Spider-Man gets a tip from Yuri that the Demons are seizing a lot of the Kingpin’s holdings. Spider-Man still thinks this is a gang war problem. By this point in the story the player has run into spontaneous clusters of Demons doing various crimes around the city. They seem to be amassing weapons and money and Spidey is wondering what their next big move is.
Yuri is invaluable here. As a member of the police force she can feed Spider-Man all the exposition we need and act as a sounding board for our lead character. Without her, Spider-Man would need to convey all of his plans and fears by narrating to himself. That works fine in comics where the writer controls the flow of time and can have Spidey recap recent events in a single full-page panel, but in an open world having the player character endlessly chattering to themselves would be incredibly tedious.
Spider-Man and Yuri figure out that the Demons are likely to attack one of the Kingpin’s properties at the docks. Yuri sends officer Jefferson Davis with a warrant. This means Spider-Man and Officer Davis can conduct a proper search and gather evidence.
Before they can do the search, Spidey needs to knock out all the guards, so I guess now is a good time to talk about the…
I’ve never really thought of Spider-Man as a stealth-focused hero. While I’m sure he’s done a little sneaking over the last five decades, I can’t remember reading a single instance of him doing it. Most of the time he just flings himself at the bad guys while shouting jokes.
On the other hand, I actually think stealth fits his character design. He’s a wiry dude in skin-tight spandex, which – ignoring his color choices – is pretty much step 1 of becoming a stealth character. I was never clear on how he was able to dodge bullets so easily in the comics and cartoons. Sure, I can see him ducking and jumping around one guy with a revolver. He’s fast and his Spidey-sense lets him knows when attacks are coming. But once you’ve got a handful of guys with assault rifles I start to wonder how our hero doesn’t get hit. Those things shoot a lot of bullets and it’s possible to fill the air to the point where there isn’t enough space for our hero to fit through regardless of his acrobatic ability. On top of that, spiders are ambush predators so stealth takedowns totally fit with the character concept.
On the cynical side it’s easy to assume Insomniac Games just put in these stealth sections because they were trying to tick all the boxes on the Batman template. Then again, stealth makes sense for the character in a situation where he’s facing a dozen guys with automatic weapons. There’s nothing in Spidey’s background or concept that precludes the use of stealth, so why not give the gameplay a little variety?
Having said that…
The stealth gameplay in Spider-Man 2018 is incredibly shallow. If they added this feature to copy what the Batman games are doing then they really missed the mark.
When you’re watching a foe from the shadows, there’s an indicator over their head telling you if they’re safe to pick off or if someone else is watching them. Isn’t figuring that out that the central challenge of stealth encounters? You’re supposed to observe enemy positions, analyze the field, and find someone vulnerable to pick off. But now the interface does all of that work for you. You just swing around and look for the prompt. It’s literally called “Safe”.
In Batman, enemies are always in motion. Nearly all of your targets are walking around. If they’re stuck in a single location, it usually means they have a hostage and it’ll be a game over if they spot you. The encounter areas are limited so there’s no easy escape if you’re discovered. There are special anti-stealth foes, like night vision guys to spot you hiding in the dark and landmine guys to restrict your movement.
In Spider-Man, guys usually stand still. They don’t have hostages except for in specific side-missions. The arenas are generally larger and you can erase almost any blunder by simply swinging away and waiting fifteen seconds. None of your adversaries have any anti-stealth tools, which means your foes are completely interchangeable and none of them require special consideration or prioritization.
Moreover, Spider-Man has the ability to attack across huge distances. A guy might be twenty meters away, but all it takes is a single press of the triangle button to have Spidey launch himself at the guy and knock him out in a single pounce. This means you barely need to worry about positioning. Unlike Batman, you’re not going to have to puzzle your way through an encounter, looking for a way to get behind that one vulnerable guy.
If nothing else, the long-distance pounce should have broken stealth. The move makes a pretty big slam when you land on a guy, and it would make sense if that drew everyone’s attention. The designers could have made it so that you need to get directly behind or above guys before doing the more silent web-based takedowns. That wouldn’t be enough to fix these encounters on its own, but it would at least be something to mildly challenge the player.
Spider-Man and Officer Davis slip into Fisk’s warehouse and do a few mild puzzles to open up the secret tunnel to the armory where Fisk’s men keep their insane cache of overpowered hardware. Spider-Man arrives just in time to see the Demons sneaking out the back door with the last of the weapons, which begins a high-speed chase across the city. There are rocket launchers and crashed vehicles and explosions and last-minute saves. I’m sure you’ve seen an action chase scene before so I’m not going to give you the full play-by-play.
At the end, Officer Davis saves Spider-Man’s life while Spider-Man is saving the lives of a bunch of people on the subway. It ends with a small crowd of bystanders applauding and Spider-Man motioning towards Officer Davis to give him all the credit.
What Time Is It?
Curiously, this game doesn’t have a running day / night cycle. Instead the time of day moves forward after story missions. Once the game is over you can visit a few specific locations on the map to manually switch between day, dusk, and night. There’s always a loading screen when the time changes, which makes me wonder how this game engine works. Is each time of day a totally different version of the city? The city itself will get torn apart as the story goes on, and some major landmarks will get destroyed or damaged. There are at least three distinct periods of the city in terms of scenery, and there are also three different versions of the city in terms of lighting. I’m wondering how they pulled this off without needing nine copies of the city.
