Spider-Man’s suit was damaged in the fight with Kingpin, so he decides to sneak back into the Octavius Industries lab to enact some repairs.
This version of late-period Spider-Man is a little more high-tech than the more classic takes on the character. He’s got communications gear integrated with the suit so he can take calls and check messages while web-swinging. His eyes are mechanical screens with some sort of HUD. He’s got an on-board computer that does hand-wavey stuff to facilitate gameplay. It strikes a good balance between the crazy weaponized super-suit designed by Tony Stark and the simple red-and-blue spandex of his early days.
Nothing to see here!
It turns out Otto has decided to work late, which means he walks in on Peter as he’s working on the Spider-Man costume. There’s an awkward moment where Peter pathetically tries to conceal the costume and stammer out some excuses, but at this moment the light comes on for Otto.
Otto gasps as he looks at the torn red and blue jumpsuit. “Of course,” he says in quiet awe. “It’s you.”
From Otto’s perspective this makes complete sense. Peter is young and fit and obviously a good match for Spider-Man’s lean frame. More importantly, this explains why Peter is always so distracted and running late despite his apparent intelligence and enthusiasm for the project.
A second later Otto backs off and acts like he thinks that Peter makes Spider-Man’s suits for him.
Sometimes in a serialized drama a supporting character will approach (say) Walter White and say something like “It’s over, Walt. I know THE TRUTH about what you’ve been doing.” Then the two characters lock eyes and intense music plays. Naturally we assume this guy knows all about Walt’s drug empire and we wonder what they want and how Walt will react. Depending on the show, maybe we cut to a commercial or even end the episode at this point. Then when we return to the scene, the character says something like, “I know you’re the one who’s been stealing sandwiches out of the refrigerator in the break room!”
It’s true that the melodramatic opening doesn’t really fit for a simple confrontation about sandwich theft, but we’re used to this sort of cheating on the part of writers. When we hit this scene where Otto caught Peter at work and then assumed Peter was Spidey’s seamstress, I assumed the writer was pulling a similar trick. Sure, his awed exclamation of, “It’s you!” doesn’t match up with the conclusion of “You make Spider-Man’s costume.” but that’s how these kinds of fake-outs work.
But as it happens, this isn’t a fake-out. Doc really did figure it out. He knows the truth, but he’s giving Peter an out because he can tell it’s stressful for the kid.
I’m curious how other people interpreted this scene. Did you assume that this was a fake-out and Peter’s secret was still safe, or did you think Otto was just being nice and Peter was genuinely outed?
Regardless of which way we interpret this scene, William Salyers‘ performance at Doc Ock is incredible. I know everyone loves the work Alfred Molina did with the character back in 2004 (and for good reason) but as far as I’m concerned this is the best version of the character so far. The acting is good across the board in this game, but Salyers manages to steal the show anyway. He’s charming as the beleaguered scientist Otto Octavius and a delight to watch as the megalomaniacal Doctor OctopusUh, spoiler warning I guess?.
The White Spider
Peter takes a nap at the office, and when he wakes up he finds some notes from Otto. Otto had some ideas for a new Spider-Man suit and wanted to share.
I’d love to know how Peter whips up this suit on the spot with no apparent costume-making materials. Have you ever watched someone put together a cosplay costume? Projects like this can take weeks. I guess we have to assume the 3D printing technology in this universe is really good and even works with fabrics.
Next up we get a scene of Spidey swinging through New York in the new Spider-Man suit. The “White Spider” suit was apparently designed specifically for this game by the developer.
Like I said at the start of this series, I’m an old-school purist. I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that I still prefer the classic Spider-Man costume. Having said that, I think the White Spider is my favorite among all the alternatives. That’s pretty impressive. Spidey has worn a ton of costumes over the years and a lot of them were designed by comic book industry veterans. Those folks know their super-suits. It speaks well to Insomniac Games that they were able to come up with a suit that looks good, yet looks distinct from what came before, while also staying true to the character. It’s a lot better than Spider-Man’sThis was the Ben Reilly Spider-Man. Reilly was a clone of Peter and… you know what? We don’t have time to get into it. Nobody does. stupid sleeveless hoodie back in the 1990s. Cringe.
In fact, I think the White Spider costume is overall a cooler design. I still prefer the original due to deeply-rooted nostalgia, but if I’d never seen the character before and you put the two designs side-by-side, I’d probably go with the White Spider. I like the way the white in the costume ties into the white in his eyes. I also really like the redesign of the feet, which look much more interesting than Spider-Man’s classic red shin-high boot-socks.
I do wonder how this design would fare in the comics. It’s quite a bit more complicated than the classic suit and might end up creating a lot of extra work for the artists. I always wonder if a lot of slick superhero designs have been discarded over the years due to people saying, “Yeah, that design is cooler, but I don’t want to have to draw that thing every day.”
Then again, it seems like Steve Ditko went out of his way to make things difficult for himself in 1962 when he invented the original costume. That tight webbing pattern was probably a lot of extra work compared to the large areas of solid color we see on the costumes for Captain America and Mister Fantastic, not to mention the deliberate minimalism of Hulk and Silver Surfer. Ditko also invented the ridiculously complex Doctor Strange costume. Whatever criticisms people have for Ditko, I don’t think we can accuse him of being lazy.
