The answer to why superheroes have managed to cultivate a commanding presence in every facet of the entertainment industry aside from video games is unclear. It’s difficult to even name a modern superhero game that doesn’t have the word “Arkham” in the title. However, what is clear is that the release of “Marvel’s Spider-Man” certainly looks to change that.
This past weekend, Insomniac Games released the first Spider-Man game since the “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” in 2014.
This was a lackluster game among a trend of mediocre Spider-Man games that followed the fantastic Treyarch installment “Spider-Man 2,” based on the Sam Raimi film of the same name in 2004.
Now, full disclosure: This is not a review of the game.
I have not had enough time to flesh out my thoughts as a whole, but I have played enough to pick up on a few very impactful elements that I believe manipulate the standards of these types of games going forward.
For years, Spider-Man developers have struggled with making the user genuinely feel like the web-slinging, fast-talker we all know and love.
With “Marvel’s Spider-Man,” Insomniac captured that essential essence in “Spider-Man 2” and ramped it up to 11 with the help of a more powerful, next-generation console.
Spidey’s acrobatic combat, land traversal and sleuth-style are a dream to inhabit for any fan of the character. Every punch, jump or swing animation is flawless, achieving the impossible task of giving the player the physical feeling of what it would be like to be Spider-Man.
Now, the game will undoubtedly be criticized for its reliance on tropes popularized by Rocksteady’s “Arkham” series (and rightfully so).
As you swing from building to building, finding collectibles, mini-game puzzles and gaggles of enemies to fight, the similarities between this game and the “Arkham” ones are impossible to avoid. However, as you traverse the rooftops of New York City, stopping crime while a limitless number of witty quips spill out of your mouth, it becomes clear that Spider-Man lends himself to this style of game an astounding amount more than Batman’s slower, methodical ideology.
Traveling from one location to another is a given to be improved in the game, but because of this, all of the collectibles the game presents you with automatically become more fun simply because they are a blast to even find in the first place.
Additionally, the “one-button” combat system ripped straight from the “Arkham” games is immensely more fun when you’re a 160-pound, lean acrobat as opposed to the brutish build of Batman.
Normally, sticking to such a rigid structure would be a bad move, but anything that feels “done before” immediately feels new.
This is simply because Insomniac completely nailed the feel of the character in your hands, allowing more control with less interruption.
It feels as if Insomniac knew that in order to feel like Spider-Man, you have to first feel unstoppable, and introducing a system that allows you to easily correct your mistakes while still offering a considerable challenge makes the derivativeness much more palatable.
Even with the heavy reliance on the “Arkham” standard, all of the smaller details that Insomniac allows for the world to be more immersive than ever can’t be ignored. From specific voice-lines from NPCs depending on what Spider-suit that is equipped or making the infamous J. Jonah Jameson an Alex Jones-type spider-conspiracy theorist, the game is loaded with unnecessary but welcomed details that bring the world to life.
For example, dreaded quick-time events (QTEs) show their ugly faces here again, but Insomniac manages to even make these worthwhile as each QTE features button presses that correlate with the button commands for similar abilities used in actual gameplay, making the transition process from QTE to gameplay flawless.
This game will certainly divide people to an extent, but it should be remembered that sometimes tired, beaten ideas can be rejuvenated with a simple perspective shift.