Marvel’s Spider-Man Still Needs Some Work On The Steam Deck
We’re in a strange new frontier with the Steam Deck, and it's not entirely clear yet how powerful or capable the handheld actually is. While it handles older benchmark games like Control and Red Dead Redemption 2 fairly well after some tweaking, it remains to be seen how well the world’s cheapest handheld PC will run the next batch of GPU melters. Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered, which launched on PC this weekend, could end up being a useful case study in understanding what the next 12-18 months of triple-A games will play like, and as of right now, things aren’t looking great.
Reviewing Spider-Man on the Steam Deck was a bit tricky thanks to frequent patches that improved performance, so a lot of what I experienced during the review period has been smoothed out by now. I expect Sony will roll out even more performance improvements over the coming days and weeks, but I’m not convinced it’s ever going to perform any better than barely acceptable.
Most of my time with Spider-Man on the Steam Deck can be described as playable, but only just. On the lowest settings frame rates hovered between 30-50fps at the best of times, but at the worst, tanked to an unplayable 10-15fps. There’s also a resolution problem when it comes to physical objects Spider-Man interacts with. Anything you need to read or inspect, like the newspaper clippings at the Fisk auction or the framed photos in Doc Ock’s lab, are blurry and unrecognizable. Changing the settings didn’t seem to fix this at all.
Cutscenes look worse than gameplay. Pre-patch, characters’ mouths and eyes would seem to float around in their faces when they spoke. That issue has been fixed, but there’s a distracting amount of aliasing in everyone’s hair. Small details stand out because of how off they look.
Performance takes the biggest hit in big chaotic scenes like the prison break at Rikers and the team takedown with Black Cat in the DLC. At times the game slowed so dramatically that it was unplayable. I noticed this seemed to happen more when the battery was below 50 percent, which typically only took an hour or so of play time. Overheating was a constant issue. The Steam Deck alerts you when that performance is being throttled when it gets too hot.
My recommendation is to keep the Steam Deck plugged in while you’re playing. This seems to reduce overheating, increase performance, and of course, increase play time. Luckily, the screen is small enough that the game still looks pretty good, even on the lowest settings. I’m hopeful that the experience will get better with further updates, considering how well optimized the game is for PC. If this is your first time playing Marvel Spider-Man though, I can’t recommend the Steam Deck experience, at least not yet.
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