There are a total of 27 different costumes available in Spider-Man 2018. Some of them are nods to other versions of the character from different comics or movies, and some of them are joke novelty outfits. A few of them were clearly cooked up by Insomniac Games and are probably leftover designs from before the team settled on the White Spider as their official outfit.
The game will let you switch between suits pretty much at will. Most suits come with a bonus power, but once you unlock a suit you can mix and match any suit power with any suit. The game mostly respects these choices during cutscenes, so once you unlock the underpants costume you’re free to wear that in the open world and take it with you into cutscenes without the developer forcing you back into the suit they think you “should” be wearing.
However, there are a couple of stray lines of dialog and one scene at the very end of the game that make it clear that no matter what you wear, the White Spider is what you were wearing in a canonical sense.
In any case, I really liked collecting the costumes.
Officer Watanabe asks Spidey to stop by Fisk construction sites. She knows these places are still funding Fisk and his army of lawyers, but she can’t get search warrants. So we have to drop in, hand out free naps, and then once we see evidence of criminal shenanigans Yuri can send in the real cops.
There are several of these locations around the city. In true open-world style, we have to visit a location and then fend off a predetermined number of waves of bad guys to clear the site. Despite the repetition, these are some of the best parts of the game.
Spider-Man’s quips are pretty solid here. Also, it’s nice to fight in a proper arena designed for combat. Out in the open world we have spots where the camera ends up stuck behind a tree, bad guys end up stuck behind walls where they can’t reach the fight, or where cars end up interfering with attack animations. These arena fights feel more like the properly focused and carefully balanced fights of the Arkham games, and less like the random and desultory scuffles we find in copycats like Shadow of Mordor.
These wave-based encounters are also pretty good for teaching the player about the combat mechanics. Each base will have some bonus goals. Stuff like: “Kick 5 guys while web-swinging” or “Use finishing moves on 10 people” or “Throw 5 guys over the edge”. Early in the game it buried you in one-time button prompts and then moved on without review or testing. You only got a small handful of guys to try it on and if you misunderstood or made a mistake, the lesson was over too quickly for you to keep trying. These base fights give you a clear incentive to explore some of the more complex or esoteric moves and then several waves of guys to practice on.
And speaking of throwing guys off of buildings…
Down You Go!
This game is not shy about allowing you to fling guys off of skyscrapers. This seems kind of uncharacteristic for Spidey, and in fact the game makes it clear that Spider-Man has a strong “no killing” stance. So how to we reconcile this obviously lethal behavior with such behavior?
The developers took the reasonable position of “Try not to overthink it, just have fun.” The combat is designed to facilitate knocking foes around without worrying that you’ll accidentally turn our hero into a murderer. If you look over the edge when a bad guy falls off a building, you’ll see a magical web will appear out of nowhere to grab onto him and stick him to the nearest surface. That’s fine. Batman has a similar gimmick. If you managed to knock a guy off a ledge in Arkham City, he’d sprout a magical Bat-line from his ankle that would tether him to the rooftop.
It’s interesting to compare the two games. I was always shaking my head at Batman’s antics and asking, “How am I not killing people?” I never had those problems in Spider-Man, despite the fact that Spidey’s antics are even crazier. He hits way harder than Batman canBatman doesn’t uppercut guys 5 meters into the air.. He flings heavy itemsLike manhole covers and car doors. at speeds that would be enough to total a car, much less a human being. His foes plummet for several stories before stopping instantly on the end of a web-line. And yet I never really worried that I was at risk of killing anyone.
I think part of Batman’s problem is that his moves are so visually savage. At the end of a fight the camera will get in close so we can watch Batman dislocate someone’s shoulder, hyper-extend their knee, or slam them head-first into the frozen cobblestones. The depiction of hand-to-hand violence is so cruel and graphic that it’s hard not to take it seriously.
If someone gets knocked across the room by a punch, then for whatever reasons our brains are able to accept them standing up afterward, even if that kind of hit would be either fatal or debilitating in real life. But if their elbow gets bent the wrong way then there’s no getting around that. Their arm is wrecked, and such sights are not for the squeamish. A hyper-extended elbow is gruesome to look at, while a punch-across-the-room isn’t, even if the punch is far more likely to kill you in the real world.
We can understand that Batman, being a normal guy in extraordinary circumstances, has to resort to extreme methods to protect his mission. Meanwhile if Spider-Man went around shattering the ribcage of every mugger he came across, we’d think he was a sicko that got off on hurting people.
I don’t think one approach is better than the other. I think both games depict violence in a way that suits the story they’re trying to tell.
 Uh, spoiler warning I guess?
 This was the Ben Reilly Spider-Man. Reilly was a clone of Peter and… you know what? We don’t have time to get into it. Nobody does.
 Batman doesn’t uppercut guys 5 meters into the air.
 Like manhole covers and car doors.
Silent Hill Turbo HD II
I was trying to make fun of how Silent Hill had lost its way but I ended up making fun of fighting games. Whatever.
Video Compression Gone Wrong
How does image compression work, and why does it create those ugly spots all over some videos and not others?
The Opportunity Crunch
No, brutal, soul-sucking, marriage-destroying crunch mode in game development isn't a privilege or an opportunity. It's idiocy.
If Star Wars Was Made in 2006?
Imagine if the original Star Wars hadn't appeared in the 1970's, but instead was pitched to studios in 2006. How would that turn out?
So what happens when a SOFTWARE engineer tries to review hardware? This. This happens.