Spider-Man Part 20: The Pugilist Spider-Man

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jul 11, 2019

Filed under: Retrospectives 80 comments

New York city is now filled with escaped convicts terrorizing the populace. Sable agents have declared martial law and are using their unchecked power to imprison civilians, beat them, and seize their property. The Sinister Six are loose in the city and causing even more destruction. Doctor Octopus has released Devil’s Breath, which is causing a pandemic that will certainly claim thousands of lives, and might even kill millions if we don’t find a cure.

The city is now screwed so bad I kind of stop caring. As far as I’m concerned, Spider-Man lost. This is the kind of cataclysm he’s supposed to prevent. This reminds me of the destructive brawl Superman had in Man of Steel. The fantasy of thwarting evil is gone. Sure, Spider-Man saves the city later, but that doesn’t fix the fact that so many people died under his watch.

This looks like it should be the GAME OVER screen, but it isn't.
This looks like it should be the GAME OVER screen, but it isn't.

Maybe a disaster of this scale might work as a dark turn in the second entry of a trilogy, but as the introduction of a new franchise it’s incredibly off-putting to me. I know how producers think and I know they feel compelled to constantly go “bigger” and “more epic” and to continually raise the stakes. I’m really not looking forward to the “more epic” version of a citywide pandemic + prison escape + brutalist police state + Sinister Six rampage in the eventual sequel.

This compulsion to constantly go bigger is what turned the final Arkham game into such a bloated mess. At least Batman started small-scale and worked up to ridiculous over the course of four games. Spider-Man is starting with a massive doomsday threat that kills thousands, so there isn’t a lot of room for them to scale up from here without getting into problems that are too big for Spider-Man’s world.

I realize this is a matter of taste and I’m sure lots of people will enjoy this “darker” take on a Spider-Man story, but for me the game has refused to deliver on the central thing I look for in Spider-Man: I want the hero to save the day. If I wanted to see the hero fail I’d turn to Watchmen, and if I wanted to see the quasi-hero avenge the fallen I’d turn to PunisherOkay, I can’t actually do that because they aren’t making Punisher games. But they should!. To me Spider-Man is a guy who saves the day at great cost to himself and with little thanks from the public. If you take away the “saving the day” aspect of the story then it’s just wallowing in misery. No thanks.

The next section of the game is going to have a lot of punching. We need to fight strongholds of prisoners, Sable bases, and six supervillains. So I guess now is a good time to talk about…

The Combat System

In Batman, lines appear over the head of a mook who's about to attack. In Spider-Man, lines appear over Spidey's head when ANYONE is about to attack him. It's less about deciding how to deal with the threat and more about pushing the button when you're told to.
In Batman, lines appear over the head of a mook who's about to attack. In Spider-Man, lines appear over Spidey's head when ANYONE is about to attack him. It's less about deciding how to deal with the threat and more about pushing the button when you're told to.

I really don’t get the praise people gave the combat system in this game. At best I would say it’s “serviceable”. It’s not nearly as deep as the Batman system, it doesn’t really suit the character, and it’s not really deep enough to support the amount of time we spend with it.

One of the main criticisms of the Batman system is that it’s “just a quicktime event”. You see a telegraphed attack, so you hit the counter button. One stimulus, one correct response. Boring.

But as I pointed out in my Arkham City retrospective, that’s not actually the case. When you see a telegraphed attack you have a lot of options. Yes, you can hit the counter button. OR you can use a takedown. OR you can leap away from the attack. OR you can stun the assailant. OR you can attack the assailant directly. OR you can reposition by jumping over someone. You have a lot of options, and if you’re trying to complete a fight without taking a single hit or breaking your combo then mindlessly mashing that combo button is not going to get you there.

For contrast, Spider-Man’s system isn’t nearly as flexible. The telegraphed attack is a quicktime. Or at least, it’s much closer to being a “One stimulus, one correct response” type deal. If someone is about to shoot you then leaping away won’t help. Swinging through the air won’t help. You can try to shoot a web at the guy, but there’s no guarantee the web will go the right direction. The game tries to “help” you by picking what it thinks is the most important target, and I’ve had it aim at guys ninety degrees off from where I was pointing the stick because it disagreed with who I ought to be attacking.

If someone is about to shoot you, then the only way to avoid getting shot is to hit the evade buttonEh. You can sometimes attack them directly, but it works on some foes and not others. Web-pulling yourself towards a shooter doesn’t cancel their attack and you’ll get shot several times, which is worse than standing still.. In Batman it’s difficult to get through a fight without the counter button, but you can do it. Meanwhile trying to get through a Spider-Man fight without the evade button is basically suicide.

The Evade Button

The distant snipers are mechanical aimbots that can track me no matter how fast I go or how many backflips I do. The only way to make them miss is to mash that evade button when told to.
The distant snipers are mechanical aimbots that can track me no matter how fast I go or how many backflips I do. The only way to make them miss is to mash that evade button when told to.

You can jump around if you like, but it doesn’t matter because the bad guys can track you with superhuman accuracy. If you’re swinging through the city and pass within a city block of some snipers, their lasers will snap to you instantly and they’ll behave like perfect aimbots. You can swing around and do all the backflips you like, but the only way to avoid getting shot is to mash that evade button when you’re told to. That’s thematically appropriate for a character who uses spider-magic to anticipate incoming attacks, but the game pursues this idea with such fervor that it reduces your options and makes combat less interesting.

But fine. They put a huge emphasis on this evade button. That’s not automatically a bad thing. My problem is that the evade isn’t reliable, which means the combat isn’t perfectable, which is a big part of Arkham’s appeal for me. In Spider-Man, the evade doesn’t even give you enough distance to clear an AoE attack. You’ll see the warning flash and push evade like a good little monkey, only to find that Spider-Man landed right in range of the fireball / electrical attack he was supposed to evade. The same is true of grenades, although at least you can use webbing to grab grenades and throw them backAssuming they land in front of the camera, which they sometimes don’t..

Spider-Man doesn’t have an underlying rhythm to the fight and thus the effectiveness of evade is subject to randomness. Like I said in my Escapist column last year:

The foes in Batman follow a certain kind of “mook etiquette” similar to what you find in your typical martial arts movies. The fights have a rhythm imposed on them. If one guy begins attacking, then everyone else will bounce around in the background and patiently wait their turn. Nobody else can initiate an attack until the current attack is resolved. If two guys attack at the same time, they have to attack at exactly the same time. This means that all damage is avoidable once you’ve mastered the system.

Spider-Man has a dodge move similar to the counter button in Batman, except the designers didn’t give the system this underlying rhythm. Mooks can attack at any point, even when you’re in the middle of dodging some other attack. You’ll come out of the dodge animation to take an unavoidable hit from a third party.

On top of this, the window for dodge timing is all over the place. Sometimes the dodge warning will come way too soon. You’ll hit the button right away, and Spider-Man will complete his entire dodge move before the telegraphed attack has even begun. The bad guy will then slide into place and clock you, despite the fact that you “dodged” him. Other times the dodge window is so short that the warning and the attack are nearly simultaneous.

The evasion system is much more important to Spider-Man than counter is to Batman, while at the same time evade is a lot more random in its behavior and effectiveness.

