Introduction to 1ST2H
1ST2H stands for ‘first two hours’. I’m trying my hand at a new type of post, where I play a computer game in my collection that I’ve never played before, and then write up my experience and thoughts on it shortly after. These posts are not intended to compete with any more dedicated reviews or other journalistic endeavours relating to the title, instead being ruminations on only those first two hours of game-time, kept to about one thousand words.
Thanks to various in-store or digital sales over the years, I’ve collected – as have many others – more than one title that I’ve purchased but never got around to installing, updating and playing. This is especially so given that some of the newer open-world games are not the sort where you can sit and play for a casual 30-60 minutes and then do something else. Some of these encourage marathon sittings – not that I’m complaining about that in the slightest; I’ve played many an all-day or all-night gaming session.
1ST2H is intended to counter that reluctance to put that much time aside to some degree, by taking movie-sized chuck out of an afternoon or evening, and seeing what these games that I’ve never played are actually like.
Some will be ‘AAA’ titles. Some are lower profile or indie games. Several are already years old. The only thing I can say for sure is that in each case I probably picked the game up at discount, probably not on release date, and that I definitely haven’t played it yet.
Format on which it is played will vary. Without making a hard and fast rule, the clock will be started after updates have been downloaded and installed, and once the start button has been pressed. The timer will be paused for any character creations, as I know what I’m like. The timer and my play-through will be stopped just after the two-hour mark, as soon as is ‘safe’ to do so – i.e. not in the middle of an action sequence/mission. And I won’t play it again until I’m writing up the post, where I may need to revisit anything that I’m questioning.
Future posts will have shorter introductions, I promise. Now, onwards to entry number one.
1ST2H: Marvel’s Spider-Man
Platform / Released: Playstation 4 (slim) / 2018
Developer/Publisher: Insomniac Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment
Picked up at the end of 2018, this is actually one of the newer entrants to my guilt-inducing catalogue of un-played games. Reviews at the time seemed to be rate the game as outstanding, and I have managed to not actually get the ending spoiled for me yet. I also, for a while, had an employee reporting into me who raved about the game and strongly recommended it as his favourite of the year. On the back of those facts, I finally gave it a whirl.
First things first, seeing as this isn’t actually a review, I can say I’ll be playing this a lot more. It’s an open-world game set in Manhattan, and my first experience of a Spider-Man game ever. Web-swinging through New York was fun and gorgeous, even despite my tendency towards face-plating Spidey into buildings (which thankfully didn’t seem to hurt).
The game starts with an established Spider-Man, known to the NYPD as a friend, and several years after he donned the mask. He’s already built up a few enemies, and the very first mission has him working with the NYPD Chief to take on Wilson Fisk – the villain Kingpin. I’ve only known Kingpin from the Daredevil show on Netflix, but liked the seeming similarity in character style. I can’t recall if they named him as Kingpin or just Fisk in the game… that might be a plot element later.
Swinging through the city is encouraged right from the start, and although I was – and still am – clumsy with the swings, it is something that seems to get easier as you go. And as the game time progressed to sunset over those first few hours, the lighting was amazing. And that was just on a standard PS4 – on the Pro it must be beautiful.
The game pulled no punches about getting into the action on the first mission, which is an explosive and frenetic police raid on Fisk’s HQ. I won’t pretend I didn’t die a couple of times, but it was a fun way to set the game’s pace, and teach you how fast and dexterous Spider-Man is.
Right from the start there is an emphasis on aerial moves and hand to hand fighting, with combos and special moves quickly being revealed to you, the player. These possibly came a little too quick, as I often felt that I didn’t have time to digest each one before the next was revealed. Fortunately, the basics don’t take long to pin down, and with a healthy use of dodge I was able to get through the mission. Even two hours in to the game I’m only just getting used to the moves, but am able to handle more enemies at once without being completely pounded… some of the time. I get the feeling that a player who has got used to the moves must be able to pull off some great and swift takedowns on the city’s gangs.
Through phone calls after the opening mission, the non-super side of Spider-Man’s life is introduced early, and we meet Doctor Octavius. Having seen the movies I know where that thread might lead, but am happy to still be in the dark. The meeting serves to introduce some puzzle-based aspects of the game that I suspect will show up throughout, getting harder as they go, hopefully; I do like a puzzle to solve. Through Doctor Octavius another game mechanic is introduced – the ability to upgrade Spider-Man’s suits and add gadgets, using resource tokens.
There are six types of token in the game, earned through a number of different tasks. Being an open world game, I’m assuming that some will be via side-missions, challenges, and exploring. I’ve not yet seen all of the types, only those that the game’s plot has led me to.
The music was enjoyable, though I had to go back into the game while writing this to refresh my recollection. It has a strong Marvel feel to it, and is reminiscent of the movies – I got an Avengers vibe off it, which I really liked.
I played the first two hours following the game’s lead, and it hadn’t let go of my hand by then. I don’t know when I will eventually just start ‘ignoring’ the main quest line to go explore, but with games like this it is fun and rewarding to do so. I’m also not sure if the whole map is open for exploring yet, or whether it opens in segments – I’ve only got the starting area of Lower Greenwich revealed right now. I think that the way the map is opened is by unscrambling the police’s crime scanners in each map segment. In two hours though, I hadn’t really familiarised myself with that mechanic.
I liked the sense of humour, with Spider-Man offering quips in both cut-scenes and in-game moments, and that they have already established his playful relationship with Yuri. Even Kingpin knew that Spider-Man was young, but it was nice to see that no one has yet worked out who he is, as far as I know. I also liked that one of the things encouraging you to explore the map is to find backpacks that a younger self left carefully webbed up and hidden around the city many years ago. It gave a nice sense of time having passed.
I hadn’t expected the game to have levelling up aspects, but do like them. A multi-pronged level-based skill tree has nine different paths to open up, and plenty of side-challenges look like they will earn points and to open up those skills. This, combined with the gadgets and suit upgrades, should allow for some varied play styles. I’m looking forward to seeing what feels most fun to me.
There is DLC, released since launch, amounting to about an additional £16. I’ll play the base-game first and see if I want to add those later, they seem to only be a set of mission packs. I’m not sure if they add other suits or toys.
In two hours, I completed a couple of crime-in-progress quests fed to me by the opening arc, as well as the opening mission, and a base-raid. Hopefully, there will be a lot of variation to come, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen so far.