Even years after its initial release, Insomniac’s take on web-swinging around New York feels like the perfection of a formula. Marvel’s Spider-Man effortlessly integrates numerous side missions and fun city traversal into a narrative that equals (and sometimes surpasses) recent MCU takes on the character. All this while taking bold new directions with the character and integrating classic villains and recent developments in the comics. It’s great that more players will get the opportunity to play this instant classic. My initial revisit of the game reveals an amazing and spectacular PC port that’s anything but adjective-less.
The new PC version comes from the remastered release on PlayStation 5, which has its own strengths and weaknesses. Technically, the game runs at high resolutions without any loading, although you can reenable the humorous subway scenes during fast travel segments. Visually, the game uses the refreshed Peter Parker face that more closely aligns with the MCU version of Spidey, which is a shift for anyone who played the original release. Considering how original Insomniac’s take is on this classic comics universe, the decision to shift things more toward the movies is still disappointing to this day.
The game also has a long tutorial period before it really opens up, which is something that may prevent PlayStation veterans from getting back in the grove. Even with this impediment, it was a blast to relearn the mechanics of swinging between buildings, punching through a crowd of goons, and picking off enforcers via stealth sequences. The entire gameplay loop encourages variety over all else, and nothing about it feels dated in 2022.
Alongside the entire campaign and the Black Cat-centric DLC, Insomniac has also made modding tools available, and the community is hard at work expanding the scope of the already sizable base game to fit the insatiable appetite of PC users. While this has caused controversy for the small group who wanted to remove the pride flags from the city, there are also plenty of great additions to be had across the web.
This is all to be expected with a PC port, and Sony has brought several former PlayStation exclusives to the platform with similarly high-quality results. The big news with this port is that it’s one of the first to release after the wide availability of the Steam Deck. Sony made sure to promote that their new superhero game was Verified for the Deck, meaning that it runs without issues on the go. This is technically true, but there are some caveats to consider before you plan on saving New York from the comfort of a doctor’s waiting room.
I will say that it’s a thrill to load up a recent AAA game like Spider-Man and see it run beautifully in a handheld form factor. I sat in front of the TV and cleared out some New York crime while watching Monday Night RAW, but the Steam Deck couldn’t hold out until the main event. Realistically, you’re looking at only 1-2 hours of play from a full battery charge, and that’s simply not enough to consider the game portable, even if it does run on the hardware. One of the main advantages of Spider-Man as a game is how absorbing it can be as you ping between street crime, story missions, and hunting down collectibles. That will never happen on this first iteration of the Steam Deck because of its battery capacity, so I’d warn against buying the game specifically for that purpose.
If you know these limitations and plan on staying near a power outlet like you’re playing a Game Boy without access to AA batteries, Spider-Man on Steam Deck is just as good as playing at the computer desk for the brief window it’s playable. The controls feel natural by default, and the gameplay doesn’t suffer from the lower screen resolution. The game does start to chug if your Deck overheats during gameplay, which did happen to me on several occasions during my testing, but I can’t say definitively if that was because of the game or because I live in Florida and it’s the middle of August. Either way, it’s another reason to stick to the main PC until Valve puts out the Deck’s official TV dock and lets you blow things up on the big screen.
All and all, Marvel’s Spider-Man is an excellent PC port in the same tradition as Sony’s other work since they remembered that personal computers can run video games. The game itself holds up masterfully as an open-world exploration in the style we don’t get as often as we used to, and playing on PC will be just as viable an option for anyone who still hasn’t managed to nab a PlayStation 5 as of yet. I do hope that Sony considers a dual release for Insomniac’s much-anticipated sequel for that very reason, but it seems that they want to keep their console market healthy with exclusives for a while longer, or at least until their legal arguments against the practice come back to bite them.