FYI, Spiders Don’t Fly

In a strange turnabout, this is one of those moments that looks good in still frame but terrible in motion. I can use this mook as a punching bag for several seconds without losing altitude.
In a strange turnabout, this is one of those moments that looks good in still frame but terrible in motion. I can use this mook as a punching bag for several seconds without losing altitude.

In your very first fight of the game, the tutorial popups explain that it’s best to fight in the air. I really dislike this design decision.

For one, it looks ridiculous. Spider-Man basically “hovers” in the air, punching a foe over and over again without losing altitude. He can even pull guys or throwable objects off the ground and bring them into his hover-fight. I know he’s often off the ground in the comics, but in a still comic frame you can assume his mid-air pose means he’s either on his way up or on the way down. If this game had a cartoonish presentation we might accept a certain degree of cartoon physics, but this hovering fisticuffs looks absurd in this otherwise realistic world.

Another problem is with gameplay. When you’re on the ground you’ve got a lot of options. You can hop off of walls, slide under guys, web guys up and swing them around like a wrecking ball, and so on. When you’re in the air you have fewer options. You end up just punching guys over and over, because that’s the most expedient way of getting things done when you’re not on the ground. This reduces the number of interesting choices, which makes combat more repetitive.

Making matters worse is that the camera does not interact well with air combat in this game. You’ll uppercut a guy into the air, jump up after him, and spend several seconds pummeling him while gravity looks the other way. When you do this, the camera angle doesn’t automatically adjust to your new elevation. The camera comes with you, but it retains its flat angle. This means all your foes on the ground are now out of the bottom of the frame and it’s hard to see the battlefield. So you nudge the stick to point the camera down to make sure you’re not going to kill yourself by landing right in front of a brute.Then once you’re on the ground again, the camera retains the downward angle so you’re now looking at the pavement instead of the guys in front of you. So then you need to nudge the camera again so you can pick another guy to uppercut and start the whole process over again.

The game is serious when it says it’s better to fight in the air. On the ground, you’ll spend all your time mashing the dodge button without getting a chance to attack. Either that, or you’ll get pounded into hamburger. But fighting in the air makes the combat repetitive, it forces you to wrestle with the camera, it cuts you off from the most exciting animations and acrobatics, and it makes the whole fight look ridiculous.

Prolonged hovering aerial combat should not be a thing in this game. The whole system would be much improved if they took away Spider-Man’s ability to quasi-float and simply made ground combat more viable. The result would look better, play better, and feel better.

Gadgets

A WEAPON WHEEL? In a BRAWLER? Go home, games industry. You're drunk.
A WEAPON WHEEL? In a BRAWLER? Go home, games industry. You're drunk.

I know Peter Parker is a bit of an inventor in the comics. He built the web shooters and the remote Spidey-trackers, and sometimes he builds special one-off devices when he encounters a new foe. This game has run with that idea, and the result is a clumsy system that doesn’t fit the character.

The main problem is that there are no shortcuts for the different gadgets. If you’re using electrified webbing and you want to switch to the air blast(???) then you need to bring up an FPS shooter-style weapon wheel that slows time. You only get a couple of charges of each ability, which means you’ll need to change weapons often, which means you need to constantly break the flow of the fight to select a different gadget.

The other problem is that they’re too powerful and they easily overshadow Spider-Man’s regular moveset. Hop into a Sable outpost and try to clear it using normal fisticuffs and you’ll probably spend the whole time mashing evade. The moment you try to attack you’ll get shredded by the half dozen guys all shooting at you at once. On the other hand you can blast the group with a couple of gadgets and trivialize the entire fight.

Getting better at the combat system will certainly help in a fight, but it’s not as helpful as unlocking more gadgets and upgrading how often you can use them.

Making matters worse is that a couple of them strike me as being thematically wrong. The Suspension Matrix acts like one of the vigors in BioShock Infinite that cause a group of foes to float helplessly for several seconds. The Spider-Drone gives you a little flying drone that shoots bad guys with some sort of zap gun, and I kinda feel like this doesn’t fit for the same reason that having Spider-Man personally hold a zap gun and shoot people doesn’t fit. Electrical Webbing is a bit of a stretch, but I’m willing to go with it because it’s web-based and gets used in a lot of puzzles. Concussive Blast is basically what Iron Man does with his glowy hand thing, and that’s too much science gadgetry for a guy that runs around in skin-tight spandex with no visible gear. Again, if I’m supposed to think of this world like a cartoon then they should have made it look like a cartoon.

Takedown Animations

PRESS TRIANGLE AND CIRCLE to insta-KO this guy. Does the takedown indicator really need to be this explicit and intrusive?
PRESS TRIANGLE AND CIRCLE to insta-KO this guy. Does the takedown indicator really need to be this explicit and intrusive?

In Batman, you build up your combo meter and then use a special takedown move to quickly remove a troublesome foe from the fight. There’s a bit of strategy involved in choosing when to use a takedown and who to use it on.

At the end of a Batman encounter, the camera swoops in for a close-up view of the final hit. It gives the final hit a bit of “oomph” to punctuate the end of the brawl. It also allows the game to do a little musical transition so everything can wind down and return to the more low-key gameplay of exploration and puzzle-solving.

Spider-Man also has takedown animations, but it combines them with the big finale camera moves of Batman. This means that the camera swoops in for a closeup every single time you use a takedown move.

Paradoxically, by emphasizing every single takedown, the game loses the ability to emphasize anything. It’s not a special moment when the camera swoops in because it happens constantly. It’s like taking a game that plays a special sound for headshots and changing the game so that the sound plays for any old hit. This feedback should be a reward for skilled play, but now it’s just background noise.

I could knock this guy out with a takedown, but it's annoying to break the flow of the fight like that so I'll just keep punching him.
I could knock this guy out with a takedown, but it's annoying to break the flow of the fight like that so I'll just keep punching him.

Bringing the camera in close for a takedown sort of penalizes the player for using it. With the camera that close, you lose your situational awareness. Sometimes the camera even spins around, effectively scrambling my mental map of the battlefield. It also breaks the flow of combat, which is really something that should only happen when the player gets hit.

Zooming in for every takedown makes it more repetitive. I’ll admit that the animation budget in this game is lavish and there’s lots of variety in everything, but there’s not quite enough variety to justify zooming in for every single takedown. By the end of my first trip through the game, I was very sick of these animations and wishing there were a lot more of them.

I Don’t Hate It

I didn't have a great time in this fight, but I guess I enjoyed it more than these guys.
I didn't have a great time in this fight, but I guess I enjoyed it more than these guys.

I know I’ve been pretty negative in this entry, but I don’t want it to sound like Insomniac’s combat system is hot garbage. I’m being extra-nitpicky here because this combat system has been getting a lot of praise and I know lots of people are going to want to defend it in the comments. I figured the best way to handle that was to make all my objections clear up front. None of these problems are terrible sins and I enjoyed the game despite these problems.

The Arkham combat was a rough little prototype in the first game that really came together in the second. I’m hoping Insomniac is able to do the same here. This combat is okay, but it’s not really up to the standards of the rest of the experience and I wouldn’t advise building the entire franchise on what we have now.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Okay, I can’t actually do that because they aren’t making Punisher games. But they should!

