This isn't the first release of Marvel's Spider-Man from Insomniac Games, in fact it isn't even the second having launched on PS4 and then arriving in Remastered form on PS5 along side Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Despite all this, and the fact that each game has included a pretty comprehensive photo mode, it is a title that I have somehow never managed to review on this blog.
With the PC version of Spider-Man Remastered promising to make the game and its visuals better than ever, it seems about time to put that right, especially with a full sequel due to arrive in 2023.
- SPIDER-MAN // REMASTERED -
Coming to PC through both the Stream and Epic store fronts, Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered is another chance to experience Peter Parker's story as he swings through the bustling New York streets as Spider-Man. Expect the same acrobatic traversal and highly fluid combat that made the original so popular, as well as the complete line-up of engaging characters and enemies that Peter encounters as he battles the duality of his alter egos in the main story and 3-part DLC "The City that Never Sleeps".
Being a Remastered edition, the game naturally comes with a whole host of improvements over the 2018 original, despite that not really being all that long ago. Top of the list are enhanced visuals with higher quality graphical assets and improved character models, along with Peter's new face, and support for native 4K or performance modes, faster loading times, DualSense controller functionality, and for those with a compatible GPU, fully ray-traced reflections on New York's many windows and shiny floors.
- RT-OFF // RT_ON -
OK so all of that may already be in the PS5 version of the Remaster, but expect even more from the inbound PC port handled by newly acquired PlayStation Studio, Nixxes Software. Controls are now fully customisable, and naturally support keyboard and mouse should you prefer a little extra cramp in your hands while playing, and the already gorgeous visuals are even further refined.
For a start, shadow quality and ray-traced reflections can be pushed higher with several optional quality levels, while there is also support for unlocked framerates and Nvidia Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), and quality focused techniques such as Temporal Anti-Aliasing (TAA) and Deep Learning Anti-Aliasing (DLAA) on supported hardware.
- SPIDER-MAN // PC SPECS -
Then there is the much-touted ultrawide screen formats which include 21:9 for a cinematic look, and 32:9 or 48:9 for multi-monitor setups (compatible monitor setup and / or resolution mode required). The result is that, on the right hardware, Spider-Man for PC is the best looking version of the game to date with an extremely crisp and detailed presentation. A visual feast that inevitably makes jumping back into Insomniac's very capable photo mode quite a tempting prospect...
Key Photo Mode Features:
Ambient & 3-point spot light control
Free and orbit camera modes
Full ray-traced reflections (compatible hardware required)
Controls & Implementation:
The default photo mode here will be immediately familiar to anyone who has played Insomniac's other recent releases, and with no support for Nvidia Ansel or other camera mods at the time of writing, it is the only option for now. That's hardly a bad thing though thanks to the studio's impressive feature set.
Found in the pause menu or via the optional shortcut button assignment, the photo mode freezes the action and presents a tabbed UI that is split into separate Camera, Lighting, and Sticker modes. A couple of cool things from Ratchet & Clank are absent, most notably the separate Character mode and animated effects, but otherwise this is a complete carry-over from Miles Morales.
- SPIDER-MAN // PHOTO MODE UI -
With camera movement still a common photo mode downfall, it is great to see Insomniac stick with their flexible approach of including both free and orbital camera movement options. In Free mode you can expect unhindered truck & dolly movement with the LS, vertical craning via LT / RT, and centre-axis pan & tilt control on the RS as well as full range of roll (erroneously marked "Tilt" on the UI) for easy 360° look-direction anywhere within a reasonably generous camera bounding area.
Switching to Orbit mode fixes the camera to a tether and rotates around Spider-Man from its current position for more convenient exploration of portrait angles. Finally there is the trademark Selfie mode which literally puts the camera at arm's-length for a mobile phone-style shot, compete with surprisingly bright flash and a handful of Spidey-eye emotes.
Don't forget the hyphen between Spider and Man...
It is worth noting that even while playing with an attached controller, the photo mode will still accept mouse and keyboard inputs if you prefer. The latter definitely offers more precision when composing a shot, which is more than welcome considering how the camera can be quite twitchy and lacks fine adjustment, especially when shooting close-up.
As in previous Spider-Man photo modes, the camera is also often reluctant to go all the way to ground level and tends to detect a collision and stop some distance before it really needs to. It's a bit of a pain to say the least, but can be overcome with some back-and-forth wriggling when you want to access low-angled shots.
