Spider-Man crawls out of the hospital bed despite severe injuries. That would be a great moment, but we hit that exact same note after the prison escape. The writer bottomed out too early, and now the hero doesn’t have any farther to fall. Well, aside from the fact that he has to go confront his best friend / nemesis, Doctor Octopus. I guess that’s pretty bad.
Silver Sable calls him to explain that his actions have given her a change of heart and she’s leaving the city. If she actually had a change of heart she should offer to stay and start helping for once to offset all the trouble her men have caused. She can’t even get her men to leave the city. She’s going to leave this giant mess behind, with her goon squads still plundering the ravaged city. This was her last opportunity to do something relevant to the plot, and she passed it up.
Good riddance, although I resent the screen time wasted on this bore.
You might remember that one of my gripes with Batman: Arkham City was that the story had this vial of blue science juice that Batman needed to save Gotham from Joker toxin, but by the end the writer lost track of that plot and the whole thing dissolved into incoherence. That problem does not happen here.
Once again we have a vial of blue science juice that’s needed to halt a citywide epidemic. This time, we’re given a personal link to the problem. Aunt May is on the edge of death. Without the cure, she’ll die. She can serve as our representative of everyone Spider-Man is trying to save.
Doctor Octopus has the cure. It’s the only sample in existence. We can’t just launch a missile at our villain because we’ll destroy the cure. (Also because he’s got the mayor as a hostage. I never got a strong sense as to how much anyone in this world cares about the mayor at this point.)
There’s no other way to do this. Someone has to face Doctor Octopus directly to recover that cure. Spider-Man must fight his mentor to save his aunt.
The Anti-Ock Suit
Spider-Man has a talk with MJ and she suggests that since he helped Doctor Octopus design the deadly robo-arms, maybe he needs to come up with a way to counter them. This is a really cool idea and I really approve. Peter needs to destroy his creation to save the city. This brings the science nerd aspect of the character into play, and has him literally undoing all the things he and Doc built together. Doc betrayed Peter by allowing his anger to consume him, and now Peter must betray Doc by using his secrets against him.
Spider-Man goes back to the Octavius lab and makes himself a new suit specifically designed to defeat Otto.
The problem is that the special ability of this suit isn’t particularly useful for taking down Octavius. When you activate the special ability it gives you gadget refills. That’s nice I guess, but not nearly as good as some of the other powers from the other costumes in the game.
The writer did their job, but the game designer failed to make this tool compelling. You fight doc all by himself and Spider-Man’s gadgets are mostly used for crowd control. Spidey has tons of gadgets at this point in the game, so I’m not sure who I’m supposed to use all those extra gadget refills on. I’ve been through the fight multiple times and I never remember to use the ability, because I never found myself in a position where I was low on ammo. There’s a tooltip that says to use your gadgets to stun him, but I always got by with flinging his own projectiles back at him. Maybe I’m doing the fight wrong, but if it’s wrong then why does it work? I don’t know. It’s odd.
It would be bad enough if the big final suit & power combo was merely disappointing, but they’re also mandatory. You can’t switch your suit or special ability for the final fight. Did you enjoy unlocking all that gear and choosing your favorite suit / power combo? Well too bad, because here at the end the gameplay designer is going to dress you and tell you what to take with you.
Doctor Octopus has Norman Osborn at the top of Oscorp tower and is taunting him. Norman is actually a pretty gutsy guy and he refuses to cower for Otto. Finally Doc Ock gets frustrated and flings Osborn off the roof.
Spider-Man saves Norman, of course. Then it’s time for our big showdown.
My problem in this scene aren’t really problems caused by this scene. The problems with this scene come from the previous scene.
Spider-Man opens the fight by saving Norman Osborn’s life at the last second. (We just did that literally ten minutes ago with Martin.)
Spider-Man wants to talk the bad guy into repenting. (We just did that literally ten minutes ago with Martin.)
Spider-Man needs to get the antiserum to save Aunt May. (We just did that literally ten minutes ago with Martin.)
The bad guy demands to know why Spider-Man is protecting Norman Osborn, and Spider-Man doesn’t reply with something to the effect of, “Dude! My family is dying of Devil’s Breath and you’re holding the cure in your hand.” (Spider-Man did the same thing literally ten minutes ago with Martin.)
