Spider-Man heads back to FEAST. He changes into civilian clothes to check on Aunt May and break into Martin Li’s office. We do some extremely light puzzling and find a secret room behind Martin’s office. We find a diary that depicts Li as struggling against some sort of demonic power, but I don’t know if we’re supposed to take that literally or not. It really feels like the writer has assumed we’ve read the comics.
We also recover the file from the start of the game that talks about Devil’s Breath. We still don’t know what it is, but we know it figures into Martin’s plans and we know it’s called friggin’ DEVIL’S BREATH so it’s a safe bet it’s not a dessert topping.
Martin Li shows up just as Peter leaves Li’s office. They have a guarded conversation. Martin seems to know Peter was snooping around in his stuff, and Peter knows that Li is the leader of the Demons, but neither of them seems to know how much the other knows. Li is friendly towards both Peter and Aunt May.
When the conversation turns to current events and the recent attack on the city, Martin assures Peter and May that they’ll be safe as long as they “stay out of places you shouldn’t be”. This is horseshit, by the way. Martin’s plan is to release a bio-weapon capable of causing a pandemic. Again, I feel like the writer is trying to characterize this guy but I can’t make sense of it because it was never explained how his Yin / Yang deal works.
What does the writer want me to conclude from this exchange?
- Is Martin telling the truth and he really thinks Peter and May will be safe because he plans to launch his attack elsewhere?
- Is there some sort of dual-personality thing at work here that prevents Li from understanding the scope of his alter ego’s plans?
- Is Li deliberately lying to them because he wants them to stay in the city and die when he unleashes Devil’s Breath?
- Is Li just trying to reassure his friends, and he has no idea whether or not they’ll be safe?
This is important because Spider-Man thinks he can “save” Li, or that Li still has “goodness” left in him. Without understanding how this dual personality thing works I just can’t get invested in this part of the drama.
When Peter leaves FEAST, he’s jumped by some homeless dudes who have been mind-controlled by Li.
- Did Li attack Peter because he’s figured out that Peter is Spider-Man?
- Did Li attack Peter because he caught him snooping around his office?
- Did Li attack Peter because Peter mentioned that he was at the Osborn rally, which led Li to believe that Peter was a fan of Norman Osborn as a politician?
Peter overcomes the homeless guys easily. This happens in a cutscene, which is fine. While I normally disapprove of how many fights this game resolves in cutscenes, I don’t need gameplay to steamroll this handful of mind-controlled homeless guys.
I can’t even tell what Li was trying to accomplish. Was this meant to kill Peter, or was it supposed to be a beating to teach him a lesson? Li’s character is incredibly frustrating for me because it leaves me with this constant feeling that I missed a cutscene or important dialog exchange. The story is constantly assuming I understand things it has never explained about Martin Li. I know earlier I said this writer knows what they’re doing, but there is something wonky in the Martin Li plot and I’m very curious what went wrong.
Peter and MJ meet up for dinner. This is part of a background C plot where Peter is still pining for his ex-girlfriend while the writer teases us with the mystery of why they broke up in the first place.
Eventually we’ll discover that MJ broke up with Peter because he was overprotective of her. Peter, always motivated by guilt over what happened to Uncle Ben and his fear that the people he loves will be hurt by his super-heroics, is driven by an almost pathological desire to keep her safe. That would be fine, except she’s an investigative reporter in a comic book world and thus her job requires her to sneak around and dig up secrets on dangerous people. They care for each other, but his need to protect her is directly at odds with her career. Their relationship can’t continue until they solve this impasse.
MJ says that since they’re working together now, they should be “partners”. Peter agrees right away because he likes MJ and is happy to be around her. MJ thinks that being “partners” means that they can work together and Peter will let her do her job. However, she never makes it clear what she’s expecting from this relationship and Peter never asks. This is a pretty classic young adult blunder. They’re entering into a working relationship without making the expectations clear. Peter still plans to protect MJ and she expects she’s going to be able to sneak around super villain hideouts without Peter protecting her from doing her job.
Speaking of sneaking around super villain hideouts, MJ explains that she recently had to break into a garage where the villain Tombstone is doing some stuff that’s not worth getting into. I guess now is a good time to talk about the…
Non-Superhero Stealth Sections
In terms of pacing and story, these bits of the game are good. We get a break from the swinging and brawling to do something a little different. Playing as a normal human can help us appreciate the super-powered gameplay when we jump back to Spidey. Handling a flashback info-dump as a stealth section is a good way of following the gamedev axiom that showing is better than telling, and doing is better than showing.
On the other hand, these sections are incredibly shallow in terms of gameplay. Your goal is to move through a linear area, sneaking past the guards. Don’t walk over patches of broken glass. Don’t bump into stacks of boxes because you’ll knock them over and draw attention.
The whole thing is totally one-dimensional. You’ll see a guard in front of you, and a distraction object nearby. You just walk up to the object, press triangle, and then slip by the guard while he investigates the disturbance. You’re presented problems one at time, in a fixed order, and each problem has one solution that’s completely obvious. There are no decisions to make and no mechanics to master. It’s the equivalent of a leisurely quicktime event chain that’s been stretched out over five minutes.
Each obstacle is binary. You either slip past the guard without being noticed, or you get spotted and get an instant game over. Getting killed when you’re spotted makes this pretty unforgiving, so to make up for it you get a checkpoint after every single guard. Once you pass a guard, you never have to worry about them again. I’m not sure if the game removes them from the environment or blinds them, but I’ve never had to worry about a guy after passing him, even if I was clumsy and made a bunch of noise.