[2] Eh. You can sometimes attack them directly, but it works on some foes and not others. Web-pulling yourself towards a shooter doesn’t cancel their attack and you’ll get shot several times, which is worse than standing still.

[3] Assuming they land in front of the camera, which they sometimes don’t.



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80 thoughts on “Spider-Man Part 20: The Pugilist Spider-Man

  1. KotBasil says:

    Kinda off-topic: I wonder if the combat system in Arkham Knight is considered to be better or worse than the one in Arkham City? Is there any general consensus on that? Or is there not enough change in brawling between the games to pick the best one?

    1. John says:

      I think that Shamus has argued in the past that Arkham Origins has the worst combat in the Arkham series because you can’t cancel attack animations by hitting the counter button. I’m not certain that’s entirely true–I think it is possible if you do it very early or very late in certain animations–but it’s definitely true enough of the time that I can understand his frustration. When I was playing Origins, I almost never did ground takedowns because I learned early on that the ground takedown animation took forever and that even enemies who were pretty far away would probably have time to run over and hit me while I was doing it.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      I’m positive Shamus has said the combat in Knight is a mix. Some ideas are better (like the companion fights), while other ones make it trivial (like the excessive amount of instant takedowns your new suit provides).

      The real problem with the melee combat in Knight is that there’s too little of it, as the game focus entirely too much on the batmobile combat.

    3. 0451fan0451 says:

      To me, Knight’s combat felt like they were struggling to add new things into it. Everything had already been done so well in City, so every new idea feels different but not better unlike the move from Asylum to city.

  2. MrGlinko says:

    Are they making Watchmen games?

    1. Cubic says:

      Every level starts 30 minutes too late.

      1. Joe Informatico says:

        applause.gif

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      There were a couple of ones launched when the movie came out. They’re decent brawlers, but don’t really work well with the story’s thematics.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        That’s because, thematically, you’re supposed to watch lets plays.

  3. Flux Casey says:

    Shamus. Shamus please. Please tell me you got your “but in Batman” out of your system in this one so it doesn’t come up again? Because at this point, I think we’re patently aware that this Spiderman game does not, in fact, play like a Batman game. I legit stopped reading halfway through this one for you repeating the critique that this game isn’t like that other game you really like. I kind of want to see what a version of this post would look like if you weren’t allowed to talk about Batman in it.

    1. Joshua says:

      His point is that they deliberately used Batman’s style of combat system in the game, but did it poorly. If they hadn’t been attempting to ape the Arkham series, he wouldn’t be bringing it up.

      1. Flux Casey says:

        They DIDN’T ape the Arkham series though. They aped Spider Man 2 for the PS2. The danger indicator on top of Spidey’s head? Spider Man 2. Physics-defying aerial combat? Spider Man 2. They weren’t trying to be Batman, they were trying to be the most fondly remembered Spider Man game ever released.

        1. Joe Informatico says:

          Almost nobody remembers that Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (2003) did God of War-style combat before God of War (2005). They only remember that God of War did it much better, and GoW is the one everyone else tried to duplicate. So even Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (2010) was called “like God of War” because it was trying to be like God of War, not its own inferior predecessor.

        2. Dreadjaws says:

          Incorrect. Sure, these mechanics are really nothing new. Hell, they were old even when Spider-Man 2 came out, but the way they set them up in this game is reminiscent of the Arkham series. They’re obviously looking at old Spider-Man games, but it’s clear they’re also looking at the Batman series for many other aspects of the game.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      The problem is not simply that this game “isn’t like that other game he really likes”, but that it isn’t despite the fact that it’s clearly trying to be similar. Surely he doesn’t complain about games like Prey or Tomb Raider not being like Batman enough, and that’s because neither is trying to use a similar combat system. But when you’re clearly trying to do something irritatingly similar then you’re inviting comparison.

      1. Guest says:

        But it feels like he’s criticising this system for not being what he wanted, Batman, when its trying to do something else.

        I like that unlike Batman, this combat is actually challenging and there’s a good chance you’ll lose if you don’t pay some attention. I like the crowd control introduced by the ability to be attacked by groups like that-that’s what they mean by aerial combat, I would regularly use swinging, often indoors, and jumps to out-position enemies.

        I like that the combat has enemies nore dangerous than your standard arkham mooks. Launchers and snipers are frustrating, but they’re also the game trying to stop you from aproaching head on-take a more strategic approach, .

        And the hoverring stuff obviously is a funny look out of context, but in the context of games, its pretty clearly relyijg on understanding that from slashers like DMC or GOW, and the idea of juggling enemies, which a lot of spiderman games have played with, and tbh-its fine.

        It shares a similar control scheme to arkham, sure. But approaching it like its arkham is setting yourself up for a bad time. You need to think about isolating enemies, about controlling where they’re standing, about using environmental attacks for crowd clearing, and aerial combat works for hit and run attacks while you reposition.

        Its a pretty poor example to say that arkham combat has varied controls. You can dodge, dodge over someone (basically the same move, though it looks cooler and makes you feel like you’re doing CC, but those games make that impossible), counter, the bread and butter of those games, or, if you’re early, attack them to interrupt. That’s just making one of three choices, and nearly every time the answer is, do I punch this guy right away, or is he a knife guy or a taser guy? Sorry, but hitting roll, baterang, counter, or attack, when the prompt comes up just isn’t giving players options. You don’t make real decisions in this combat beyond “not messing up”.

        I feel like Spider-man actually forces me to mix it up. I’m frequently using the healing which keeps me tense, I need to use manhole covers etc to clear enemies, I need the ults to clear space, I need to stay moving so I don’t get surrounded, and I need to prioritise enemies with dangerous weapons. These pressures, and the fact that the game will not babysit me and let me get myself surrounded, but not let me face any consequences, that’s what makes it interesting. It doesnt feel like a pass fail system. I like the arkham system because its satisfying, but once you pick up how it works, the only challenge is doing perfect fights. If I fail, I was probably not sure how to do something, missed a basic button prompt a dozen times, or literally asleep. Spidey will put me in situations where I will take damage. Where Ill have to heal. Where I might get messed up because I didn’t prioritise someone with a dangerous wepaon. When I have to retry a fight, I know I need to try a better strategy, and I have an idea where I went wrong, it didnt happen because I let myself get stabbed instead of pressing one of the three response buttons or attack in time.

        Comparing it to the arkham combat is tired tbh Arkham’s combat has aged terribly, since it was imitated so often, that people a)understand it now b) there are videos of people turning off their monitor and mashing counter to win fights in the Mordor games. This sort of combat system desperately needed a challenging shake up that forces the player to put more thought in. Spider-man gets somewhere with that.

    3. Distec says:

      The point of bringing up Batman’s combat is to compare and contrast it with that of Spiderman’s; to break down the small details as to what works (and doesn’t) between two games with very similar-looking core fighting systems that your average rando would consider “the same” after witnessing a few minutes of gameplay. And this is something Shamus has done with a lot of retrospectives/analyses for games in other genres.

