There have been many video game iterations of Spider-Man and the New York City he inhabits over the last 30 years, going all the way back to Questprobe for the Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, DOS, Acorn Electron, and ZX Spectrum. In 2004, Activision launched Spider-Man 2, and it was the best vision of the character and city in the history of the franchise. Now, let’s see how a modern version, Marvel's Spider-Man  ($59.85 on Amazon)   holds up when equipped with 4K HDR graphics and with Insomniac Games at the helm.

This review was written by AVS Forum "ghost reviewer" Datsm. While he wishes to remain anonymous, credit is given where it's due—it's his review. Datsm put the time into playing Spider-Man (it's a tough job but someone's gotta do it) using a reference system that includes a PS4 Pro  as well as a 65" Samsung Q9F TV , plus a Dolby Atmos sound system with KEF R-series speakers and a Marantz AV7704 pre/pro .

Platform: PlayStation 4 Pro, PlayStation 4
Developers: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Genre: Action-Adventure
ESRB Rating: T (Everyone)
Resolution: 4k UHD with HDR
Audio Format: 7.1 surround sound
Release Date: September 7, 2018

Synopsis (Taken from Sony’s website):

“After eight years behind the mask, Peter Parker is a crime-fighting master. Feel the full power of a more experienced Spider-Man, with improvisational combat, dynamic acrobatics, fluid urban traversal, and environmental interactions. A rookie no longer, this is the most masterful Spider-Man you’ve ever played.”


REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

Audio: 96

Dynamics: 97
Low Frequency Extension: 95
Positional/Environmental Cues: 95
Detail/Realism: 97

Datsm's Take:

Spider-man gives you a variety of sound options. I decided to test as many of them as I could. The options for listening mode are as follows (along with what they are described as doing).

Maximum - Full dynamic range for premium home theater systems or studio playback
Home Theater -Wide Dynamic range for home theaters or soundbars with a subwoofer
Midnight - Volume control that reduces peak volumes while maintaining audio detail
Headphones - Full detailed mix, for both stereo and surround headphones
Television - Narrow dynamic range for television-only speakers

I spent most of the time playing on Maximum, which I found to be superb with my system. Not only did I benefit from the full dynamic range, I felt like I had a 3D sound stage. I could hear the orchestra playing underneath the soundtrack, like I would expect from a movie. The dialogue was perfectly clear, crisp and sat on-top of the mix.

The surround effect didn’t disappoint either; I heard cars, people walking on the street and the wind whipping by while I swung through Marvel’s New York City. I could even detect the birds and helicopters in the distance.

As my altitude varied, so did the sound effects, in a very comprehensive way. Plus, LFE was implemented nicely in the mix and never felt overwhelming. This is one of the most balanced mixes I’ve listened to although I do did wish the low end had a little more punch to it (but this comment is coming from playing hours of God of War ).

Home Theater mode took everything above and compressed it in a way I did not like. All the elements of the mix were still there, but the result sounded flat. I wasn’t expecting such a dramatic difference.

The Midnight mode was not implemented properly in my opinion. All this did was lower the dB on dialogue and some surround effects. What it did not do was control the bass effects which is the biggest nighttime culprit when it comes to disturbing others.

I did not try headphones; I’m not set up for that.

Television was a surprise for me. It took all great things about Maximum and put them into a well-balanced 2-channel mix. I highly recommend using this if you only have 2 speakers or a soundbar, the description of the feature does not jibe with the result.

Video: 98

Resolution/Clarity: 98
Black Levels: 96
Color Reproduction: 98
Compression: 98

Datsm's Take:

This game is gorgeous. Having spent a lot of time in New York City, Spider-Man really captured it well. The city felt lived in and not a single detail was missed.

The HDR in this game was fantastic and added realism to the overall experience. You could see beautiful sunsets and reflections off the water and buildings. Looking at the river and seeing all the boats and the Statue of Liberty in the distance gives the sense you are actually there. I could even see reflections from the Spidey suit and buildings. When I turned HDR off, the game was still very pretty, but looked dim and lost some clarity and its vibrancy.

This “SDR dimness” was most noticeable at night time. It became difficult to make out the details of the city and everything in the distance became a black blob with lights. With HDR on, it was the best version of a nighttime city I have ever seen in a game.

Still, even if you don’t have an HDR display, you will enjoy how beautiful the game is, but with a good HDR display, you’ll get a near-perfect experience. My only knock is with a game world this big, you can see where they had to cut corners on the textures. Sometimes, something looked stunning, and then when a low-res texture appears next to the stunning one, the contrast is obvious.

Final Thoughts:

Spider-Man lives up to all the hype and then some. It’s an absolute pleasure to play. I also want to highlight to score in this game; it is phenomenal, with an epic feel and an ability to turn whimsical at the best times.

Reference Review System:

KEF R700, R600, R800ds, R50, R400b
Marantz 7704
Emotiva XPA 5 and XPA 2
Playstation 4 Pro
Xbox One X
65" Samsung Q9 QLED