The bad guy has Norman Osborn as a hostage and wants to get revenge on him for wrongs of the past. (We just did that literally ten minutes ago with Martin.)
The bad guy wants to keep the antiserum for himself and kill thousands of people, even though that’s orthogonal to his goals and doing so makes his vendetta brazenly hypocritical. (We just did that literally ten minutes ago with Martin.)
The bad guy wants revenge on Norman for being evil, and yet Spider-Man doesn’t call the bad guy out on their own evils. (We just did that literally ten minutes ago with Martin.)
Peter is fighting while nursing grievous injuries. (The game hit that same note after the prison break, which is pretty close to this moment. Again, the story seems to be repeating itself.)
Martin isn’t just a bad villain, his character arc gets in the way of the far more interesting arc between Peter and Otto.
The thing is, I think the Doc Ock scene works just fine in isolation. Sure, his behavior is a little muddled and it’s obvious he’s not thinking clearly, but “the neural interface made me do it” is a handy catch-all excuse. The dynamic between Peter Parker and Otto Octavius is well-developed and interesting, and this unraveling of their friendship makes for some powerful drama. The only problem I have is that it’s distracting how we’re repeating the same exact ideas just a few minutes apart.
Near the end of the fight, Peter’s mask is damaged. He’s worried about keeping his identity secret, but then doc reveals he’s known all along. It’s a great moment and underscores just how far gone Doc really is. He knowingly did these horrible things to his best friend, which means the old doc is well and truly lost. He even says a few minutes later, “You can’t save me, Peter.”
This is a neat counterpoint to the Martin Li fight. Or it would be, if I understood what happened to Li. At the end of the fight Martin Li had stopped glowing and reverted to his human form. Was that due to Spider-Man’s constant pleas for repentance, or did Spider-Man just punch him until he ran out of mojo? Martin’s Yin / Yang thing was too vague for me to get invested in it.
The Bitter End
Once the player completes the main part of the fight, we have a little cutscene that transitions us to the final stage. Spider-Man’s web spinners are damaged, leaving him without webbing and gadgets. Doc loses one of his arms. They wind up fighting while clinging to the side of Oscorp tower. Spider-Man is injured and has no webs. Doc is hamstrung by the fact that he needs to use a couple of his arms to hang onto the building. They’re both worn out and getting desperate.
This gives us a very “cinematic” fight. You’re still playing. You’re still pressing buttons and still dodging attacks. At the same time, the interface vanishes. No gadgets, no map, no health bar. I’m not even sure if you can die in this section. This fight is here so that Peter and Otto can have some important final words. It allows us to have some dialog without grabbing the controller out of the player’s hands for another stupid cutscene.
I love this, and I really wish this sort of thing was done elsewhere in the game. On my first playthrough, I didn’t even notice the missing interface. I was immersed in the story and the fight at the same time. Here we are at the end of the game, and it feels like the writer and gameplay designer have finally figured out how to work together.
I understand you can’t do this for every boss fight. This brawl on the side of the building is a very particular setup that requires us to de-power the hero to make it possible. We have to take away Spidey’s webs or the player will expect to be able to swing away. We have to put our combatants on the side of this building so the player can’t just leap away or run off. You can’t contrive to end every boss fight like this. Still, the game needed more ideas along these lines. The cutscene battles in this game are intrusive to the point of being annoying and far too many cutscenes interrupt boss fights to negate player action.
The final moments are pretty heartbreaking. Spider-Man rips the neural interface off of Doctor Octopus, leaving the doctor with no way to control his limbs. He plummets off the building and ends up inside the lower sections of Oscorp tower, limp and helpless. Otto Octavius seems to emerge, but it’s wonderfully ambiguous if he’s actually reverted to his old self or if he’s just trying to get the neural interface back so he can resume his mad schemes.
Like a lot of the best Spider-Man stories, the conclusion feels somehow tragic yet inevitable. Peter Parker had to ruin his invention and destroy his mentor to do the right thing.
Luckily, the vial of blue science juice survived the destructive battle and the long fall. Spider-Man recovers it and hurries back to FEAST, hoping to save Aunt May.
We’re at the endgame now. We’ll wrap this series up next week.
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