- SPIDER-MAN // LOW BLOW -
In terms of the optical characteristics, this is a photo mode that shies away from any real-world camera settings, but still manages to achieve an authentic look with a series of straightforward 0-100 slider bars. The field of view covers a wide range and can be further affected by first adjusting the in-game FoV setting, while exposure can be shifted to capably over or underexpose virtually any scene.
With no simulated aperture f-stop values, depth of field must be generated manually by first setting the maximum distance at which things appear in-focus, and then increasing the "aperture" effects to defocus the background while a similar pair of sliders do the same for the foreground. It is a bit more of an involved setup, and the large distance steps lack a bit of finesse in some situations. Done right though, the depth of field is often convincing and results in a beautiful circular bokeh on defocused light sources.
- SPIDER-MAN // BOKEH -
Post processing options come in the form of a selection of 29 preset filters which include some attractive colour palettes and stylised rendering modes, all of which can be faded in and out, plus options for a circular vignette, and a static but scalable film grain overlay to take the digital edge off. Control over the chromatic aberration is once again missing from the photo mode though and must be disabled entirely from the in-game graphics menu if you want improved image clarity.
There is also a simple sharpening effect to further enhance the details but be warned, it is quite an aggressive implementation that is prone to causing some nasty edge effects if applied too strongly, especially on the highly detailed suit textures or character's hair!
- SPIDER-MAN // SHARPENING -
Speaking of suits, there is a very welcome option to swap between all of Spidey's unlocked costumes without leaving the photo mode so you never need to be caught wearing the wrong threads again, or you can simply hide Spider-Man from view completely. The same can be done for his enemies and weather effects, but not public NPCs, for a tidier view.
Should you want to go in the opposite direction, there are plenty of options to embellish the underlying shot with all manner of pre-designed digital assets. The 35 frames available provide a range of thematic graphical surrounds, while an extensive library of stickers lets you lay on the comic book style.
Stick it to 'em...
With over 380 to choose from – including categories such as Chibis, Marvel Comics, and action bubbles – up to 10 stickers can be scaled, rotated and placed on-screen either above or below any selected frame. Better yet, each sticker layer can be individually and instantly cleared, something that I'm sure anyone familiar with Cyberpunk 2077 will appreciate!
Back into the realms of photographic realism, Insomniac's impressive lighting options once again stand out as a photo mode highlight, no pun intended. With superb direct and ambient light in-game, Spider-Man is rarely short of some realistic virtual photons, and the dedicated Lighting Mode ensures that every scene can be tweaked to your liking.
A Natural Light section offers adjustment of the ambient light to minimise or exaggerate the bounced light and bloom from the surroundings, plus direct control over the elevation, intensity, and angle of the sun. Moving the sun (or moon) obviously has limited effect indoors or underground, but when the conditions are right, this can effectively be used to tweak the time of day or just to switch the direction that shadows fall.
The industry standard as far as consumer-level tools are concerned...
Most powerful of all though is the ability to place up to 3 separate studio lights anywhere within the camera bounding area, either as omnidirectional sphere lights or focused spot lights. With each light source getting independent intensity, colour and shine distance, as well as control over the spread and harshness of spot lamp beams, this mobile studio lighting setup really can transform any shot.
- SPIDER-MAN // LIGHTING MODE -
Light placement is aided by visualised rigs to show what can be done without the need for an overly complicated UI in what is still the industry standard as far as consumer-level tools are concerned. If I had any major complaint, it has to be that there still isn't an effective way to pull the camera back for an overview without disrupting the composition, often leaving things at the mercy of having potent spatial awareness skills.
Rendered in glorious detail down to the last thread of material...
This is a Spider-Man game so it is inevitable that the web-slinging hero will take centre stage as he stylishly swings, thwips and whacks his way through NYC's seemingly endless muggings, robberies and car chases. That is with good reason though because Spidey and his suits, including a few Remaster-extras, are rendered in glorious detail down to the last thread of material, while the newly added ultrawide resolution modes offer the chance to go for an even more cinematic feel or just get creative with his antics.
- WIDESCREEN // ANTICS -
Unlike in the PS5 version, it seems that the game will not default to the highest quality / ray-traced mode when entering photo mode on PC, but the whole range of graphics settings means that you can crank the level of detail up to the max any time you want. This obviously comes at the cost of framerate and might not be ideal for action shots, but it is certainly worth considering for the highest quality portraits.