I usually like working out the timeline of a story to see how many days pass. I did that for both Half-Life 2 and Final Fantasy X. I like doing this sort of thing because the passage of time is always so strange in videogames. We’re accustomed to a compressed day-night cycle and don’t bat an eye when several days of in-game activity happens inside of a couple hours of gameplay. At the same time, we usually consume a game over the course of days or weeks. You can take in an entire movie in just 90 minutes, but typical AAA games are expected to take at least ten times that.
So we’re comfortable with time passing very quickly within the world during a single play session, but then time is suspended within the world between play sessionsUnless you’re playing Animal Crossing.. Moreover, you might spend hours faffing around in an open-world game and not engaging with the story. Some games have the day / night cycle roll on while you do this, and others suspend the passage of time until you jump back on the rails to the next cutscene. This makes for some strange distortions to the passage of time that can leave the audience confused about pacing.
I guess this confusion is why I like analyzing how the writer handled the passage of time. I think it’s amusing when it feels like a story must have taken place over the course of months, and then you discover the writer envisioned the whole thing happening in three days.
Sadly, it’s somewhat harder to do here. Some sidequests take place at a specific times of day. So if it’s daytime in the main story when you trigger a nighttime mission, then the game switches to night for the mission and then back to day when it’s over. Other side missions clearly are supposed to take place at a given time of day, and the game will allow you to tackle it at the wrong time without messing with the position of the sun. For example, there’s a mission where you need to hunt down missing ESUEmpire State University. students based on photographs taken “just a few minutes ago” according to the student asking you for help. However, the photographs are unambiguously daytime and the game allows you to do the mission at night. There are a few vague time cuts in the story that might cover a few days and other cuts that are explicitly weeks. You could build a rough timeline here, but it’s hard to nail down anything concrete.
My point is that this game plays pretty fast and loose with the timeline and I can’t quite nail down when things happened or how much time passed between events. I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to think about it. Although thinking about stuff that you’re not supposed to think about is kind of my brand.
After this adventure, Spider-Man heads home to get some shuteye. Like I said above, I’m not totally sure how long it’s been since Peter got that nap at the Octavius Industries Lab or how long he managed to sleep at the time, but it’s safe to say it’s been quite a while and he’s long overdue.
He gets home to discover the locks have been changed and his stuff is gone. He’s been evicted.
This is a pretty classic Spidey story. In fact, one of the last Spider-Man comics I bought was Amazing Spider-Man #314Published in 1989, but I didn’t pick it up until a few years later. where Peter and MJ get evicted on Christmas Eve.
On one hand, it’s sad that you can’t re-visit your apartment before being evicted. You only get to see it during the opening cutscene. After that it still appears on the map, but you can’t get in. Sad face. This eviction might sting a little more if it was cutting the player off from someplace they they’d previously been able to visit. On the other hand, the apartment was incredibly dense with detail and I imagine making an additional version that was accessible outside of a cutscene would be a lot of extra work. On the gripping hand, this game is so enormous that a single detailed room ought to be just a drop in the bucket.
Either way, it was a cool apartment.
Peter doesn’t care about his possessionsPete! For a dude who can’t even make rent you’re awfully blasé about losing your laptop, food, and all your clothes. except for the flash drive where he keeps all the plans for his Spider-gadgets. So he has to swing all over town, chasing garbage trucks and dumpster diving to recover his lost flash drive.
Pete considers going to MJ’s to crash, but chickens out and heads back to FEAST. Aunt May has a really big office and he crashes on the couch.
Peter narrates to himself that he hasn’t slept “since the Fisk takedown”. This isn’t strictly true. The scene where he built the new White Spider suit had him napping, and that’s part of this same linear narrative. I’m not saying this is a plot hole or anything. A guy who gets this much exercise and this little sleep can certainly be forgiven for losing track of his last nap. I’m just saying I noticed.
He wakes up to discover she’s left him a few hundred bucks. I’m not sure what that’s supposed to accomplish. You can’t get housing in Manhattan for much less than $1,500 a month, which means you need somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000 just to pay the first month’s rent and security deposit. Peter made it clear earlier that he’s basically broke, and now he doesn’t even have a job.
She also gives him a pep talk about asking for help and they do a little bonding.
Martin Li interrupts. He announces he’s leaving town to take care of personal business. Everyone in the audience over five years old knows he’s the villain at this point, but our characters don’t know they’re in a comic book story so they have to figure things out the hard way.
Li puts Aunt May in charge while he’s gone. He asks her to take good care of FEAST, saying “It represents… the best part of me.”
I think it would be more accurate for him to say, “This place represents the tiny slice of me that isn’t a mass-murdering terrorist dumbass” but I guess that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
We’ll get to Li and his ridiculous plans later.
Sorry this entry was really heavy on recap and low on analysis. I don’t like to waste time just telling you the events of the story, but there’s a lot of plot in this game and some of this becomes important later. I can’t skip this recap without losing everyone in the audience that hasn’t played. And since this is a PS4 exclusive, that’s most of you.
 Unless you’re playing Animal Crossing.
 Empire State University.
 Published in 1989, but I didn’t pick it up until a few years later.
 Pete! For a dude who can’t even make rent you’re awfully blasé about losing your laptop, food, and all your clothes.
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