  4. BlueHorus says:

    A Punisher game? Count me in!
    The only problem I foresee is that, to really do justice to the character, it’d have to be violent. Like, R-rated – which could well give it the same reputation as say, Manhunt or Madworld (whether or not that’s warranted).
    Still, make the bad guys ridiculously evil and you’d get away with it…

    1. Lars says:

      There are punisher games. They are called Max Payne, Max Payne 2 and Max Payne 3. And Manhunt kinda does too.

    2. Pax says:

      Well there was the (I think) Volition Punisher game that came out around the time of the Tom Jane Punisher movie. If I remember correctly, it was known for the depth and brutality of it’s torture system, so…

      Still, Punisher is the best “superhero” to make a videogame about, because his “superpower” is guns.

      1. The Wind King says:

        Yeah, that game is pretty damned brutal in the fact that you torture enemies in little mini-games, for health, special metre, and info (from certain mooks) with special ones dotted around the map to get even better or specific info from those certain mooks.

        Add to the fact that each “torture” mini-game has either kill or KO endings, you can play the game surprisingly bloodlessly, or you can paint the entire town red.

      2. CloverMan-88 says:

        That game’s excellent, I beat it every few years. Nothing says Punished like dual wielding pump-action shotguns!

        1. Kylroy says:

          That is a marvelously impractical loadout. Do they even *try* to address how they’re cocked?

          1. Guildenstern says:

            There’s a sequence in The Rundown with Dwayne Johnson where he picks up a couple of Remington 870s. During this sequence he works the action a variety of ways, including:

            – Twirling the weapon 180 degrees and trapping the pumps between his torso and his arms, and pushing his arms back to move the entire weapon and cycle the action.
            – Doing basically that same thing but using another dude’s armpits to hold the pump in place.
            – Holding the two shotguns side-by-side and using his massive hands to work the pump on both simultaneously

            He also shoulders both weapons and fires them in this side-by-side grip. I can actually believe that his shoulders are sufficiently wide to make this plausible.

            Tom Jane is a large man, but not The Rock large, so I’m not quite sure how they depict it in the game, but I always like to bring this up as an example of how it can be done if you’re willing to go 100% crazypants ridiculous in your depiction.

  5. Hal says:

    When I came to this part of the game, my only real thought was, “Where are all the other superheroes?” NYC is veritably swarming with masked vigilantes, both locals and those who spend a lot of time there because that’s where the other major heroes hang out. When you take a picture of Avengers’ Tower, Spider-Man lampshades it by saying he thinks they’re all on the west coast right now (also a subtle nod to the comic book, West Coast Avengers.) Even so . . . where are all the dang heroes? Look, I know it’s Spider-Man’s game, but at least give us a line about how this would be utterly ruinous if the other heroes weren’t out there helping to keep control. Don’t tell us there’s a bigger world out there and then ignore it exactly when it should be coming into play.

    All that said, your comments about the combat system are all fair criticisms. I fall a few steps away from Shamus, though. You said, “It’s not terrible, but it’s flawed.” My own perspective was, “It has its flaws, but I really enjoyed this.” Maybe Arkham is the difference; you’ve gone on about how much you enjoyed it, while I only played Arkham Asylum, and the combat system there never really gelled for me.

    1. Crimson Dragoon says:

      The line about the Avengers being on the west coast is even more amusing now that it looks like the Avengers game will in fact be taking place in California.

      And yeah, there should be other heroes around. From the Easter eggs, we know at least Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and probably a few others I can’t think of right now exist. But that’s pretty par for the course in comic book stories. Solo books (and games) are supposed to be about their particular hero, and it takes a lot of the dramatic tension out when any of the multitude of other heroes could stop by anytime and save the day. So they’re “busy” with their own stuff. But it would get old quickly if every single story had to come up with an excuse for every other hero’s absence, so its just assumed. Its not very graceful, but its the only way these kind of stories can work in a big shared superhero universe like Marvel or DC.

      1. Joe Informatico says:

        Yeah sure, but generally in a hero’s solo story, they’re not dealing with catastrophic levels of civic devastation by themselves. They’re either dealing with a smaller scale local problem, or they’re dealing with a major threat that’s extremely contained, e.g. the Squirrel Girl story where she’s the only one who knows Galactus is showing up in 15 minutes, but then stops him by just having a chat.

        Marvel Comics would have editors who would tell writers, “No, you can’t blow up Manhattan in your Spider-Man story; that would wreck this story about Ben and Johnny going bowling and make Daredevil’s investigation into that cult that lives in the subway redundant. And also, we’re blowing up Manhattan in Ultimate Summer Crossover Event 2020,” but the writers of this game don’t seem to have the same constraints.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      Historically, most Spider-Man games not based on movies have at least cameos by other superheroes. Some games even allow you to call them for backup. This is specially notorious in games like Maximum Carnage or Web of Shadows, both of which involve city-wide disasters, so it makes sense other heroes would show up. As Shamus points out, the cataclysm is really bad in this city, so not having any other hero show up to help is ridiculous.

      Incidentally, that’s one of the problems I had with the latest Spider-Man film.

      1. Volvagia says:

        As far as Far From Home goes…even leaving aside the “It’s Mysterio, little lasting damage is actually happening/in threat of happening” part, so why would he need more than one hero, how many pre-introduced film division heroes are actually free to go to London spur of the moment? Steve’s old and retired, Iron Man, Black Widow and Vision are dead, Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch are, I’m assuming, temporarily or permanently retired from this game out of grief, Black Panther runs a country, Valkyrie runs that fishing village, Ant-Man is a family man in San Francisco, Thor, The Guardians and Captain Marvel are all in space and I can’t see Bucky or Sam being all too interested in helping Peter. Aside from introducing Captain Britain in the final fight (though, how cool would that have been to happen almost out of nowhere?), I think everyone’s basically accounted for.

        1. guy says:

          Considering that the post-credits scene has Nick Fury in space it seems likely the Avengers are all on active deployment.

  6. JDMM says:

    I sort of agree and disagree on the scale

    Spiderman has repeatedly run into this sort of city threatening level of attack in comics before and it has worked however the thing is it’s almost never on Spiderman’s head, it’s Graviton or Onslaught or Magneto doing supervillains shenanigans and Spiderman simply has to do the best he can do. This level of threat doesn’t work as something Spiderman is responsible for but it can work as something he endures

    That being said the story I keep thinking of for parallels is Maximum Carnage and that story was truly terrible so you know, I’m sort of biased right out the gate

    My problem with the gameplay was how obviously rock-paper-scissors it was, bring people into the air, end them, bring more into the air, end them, oh wait! A whip dude is here preventing air attacks, end him before going into the air again. Near the end of the game it more felt I was a custscene generator rather than actually being someone who played the game

    1. Pax says:

      It is true that by the end of the game my main strategy for the big fights (and for generating large combos totals for challenges) was quickly building special bar with webbombs and other multi-hit web attacks and then takedowning as many people in a row as I could. Cutscene central.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      Right, but, as I pointed out up there, Spider-Man wasn’t acting alone in Maximum Carnage. He had help by other heroes, and this was correctly adapted in the videogame based on that comic. Having such a large scale issue and having no other heroes show up cannot be justified with the old “Superman stays out of Gotham” unless we’ve established a universe in which other heroes simply don’t exist (such as the Dark Knight Trilogy).

