The reason that tie-in games usually suck is due to the licensing fees; more money is spent on acquiring the franchise, and less on the game. But there’s also a reason why the Arkham games are so high in quality; Warner Bros. owns both the license, and the studio making it – meaning the only fee they need to pay is to themselves.
So it makes me wonder what dark contract Insomniac entered into with Sony to get the rights to Spider-Man – because from what I’ve seen, the game is shaping up to be something special. From its flashy and funny combat, to the fluid motion, it could be a licensed game worth keeping track of.
The eyes-on presentation we got to see covered the same sequence seen in the PlayStation press conference. Spider-Man is dealing with the King Pin’s goons, when another villain – Mr. Negative – gate-crashes the party. Our demo did vary a little however, with a more robust demonstration of the game’s combat systems.
Like most action games of its ilk, Spider-Man has combos that can be mixed-up with light and hard strikes. The twist however is the fluidity of elements on the periphery. From little gadgets, to utilising parts of the scenery, fights in the game take on a far more frantic, and comedic tone.
These elements also give your standard combos a little extra flair. Throwing jabs and hooks is one thing, but interrupting that by seamlessly flinging a nearby pack of concrete at an enemy takes the presentation value to a whole 'nother level. While the Arkham games felt couched in the grim, dark, Nolan-esque movie universe, Insomniac’s Spider-Man looks and sounds punchy – like a comic brought to life.
Insomniac’s chief brand officer, Ryan Schneider, also touched on what format the story would take. While he was light on details, he did mention that it would focus both on Spider-Man’s and Peter Parker’s stories. He also said that, “one could influence the other.” It’s unclear if this means players will have agency.
And for those of you wondering how the web-swinging works, you’ll be glad to hear that it’s all physics-based. This means you’ll have no weird instances of webs attaching to invisible walls. Schneider was also insistent that conforming to a physics model didn’t inhibit their ability to embellish Spider-Man’s movement. Animations flow, and it doesn’t appear there are minor obstacles to get snagged on – meaning you can keep your momentum up.
But it’s unclear if that assessment will ring true in the final product. Quite often E3 demos are played by members of the team that know their vertical slice top-to-bottom – I imagine some of them could play those segments blindfolded by the time the show wraps. However I’m optimistic that Insomniac has nailed it – especially if their previous offering Sunset Overdrive is anything to go by. While not entirely analogous (the game was slower paced), it did deal with a range of movement options.
The game also features an original universe and story. Whether that means we’ll see spins on iconic story-beats or characters, remains to be seen. As someone not particularly knowledgeable about the franchise though, the thought of a fresh entry with no baggage is pleasant.
Spider-Man might be one of the few licensed games in recent memory worth caring about. From the dynamism of the combat – and the comedic tone it carries – to the fluidity of movement and traversal. Insomniac could have something great.
The game is slated to hit PlayStation 4 in 2018. We’ll keep you updated when we hear a solid release date.
Oh, and they refused to comment when I asked if Stan Lee would make a cameo.