SHOCKER // SPIDER-MAN -
Main character aside, the supporting cast of friends and foes also offer nicely detailed models and some unique visual opportunities. Much like how capturing Spider-Man swinging across Times Square has an appeal all of its own, seeing the Sinister Six wield their various powers against him is reason enough to roll out the virtual cameras, remember to make a few strategic manual saves to revisit key areas though.
- TOMBSTONE // ROLL OUT -
Even without set pieces, there is plenty to explore and New York City really is a character and photo opportunity in its own right. Crammed full of interesting architecture, impressive skylines, and streets littered with traffic and pedestrians going about their business, there are lots of things to point a camera at, as long as you can stop them doing the same as soon as Spidey arrives. It's a zip to get around too, thanks to Spider-Man's flowing traversal or fast-travel if you want it and, in theory, there is little to stop you freely roaming the entire area right after completing the short prologue.
- SPIDER-MAN // NYC -
The city itself is also where the ray-traced reflections offer the most reward. In this mode, the many glass-lined buildings reflect Spider-Man and his surroundings in real time; it's a big step up from any screen space tech for greater realism and believability.
Whichever direction you choose to go, Spider-Man's mix of faithful urban recreation and added fictional elements is the perfect place to practice anything from street and candid photography, to detailed portraits and action shots with the comic book appeal of Marvel ready and waiting around any corner.
As a game, Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered feels much the same as it did the first time around but, just like it did on PS5, this PC Remaster offers greatly improved visual fidelity for a beautifully crisp and clean way to revisit an outstanding superhero adventure. If you have the right hardware that is.
For virtual photographers, this may make an already popular game an even more attractive proposition, though it undeniably makes most sense for those who have yet to experience it. In either case, Insomniac's photo mode tools remain some of the most versatile and capable out there and, though not without their flaws, they are a great example of how to enable creativity by putting capable features in the hands of the user.
Full Feature Set:
Access & Control
Photo Mode Access: Pause menu / Custom D-pad shortcut
Camera Movement: Free, Orbit & Selfie Horizontal Pan: 360° Vertical Tilt: 180° Roll: ± 180°
Hide UI: Yes
Camera Type: Free / Orbit / Selfie
Suit: Swab between all unlocked suits
Tilt (Roll): Slider (± 180°)
Hero Visibility: On / Off
Enemy Visibility: On / Off
Show Weather: On / Off
Field of View: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Exposure: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Focus Distance: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Aperture (Far): 0 - 100 (± 1)
DoF Range Near: 0 - 100 (± 1)
DoF Aperture Near: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Filter Type: None + 29 Presets
Blend: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Frame Selection: None + 35 Presets
Frame Level: Above Stickers / Below Stickers
Vignette Intensity: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Vignette Size: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Film Grain Size: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Film Grain Strength: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Sharpening: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Selfie Emote: Default + 4 Presets
Eye Intensity: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Selfie Light: Off / On
Light Intensity: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Light 1 / 2 / 3: Off / Sphere / Spot
Intensity: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Cast Shadows: On / Off
Colour: Visualised Slider
Colour Intensity: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Spread: 0 - 100 (± 1) *
Softness: 0 - 100 (± 1) *
Distance: 0 - 100 (± 1)
* Spot Lights only
Natural Light Customise: On / Off
Intensity: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Elevation: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Rotation: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Ambient Light: 0 - 100 (± 1)
Move Camera: Off / On
10 Layers; 1 sticker per layer
6 Categories >380 Designs
Move / Rotate / Scale / Clear
Game Menu Settings
Photo Mode Shortcut: On / Off
Texture Quality: Low - Very High Texture Filtering: 2 - 16x Anisotropic
Shadow Quality: Low - Very High
Ambient Occlusion: Off / SSAO / HBAO+
Screen Space Reflections: On / Off
Ray-Traced Reflections: Off / On
Reflection Resolution: High / Very High
Geometry Detail: High / Very High
Object Range: High / Very High
Level of Detail: Very Low - Very High
Traffic Density: Very Low - High
Crowd Density: Very Low - High
Hair Quality: Very Low - High
Weather Particle Quality: Low - Very High
Depth of Field: Off / Very Low - Very High
Bloom: On / Off
Lens Flares: On / Off
Chromatic Aberration: On / Off
Vignette: On / Off
Motion Blur Strength: 0 - 10
Field of View: -25 to +25
Film Grain Strength: 0 - 10
Upscaling: Off / DLSS
Anti-Aliasing: Off / SMAA / TAA / DLAA