“All inmates return to your cells,” barks a desperate Rykers Island guard over the prison’s PA system. “Repeat. Return to your cells. This is your last warning.” In the meantime, Spider-Man has hitched a ride on a chopper, zipped into the jail’s bustling yard, saved a prisoner from certain death by hauling him from the driver’s side window of a moving truck, and has swung to safety in the wake of an exploding fuel tank.
Despite rescuing their pal, a gang of orange jumpsuit-wearing escapees have now cornered the web-slinger, charging at him with melee weapons, confiscated police machine guns, and, yikes, surface-to-air rocket launchers. And, all at the same time, six of Spider-Man’s most notorious sworn arch enemies have broken free and are now on the warpath in search of their old red-suited friend. I think the time for last warnings has passed, Mr. PA-operating guard. “Abandon stations. Repeat, abandon stations,” the guard follows-up shortly after. “Arm yourself and get the hell off the island.”
Now he gets it. And now we’re right in the thick of Spider-Man’s best, most quintessential stretch of action-packed superhero spectacle.
Man on fire
Insomniac’s Spider-Man is hardly boring before this juncture, of course. In the main storyline missions alone, we’ve already taken down William Fisk, aka The Kingpin, and his hordes of hard-headed cronies. We’ve chased and battled The Shocker all over Manhattan, learned the awful truth about Martin Li, now Mr Negative, and have watched the once brilliant mind of Otto Octavius spiral and succumb to his twisted Dr Octopus alter ego. Devil’s Breath has swept the city. Sable cannot be trusted. Tombstone and The Taskmaster watch from the wings. And it’s impossible to tell if Peter Parker and MJ are on or off or on again. All of which is great. But the ways in which Spider-Man introduces its final act via its Rykers Island scene, in my eyes, elevates the game from brilliant to outstanding – so much so, I now reckon Insomniac has a mammoth task in bettering it in Spider-Man 2.
From a conceptual standpoint, the drama of the prison breakout rivals anything we’ve seen from Spider-Man’s Hollywood adaptations – from Sam Reimi to Jon Watts – and, for me, even echoes the explosive transitions of the late Tony Scott’s Man On Fire and Enemy of the State. From a design perspective, Rykers Island is otherwise inaccessible within a game rooted in near-unrestricted exploration, therefore risk versus reward while battling waves of enemies on unfamiliar ground is ramped up to 11. And, from a deferential point of view regarding its source material, there’s something ultra-cool about seeing this game’s take on the Sinister Six laying the boot into a grounded Spidey, all the while knowing we’re only a few hours of game time away from getting our own back in typical superhero fashion.
Fans of the comics, movies and games alike hit the roof when Venom was teased during the Spider-Man 2 reveal trailer that aired at the PlayStation Showcase in September. With Peter Parker, Miles Morales and the symbiote all set to feature – not to mention a narrator who could be Kraven the Hunter, a member of the original Sinister Six as it featured in the comics in 1964 – there’s certainly plenty to get excited about.
Speaking to past video games alone, Spidey’s had many-a run-in with Eddie Brock’s alter ego, the first of which I myself experienced in 1991’s titular Spider-Man for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. That game’s Sinister Six comprised Dr Octopus, The Lizard, Electro, The Sandman, The Hobgoblin, and The Kingpin, with Venom as an auxiliary foe who’d show up randomly to add extra challenge to boss fights. Which was almost as frustrating as that god-awful race level in the PSOne’s otherwise god-tier Spider-Man. The less said about that, the better.
There cannot be enough said about Spider-Man 2018’s Rykers Island scene, though. It’s the perfect example of a superhero set-piece, with action, drama, excitement, and everything you’d expect from such a high-stakes, supercharged moment within a game already unfolding at break-neck speed. I love this section of the game so much, in fact, that I have a standalone save file right before Spidey hitches a ride on the island-bound helicopter, which I return to regularly whenever I want a short burst of superhero action at its best.
And while I’m unsure how Insomniac will top it all in Spider-Man 2 at this stage, I’m certain it has all the tools and source material at its fingertips to do so. Because if you consider the webslinger’s wider history with Miles Morales, with Venom, with other members of the interchangeable Sinister Six – not least the Green Goblin, whose tech we’ve already seen in Insomniac’s universe – there is so much scope for similarly dramatic showdowns. With a loose “2023” release date, and with DC’s universe in-line for not one but two outings next year – via WB Games’ Gotham Knights, and the Batman Arkham series masterminds Rocksteady Studios’ impressive-looking Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League – Insomniac has its work cut out for it.
Which is to say: the developer has set its bar ever so high, so good was Spider-Man and its Miles Morales-focused DLC off-shoot. I just want to go back to the island, figuratively if not literally. And if anyone can take me there, I’m confident it’s Insomniac by virtue of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Here's everything we know so far about Marvel's Spider-Man 2.