Before you read any further, consider this a MAJOR SPOILER WARNING. After the picture of Spidey below, I’m going to reveal the central villain of 2018’s Spider-Man. They aren’t featured in any trailers for the game so if you carry on reading, you’re going to deny yourself the biggest twist in Marvel’s Spider-Man PS4 game. Consider yourself warned. Scroll below Spidey if you’ve completed the game (or just can’t contain your curiosity)...
SPOILERS START BELOW
Within the very first half an hour of Spider-Man, you get to meet its central villain: Doctor Octopus. Only he isn’t Doctor Octopus yet. Instead he’s the encouraging, kind Dr Otto Octavius, who begins as Peter Parker’s boss and role model, using his substantial brain to create bionic prosthetics for war veterans at the Octavius Industries lab. But everyone knows how he’ll end up. Cackling, puppy-kicking villains like Baldur from God of War or Joseph Seed from Far Cry 5, in our eyes, have always been evil. From the moment you boot up either game (well, within the first hour at least), there they are, being generally cruel and making it clear that they are not your friend. It’s only through bits of backstory scattered throughout the world that we have any idea of what they were like before they became the bad guy we know and loathe.
Dr Octavius is different. Voiced by the phenomenal William Salyers, he’s Peter’s mentor, gently admonishing Peter about late arrivals to the lab or getting excited about how his technology will help so many people. He’s a good guy… for now. Yet that’s why Doctor Octopus is by far the best villain to come out of 2018: throughout the entirety of Spider-Man, you get to see how he changes from being Peter’s friend to being his arch-enemy. We’re witness to the entire, grim journey.
It’s all your fault...
The tragedy is that we all know what’s going to happen. Heck, our first look at Dr Octavius even foreshadows his role as the central villain. The dim lights in the lab illuminate his famous silhouette, complete with four robotic tentacles emerging from his back. But you can’t do anything to prevent what he’ll become. Looking back, at the end of the final boss fight Doctor Octopus might have even been right to partly blame Peter for turning him into a megalomaniac. Peter did help Dr Octavius create the technology, after all, even using the spectrographs to identify and test materials for the robotic arms. If you hadn’t been late maybe Dr Octavius wouldn’t have tried out the technology without making the proper checks. Perhaps that shock to the head that he suffered affected his decision-making abilities. Perhaps you could have prevented it if you had spoken to him more instead of swinging around the city as Spider-Man...
Despite all the ifs and maybes, you’re powerless to stop what’s coming. The change is subtle to begin with. After Mayor Norman Osborn withdraws the funding for Octavius Industries, Otto’s voicemail messages to Peter veer between frantic anger and excitement as he chases financing possibilities for his research. Then Otto’s ambitions swell, switching his attention from prosthetics to high-tech bionic arms, then focusing on creating additional limbs instead of replacing lost ones, and finally to developing a chip that allows someone to mentally control robotic appendages. In his eyes, that chip allows people to transcend the limits of the human body. And you’re a witness to all of it, to every decision he makes that takes him further down the path to evil.
...And you saw it coming
A unique horror comes from seeing someone you love and admire twisted into a villain, and video games know it. Sarah Kerrigan from Starcraft 2, Bioshock's Atlas, Arthas from World of Warcraft, Big Boss from Metal Gear Solid… you've probably seen it happen before. It's even worse when their aspirations remain alarmingly similar after they turn evil. Coursing through Doctor Octopus’ mind is the same passion that he had when he was just Dr Otto Octavius at the beginning of the game, as he still believes that technology can make up for the weaknesses of the human body.
Yet his own deteriorating body means that the chip is just as much for him as for those who lack limbs. Hearing the desperation in Octavius' voice when he reveals that he can't control his hands like he once could initially makes you sympathise with him, perhaps even pity him. Knowing that this brilliant scientist is becoming unable to create the technology that he's dedicated his life to is heartbreaking. The risk that the chip has a chance of altering his personality pales in comparison to the fear in Octavius' eyes that he'll become the discarded failure Osborn believes him to be. Slowly, when it becomes apparent how life-destroying Octavius' condition is, you can understand how a good man can turn bad.
Doctor Octopus isn't just a villain because he releases a deadly chemical into the general populace. He's evil because of what he does to Peter. To you. During Spider-Man's finale you're forced to give up on someone that believed in you, mentored you, and made you want to help people. In the devastating moment when Peter confronts him, Doctor Octopus crushes both Peter's childhood hero, and any hope that he'll return, in one quick strike. Doctor Octopus is 2018's best villain because you follow his descent from a kind, intelligent scientist into callous bad guy. And he couldn’t have done it without you.