  7. guy says:

    I found that I could generally dodge things pretty effectively by doing a web jump attack (or whatever it’s called) on someone far away, or generally using some high-mobility move. What tended to frustrate me was enemies who you can’t just punch. They’re the bane of my existence in these games because targeting is extremely poor and it’s hard to lock on to them to do whatever complicated disarm move is required but easy to accidentally chain into them.

    Then the DLC introduced two miserable souped-up examples: the minigun brutes, who have brute defenses and a massive minigun sweep that’s difficult to escape, and jetpack grenade energy shield guys, who rush from across the room and if you attempt a dodge and don’t get the perfect timing you will land in their grenade trail. They’re why I eventually gave up on the DLC.

    1. Armagrodden says:

      The bane of my existence in this game was the buggy aiming system (well, that and Screwball). I would see some guys up on a catwalk, point Spider-Man directly at them, point the camera directly at them, press triangle…and suddenly Spider-Man would rotate 90 degrees and go flying off to some edge of the map to tangle with opponents that I couldn’t even see while the guys on the catwalk start attacking me with sniper rifles and rocket launchers. Trying to fight the jetpack Sable dudes? I hope you’ve really cleared your orbit, because every time you try to use a ranged power on them more advanced than normal webshooters you’re going to whirl around and hit some random mook in the crowd. Trying to do Taskmaster’s timed drone chases? Have fun randomly webslinging down some alley because the game decided that’s where you were trying to point-launch to, as opposed to the spot directly in front of you that you’d aimed the camera at and put a little circle on. I spent a lot of time yelling at the screen and telling Spider-Man that we would have won whatever it was we were just doing if only he’d done what I’d told him to.

  8. Ninety-Three says:

    But the end of my first trip through the time

    Typo patrol: Something seems to have gone wrong with this sentence.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Now reads “By the end of my first trip through the time” but still doesn’t make through the sense.

  9. trevalyan says:

    A major reason I used instant takedowns in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City was to slow down the fight a little. Either watch the glorious closeup of Batman beating some goon with his own pipe, or most satisfyingly breaking their gun, then beating the pulp out of them. For harder fights, it gave me a critical few seconds to process the battlefield and select my next targets, especially if they were going to gun closets.

  10. Mattias42 says:

    The main problem is that there are no shortcuts for the different gadgets. If you’re using electrified webbing and you want to switch to the air blast(???) then you need to bring up an FPS shooter-style weapon wheel that slows time. You only get a couple of charges of each ability, which means you’ll need to change weapons often, which means you need to constantly break the flow of the fight to select a different gadget.

    There is at least one way of quick swapping gadgets, actually. You double tap the button that opens the menu, (L1 according to a quick double check on Google) and it instead switches to the last used gadget a la Ratchet & Clank.

    Only knew that because I got lucky with a loading screen hint, so it’s not exactly a well explained function, though.

    Kinda reminds me of the Fallout 3-NV-4 pip-boy light. Cool idea, very useful, but a lot of people play through the entire game without even knowing it exists due to poor tutorial-ing.

  11. Dreadjaws says:

    Spider-Man games have been trying to ape the Arkham combat system at least since the last three few entries. None of them have tried to analyze what works about it, though. They’ve tried to put their own spin on it not realizing it’s a well-oiled machine in which each piece complements each other. What they’ve done is akin to trying to make their own chocolate cake recipe by replacing the chocolate with bread crumbs. It’s edible, but it’s certainly not as satisfying.

    The city is now screwed so bad I kind of stop caring. As far as I’m concerned, Spider-Man lost. This is the kind of cataclysm he’s supposed to prevent. This reminds me of the destructive brawl Superman had in Man of Steel. The fantasy of thwarting evil is gone. Sure, Spider-Man saves the city later, but that doesn’t fix the fact that so many people died under his watch.

    I think having a mid-game cataclysm can work in the proper game. In Prototype, for instance, it works even though it’s the introduction of a franchise because the protagonist is an anti-hero who’s more concerned with revenge that saving innocents (and, in fact, many of those innocent deaths come by your own hand). In Web of Shadows, a full-on alien invasion is at place in the city, and every hero is just in as much trouble stopping it as Spider-Man is, to the point where even villains are forced to take his side. So while the protagonist of the game is Spider-Man, he’s merely just a pawn in the whole story, so it makes it more satisfying to see him triumph at the end despite the isurmountable odds while still making his trip through it realistic by showing he has many allies.

    But generally speaking, I’ve never been a fan of putting Spider-Man, who’s a street-level hero, alone against a city-wide disaster. The best Spider-Man stories are more personal, when he and his family and friends are the ones in danger. Many writers seem to believe that upping the scales by having millions of people be in danger makes it better, but the truth is that we as the audience don’t know those faceless strangers, so we don’t have reason to care. That’s why when Aunt May starts showing signs of infection is the only time I give a crap about the consequences of Octavius’ attack.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Many writers seem to believe that upping the scales by having millions of people be in danger makes it better, but the truth is that we as the audience don’t know those faceless strangers, so we don’t have reason to care. That’s why when Aunt May starts showing signs of infection is the only time I give a crap about the consequences of Octavius’ attack.

      There’s a problem with upping the scales beyond the “personal connections matter more” angle. When the villain is threatening to blow up a bus or a building I’m invested in the hero stopping him because I am worried that in this scene, the villain might actually win. When the writer raises the stakes and suddenly the villain is going to blow up the entire planet, I stop caring because I know those stakes aren’t real: there’s no chance the writer is actually going to blow up the planet so I don’t have to worry about the hero stopping him, victory is guaranteed.

      I know that 90% of the time, the hero wins anyway so the stakes are kind of a con game on the writer’s part. But the writer still has to run a believable con, and there’s a huge difference between “there’s only a 10% chance the writer will really blow up that schoolbus full of puppies” and “there’s absolutely no way the writer is going to blow up the planet, I know they’re making a sequel!”

      1. Pax says:

        I mean, usually, yeah, the bad guy isn’t going to blow up the planet. But sometimes, sometimes Saints Row IV happens.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          Even Saints Row didn’t make that the stakes. It happens out of nowhere in about the first ten minutes, that’s just part of the premise.

          1. Mattias42 says:

            About the only time I’ve seen somebody actually pull stakes like that with the entire city burning, AND actually pull the proverbial trigger on the heroes failing to stop them is Watchmen.

            And, well, Alan More is a crazy hobo wizard anyway, but that was a pretty genuine gut punch of a moment. Lots you can learn as a story teller from that…

            But it sure wasn’t a happy and fun little moment, so I get why it doesn’t get mimicked very often.

      2. King Marth says:

        This is part of the allure for tournament arcs. As soon as a fight isn’t to the death (or equivalent series-ending consequence), the hero can lose.

      3. Chad Miller says:

        This is a problem I had with the latest Fantastic Four movie.

        There was a point where I said, “Well, now that Dr. Doom is this overpowered there’s no way he lives to the end of the movie.” Then there was way too much movie after that point.

