where Peter Parker, having ditched the tights, prepares to re-enter his civilian life while nervously touching up his boyband haircut (because let's face it, those skintight Spidey masks have gotta be murder on your VO5 firm-hold styling gel).
Personally, my crowning Spider-Man moment was something quite carefully planned rather than accidental or happenstance. Something earned through blood, web fluid and tears. This wasn't just some chaotic emergent gameplay, it was a moment of premeditated triumph. It also necessarily came very late in the game, at a time when I was already well-versed in fleet urban traversal and a grubby veteran of every nook, cranny and alley of Insomniac's bustling model of NYC.
Even though the whole city is unlocked at the outset, each district is slowly topped up with extras tasks as you progress through the story, the side-quest equivalent of periodically adding white wine to a risotto. Those of us who have played Spider-Man open-world games for years know that at some point, everything is going to go to hell. So rather than be stuck swinging around collecting cached backpacks or attempting drone speed-runs in a permanently benighted New York game state of sirens, flames and chaos, I hoovered up every extracurricular activity I could while the sun was still shining and people were still cheery.
That meant by the time I finished story mode, I had sailed past the nominal level 50 experience cap, maxed out my skill tree (although I did get five upgrades free as part of some pre-order business) and had ticked off the vast majority of achievements simply by being a methodical nerd, which kind of fits with the character. That, in turn, put me within spitting distance of a Spider-Man platinum trophy: in fact, what could be my first ever platinum on PS4. Suddenly, any post-story aimlessness from completing the main campaign evaporated. I had alighted on a new mission.
Admittedly, not all of it was fun. Unlocking 100 per cent completion in each and every city district involved cruising around in search of just the right random crime to meet the required quota. Also, a slightly botched UI design meant that I did not realise until very late on that I still had four Spider-suits to 'buy' to complete my spandex wardrobe - and because of the rather needlessly complicated currency system, that meant cherrypicking some arduous Taskmaster tasks to try and complete to bring in the extra dosh, token by painstaking token. There was also some necessary business with tethering bad dudes together with trip-mines, one of the various combat Spider-gadgets that I had overlooked in favour of ... well, mostly clonking baddies in the face with their own car doors.
So my standout moment of Spider-Man was simply purchasing the butt-ugly Fear Itself suit after grinding out the required challenge tokens. But that seemingly innocuous action unlocked the A Suit For All Seasons silver trophy, which in turn activated the Be Greater platinum trophy, which in turn supercharged my own sense of self-worth. This, surely, is what it feels like to be a hero.
Was it too easy? Maybe. When the first major Spider-Man update arrived, Insomniac patched in a New Mode Plus mode that also came with an associated trophy (plus another for completing the game on Ultimate difficulty - sheesh!) So while technically my 100% platinum still stands there are plenty more hoops to swing through, especially with the drip-drip of story DLC.
This heart-sinking moving of the goalposts feels of a piece with the character, though. Spider-Man is a hero who always strives to do his best but rarely catches a break: since the 1960s, Peter has been grousing about "the old Parker luck". Or perhaps it was just karmic revenge for my platinum trophy celebration, which involved a whooping, web-slinging trip past Harlem to take a disrespectful peace-sign selfie at the graveside of Uncle Ben while in the Undies suit (Spidey mask, novelty boxers, otherwise naked). An exhilarating victory lap, sure, but also grounds to revoke that precious trophy.
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