One of the most impressive games of E3 2017 was undoubtedly that of Insomniac’s Spider-Man. The presentation was a visual feast, showcasing a mission where our favourite web-slinger subdues goons at a construction site, and then chases down a helicopter containing lesser-known Spidey villain, Mister Negative. Many would argue that this was the icing on the cake for Sony’s already impressive E3 presentation, and secured them the crown for the whole event. Combining all the key elements that make Spider-Man great – his agility, flexibility, web-slinging and wisecracking humour – could Insomniac give us the best Spider-Man video game in a while?
The question isn’t easy to answer. After all, a game can look as pretty as it wishes, but its the gameplay and feel of the game that truly counts. As far as the combat and swing mechanics of the game are concerned, it would seem that Insomniac’s effort takes cues from Beenox’s much-derided effort, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the Batman: Arkham games. No better is this exemplified than in the stealth section we were given at E3. Spidey can perch from high-up areas (in this case, the girders) and take out his enemies from above using stealth attacks. The difference between Batman and the wallcrawler though is noted, as you have a unique repertoire of attacks at your disposal.
Like Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker is also a dab hand at creating useful gadgets. The clip showed him plant a device on the wall that yanked an unsuspecting thug off his feet and pasted him onto the wall with web fluid. Another example showed him leap from a girder and quietly faceplant a thug into submission, aided by his incredible spider-like agility. So, while Insomniac is taking cues from Rocksteady’s take on Batman, they are at least doing so in the right way, implementing the unique characteristics of Spider-Man in combat situations.
Where web-slinging is concerned, the demo showcases a superbly weighty swinging mechanic. As I have already stated, the swinging appears to take its inspiration from Beenox’s Amazing Spider-Man 2, but this is no bad thing since the swing mechanics of said game were its best feature. Here, the wisecracking web-slinger is just as agile and flexible as he has been in previous instalments. What’s more, the web-swinging is based purely on the skill of the player. Insomniac confirmed on Twitter that skilled players will be able to swing much faster than what was demonstrated. They merely wanted to keep the helicopter in view for purposes of the presentation. If Insomniac truly pull off a skill-based web-slinging mechanic, this could make getting around New York a real joy.
One of many areas that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 failed to get right was its lacklustre story. The game, which already felt rushed, conjured multiple story threads that all had nothing to do with the other – it ended abruptly and was treated carelessly. Cletus Kassady, a deranged immoral serial killer in the comics, was reduced to a uncharismatic machete-wielding vigilante who eventually becomes an Oscorp experiment run amok – Carnage. There was Kraven too, who acted as your mentor for much of the game before finally turning on you in the end (spoilers!). But while the game tried some original things, it was poorly executed and created a plot as convoluted and messy as the film on which it was based.
Insomniac’s Spider-Man has a chance to create something truly better. For one thing, they’ve cast Peter as a relatively experienced 23-year-old crime-fighter, much unlike the inexperienced teenager depicted in recent games. Secondly, the appearance of lesser-known villain, Mister Negative, signifies that Insomniac aren’t just going to rely on the tired old A-Listers of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, like Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus to carry the story. That, combined with the new Spider-Man suit, shows us that the game is being taken in a new and refreshing direction.
All in all, Insomniac’s Spider-Man shows much promise and could prove to be the reinvigoration that the Spidey games need. The demo showed all the hallmarks of a fun and engaging action game with visual flair and style to boot. If the folks at Insomniac can manage to craft a unique and equally engaging narrative and carefully implement the combat and swinging mechanics, we could be onto something here. Excelsior!