    2. Xeorm says:

      Will echo that I enjoyed what they did with Web of Shadows. That mid game cataclysm worked in that setting. It helped that they had the city steadily get worse and worse instead of everything suddenly getting terrible. It helps too that the other heroes are trying to help and also failing. Gave the setting a lot more verisimilitude.

  12. Agammamon says:

    This reminds me of the destructive brawl Superman had in Man of Steel.

    I get that the destruction of Metropolis was depressing and many think it out of ‘character’ for a Superman story – but what was he supposed to do? Leave the area so Zod could continue destroying the planet unopposed? The dude did the best he could.

    Its like in Civil War – everyone’s blaming the Avengers for NYC. Again, no one points out that it was either accept that collateral damage or . . . watch the world get destroyed. And no, ‘oversight’ wouldn’t change anything there either. ‘Oh, hey, Tony. Uhm, alien invasion – can you go stop it for us? Oh, and try not to let any bystanders get hurt’.

    In this case, its not that Spiderman has lost – he’s certainly been overwhelmed and has lost the current battles but he’s only going to lose if he dies without ending this. Or he gives up.

    if I wanted to see the quasi-hero avenge the fallen I’d turn to Punisher

    Heh. That’s not what the Punisher does. He murders criminals. He doesn’t avenge anyone.

    1. Joshua says:

      Eh, the Sokovia Accords are something of a MacGuffin in that story, in that they’re the thing pushing the real plot forward, but you’re not supposed to think about them too much. In your New York example, they did actually have oversight as they were operating under SHIELD. Post-Winter Soldier, I don’t recall if Marvel explicitly said “Welp, Avengers no longer have oversight or funding now that SHIELD’s gone, so it looks like they’re now 100% Stark funded.” Now that the Earth is aware of multiple invasions from the Avengers films plus Thor 2, what is their general plan for handling these kinds of invasions? Plus, what’s the difference between a Superhero who has signed the Accords and then breaks a rule as opposed to someone who just never signs the Accords (the movie shows they all end up at the same place anyway).

      It all just comes down to having an excuse to have half the Avengers face off against the other half, and leaving them less prepared for Thanos.

    2. John says:

      I get that the destruction of Metropolis was depressing and many think it out of ‘character’ for a Superman story – but what was he supposed to do?

      I think he was supposed to appear in the kind of movie where the script doesn’t call for the destruction of a large and densely inhabited city.

      1. Agammamon says:

        Sure, I get that. But he didn’t. So complaining that he did the best he could do with the script he was handed doesn’t help anything.

        1. Guildenstern says:

          Hold on, we’re all aware Superman isn’t real, right? Like he’s not just hanging out, waiting for scripts to come his way and then he is bound by the actions therein?

          Critiquing the script is all we’re talking about here. If you’re writing a Superman movie, don’t have him knock down buildings and kill thousands of people in the crossfire. That’s it. It’s not a matter of “what was this fictional character supposed to do?” it’s “don’t create a fictional situation for your fictional character that would require him to act in a way that runs counter to the tone of his characterization”. As a writer, you have control over the world you write. Having Superman engage in wanton property destruction and collateral damage isn’t suitable for the character, so then you as a writer can *write your story in a such a way so that this destruction is not necessary*. Snyder deliberately chose to have this characters engage in this blood orgy and so we criticize him for it. We do not criticize the actions of a fictional being who is subject to the writer’s pen.

          1. John says:

            This is basically what I meant only it’s expressed eloquently and with 100% less sarcasm.

          2. Dreadjaws says:

            We do not criticize the actions of a fictional being who is subject to the writer’s pen.

            Except that people do that. All the time. They’re literally critiquing Cavill’s Superman for being unable to magically conjure an environment that reacts to him in a less realistic way.

            Also, I grow tired of saying this, but even taking into account the script Superman wasn’t to blame for the city’s destruction. There was a giant alien ship blowing a hole through the planet that people conveniently forget about. And then later there was an evil murderous alien rampaging through the city at superspeed. Superman could only react AND it was, you know, literally his first day at the job.

            1. Smith says:

              And if you actually watch closely, you can see Clark’s trying his best to subdue Zod or get him away, except Zod is an experienced soldier who’s literally getting stronger by the second.

              People also complain about Superman kissing Lois in the crater, but they kissed each because they were in shock and high on the “We nearly died” hormones.

          3. Agammamon says:

            But people aren’t critiquing the *script* nor are they criticizing Snyder. They are criticizing *Superman* as if his actions were not perfectly rational *within the script he found himself*.

            1. John says:

              I believe that people do this. I haven’t personally seen people do this because I deliberately avoid it most of the time, but I can easily believe that people are criticizing the metaphorical trees–in this case, Superman’s actions at a certain point in the film–when they should be criticizing the metaphorical forest–the terrible idea to put this sort of thing in a Superman film in the first place.

              But, man, what do I get out of trying to convince people that Superman’s actions are sensible or justified when that’s not the fundamental problem with the film? How does that help anything?

              1. Smith says:

                I’ve seen a lot of people blame the writers for the situation. Just like they blame the writers for “forcing” Superman to kill, instead of using some sort of plot contrivance. An awful lot of them seem to think it was about saving that one family, not the billions of people on Earth they represented who would die if he couldn’t stop Zod.

            2. Erik says:

              No, people are not criticizing Superman. People are criticizing the writer *by* describing what the character was forced to do by the script the writer wrote, then demonstrating that it makes no sense for the character.

              If the actions are not rational but they should have been, then *the writer* failed by not including justification. Even emotionally irrational or insanely irrational actions should have a discernible (if not rational) source, motivation, or trigger that the player has encountered somehow.

              Storytelling is more limited than reality – a story has to make sense, reality just has to happen. Random or motiveless plot points turn a story into a series of meaningless actions.

          4. Syal says:

            Related; Superman 2 had Superman facing off against Zod and his two cohorts in the middle of the city, and there was little to no collateral damage. The fight took place in the air and ended with the villains following Superman to an unpopulated area.

          5. PPX14 says:

            Wonton property destruction? I heard Hollywood was pandering to the Chinese market but this seems too far a swing in the other direction.

          6. Algeh says:

            Yeah, what so much of this comes down to is that there’s a reason they never made a “Lassie grapples with the AIDS epidemic in 1980s San Francisco” movie. Sure, if that particular fictional dog had been there, they would have tried to help, since helping is what Lassie does, but no one wants a Lassie story where the dog can’t actually go get help and get Pa out from under the tractor with no damage at the end and instead, I don’t know, provides vaguely comforting face-licking as everyone dies anyway.

            Turned on its head, this is also the murder hobo problem in a lot of TTRPG campaigns. The setting just doesn’t support realistic consequences for murder hobo-ing, and those consequences would be tonally jarring to the type of story in mind, so everything just kind of goes off the rails in an unsatisfying way.

        2. krellen says:

          What Superman should have done: tackled Zod, flew into space, and fought him there.

          1. Smith says:

            He literally threw Zod into space. Zod caught a satellite and came back.

