After Peter and MJ have their fight, we pause for a breather and check up on how our various secondary plots are developing.
We stop by Octavius Industries to see how the Otto plot is coming along. I realize I said this already, but I absolutely love this character. This entire story thread features solid writing, great dialog, and top-notch performances from the cast. My only gripe is that it gets sidelined by the other, weaker plots.
We discover that Dr. Octavius has built some robot-arms that can be controlled directly through mental input. They’re super strong, they telescope out, and they’re scary as hell. Also, Peter reads an article that says these kinds of neural interfaces are dangerous and experimental. They could even cause… personality changes!
Ah well. I’m sure it’ll be fine. Doc Octavius seems pretty happy and I can’t imagine how any of this could go horribly wrong.
We switch to playing as Miles for a bit. He gets jumped by masked men in broad daylight in a public place in a city patrolled by trigger-happy paramilitary goons because that’s how criminals behave in comic book Manhattan. Again, I wish this place looked more like comic book Manhattan and less like actual Manhattan. Anyway, Spider-Man saves Miles and they have a cute little bonding moment.
We play as Miles as he sneaks through a Sable checkpoint. Apparently Sable has put the city on lockdown and there are long lines in the style of airport security, even if you’re just trying to walk from A to B.
Once he reaches FEAST, Peter welcomes Miles to his new job working at the homeless shelter. He wisely doesn’t mention the place is owned by the dangerous mass-murdering asshole that killed his father. Miles’ mother even calls Peter to thank him for getting Miles the job. She’s sure it will be good for him.
Neither Miles nor his mother knows that Martin Li is the guy who bombed city hall at this point. Peter knows. The police seem to know. (At least, Yuri believes Spider-Man.) But the general public doesn’t. This isn’t a plot hole or anything. It’s just a strange thing for Peter to decide to do. Then again, Peter’s inability to recognize Martin’s psychopathic disregard for human life despite being a first-hand witness to it on repeated occasions is a little off-kilter. I’m not sure what to make of Peter’s behavior. Is the writer trying to show that Peter has a blind spot for Martin because they’re quasi-friends, or is the writer just trying be economical and having all the characters hang out at FEAST is a good way to keep them together?
The chief Oscorp scientist behind Devil’s Breath is still carrying the stuff around in a briefcase for some reason. He’s got a battalion of Sable meatheads guarding him. I’m not sure why he’s moving the stuff around, but apparently this pharmaceutical / bioweapon needs to go for rides or get fresh air. I’m also not sure why they don’t just destroy the material. Or have it stored in a device that can destroy it in the event of an attack. Or why they don’t use a decoy. I wish this cartoon world would stop pretending to be a serious world so I could stop thinking about stuff like this.
Predictably, Martin Li was able to get a huge army of Demons and a massive battering ram truck into the heart of the city and take everyone by surprise, despite all the checkpoints. What, do these security checkpoints only hassle innocent civilians and do nothing to impede the activities of enemy forces? Doesn’t that sound a little…
Actually, that sounds totally plausible. Maybe it’s depressing, but I guess I can’t fault the story for being unrealistic here.
So begins a three-way fight. Martin and his terrorist buddies steal Devil’s Breath. Spider-Man jumps in and tries to stop him. Sable shows up and begins shooting at both of them, even though hitting Martin with a missile would probably release the bioweapon.
During the struggle, Spider-Man confronts Li inside the speeding truck. Li grabs his arm and uses his unexplained powers to attempt to mind-control Spider-Man.
Martin Li Makes No Sense
So now Spider-Man is sucked into a hallucinatory dream realm to confront Martin Li. I found this section tedious, but your mileage may vary. I think this kind of thing works better in print. You can suspend time and have a couple of characters face each other in some abstract non-physical way. They can reveal their characters through dialog and we learn more about who they are. In a videogame, it’s just a boss fight that doesn’t matter because it’s a dream.
In this scene we get some hints about what Martin Li wants, but let’s look ahead and spoil his entire plan.
Eventually the story will reveal that years ago, Norman Osborn and Otto Octavius were science buddies. They tried to cure young Martin Li of some unexplained sickness using unexplained science. The experiment gave Martin Li his super powers. The resulting explosion also killed both of Li’s parents. Or maybe he killed them with his out-of-control powers? Whatever. They died in Norman’s science lab. I’m not sure how a failed science experiment resulted in demonic possession.
Is it possession? Does he have two different personalities? How does his good / evil thing work?
Either way, Li is out for revenge. He wants to hurt Norman Osborn. Given the way his parents died, that’s a reasonable enough motivation. The problem is that his plan doesn’t help him achieve his goals. He bombed City Hall and ordered his men to slaughter the survivors. How does any of that help him? He even called Mayor Osborn beforehand and warned him that an attack was coming, so the Mayor was already gone by the time the bomb went off. When Martin arrived at the scene it was clear Osborn was long gone, but he had his goons skewer the screaming wounded anyway. Was he slaughtering those people because they were possibly voters that supported Osborn, or because he was in the mood for some murders? Either way, that’s super dark and I think he’s lost the moral high ground with regards to his family being murdered by science.
His ultimate plan is to steal Devil’s Breath and unleash it on the city. That could kill millions, and there’s still no guarantee it would kill Norman. Li is so powerful and his army of brainwashed murder thugs is so vast that it should have been easy for him to nab Osborn whenever he wanted. He could kidnap the guy and torture him, or kill him outright, or kill his family, or whatever Li is into, revenge-wise. Instead his plans involve these absurd atrocities that hurt everyone except Norman.
