In the early part of development for Marvel’s Spider-Man, Insomniac Games was given one crucial piece of guidance from Marvel Games’ Bill Rosemann; the best stories happen when the worlds of Peter Parker and Spidey collide. It’s something that after previewing the game a few weeks ago, I can tell you is there. While much has been made of the white spider suit look of the game, it’s the world of Peter Parker that truly sets apart the PlayStation exclusive game from anything involving the web-slinger outside of comics.
It all starts with the narrative, this game isn’t a villain of the week episode of a cartoon or a comic that supports merely an A and B plot. Peter’s personal life is as important as his costume crime-fighting persona. An early part of the game sees you take on The Kingpin in a fierce multi-stage brawl that could easily have been the game’s final battle. Wilson Fisk being taken down creates a power vacuum that becomes the dire situation Spider-Man needs to resolve by taking down the forces trying to grasp control over the city.
Yet you don’t spend the entire game simply web swinging from buildings to get to the next villain. You spend part of your time as Peter Parker. He’s a lab scientist with a steady 9-5 job and a full social life that never seems to work the way he wants it to. Insomniac didn’t stop with simply writing a resume for Parker, they’ve filled in the lines of his world with color consisting of the people closest to him. Starting with his Aunt May, who runs the F.E.A.S.T homeless shelter where Peter would like to devote time to but the costume often gets in the way. Then there’s Mary Jane Watson, no longer simply a model/actress; this MJ is a bold and relentless reporter for the Daily Bugle. In fact, you’ll play some stealth parts of the game as MJ who comes complete with her own tricks and game mechanics. Some characters are relegated to being part of the script (who wouldn’t want to swing from buildings as Aunt May) while others take a more active role. Not only do we get to see how one hand washes the other during parallel gameplay parts of Spidey and MJ, but the in-game dialogue hints at just how deep their relationship goes and how it isn’t always roses between them. While we didn’t get to see much of Parker’s other allies, we do know Miles Morales has a prominent role in team spidey.
In the Kingpin’s building, we noticed nods to Amaya Lopez who Marvel fans know as Echo. She’s also featured in the game’s prequel novel that delves into the Kingpin’s feud with Spider-Man. If you want to go into Marvel’s Spider-Man with a full picture of Peter’s life then pick up the novel from Titan Books as it will have answers to many of your early level questions about where certain characters are.
The studio has put an extensive amount of thought into what players experience as Peter Parker should be like. A relatable world where the most adult problems feel like they’re going to crush you. Marvel’s Spider-Man for PlayStation has received many comparisons to Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham games. While both truly encapsulate the characters you play as, Marvel’s Spider-Man makes Paker’s life a colliding asteroid with his superhero world in a way that the Arkham Games never did to Bruce Wayne. Peter’s constant flakiness to the most important people in his life, his wanting to keep Mary Jane safe to the point of making her doubt herself, and just trying to keep his job to pay his rent all figure into players becoming Spider-Man in this game. I’d dare say Insomniac has put a detail into Peter Parker that rivals even the wildest ideas of Stan Lee and the late great Steve Ditko.
In the bit we got to play, Insomniac has already shown players just how big an isolated world of Spider-Man can be. He’s got the most eclectic collection of bad guys to fight, a supporting cast that makes Peter Parker well rounded, and a home that lets his powers get explored swooping around the high rises of New York. While we’ll get surprise characters in various ways, the game demonstrates you don’t need to have the Avengers appear in everything Marvel when Spider-Man’s own world is robust enough.
Marvel’s Spider-Man launches exclusively for the PlayStation 4 September 7, 2018.