These stealth sections allow us to play through events that would otherwise be boring passive expositional conversations. They’re a good idea. But boring gameplay is only marginally better than boring exposition. You could even argue that the exposition is better for people who play through the game multiple times. On subsequent playthroughs, you’ll forced to play through MJ’s mind-numbing distraction object minigame yet again. If it was just a boring cutscene, you could at least skip it.
Rather than cutting the MJ and Miles sections, I think the solution here is to expand this into proper gameplay. Give the player multiple tools for dealing with guards. Give the environments an open design where you can choose between fast and risky or slow and safe. Give the guards AI that’s at least as robust as Thief had in 1998. Give the player the ability to recover from mistakesFor example, a limited-charge stun gun that can KO a guard, so you can zap a guy before he radios for backup. It would act as a mulligan, and higher difficulty levels could offer fewer charges. so one blunder doesn’t result in a game over.
I’m willing to forgive the game for the lame stealth sections this time because this is the first outing of a new franchise. It’s already a big game and so much of it works so well. I understand asking for a fully-developed stealth system for MJ and Miles would is like asking for a second set of fully developed mechanics. Having said that, this is something that really needs to be addressed for the sequels.
The Demon gang tries to kidnap Oscorp CFO Charles Standish. Spider-Man swings in and saves him. The game once again reminds us that the Demons are after Devil’s Breath, but we don’t get any exposition on what it is or why they want it. At the end of the mission, Sable goons show up and take Standish into custody for his protection.
This is pointless, since the Demon gang no longer cares about Standish. They’re just working their way through the Oscorp organizational chart, trying to find someone with access to Devil’s Breath. But “pointless” is part of the Sable International mission statement, along with “violent” and “moronic”. We’ll return to this plot thread a few scenes from now.
Their next target is an Oscorp scientist, who is currently attending the ESU Halloween costume party dressed as longtime Spider-Man foe Lizard.
Isn’t this in bad taste? I think it’s public knowledge that the Lizard is Dr. Conners, who was part of the ESU staff. It’s like attending a University of Michigan costume party dressed as the Unabomber. Then again, in a comic book world full of costumed heroes and villains, maybe people would develop a blazé attitude towards this sort of thing. Still, dressing as your coworker’s murderous alter-ego seems like it should qualify as a party foul.
Anyway, Spider-Man has to attend the party and locate the scientist before the Demon gang does.
Martin Li reaches the scientist first. He uses his powers to mind-control the scientist into telling him the name of yet another Oscorp scientist they need to find. Then Li has the mind-controlled guy kill himself, even though Li has everything he needs and there’s no reason to kill him. Apparently the centerpiece of Li’s revenge plan against Norman Osborn is killing lots of people who aren’t Norman Osborn.
Spider-Man decides to sneak into Oscorp tower. He has to disable the Oscorp security systems and sneak past a bunch of snipers and drones to reach the top.
This game is all over the place when it comes to snipers. In enemy bases, snipers are typical videogame mooks with no peripheral vision who can’t see a guy in bright red and blue spandex if he’s even slightly above their eye-line. In the open world, snipers are ridiculous aimbots that can spot you the instant you poke your head into view, even if you’re in the dark and ten stories directly above them. They can track you flawlessly for several blocks, even if you’re swinging at high speeds. And then sometimes we have snipers like the ones in this tower climb. These guys are apparently blind. They won’t see you at all, even if you position yourself right beside their laser finder. However, if you touch the laser then they’re all aware of you and it’s an instant game over. What is this supposed to represent? Are the snipers all using scopes with a 1,000,000x zoom lens?
For the purposes of a comic book action game, any of these are fine. I’m totally willing to go along with whatever silly videogame logic the game wants to use. The problem I have is that the game keeps switching between these three different rule sets without warning.
Oh, I see a sniper laser ahead. Is this guy a clairvoyant aimbot, an oblivious blind dullard, or a laser tripwire? Oops. He shot me from two hundred meters away without warning, so I guess this one is an aimbot.
Some lasers are red and some are blue, which might trick you into thinking there’s a pattern. But there’s not. Here on Oscorp Tower the lasers are blue and act like tripwires. Elsewhere you run into aimbot guys that have red lasers. But then during one of the later stealth section with Miles Morales we have tripwire-style snipers with red lasersI think red=criminals and blue=Sable, but maybe there are some cases that break from this pattern. I’m not sure.. Sometimes you see the laser ahead of time, and other times the laser doesn’t appear until the foe begins tracking you. If there’s a pattern to any of this, it wasn’t obvious enough to pick up on it in my many trips through the game.
At the top of the tower we finally learn about Devil’s Breath. It’s apparently supposed to be some sort of gene therapy that can cure diseases by re-writing your DNAOr maybe re-writing it’s own. This is comic book science so it’s probably best we don’t worry too much about the details.. The problem is that it doesn’t work yet. Right now all it does is kill you. If it got loose, it could start a global pandemic.
We also learn that there’s only one sample of Devil’s Breath, and that the chief scientist keeps it with him at all times. I’m not sure why he keeps it in a briefcase and not a vault in a lab. Why would he ever need to take this incredibly dangerous sample out of the lab? Does it need to go for walks?
Whatever. I guess comic book gotta comic book.
 For example, a limited-charge stun gun that can KO a guard, so you can zap a guy before he radios for backup. It would act as a mulligan, and higher difficulty levels could offer fewer charges.
 I think red=criminals and blue=Sable, but maybe there are some cases that break from this pattern. I’m not sure.
 Or maybe re-writing it’s own. This is comic book science so it’s probably best we don’t worry too much about the details.
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