The Playstation 4 exclusive Marvel’s Spider-Man is one of the system’s greatest successes and has intrigued both casual fans and devotees alike, but why is it so different from other Spider-Man games?
Spider-Man has had a notably positive run in his video-game incarnations. From the arcade to console, Spider-Man is a solid brand for any platform. I can’t help but think this has a lot to do with the fantasy of being the wall-crawler. Spidey has a unique power set and one that lends itself to action. This has been one of the character’s draws in all of media and has bolstered his popularity over the decades. When the announcement of Insomniac Games’ Marvel’s Spider-Man hit, it caused immediate buzz amongst gamers and comic book fans alike. New technology would bring along with it new action. Insomniac Games delivered on this, and while the game takes inspiration from both earlier Spider-Man outings and the Batman Arkham titles, it modifies all of these elements enough to create a unique experience.
But, this isn’t the game’s most important triumph.
With a writing team anchored by experienced Spider-Man Writers Christos Gage and Dan Slott, Marvel’s Spider-Man features one of the finest adaptations of the character in any medium. I mean that, there have been a few reviews of this calling the game the best Spider-Man movie ever, and though I think we all need more time to digest, they have a real point. Jon Paquette, Benjamin Arfmann and Kelsey Beachum seamlessly compliment their comic book counterparts and create a pitch-perfect Spider-Man in an adventure worthy of the character. While utilizing elements of past Spider-Tales, they also drop in enough surprises to catch even a well-versed reader off guard. This is often done through the inclusion of some lesser known Spider-Villains, and lets the audience know that it was crafted with care. Tombstone’s arc is especially satisfying and he’s not even the half of it.
I think there is something even bigger here though. Throughout Spider-Man’s history, there has been an argument that the character has weakened as Peter Parker aged. I’ve always thought this to be a silly one, we wouldn’t have Venom or Kraven’s Last Hunt if he hadn’t, but it is pervasive nonetheless. Marvel’s Spider-Man provides a tale of an adult Parker who, while having faced many evils in the past, still has quite a bit to learn. Yes, there is a lot of re-framing to accomplish this, but it is an adaptation and not something bogged down by continuity. Using Slott’s science-heavy vision of Spider-Man, Peter’s newspaper days are in the past and he has become a full-time research scientist. This allows the character to still struggle to pay his bills, while having a more defined direction in life. This has been something that comic writers have struggled with for years and it is refreshing to see it solved so quickly. Mary Jane is modified to keep Peter’s attachment to the Daily Bugle and to make her a more viable partner for our hero. The journalist MJ is a very different character, but compliments this Spider-Man perfectly. Miles Morales is even introduced in one of the most interesting and fitting ways seen since his inception. Miles is very much a part of the future of the character, and the narrative embraces this without casting Peter aside. This game is a blue-print for contemporary Spider-Man storytelling. Marvel’s Spider-Man is the best type of adaptation, one that embraces devotees, while creating enough new material to capture new fans. It is a proof of the power of the adult Spider-Man, and that it is not a hindrance on the character’s ability to engage and intrigue readers.