    3. Distec says:

      Shamus has touched on this before in (I believe) his Arkham series, in which comic book heroes typically inhabit a ‘bent’ universe. By real world rules, Batman should have broken Joker’s neck a long time ago and save everybody a lot of trouble. Or if he doesn’t kill him, then the State executes Joker on the quiet after Bruce turns him into their ‘custody’ if Bruce is too goody two-shoes to do it himself. How does repeatedly locking a madman up in the same asylum with the rest of your volatile rogues’ gallery make any sense whatsoever?

      And yet, outside of an entertaining hypothetical, I don’t think that’s the story most people want to see. They want Batman to struggle with his no-killing rule and see how well he can hold up against a persistent, unwavering foe that pushes that rule to its breaking point. It’s the themes of these characters that are interesting and somewhat legitimize what is otherwise a story about crazy clowns and ridiculous men in black spandex. These characters can only really exist in these specific worlds, which is why the logic and tone of the world itself is just as important in your comic properties, even if the characters themselves take all the credit.

      I’d say this is ultimately a YMMV thing and dependent on execution. But in Man of Steel’s case, a lot of people didn’t like that the tone and ideas behind Superman as he is popularly known didn’t carry over to the screen. By real world logic, some of that damage may have been unfortunately unavoidable. But in the slightly bent universe he comes from, Superman is supposed to save the day. Clark Kent is supposed to be a boy scout who always and unreluctantly fights for justice, not an unhappy mope who seems aggrieved and put-upon in nearly every scene. I’m sure somebody could justify a more, serious, moody, grimdark-ish Spiderman story that deals with failure and loss, but I’m not sure anybody’s been clamoring for it to be added to the menu.

      Also, if you are going to have an instance/scene of massive, calamitous destruction, then it should be rare (singular, even) and handled with some delicacy. If Metropolis gets razed, then that should be an Oh Shit moment that makes you stand up and pay attention, mostly because the comic universe generally does not permit that without very good reason! But MoS kinda rushed into it with its very first movie and then saddled itself with some vague moral baggage they’ve tried to half-assedly address in subsequent films. I personally wonder if the destruction in that movie would have been a better fit for a “darker” sequel after you’ve already established vanilla Superman.

      He probably addresses the concept better than me, so link:
      https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=27382

      1. John says:

        . . . I don’t think that’s the story most people want to see. They want Batman to struggle with his no-killing rule and see how well he can hold up against a persistent, unwavering foe that pushes that rule to its breaking point.

        I don’t want this. I’m not saying it’s an inherently bad idea, but it’s been done too often and too often done badly. It seems like it’s the default plot for Batman movies and games at this point and I’m sick of it. If it were up to me, there’d be an official moratorium on Joker appearances in Batman adaptations for the next, oh, five to ten years. When the moratorium is over writers will be allowed to use the Joker again, but anyone who writes anything inspired (directly or indirectly) by The Killing Joke will have his Batman privileges revoked until he takes and passes remedial Batman courses and demonstrates a knowledge of the character and his history that extends beyond the works of Alan Moore and Frank Miller.

        There are a million other Batman stories. Try telling one of those for a change.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          The “core stories” are a separate issue with these long running heroes. I mean, Joker at least got several intepretations over the years but I swear if I have to go through another story trying to delve in depth into the drama of Waynes dying I might turn into some kind of vigilante myself.

    4. Syal says:

      The dude did the best he could.

      He didn’t though. Superman is directly responsible for one building’s collapse and indirectly responsible for three more. He’s making no effort to reduce the collateral damage, epitomized by his hopping over a gas truck and letting it blow up a building behind him instead of taking any effort at all to prevent that.

      In this case, its not that Spiderman has lost – he’s certainly been overwhelmed and has lost the current battles but he’s only going to lose if he dies without ending this

      Technically true, but we’ve spent two-thirds of the game acting like this scenario is the ultimate failure, so it feels like the ultimate failure. This is no longer a feel-good story, it’s become a tale of how much pain a man can endure without losing hope. It’s not what we signed on for.

      1. Smith says:

        He hops over the truck because he needs to focus on Zod. The second he turns around to look at the destruction, Zod sucker-punches him.

  13. kdansky says:

    I think you’re completely fair to be this critical. When I saw it played (by Yatzhee) it looked like a total snooze fest – and he said as much. Arkham’s combat is not easy to get right and it is fairly shallow when pushed to its limits: One can play Bayonetta in five difficulties ten times over before getting sick of it, but Arkham becomes a bit rote even before the first game ends. When I played Hand of Fate and Shadow of Mordor it had definitely overstayed its welcome.

    But here comes Spidey, gets half of the system kinda wrong (see above) and it really just becomes a rhythm-game, except with very few possible inputs (punch, dodge, bonus move), no music, and bad pacing. This system is really at its best when the objective of the player is a perfect combo (much like Dance Dance Revolution or Beat Saber), and those games are fast for a reason: Doing a ten hit combo with one button press every three seconds is not only easy, it’s also mostly waiting, and therefore boring. Arkham actually becomes faster the longer it goes, and culminates in one-hit-KO speed punches.

    But this game is full of long-winded animations: They need to go. Not just the finisher moves, but also the normal punches, because it takes so many of them. Imagine Beat Saber where you have to slice every box ten times (but the game goes at a very slow speed so you have a chance). That’s tedious, just like having to punch every mook ten times is.

    This game really does not understand how to make this combat system work, on top of it being a well-worn shoe to begin with.

    I frankly do not understand why people liked this game so much. The writing is very bad and the combat (which is 90% of the game time) is downright tedious if you have seen this system many times already (4x Arkham, 2x Mordor, 2x Hand of Fate). It’s a bit like Dark Souls: By the third title people are starting to get a bit sick of it, because it’s not *that* deep. And when you do it poorly (like Lords of the Fallen), it just does not work.

    AAA Game studios really underestimate how important it is to get your core mechanics perfect if you copy something existing. The original’s designers lost a lot of sleep over every single detail until it was right, and you cannot just copy that half-assedly without understanding it.

  14. Grampy_bone says:

    I definitely agree about the dodge. I don’t know how many times I would hit dodge, spidey cartwheels away from a bad guy, then the bad guy teleports next to him and wails on him. So frustrating.

    1. kdansky says:

      Teleporting characters, where the game tries to hand-hold so much in the name of “cinematics” that the gameplay starts suffering is a modern AAA disease. God of War: BOY does the same, and it is also lauded by so many, but really not that outstanding. I’d rather play the old ones instead.

  15. Redrock says:

    I’m not at all sure that the combat in Spidey is actually heavily based on Arkham combat. To me, it feels much more like pre-Arkham 3D brawlers like, yes, Spider-Man 2, among others. There are a few key elements of Arkham combat that are missing here. First, Arkham combat is sticky. Batman can’t really punch air, most of the animations are tied to enemies. After landing a few hits Batman turns into a homing rubber ball with fists, automatically going from enemy to enemy with each button press. Controlled movement, on the other hand, is severely limited and discouraged. Walk a couple of steps by yourself and your combo and momentum are gone. No jumping, no running around the battlefield. Second, yes, the dodge system. In Arkham combat, the counter indicators above enemies’ heads are actually prompts. See the prompt, hit the button, land a counter. The game will even slightly reposition character models to make it work.

