Forget “Sex & the City” – HBO’s version of Manhattan never let Carrie swing majestically from the skyscraper rooftops, like some sort of magical bird.
In the recent “Spider-Man” game for the PlayStation 4, you’ve got free rein to fly across vast swaths of Manhattan’s iconic skyline. From Battery Park to North Harlem, the West Side Highway to the FDR Drive, Spidey’s able to soar through the air and take in the sights.
What’s most impressive isn’t just the scale, but how closely that virtual version of Manhattan matches up with the real thing.
See for yourself:
One World Trade Center in “Spider-Man”:
It’s the tallest building in Spider-Man’s Manhattan, just like in real life:
And here is One World Trade in real life. A slightly different design, but not too different.
The Battery Park in Spider-Man’s Manhattan is slightly smaller than the real thing:
In reality, Battery Park is much larger — it spans the majority of Manhattan’s southern tip, and bleeds into the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.
The Staten Island Ferry Terminal is notoriously missing from “Spider-Man,” though its ferries can be spotted in the harbour next to Battery Park:
Here’s the real thing — if you’re visiting NYC, don’t miss the free ride from lower Manhattan to Staten Island (and back):
Speaking of, the Statue of Liberty shows up in the right place — off the coast of southern Manhattan, not far from Ellis Island:
In reality, the island housing The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island aren’t directly next to each other:
Governor’s Island gets a surprisingly accurate depiction despite being relatively unknown outside of NYC:
Governor’s Island was used as a Coast Guard outpost until the mid-’90s, when it was converted to a recreational space. The entire perimeter of the island is a track for running, walking, and cycling. It’s accessible from Brooklyn and Manhattan via ferry, which is free.
In “Spider-Man,” you’re only able to swing around Manhattan. No Queens, nor Staten Island, The Bronx, and Brooklyn. It’s a real shame, but also Manhattan is gigantic.
It’s hard to convey how much I want to swing around my borough as Spider-Man, but I understand why “Spider-Man” maker Insomniac Games didn’t re-create all five boroughs of New York City: It would be an absurd task!
As it is, Manhattan in “Spider-Man” is gigantic – and “Spider-Man” features a heavily truncated version of Manhattan. If players could swing all the way from Jamaica Bay to East New York to the West Side Highway, it could be overwhelming.
From bottom to top, here’s the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and the Williamsburg Bridge — a close match to the trio of bridges connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan.
In reality, there’s much more space between the Manhattan Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge, but the game’s approximation is quite close.
The general shape and layout of NYC is spot on:
Aside from the missing ferry terminal and a general scaling down, “Spider-Man” nails lower Manhattan — just compare the previous image to this one from real life:
Moving uptown a bit, Union Square is pretty dramatically shrunken in “Spider-Man”:
The real thing is far more grandiose and vast — it’s a large park that stretches several blocks in all directions:
For some bizarre reason, the game replaces the statue of George Washington that usually stands in Union Square with this statue of William Henry Seward that normally sits in Madison Square Park.
Moving further uptown a few blocks on Broadway is the game’s loving re-creation of the iconic Flatiron Building.
The Flatiron Building divides Broadway from 5th Avenue, and sits just below Madison Square Park at 23rd Street.
Madison Square Park is far smaller, and completely excludes the original Shake Shack location:
In reality, Madison Square Park is larger and more detailed. Where the chairs are in-game is where a fountain usually sits. Where the sculpture is, you’d see a massive line of people stretching from the original Shake Shack location.
The shrinking continues as Spider-Man swings up Broadway toward Herald Square.
Herald Square in reality is a major intersection at 34th Street and Broadway in midtown Manhattan. It’s the unofficial beginning of mid-town.
Perhaps the glitz and glamour was saved for Times Square, which is resplendent in “Spider-Man”:
Massive screens with advertisements surround Times Square in-game, just like the real thing.
You probably don’t need a comparison here given that it’s Times Square, but here you go just in case:
Though Madison Square Garden isn’t much of a looker in real life, the in-game version is somehow even less exciting:
In reality, Madison Square Garden is atop Penn Station — in the game, it’s above “Square Station.”
The Empire State Building (right) and the Chrysler Building (middle) are both looking very similar to their real-life counterparts.
Here’s a closer look at the Chrysler Building:
As always, the Empire State Building is striking against the bright blue sky behind it:
The two buildings are staples of the NYC skyline, and it’s smart that Insomniac didn’t change anything for these two icons:
But the MetLife Building above Grand Central Station is different. Instead of MetLife, it’s a Colexco building.
Here’s the real thing, towering above Grand Central Station in midtown Manhattan:
Alongside the East River, the United Nations Headquarters is near-perfectly modelled. It’s a striking building, both in-game and in real life:
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is also given the re-creation treatment, and it’s stunningly accurate:
Here’s the real thing for comparison:
Rockefeller Center gets the shrinking treatment as well, with the whole area getting shrunk down to a much smaller version of the real thing. Here’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where “Saturday Night Live” (and many other shows) are filmed:
The NBC Studios marquee is nowhere to be found, to say nothing of the Nintendo World Store and the gorgeous golden statue of angels.
The ice skating rink itself is much smaller as well:
The flags are all absent in the game, as is this bright gold statue:
Radio City Music Hall is another example of a near-perfect re-creation. It looks almost exactly like the real thing:
It’s bigger in real life, but that’s about it in terms of differences:
The same goes for Lincoln Center, which looks incredibly close to the real place:
The differences are slight at the most:
Columbus Circle, unlike Herald Square, is a large and serious attempt at re-creating the real life Columbus Circle — it’s on the corner of Central Park, just like in reality:
Admittedly, the statue in the middle of Columbus Circle is far shorter in the game:
Central Park is sprawling, just like the real place. It spans dozens of blocks in the middle of both Spider-Man’s Manhattan and our own:
It’s not actually possible to fit all of Central Park into a single image in “Spider-Man”:
Even the general layout is pretty similar to the real place:
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is a distinct icon of NYC. It’s located on Museum Mile, in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The building is directly re-created in the game:
No catches here — the game perfectly re-creates the Guggenheim Museum. It’s small enough and straightforward enough that such a thing is possible.
Unfortunately, the even more iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art is missing — it’s replaced with this monstrosity:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a gorgeous, classically designed building — it’s not clear why it’s replaced:
And finally, here’s a gorgeous re-creation of Grand Central Station’s magnificent, voluminous interior:
It’s not a perfect re-creation in-game, but it’s damn close — having been inside Grand Central many times, it was bizarre exploring the location in a game:
The Manhattan of “Spider-Man” ends in mid-Harlem. There’s no Marcus Garvey Park, and no Apollo Theatre, to say nothing of entire neighbourhoods like Washington Heights.
The further north you go in Manhattan, the less alike the map is to actual Manhattan. But in general, the re-creation of Manhattan in “Spider-Man” is more detailed, more thorough, more downright impressive than any other game I’ve ever played.
It’s a genuine marvel.
And now, a few bonuses — like The Avengers building, which is nearly as tall as One World Trade:
And Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Santorum:
And the Embassy of Wakanda:
Oh, how could I tell that this building was the Embassy of Wakanda? Simple:
There’s so much more about “Spider-Man” that feels like a love letter to New York City, including Spidey outright riding the subway while staring down at his phone — like a true New Yorker.
I didn’t include much of Wall Street here, or The High Line, or The Whitney Museum of American Art, or Chinatown, or … there’s a lot. “Spider-Man” does an incredibly impressive job of re-creating a Manhattan very similar to the real thing.
Do yourself a favour and play it! And then come visit New York City.