One of the biggest, arguably the straight-up biggest, games of E3 2017 was Insomniac’s PS4 exclusive Spider-Man . While the game was not playable by attendees or media, Sony did feature a behind closed-doors demonstration of the game, showing off its various mechanics and overall style in a live demo. We knew it was legitimately live, despite its clean and slick look, when the poor dude in charge of playing it over and over all week slipped up in a particularly intense web-slinging segment. Even without my hands on the controller, there’s a lot to unpack about what to expect from Sony, Marvel, and Insomniac’s Spider-Man .
From the outset, Spider-Man is a gorgeous game. It’s smooth, sleek, bright, and colorful. Spider-Man’s iconic red and blue exploded from the screen, running in 4K on a PlayStation Pro. Much of the game seemed to carry with it the DNA of Activision’s infamous concept of what a modern, videogame version of Spider-Man should look like. The hero is acrobatic, capable of twisting his body in impossible ways and juggling foes in the air. He can zip from point to point with a targeted web sling, perform stealth takedowns, and swing enemies around. It’s familiar, albeit with a new, heavy emphasis on environmental interactions.
Whenever the demonstrator entered a combat situation, he would guide Spider-Man all over the screen, ping-ponging off of various objects, using them in context-sensitive ways that really showed a sense of variety and options for the player. Spidey, at one point, even booted a man off a building and snapped him back with a quick web shot. These were separate actions, but Creative Director Bryan Intihar jokingly assured me there are safeguards in place to prevent the unthinkable from happening. That said, the goal here is adjustment and improvisation. Spider-Man also has distinctly new options in the form of various gadgets. Shown was a little trip-mine device that could be attached to a surface, then spew a body-covering web blast over the first passer-by.
More importantly, Intihar also went to great lengths to emphasize that this Spider-Man is unique – its own contained universe not connected to any other established storyline, movie, and so on. The story is a totally original collaboration between Marvel and Insomniac, right down to the new suit design, which apparently will be explained in the game’s story.
Speaking of story, the villains we were initially introduced to were William Fisk, The Kingpin, and Martin Li, also known as Mr. Negative. In this story, Peter Parker is an experienced 23 and we will not revisit the origin story. While not yet named, two Marvel writers specifically are involved in the project.
When I asked Intihar which comic book storylines had an initial influence on him as creative director, he immediately pointed to the Bendis Ultimate Comics, as well as the current mainline Spider-Man comics, which have been helmed by Dan Slott for several years now. Mr. Negative is proof enough of that, as he was one of the first major baddies when Slott took the reins. Miles Morales, the former second Ultimate Spider-Man , was another hinted-at part of the game. Morales will be heavily involved in the story in some way, possibly in the form of a mentorship role for Spidey and/or Peter Parker.
In addition to combat sections, also demonstrated was an elaborate, blockbuster movie-style sequence in which Spider-Man had to chase a rampaging helicopter through New York City, prevent a massive crane from falling onto citizens, and maintain a large piece of construction equipment dangling from said helicopter, all at the same time. Much of this section was resolved through quicktime events, paired with a healthy dose of web-swinging. It was explained that this is as hardcore as a Spider-Man web-swinging design can get, with a requirement to attach web to buildings.
I cannot wait to get my hands on this game. Spider-Man games have always been on shaky, but frankly high quality ground since Activision was in charge. There a few exceptions, but generally this is in comparison to other superhero games at the time. Insomniac’s take looks like it rests on another level, with the kind of backing and resources a Spider-Man game may not have ever had before.