Marvel's Spider-Man 2 has such a vibrant open-world that I now want Insomniac to build a GTA 6-rivaling crime sim

Marvel's Spider-Man 2
(Image credit: Sony)

There's a short scene early doors in Marvel's Spider-Man 2 where Peter Parker and childhood pal Harry Osborne cycle through the suburban streets of Queens. The pair reminisce on old times, crack immature jokes, and spend what is ultimately a brief but emotional exchange while simply enjoying each other's company. The whole thing is a thoughtful, tone-setting juncture that deliberately jars with the game's narrative-driving, break-neck cinematics – but it also offers a teeny tiny glimpse of something different.

If you've read GamesRadar+'s Marvel's Spider-Man 2 review, you'll already know that I reckon its loudest moments are accentuated by its quietest. It's only after seeing other players working through the above scenario, however, that I'm beginning to fully appreciate the weight of possibility here. Sure, Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is at its best as a superhero action-role-player wherein you fill the shoes of a high-flying crime fighter whose feet barely touch the ground. But what if Insomniac was charged with building a crime simulator in the same vein as GTA 5 or GTA Online, or even the little we've seen so far of GTA 6?

Crime in the city

Marvel's Spider-Man 2

(Image credit: Sony)

The above scene couldn't be further from the hedonistic trappings of the Grand Theft Auto universe, but the thought of Insomniac taking its world-building prowess into a different genre was driven home for me via this clip shared on Twitter. Away from Peter and Harry's heartfelt set-piece, the player there is seen grabbing an idle bicycle in the heart of Astoria, before riding down the street until the bike vanishes. The world reacts to Spidey's wayward cycling, jumping out of his path, and throwing their arms above their heads in panic. The player identifies the exact location of the bike in-game in the above tweet's replies, and confirms that despite the vehicle's disappearance, the bike respawns in the same place thereafter. It's innocuous, inadvertent, and appears to be either a bug or at the very least an oversight dev-side, but it's cool nevertheless.  

Of course, the GTA fanatic in me means I'm now imagining Spidey hotwiring cars, tearing down Fifth Avenue and emptying the clip of a Micro SMG into an unsuspecting gang of Kraven's hunters out the window. I'm picturing him hijacking supervillain drug runs, and setting up his own meth lab-operating motorcycle gang. I suddenly see our not-so-friendly neighborhood negotiator robbing banks while staring down the sights of an Assault Shotgun, owning dodgy nightclubs, and stealing vintage vehicles from Eastern European mobsters. 

I'm not sure any of this would fly with Marvel given Spidey's squeaky clean persona, granted, but I suppose the point I'm making here is: Insomniac is at the peak of its powers when it comes to building credible, living, breathing open-worlds; and the studio is even more expert today in filling those confines with blockbuster action. Another studio rising to challenge Rockstar in this space would be great for fans of the genre – especially given the sad fact Saints Row developer Volition was shuttered earlier this year after 30 years in operation. 

The closest I think we've seen to a GTA challenger of sorts recently, Just Cause aside, is Build A Rocket Boy's Mindseye – the game said to exist within the dev's upcoming Everywhere – but it's far too early to pass judgment on that one at this stage. Without spoiling anything related to Marvel's Spider-Man 2 story, there is probably a third game in the works already too, which will inevitably be the studio's priority whenever its developers get back from some well-earned post-shipping respite. Still, I don't think there are many, if any, other devs so capable in this space of bringing a city to life to this degree, and I'd love to see it spread its tendrils whenever it finally says goodbye to Peter and Miles.

Unfriendly fire 

Marvel's Spider-Man 2

(Image credit: Sony)

"Could Insomniac deliver? Well, as a wise character once said: With great power comes great responsibility."

Who knows what lies ahead, but Naughty Dog's success across the Uncharted series and The Last of Us is a nice comparison regarding first-party PlayStation studios spreading their skills across genres. The praise the Uncharted games courted at the time (especially 2 and 3) pretty much turned Naughty Dog into a household name, but while it eventually spawned a Hollywood adaptation, I don't think it's unreasonable to say The Last of Us is the more popular series of the two – with all its remakes, remasters and its acclaimed HBO TV series.  

With such a vibrant, buzzing and accomplished take on a scaled-down New York City – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Coney Island, Harlem, and all – Insomniac has the perfect template to build from; to bend and break its familiar formula and the real-world-mirroring laws Spider-Man so closely follows. With GTA 6 surely not too far away, with all things quiet on the Just Cause front, and with Saints Row having retired from the race entirely, is it wishful thinking to pine for an Insomniac Games slant on the open-world crime sim genre? Almost definitely. Does it make sense for the studio to do so? In time, I think absolutely. Could it deliver? Well, as a wise character once said: With great power comes great responsibility. 

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Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.