YES. YES TO ALL OF THIS.
Er, that probably takes some explanation.
I'm... not actually sure where to start first. I think maybe we should start with the plot. I think this fic is the living embodiment of "beauty in execution." The story itself is amazingly straight-forward - enough that I don't want to give any of it away. You can predict all the major story beats once you see Peter's boss, and instead of being bored with all of the beats you are instead waiting in tense anticipation for X to happen. How will this occur? How will Y reveation come about? As comic readers when we were kids were expecting things to play in a certain order, but the game plays with cannon enough that we were always surprised, and all of the emotional notes hit and hit HARD.
The game is split into three very definitive acts. Each act ends with a setpiece - the political rally, the jailbreak demo they used in marketing, and the final boss fight. More than that, however, each act is structurally different from each other: Act one is a typical day in the life of Spidey - a big criminal take down; bantering with his cop liaison, trying (and failing) to balance his job, life, and hero-ing; doing SCIENCE; etc. Act 2 is Spidey on an investigation: making contacts, following threads, working with cops and press both to figure out who the big bad is. And, at last, Act 3 is... is... is Spidey having a not-fun, super-frowny, very-bad day. Everything goes wrong and he's just trying so hard and he's worn so thin and... and... plot stuff.
Credit where it's due - the actors and animators are flipping SPECTACULAR. Every emotion, subtle eye flick, mouth twitches, and such subtle delivery as person A descends to insanity or person B tries to come back from tragedy. Highlights include Spidey himself - the shear dirth of sh*t he goes thought in this game, you feel every inch of it when the final boss starts. Like, seriously. Feels. Feels everywhere.
Part of why the story is so amazing is because of the pacing. Unlike other games like the AC franchise, the map isn't littered with icons all at once. It's not a cluttered mess that gives OCD twins like us a heart attack in clearing it. Rather, instead, each new map icon is unlocked one or two at a time - and more over, there are moments in the game where Spidey says things like, "Looks like I have some time to kill," or "It'll be a while before X happens, better get back to the 'Friendly Neighborhood' part." The game actually encourages slowing down at certain points to lean back and take in what's going on. I've never in my life seen a game that actually paces it's open world like that. It's... so... cool!
The side missions themselves are also amazing (yes, yes, I'm punning a lot, I know). They range from collecting backpacks (and subsequently lore bits), taking down criminal dens of various types, working in science research stations (Oh... Harry...), taking pictures of the city. The research stations in particular are funny - it embraces the weirdness of comic books and doesn't even try to ground it. Need a centrifugal force? Drop from Oscorp building and then swing at the last second to be our own centrifuge. Fish sick? Web some oil drums out of the water and then spray healing vapors while saying, "here, fishy fishy fishy..." They're weird, funny, and just different enough to be entertaining. Also Harry. But that's a spoiler.
Side Quests are of a similar flavor and equally cheeky. Help a bird watcher who noticed suspicious individuals in Central Park, save a boyfriend who's being blackmailed and then be offered a movie night. Find a copy Spider-Man and deal with him. All with 100% sincerity and concern. He's just so earnest!
Like Batman Arkham series, Spidey has stealth sections - less about the intimidation and more about clearing the place out until the next wave comes, then it's a combat challenge and ho boy, the combat.
The combat is spectacular - he's fluid, creative, and filled with quips. He has strings of stacking quips, running themes depending on where he is (Sable Agents, help! I'm being attacked by... Sable Agents!), and it's funny to hear him make a joke about a wave right when we were thinking the same thing. We never got good at the Batman combat, but we got really good at Spidey, all the button prompts made sense and it was relatively easy to build a combo. Moreover, more combos are unlocked with skill points as one of the many currencies in the game.
Currencies - different things you do give you different tokens. Backpack tokens, research tokens, crime tokens, challenge tokens. All but one of the tokens are given to you over and over again. We had more than enough research and crime tokens up the wazoo. The challenge tokens.... they expect you to be perfect and that is the one complaint we have. We are decent with combat and passable with stealth but we are not perfect, and some of the challenges are freaking annoying. Building up speed to stop bombs, the expectations with the combos in combat, chasing a freakigng drone and expecting to webswing perfectly through x, y, and z... And out complaint with that is that a lot of the frills are attached to these tokens. Crime tokens are handed out like candy and you have enough research tokens at all times, but the challenge tokens... just... grr!! That makes 100%ing the game really hard!
Challenge tokens aside the game is really accessible. Everything is easy to pick up, and the basics branch out to some really cool feat. Web swinging is a prime example of this - we would just swing at first and it was great, but sometimes we had momentum and sometimes we didn't - and over the course of the game we learned how to build momentum or unlocked perks to make momentum instantaneous OR just leveled up swing speed as we progressed through the game. Point launching from one spot to another is unbelievably fun; watching Spidey do tricks in the air that fills Focus AND Experience mades webswinging not only cathartic but also productive. The motion animations on webswinging are all beautiful - everything flows from on to the next and I especially liked that sometimes Spidey would spin around as he was swinging. FEEL is everything in this game and swinging FEELS great. Everything is about momentum and speed and New York is you playground the way an AC game only DREAMS it could be.
Outside of being Spidey, we can also play as MJ and Miles Morales. MJ's missions are a little more standard but Miles' are spectacles in their own right. He's the center for the Act 1 set piece and then he has a segment later in Act 3 that is basically a horror game. We loved it even though we hate horror games - like, that's impressive! And every there are not enough words to describe watching Spidey take down a baddie when you call him. So cool. Soooo cool.
We love this game. We love learning new tricks or accidentally doing some kind of ultimate ove and then figuring out how we did it. We love watching Spidey be Spidey, and we felt *everything* he felt as the game hit him over the head more and more. We love the Stan Lee cameo - we weren't sure we were going to get one! For us this game lived up to the hype and we reccomend everyone play it.