Spider-Man Preview - E3 2017
We watch the webslinger save the day in the 2017 E3 demo
It feels gutsy for Insomniac Games to call their new superhero video game simply Spider-Man. While there have been previous Spider-Man video games, they’ve all come with the subtitles (like Shattered Dimensions or Web of Shadows) or tied to a movie release to preclude them from being the definitive incarnation of the character. It’s a small thing, but something that stands out.
Equally noticeable is how little of their stylish design Insomniac seem to have brought to the game; it doesn’t have the over-the-top cartoon aesthetic of Ratchet and Clank or Sunset Overdrive. Yet, neither does it have the drab and gritty trappings of Resistance. Instead, it almost feels like the two styles have been blended, and also infused with visuals similar to the films of the early 2000s.
The theater presentation I saw during E3 2017 was an extended version of the trailer presented at the PlayStation Press Conference from Monday night. The big difference being that a lot of the button prompts that had been removed from the trailer were placed back in, and some of the gameplay that had been eschewed in favor of a more cinematic look had been added back. That’s a long way of saying that what we saw in our presentation looked far more like a video game.
The game that Spider-Man most reminded me of was the Arkham series. The webslinger spent most of the demo perching on the beams and equipment of an unfinished building, which was done using the two trigger buttons (L2 + R2) of the controller. Then as enemies passed by, failing to detect the titular hero, you could use button prompts to take them out silently.
But all of that changes once you land on the ground. Whereas the Arkham series used a counter-based style of combat, Spider-Man is much more proactive. A circle button prompt informs you that the enemy has you in their sights and allows to counter or dodge. Countering or dodging might also again sound a bit like Batman, but the difference was in how little I saw Insomniac encourage fisticuffs combat. Instead of performing a series of melee combos, the use of environmental objects was shown off. Using the L1 button, Spider-Man would grab bags of dry cement, the end of a crane, or plenty of other bludgeoning impromptu weapons to beat down the baddies.
The biggest diversion from the Press Conference trailer came after Spider-Man exchanged words with his popular nemesis Wilson Fisk. Instead of slinging straight to the top of the building, a helicopter carrying the leader of the men who are killing Fisk’s lackeys dropped into frame and blew out the floor Spider-Man was standing on. Immediately, Spidey found himself surrounded by more trigger-happy guards and quickly leapt into combat. He fired off webs into the faces of guards and acrobatically dodged around the environment.
The gameplay I saw looked like it would heavily favor button prompts and quick-time sequences. What’s most interesting is how a lot of it seemed to be based on the player’s proximity to objects in the room. I saw the prompts jump between different objects as the webhead leapt around, which showed off just how many options were available for using makeshift weapons to beat down enemies with. This fight sequence was also made more intense as the helicopter continued to track Spider-Man, firing at him until the room was cleared of enemies.
After that was done, Spider-Man leapt out of the building, and using his web-slinging abilities, circled the in-progress skyscraper. It was a cool opportunity to see the demo really show off how it will force you to find physical objects in the world to attach your webs to. Again, I feel the Arkham series is the best comparison to this, as you were constantly looking for ledges and high points to use and elevate yourself in that game as well. The difference, of course, is that now you’re swinging with Spider-Man.
Upon reaching the top of the tower, the demo played out exactly as seen in the trailer available online. Insomniac peeled back the curtain a bit on what they’re doing with Spider-Man, but there’s still a bunch of questions that beg to be answered from the trailer and this theater demo.
While it was nice to see Fisk and the lesser-known Spider-Man villain, Mr. Negative, one has to assume Insomniac and Sony will wheel out a more prominent bad guy. Will it be Green Goblin as Norman Osborn seems to play a role in the game, given the signs that promote his campaign for mayor? How much of the expanded Spider-Man universe will Insomniac have to play with, or the Marvel Universe for that matter? And how does Miles Morales factor into all of this? Might we see two Spider-Men like the comic book mini-series of the same name? Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until Insomniac are ready to answer those kinds of questions.
Spider-Man is due out sometime in 2018 on the PlayStation 4.