Spider-Man PS4
Spider-Man will feature a set of animations that ensure the player never kills anyone, accidentally or not.Sony

Every Spider-Man game since 2004's Spider-Man 2 has lived in the shadow of that open world classic, each failing to capture the perfect balance of play and understanding of the character future Call of Duty developers Treyarch struck with its movie tie-in.

Known for swinging through Manhattan's iconic skyline, his immeasurable love for his home city, his web-slinging abilities and penchant for dropping in on baddies unannounced, Spidey is clearly the perfect protagonist for an open-world game.

It now falls to Insomniac Games, the developers behind Ratchet and Clank and Sunset Overdrive, to give fans the Spider-Man game they've long dreamed of.

Following a brief announcement trailer last year, at this year's E3 trade show the game was revealed in full with ten minutes of exhilarating gameplay that almost single-handedly saved Sony's conference.

Eager to see more, I made my way to the showfloor and sat down with Insomniac's community director James Stevenson. Instead of the new look at the game however, I was instead talked through a live playthrough of the aforementioned demo.

While I was initially disappointed not to see something new, watching the construction site capers play out in real-time revealed a game that is far less scripted than I had expected. Instead of combat that boils down to a set of animations that do all the work for you, players can in fact choose how they want to approach each enemy encounter.

Taking control of Spidey, you can opt to use your webs to sling various parts of the environment at your foes, choose to hang upside down and lure unsuspecting goons into devious web traps, or simply just swing towards them and start a good old-fashioned scrap.

No matter your preference, it's a relief to see that players have the tools to neutralise Manhattan's thugs how they want.

Speaking of Manhattan, importantly the city is just as much the star as Parker himself. "You can free-roam around all of Manhattan," confirms Stevenson. "The easiest way for us to think of it – in terms of size - is that [the city] is four to six times larger than Sunset Overdrive's map."

While Sunset Overdrive didn't exactly have the biggest game map in the world, this still suggests that players will have a reasonably large playground to swing through.

And swinging will be crucial to the game's success. Players fondly remember Spider-Man 2 because it was such a pleasure to swing through its version New York. This was thanks to perfectly-pitched mechanics that conveyed the momentum and adrenaline surge of a typical Peter Parker commute.

Spider-Man PS4
Peter Parker's Spider-Man striking a pose.Sony

Encouragingly, Stevenson emphasises the team's focus on traversal, confirming that all the web-slinging in the game is physics-based. Throughout our demo, we see the player select exactly where they want Spidey to swing to, zipping from perch to perch with pinpoint precision.

In a bid to make it feel like players are always moving, the Spidey in our demo was guided straight into the side of a skyscraper. Expecting a splat, instead our hero effortlessly runs straight up the side of the building.

Web-slinging also comes into play in combat. "Peter's web-shooters are mechanical." explains Stevenson. "He's a genius, so of course he will create new gadgets - he even built his own suit. He can build lots of different things, and depending on what he builds, they will drain the web meter different amounts."

After showing off the wall-crawler encasing thugs in a variety of elaborate webbing combos, the demo heads towards the same grand finale from the trailer... a finale which had some viewers groaning in frustration.

After defeating all the goons in his way, Spidey finds the main villain – Mister Negative - escaping in a helicopter. The ensuing chase sees Spidey attempting to slow down the aircraft and save terrified citizens below its trail of carnage.

With sweeping camera angles and impressive feats, in order for this all to flow seamlessly, players are tasked with hitting a series of button prompts that appear on screen. In other words, players lose full control, only interacting with the game through divisive quick time events (QTEs).

Asking him how many times we can expect to see player's lose full control of Spidey, Stevenson is quick to assure me that QTEs are very much the exception in Insomniac's Spider-Man, and not the rule.

Spider-Man PS4
Spider-Man's combat mechanic has been likened by many to that of Rocksteady's Batman Arkham games.Sony

"This is a huge set piece so you have a couple of [QTES] here, but honestly, this is a ten minute plus demo and there's only 20/25 seconds of QTEs in the whole thing. You'll see set pieces and we'll only use [QTEs] for those really cinematic moments. They're there, but there aren't a lot of them. For most battles, you're the one in control."

Stevenson also revealed a few juicy details about the game's story. Divorced entirely from the comics or movies, he confirmed that Insomniac's Spider-Man isn't an origin story. "Peter's graduated college and has a job working in a laboratory," Stevenson explains.

Players are put into the shoes of a fully capable 23-year-old Peter Parker and will have to deal with everything from fighting crime to dealing with his love life. But the question is, will we actually get to control Peter out of his costume? Stevenson's evasive answer certainly suggests that is a possibility. "We think the best Spider-Man stories are the ones where Peter's and Spider-Man's worlds collide."

Stevenson pauses, fidgeting uncomfortably. "Peter's story is very important to us... that's all I'm going to say."

While previous games have seen Spidey face off against classic villains like Rhino, the demo's roles for Mister Negative and Wilson 'Kingpin' Fisk display a more niche selection of supervillains for our web-slinging hero.

"Kingpin and Mister Negative aren't the only two villains you'll see in this game, but we really like Mister Negative." says Stevenson, with a smile. "Fans seem to love him and we think he's a fresh choice. There are a lot of aspects of his story that tie into the rest of the story that we want to tell. It's a massive story and we've worked really hard on it. There's a reason we chose him specifically... but I don't want to spoil it."

While he certainly doesn't spoil it, Stevenson does drop a hint about how Mister Negative's dual identities embody the difficult collision of Peter and Spider-Man's separate worlds. "Peter discovers that Martin Li, AKA Mister Negative, is running this gang, which is troublesome because Martin Li also runs all the peace shelters in the city... and Aunt May works in a peace shelter."

We came away impressed with what Insomniac is working on, so now we'll just cross our web-shooters that next year's PS4 exclusive delivers the virtual Spidey experience that we've all been dreaming of.

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