    Compared to Batman, Spidey is almost completely untethered from his enemies. Movement is unrelated to the combos, so Spidey can run and jump and swing around without dropping the combo meter. Spidey can zip around to hit enemies with a web kick, but it’s not automatic or combo-dependent, like Batman’s ballet moves. Finally, yes, the dodge isn’t a sure counter to a prompt. I’m not even sure that Spidey-sense is intended to be a dodge prompt, and not, y’know, actual Spidey-sense, i.e. A warning.

    Seems to me that this is a bit like the thing with Dark Souls and Sekiro, where people coming in with Dark Souls skills actually had a harder time adjusting than those with no prior Dark Souls experience. I think you aren’t supposed to play Spider-Man as you would an Arkham game. I think you’re supposed to move around, not just via web kicks, but by running and swing. I think you’re supposed to manually plan out your crowd control, do strategic retreats, be ready to refocus on guys with rockets or whatever else. The Arkham-style semi-rhythm game approach doesn’t really work here because, the way I see it it’s just not built for it. It just may seem that way because, hey, a superhero game in a post-Arkham industry.

  16. isaac says:

    i thought that spider-man’s combat was great and much better than arkham’s due to having more potential for creativity & improvisation. you can pull off some cool stuff in batman but in spiderman is basically combat as some sort of manic improv. flipping around, juggling enemies, stylishly sticking goons to walls, chucking things at people, using your webslinging to engage, disengage, and re-engage with different groups of enemies in different parts of a fighting area, etc. there is just so much more variety and chaos in spiderman fights.

    i agree that the dodging system isnt great and there needed to be a quickfire gadget system of some kind but the rest of the complaints i dont get at all.

  17. krellen says:

    In the latest Spider-Man film, Spidey spends the majority of the fights in the air (and when he’s on the ground, he does get pummelled), but when he’s in the air, he’s either moving (at high speeds), or hanging on/slinging webs trying to keep things from falling apart. I think if this game reflected that, rather than comic-book freeze-frames, it’d satisfy a lot more.

  18. Christopher says:

    I agree! We have different solutions to the issues ( I want more Devil May Cry, you want more Arkham), but I share all these annoyances with the combat, plus some more (Only I don’t mind the floating).

    I think they did amazing for their first attempt at melee combat, and because of the more freeform nature of moves and movement I do prefer it to Arkham, but it’s still relatively bare bones and full of little frustrations. I just hope they build on what they have, and make it really stellar for the second game.

  19. Urthman says:

    The city is now screwed so bad I kind of stop caring. As far as I’m concerned, Spider-Man lost. This is the kind of cataclysm he’s supposed to prevent. This reminds me of the destructive brawl Superman had in Man of Steel. The fantasy of thwarting evil is gone. Sure, Spider-Man saves the city later, but that doesn’t fix the fact that so many people died under his watch.

    Yeah, I have this problem with a lot of superhero stories. This is how I felt watching all of the Nolan Batman movies. The villains succeeded and I didn’t really care that Batman got to punch them after already failing to prevent them from killing hundreds or thousands of people. The Joker says kill this guy or I blow up a hospital and Bruce rushes to keep anyone from killing that guy rather than figuring out how to stop the Joker from blowing up the hospital. Yay Batman?

    “If we can’t save the planet, we’ll Avenge it,” Stark says to Loki, but the beginning of Endgame shows exactly how hollow a victory that would be. Just beating up the bad guy isn’t good enough for a superhero story.

    Think how much better Man of Steel could have been if, say, the Kryptonians were weaker, less used to their powers than Superman, but his focus was on beating them without letting them kill anyone and they were deviously using that against him. How much more tactical and creative the fight could have been if Superman had to divide his attention between fighting and saving people rather than just spending 20 minutes seeing who could punch the other guy harder.

  20. James says:

    Like others have said, the combat here feels like Arkham but not in that good way that Arkham does. I do think it is a very apt game to compare the combat to. I’ve 100% all four Arkham games, and have just beat Spider-man and the DLC.

    I never got tired of the combat in the Arkham games (it goes for the ’empowerment’ end of things, where I really felt a state of flow, and clearing a room full of thugs without dropping the combo felt amazing). However, I was pretty tired of the combat sequences in Spider-man even prior to the Raft sequence, and ended up preferring the lite-stealth sections to combat.

    I found the game to be extremely tough in the beginning (died multiple times against Kingpin; this may be attributable to having Arkham muscle memory, where I mashed the Arkham triangle-counter button instead of the correct evade-spider sense button), okay fun once Spidey’s health increased and combat moves increased, then tedious by the time Sable’s goons arrived (it was especially not fun in the DLCs with the gatling gun baddies, and the flying energy shield baddies).

    I liked how the evade button isn’t perfect to prevent damage (unlike with Arkham’s counter button). The problem seems to be even if you hit the evade button perfectly, you can still be hit because either (1) The Big Goon has a long range of attack that you didn’t leap far enough away with the Evade button, (2) Even though you evaded damage from Enemy 1, enemies 2-10 still had attacks that could hit, or (3) The attack has area of effect damage meaning that you were actually supposed to jump and web swing away instead of evading like the prompt tells you to.

    Like Shamus says, there aren’t quick shortcuts to the various gadgets as there are in Arkham. I found myself forgetting to use gadgets the majority of the time, and then when I did remember them, spamming them and finding it overpowered. They didn’t seem to be super integrated into the combat.

    Another problem seems to be the lack of ‘oomph’ to the combat. The mooks have a high health bar, such that many, many punches are needed to bring them down. The enemy animation doesn’t really sell the effect that they are getting punched hard by a man with the proportionate strength of a spider. Throwing objects (even including rockets) does knock the enemy around, but requires many thrown objects to knock them out. If one rocket can take out almost 99% of Spider-man’s health, why can a mook take 3+ rockets thrown back at them without being knocked out? The things that are happening in combat need to seem like they are damaging, but the animation and mechanics of it don’t really sell it.

    Mechanics aside, I think for the intangible ‘fun-ness’ of the combat, Spider-man never really nailed it consistently. Even in the best of times – where, during one of the Bases side missions, I’d evade a sniper fire, throw a web bomb, leap towards and punch a baddie, uppercut someone in the air, web throw one of the webbed up goons off a building, leap to a baddie on another floor and use a finisher – I never reached that perfect state of flow. Even though I was able to beat most of the combat instances without dying, combat didn’t feel as perfect as it could have been.

  21. Duoae says:

    Paradoxically, by emphasizing every single takedown, the game loses the ability to emphasize anything. It’s not a special moment when the camera swoops in because it happens constantly. It’s like taking a game that plays a special sound for headshots and changing the game so that the sound plays for any old hit. This feedback should be a reward for skilled play, but now it’s just background noise.

    This is the exact issue I had with Doom 2016. I felt that the melee finishers really slowed down the gameplay/fights and interrupted the flow…. not to mention having to stop what you’re doing and focus on finding an enemy that was glowing. It’s like as if in Q3A you had to go and find an ammo crate every time you fired.

    Somehow, I was in the vast minority in this and everyone else felt that the game and combat was really fast….

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