Sweet christmas! Spider-Man is back! Insomniac’s stage demo for its upcoming rendition of the web-slinging wonder was a standout curtain closer for Sony’s E3 2017 press conference, jam packed with gameplay that fans have been waiting for since the project was first announced last year. Running for almost ten minutes, there’s a lot to unpack with this in-depth reveal - so much so, that a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments are worth pointing out in more detail. Here are seven of the major things you might have missed from Spider-Man’s big show-stopper.
This is the most advanced Spider-Man seen in a video game
Wow, talk about super-powered. Peter Parker appears to more than fully equipped to take on anything that comes his way in New York, boasting a snazzy suit rigged up with all manner of web-based gadgets for protecting the neighborhood. We got to see the wall-crawler deploy web-ensnaring mines, use environmental takedowns, and lasso his foes around like an urban cowboy, all while cracking wise in characteristically Peter Parker fashion. The sheer quantity of the webbing on display, too, is really quite astounding. After wrapping up several baddies in the stuff, Spidey then prevents a crane from collapsing before going on to nestle a plummeting helicopter within a giant hammock of sticky netting. Does this mean ammunition won’t be a thing we have to worry about anymore? I really hope so.
Combat and traversal mechanics bring to mind another superhero video game series…
The demo begins with our urban vigilante getting the drop on a couple of enemies, taking them down stealthily by sticking to high ground and knocking them out one by one. After scaling a series of ledges with his custom-designed grappling device, it’s not long before a skirmish breaks out among a rabble of hoodlums. Luckily, our hero can counter, disarm and stun with exceptional precision, and the flow of each punch lands with a satisfying thwack. Sound familiar? Insomniac’s Spider-Man looks to be drawing a lot of cues from Rocksteady’s Arkham franchise, but who can honestly complain? While there a obviously a ton of notable differences between the two as well, the echoes of Arkham that are there - the finessed combat, the situational stealth - are more than welcome for bringing Spider-Man firmly into the 21st century.
Quick-time events are back, but hopefully they’re less obtrusive than last time
It is apparently an unspoken tradition to shoehorn quick-time events into any and every Spider-Man game, reducing the empowerment of playing as a teenage wonderboy into a button-mashing frenzy that never seems to end. Previous Spider-Man titles haven’t implemented these gimmicks with much in the way of tact or grace, either, as most prominently exemplified by the hilariously bad QTEs of the Spider-Man 3 movie tie-in game. Fingers crossed that Insomniac can avoid this history of bad luck - the quick-time events showed more finesse than previous manifestations of the mechanic. Even if they are a bit rubbish, I’m willing to forgive the odd QTE if it makes sense within the context of the action.
The New York cityscape is more than just window-dressing
Easter eggs are the bread and butter of Marvel fiction, so any keen-eyed fan will have been able to spot these out, but what do they mean? First off, the building site where the demo begins is plastered with a sign for Fisk Construction (more on that later), but once Spider-Man starts chasing the helicopter from about 5:40 onwards in the trailer, you should be able to catch out two billboards which offer an insight into Insomniac’s take on New York. First up is a Daily Bugle advertisement, and we can only pray this means that J.K. Simmons turns up as the scene (and cigar) chewing J. Jonah Jameson; Peter Parker’s big boss at the famed newspaper he photographs for. It’s a long shot, I know, but the actor has done stints in video games before, most notably in Portal 2, so it’s possible. Following that, an “Osborne for Mayor” billboard indicates that either Norman (Green Goblin) or Harry Osborn (New Goblin) will be entering the world of politics over the course of the story. Hey, we’ve seen worse people run for office.
Two key comic book villains look set to play a big part in the adventure
It wouldn’t be a Spider-Man flick without a circus parade of devious villains and machinating miscreants, and our hero ran into several recognizable faces throughout his ten-minute spotlight stealer. The first was perhaps the most iconic, Kingpin, who appears to be suffering the same incarcerated fate as his TV counterpart in Netflix’s Daredevil show. Also making an appearance was Martin Li, otherwise known as Mister Negative - a Chinese businessman with a seriously supernatural case of dual personality disorder, in command of the hired cronies known as The Demons (those were the goons Parker takes on in the demo). It’s inevitable that these won’t be the only crooks showing their face in Marvel’s Spider-Man, but the authentic presentation of both bodes well for Insomniac’s treatment of the extensive comic book fiction.
Spider-Man’s radio chatter suggests an origins story for a classic anti-hero
Besides all the evildoers stealing the show, a more interesting presence is the character Spider-Man is seen talking to via his suit’s in-built intercom; one Captain Watanabe. In the comic books, Yuri Watanabe is one of several people who takes up the mantle of Wraith, a psionic powered vigilante with a fierce vendetta against Mister Negative. The character’s disregard for the rule of law in her pursuit of justice comes into conflict with Spider-Man’s own superhero code, so it’ll be intriguing to see how this plays out in Insomniac’s video game. Alternatively, perhaps Watanabe will just remain as Captain of the NYPD for now, but that’s seems unlikely considering the large role which Mister Negative appears to have in the game’s main story.
Miles Morales makes a post-credits cameo
In keeping with the tradition set by the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Insomniac wasn’t finished when the action came to halt in its demo, sneaking in an extra surprise that means big news for enthused Spidey fans. Yes, Miles Morales - the current comic book iteration of Ultimate Spider-Man - shows up at the end, though his behaviour suggests he hasn’t donned the suit himself quite yet. Instead, it’s been confirmed that Peter Parker is currently the man in red as seen in the trailer, but perhaps Insomniac’s original story will be a passing of the torch saga - one in which players will be able to experiment with two different Spider-Mans by the end of the game. There’s a lot of potential with the reveal of this key character, then, and it was a great way to end an altogether marvellous stage demo.