Spider-flame shields up!
We checked out the PS4 Spider-Man game from Insomniac Game, and so far it’s looking great and all. But with any upcoming medium or title with potential for greatness, we need to address the fact that they are some factors that are not in said subject’s favour. Especially when it comes to Marvel’s wonderful wall-crawler as he’s starring in his own exclusive PS4 game creatively labelled Marvel’s Spider-Man.
Okay, so it’s not so much “we” as it is “I”, since I’ve played a heckaton of Spider-Man games since the DOS days when he teamed up with Captain America. I’ve played the PS1 Spider-Man games done by the Tony Hawk devs where Doctor Octopus got the symbiote from Carnage and became Octopus Carnage or something like that.
I’ve even suffered through the deluge of Activision Spider-Man games from that Ultimate Spider-Man borefest to the Shattered Dimension Spider-verse crossover long before Dan Slott did that in the comics. That is one period in my career I do not wish to relive again.
So yes, I do have valid concerns for this title thanks to the wall-crawler’s tumultuous gaming history. Let’s address them here.
Too Many Villains Could Spoil The Broth
Right now, we have Mr Negative, Electro, Silver Sable, Scorpion, and a few others. While having a few of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery is less inconsequential in a game than in a movie (games like this will probably last 30 hours or so), nonetheless it does raise the question: who is manipulating these guys & gals? Will the reveal shock us or will it fall flat? Also, will you be participating in Mysterio’s stunt course race bits ala Riddler Challenges, assuming he’s in this Spider-Man?
As fun as Batman: Arkham City and Arkham Knight was (if you weren’t playing the PC version at launch, that is), it did suffer from having too many side characters and villains distracting players from the main gist of the game. The later games were dangerously close in losing the focus of the audience with its multiple plot threads and villains, and also relying too much on its side activities.
That’s not an inherently negative point, but it can lead to a situation where players need to revel in their OCDness in completing every single side mission to really finish the game. Scavenger hunts and forced web-slinging time trials aren’t the way to being a good Spider-Man-type hero, you know?
Quick Time Events-Centric
Are there a lot of them? The trailer seems to indicate as much. Even friendly neighbourhood Kenn Leandre said that there’s quite a few of them in the preview build of the game.
What I’m concerned with is that the full game will have an overabundance of this in every key part of the game, when you’re fighting the Sinister Six or the equivalent of that. We’re in 2018; we want 1/4th of our action setpieces to be resolved with a few button prompts and the rest through our own actions.
This year’s God of War seems to get the balance between fighting and QTEs just right; Insomniac should take a page from that book if it wants to make their Spider-Man game a cut above the rest.
Overreliance On Fan Service
It’s true: games based on comic book properties with their own movie tie-ins tend to cram in a lot of trivia, easter eggs, and nods from its source material. Everyone who read the comics or sit through the Sam Raimi films might get the hint, but having too much of it means more homework for the curious players to sift through so that they get them all and appreciate them willingly.
Yes, this Spider-Man game is in another universe with some similarities to the 616 world of the OG Peter Parker, but that also means a lot of sly cameos and tidbits from the original comics obnoxiously shoved in your faces. We’re adult fans: we’re fine with the changes and the shuffling since we know this is sort of an Insomniac adaptation of the Marvel source material. Give us something new; instead of Curt “The Lizard” Connors being the mentor, maybe switch it around with other scientists/rich father figures like Norman Osborne or Otto Octavius.
At the very least, this Spider-Man story switches things up by turning Mary-Jane into a reporter instead of a bar owner or a model. That’s quite a step-up. Plus, that aforementioned “problem” can be solved by reading up on basic Spider-Man plot points and story arcs from the 80s to 2000s. You can skip the Clone Wars bit though.
It Feels Like A Tooled-Up Sunset Overdrive
The wall-running in Spider-Man looks familiar, like as if it was taken from another open world game they did a long while back. Oh yes, the Xbox One third-person run-and-gun extraordinaire called Sunset Overdrive.
It had a snarky protagonist, it had great shooting and open world gameplay, and it was obnoxious with its humour and writing. It wasn’t a huge success despite its good intentions.
Spider-Man could fall into that writing trap with a really annoying Peter Parker, a bunch of his snarky millennial friends, and a bit of fourth-wall breaking (but not Deadpool levels, thankfully). While our friendly neighbourhood Kenn Leandre said that it’s a “jacked-up Sunset Overdrive” mod of sorts and that making a totally new game engine these days is expensive, we wonder how much of Sunset Overdrive is really in the final product.
You may get a sense of deja vu, but it’ll hopefully subside after the 10-hour mark.
It’s Similar To The Batman: Arkham Games
In a way, Rocksteady Studios is at fault for setting the bar way too high for action adventure games featuring mortal superheroes. Because of Batman: Arkham Asylum, certain superhero action games try to mimic the “ballet of destruction” free-flowing combat.
This isn’t a bad thing, but it does remind players of a time when Activision was making Spider-Man games up the wazoo. Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2 were mediocre games that took the Batman Arkham game engine stylings to heart and just slapped Spider-Man on it. It felt less genuine than it should despite the new non-movie additions. We fear that for all the new things this upcoming Spider-Man game will introduce, it may still be living under the shadow of Rocksteady’s trilogy, at least in the superhero action game department.