Will Marvel's Spider-man PS4 live up to the hype?
If we’re being totally honest, superhero video games are something of a mixed bag. For every Batman: Arkham Asylum, there’s a Superman 64. For every Injustice: Gods Among us, there’s an Iron-Man 2. Put simply, the world of comic-book based games are consistently marred by naff movie tie-ins and rushed development cycles. They often feel designed with no real thought or love for the source material; rather they are just soulless products created with the sole premise of cashing-in on the next big blockbuster and making fans into consumers. That is why when we catch wind of a project which looks to be checking all the right boxes, we sit up and take notice.
Insomniac’s upcoming Spider-Man game for PS4 has the potential to be the perfect experience for this genre, with every statement coming from the team only adding to the hype. Not based on the MCU character, check. A focus on movement and fluidity, check. Realistic web-physics; just take the $60 now. But, what has us most intrigued is the story. We’re being treated to a totally original story packed full of iconic faces from the comics and featuring a more experienced Peter Parker than we are accustomed too. Sounds interesting – but what exactly do we want from this sprawling open-world experience? Well since you asked…
From the trailers alone, we can already confirm that Spidey will be facing (and getting a bit of a beating from) the Sinister Six. In a clip showing part of a mission taking place on The Raft, Shocker breaks the rest of the gang out of their confining cells, resulting in a savage and downright dirty kicking for our hero. We also know that Mr Negative is instrumental to the plot, as his alias Martin Li works at the food shelter with sweet old Aunt May. If that’s not enough for you, Wilson Fisk (Kingpin) and Norman Osbourne (Green Goblin) are also involved in some capacity. But that’s just part of the main narrative, if this takes any inspiration from Rocksteady’s Arkham series (and it really should), it stands to reason that the world will be littered with side-missions and optional bosses. Like most fanboys, I’m craving a sighting of Venom. Or at least a mention of the alien symbiote as an Easter-egg that potentially sets-up some DLC or a sequel plot-point. Perhaps we’re more likely to see the more grounded Spider-verse characters. A side-story in which Peter tracks numerous killings around the city could lead to interesting showdown with The Punisher; and a detective-style mission set-up could make for a nice change of tone.
In one of the more recent trailers we caught a glimpse of the web-slinger skydiving off Avengers tower and swinging past the New York sanctum, which confirms that Spider-Man isn’t the only friendly in this neighbourhood. This opens the door for some fan-favourites to make an unexpected appearance and send our nerd-senses into a spiral. Whilst I wouldn’t expect a lot of the big players to pay us a visit (they’re busy people, we get it), this is an opportunity to utilise the live-action movies in an effective way. The relationship between Iron-Man and Spider-Man, or more accurately; Tony Stark and Peter has become one of the most interesting and genuine dynamics in the MCU – this could take on an extra element in this new story. As previously mentioned, this game follows a Peter with more years of crime fighting under his belt; in this world, he has been donning the famous suit for eight years and seems a lot more astute in using his powers. This gives us an opportunity to explore this bond from a new perspective. Rather than the Father/son or teacher/student roles we’re used to, Stark would be taking a backseat – but is still around to offer words of wisdom in more of a mentor style partnership. Also, as this is a huge recreation of New York City, you expect it to include its many districts – you know…like Hells Kitchen. Daredevil and Spiderman are no strangers to a good old-fashioned team-up and this could be the perfect place for the two to reunite once again. Who else would you call if Wilson Fisk did a runner from prison?
Easter Eggs and cameos
This open world is going to rife with quaint little secrets to uncover; and with over half a century’s worth of source material to draw from, the possibilities go on-and-on. As I sarcastically pointed out at the start, tying games to movies tends to be a recipe for failure (unless you’re Goldeneye) and I’m increasingly appreciative that we’re not taking that route here. However, the popularity of the MCU is undeniable; and Insomniac would be extremely naive to leave out any nods to one of the most popular and acclaimed franchises of-all-time. The Iron Spider suit from Avengers: Infinity War has been revealed as a pre-order bonus (as if I wasn’t going to pre-order it anyway), which does imply that there has been dialogue between the developers and the Marvel Studios bigwigs surrounding the use of film properties, so what else could be in store? Well if I were you, I’d keep an ear out for a familiar voice or two. The cameo I’m pining for the most, is from Spider-Man himself and fellow Brit – Tom Holland. We already know the honour of the titular voice-role has been bestowed upon Yuri Lownenthal, but Tom has already expressed his openness to appearing in Marvel titles beyond the MCU; and a cameo as a random character in this certainly speaks to his well-documented sense of humour.
I don’t know if you heard, but this little movie was released a few months back that performed relatively well, I think it was called Infinity War – rings a bell, right? Well, I think it’s a safe bet that this game won’t overlook the single most traumatising cinematic experience since Toy Story 3. An easter egg dedicated to this could take many forms. Perhaps a film poster on a wall for the upcoming “Ravengers: Trinity Door” or a fake gauntlet hanging in a store window. Personally, I like the idea of a line of dialogue referencing the infamous finger snap, possibly coming from Yuri or Aunt May.
Finally, no Marvel product would be complete without an appearance from Stan Lee. His inclusion goes without saying at this point, but the act of putting the icon into a game does offer a great deal of creativity in how he is incorporated, compared to film or TV. It would be refreshing to see a departure from the typical references, for instance the names of bars or portraits hanging on a wall. A concept which would both be a bold creative decision and a fun way of honouring the man who has given so much to our community, is to make him a secret boss fight. Stay with me. In the same vein as many modern video games, this could be the reward for tracking down every collectible the world has to offer, giving the pursuit an added layer of purpose aside from the completist’s itch and paying homage to a legend of the genre in the process.
This is just a handful of musings as to what will find a way into the game, but all our questions will be answered on the 7th of September when we finally get our hands on the eagerly anticipated Spider-Man PS4. Let us know what you want to see in the comments!