Shamus, maybe he’s trying to ruin Osborn’s life before he gets his revenge? Like, he ruins his career, then ruins his company, then kills him?
I’ll just set aside the fact that terrorist attacks usually make leaders stronger. The “ruin his life” plan doesn’t appear in the text. You can believe it if you like, but a plan this nonsensical needs more than fanfiction to work for me.
Martin even has the audacity to claim that Norman is “a hidden cancer on this city”. And yeah, he’s a bit of a slimy politician. But last I checked he hadn’t committed multiple counts of mass murder.
Shamus, maybe he’s hurting New York as a way to hurt Osborn? Like, Osborn loves the city and so Li wants to destroy it?
If that’s true, it kinda makes me wonder why he went to all the trouble of opening up that homeless shelter. Moreover, Li himself contradicts this reading. Li explicitly says that Norman doesn’t care about people, so from his point of view Osborn shouldn’t care about all these dead civilians.
Shamus, you’re overthinking this. Li’s plan doesn’t need to make sense. He’s just crazy.
First off, it’s pretty sad to justify nonsensical plans with “crazy”. Secondly, “crazy” doesn’t mean “random”. Even if his goals don’t make sense, the things he does in pursuit of those goals should be something the audience can follow.
Even The Joker has clear motivations and plans in most stories. If there’s not some overarching character flaw to explain the nonsense behavior then it’s just a lazy shortcut for a villain that can do whatever the writer wants at any given moment. More importantly, this game isn’t really trying to sell the idea that Li is crazy. It doesn’t explain Li in terms of “The lab accident turned him into a raving madman”. Instead it reveals he has a terrible grudge for a good reason and then it shows him doing things that don’t advance his stated goals.
If you just want a bloodthirsty murder thug then you’re just making another Victor Zsasz or Carnage. Fine. Make your edgelord nutjob murderer. But then don’t waste all this screen time explaining his supposed motivations if they don’t have anything to do with the character’s actions.
It would be one thing if Martin was deliberately lashing out at the world and he wanted to make everyone suffer. But he keeps talking about his plans in terms of revenge on Osborn but doing things that don’t bring him any closer to that goal. If we’re supposed to blame this on “crazy” then the story needs to at least acknowledge this. Maybe he could act all high and mighty like he’s bringing justice, but then Spider-Man would point out that the revenge stuff is a smokescreen and Li just gets off on hurting people. The problem is that everyone else in the story takes Li’s revenge claims at face value.
Somehow Li was able to build all this wealth, establish this huge organization, acquire all these weapons, and dig up all this dirt on Oscorp, and yet he never once noticed that his own crimes are literally a hundred times worse than anything Norman Osborn ever did, and they do nothing to harm the target of his wrath?
Shamus, maybe the Demon is the real bad guy and Martin is just possessed?
Is there a demon? How does this work? Earlier in the story we read his diary and saw that even when he was running the homeless shelter he was making these ghastly plans while completely lucid. His plans are portrayed as clear, premeditated actions by a sane man who knew what he was doing. But then in the same document he says that “The Demon is hungry”. So which is it? Is he a psycho wearing a friendly face, or a good man who fell to some sort of external mind-control?
I can’t escape the feeling like the writer expects me to know how this guy works based on the comics.
Shamus, you’re overthinking this. The bad guy is evil and the hero needs to stop him. Not everyone needs to be a puzzle-box of complex motivations. Sometimes there’s just a bad guy.
That would be fine, but the story burns so much time building up this mystery about what Li’s plans are and why he’s doing it. Don’t tantalize us with a mystery and then demand we not think about it.
Martin Li Doesn’t Deserve a Redemption Arc
This gets to be really annoying towards the end of the boss fight when Spider-Man starts pleading with Li to “come back to the light”.
Dude, are you for real? What makes you think he’s capable of redemption? I notice you weren’t trying to redeem Kingpin at the start of the game, and this guy is a far sight worse than Kingpin.
Are we supposed to be impressed that Li runs a homeless shelter? Hitler loved his dog. He was also a big supporter of programs to help the poor, the aged, and the disabled. (I mean, assuming they are the “right” sort of poor, aged, and disabled.) But nobody cares because he was a genocidal bastard. If you look deep enough you’ll find lots of evil people had a “nice” side. They’re still evil people. Martin Li’s vaguely-defined “duality” gimmick doesn’t work for me because you can’t cancel out murders by occasionally being nice to hobos. I don’t buy it when Bethesda does it in their games, and I’m not buying it here.
Even if redemption is possible due to whatever unexplained rules drive Li’s behavior, there’s nothing in this story to make me care. It’s not like we’re trying to save him before he crosses some threshold and becomes a monster. That ship has sailed. And then some. Redemption or not, the only future this guy has is spending the rest of his life locked in a small box in the ultramax prison for super villains. Once your body count is in the triple digits and you’ve got plans involving the death of millions, it’s too late to think about rehabilitation. Even if a scientist teamed up with an exorcist and “cured” him of being a murderous asshole, he’s still going to rot in prison until he diesOkay, ACTUALLY he’s going to escape prison again and again until he stops selling comic books, but you know what I mean.. Since he’s completely unsympathetic and his plans are moronic, I don’t really care if he’s redeemed before they shove him in there.
I don’t know what Mr. Negative is like in the comics, but here in the game he’s a complete bore and Spider-Man’s pleas for his redemption are beyond tedious.
This fight isn’t over yet. We’ll cover the rest of this punch-up next week.
 Okay, ACTUALLY he’s going to escape prison again and again until he stops selling comic books, but you know what I mean.
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