- The early 2000s is the golden era of Spider-Man games, back when the character enjoyed a decent amount of time in the spotlight.
- After the sixth generation, Spider-Man’s presence in the gaming space began to fade into obscurity. This was due to the degrading quality of each entry and the existence of the Arkham series.
- In 2018, Insomniac Games pulled the wall-crawler out of the realm of mediocrity and has since delivered with each entry. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 seems like it will continue this streak.
With the launch of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 just around the corner, fans around the world are excited to suit up and save New York once more. While the marketing for this sequel has been lackluster, Insomniac Games revealed much information about the game during last week’s State of Play. After seeing the most recent details, I have to say, it feels like we’re heading back to the golden age of Spider-Man games.
Now you might be wondering about this “golden age.” Well, every character, medium, and the like has those one or two eras where it shone the brightest. In the case of Spider-Man games, I believe the years of PlayStation and PlayStation 2 to be that age. While some people might disagree with this sentiment, I’m optimistic that many would understand where I’m coming from.
After all, we did have some gems during the seventh generation of home consoles, yet, it never managed to reach that peak. That said, Insomniac is taking me back to that time, a period in the gaming age that I fondly remember due to a handful of characters, including the webbed hero.
The Golden Era Of Spider-Man Games
After the launch of the first PlayStation, the fifth generation of consoles was in full swing. The advancement in technology during that time allowed devs to create 3D environments. Neversoft wasted no time in letting Spider-Man swing his way onto the console. That game was the web-slinger’s first-ever outing on a three-dimensional map and it was great.
Players from the early 2000s would remember the charm and impact of that game. Not only did it feature iconic villains and characters from the wall-crawler’s history, but Spider-Man himself felt great to control. The movement, the combat, the level design. boss fights, having a huge gallery of suits with different powers, the ability to collect comic covers, cheat codes, and fear-inducing screams of Monster Ock.
Beyond that, the game featured top-of-the-line writing with fantastic voiceover work, really enhancing the overall atmosphere of that title. Spider-Man was followed up with a sequel, Enter Electro, which kept almost all of the charm of the prequel while adding more to it. For the first time ever, you were able to modify the wall-crawler’s suit and up to three powers, quite literally creating your own Spider-Man.
Enter Electro also expanded upon the suit gallery, many of which I hope to see in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. The aforementioned Create-A-Spider system was amazing, and going up against iconic villains along with the periodic Daily Bugle headlines is an experience I’ll never forget. To this day, I revisit these two games quite frequently, more so than Spider-Man 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man.
Even so, how can we forget the significance of the former game? After all, Jamie Fristrom pioneered the physics-based web-swinging system, finally freeing Uncle Ben from his duty as the holder of Peter’s webs in the sky. While most of Spider-Man 2 hasn’t aged very well, the traversal and charm of the game are still fairly high. And of course, being a title held in such high regard, it’s almost poetic for the same entry to have produced the worst Spidey video game of all time.
That’s right, I’m talking about Spider-Man 2 on the PC. The single, most cursed, most disgraceful game to have existed based on our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. I wish I could free the world of this painful memory but as much as it hurts me to admit, the golden era has a pretty prominent blemish on its record. At least we can find solace in the fact that the universe recovered from that curse in 2005.
Ultimate Spider-Man hit the shelves, marking the end of that generation on a high note. Not only did it feature a different version of the wall-crawler, but it also had a unique way of presenting the package as a whole. Beautiful cell-shaded visuals, fantastic combat and traversal, various activities around New York, other Marvel characters, and a playable Venom. Here’s hoping that Insonmiac delivers with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.
While the web-slinger had a solid presence during this time, things would begin to go through a gradual shift. This would be the start of the character’s diminishing presence, heralded by some of the most premium games in Spider-Man’s history.
Spider-Man: Web Of Shadows, Arkham Series, And The Beenox Saga
Like it or not, the seventh generation of consoles was critical for Spider-Man, just not in the way you’d expect. Even after all this time, with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 on the horizon, we have yet to reach the pinnacle of combat in a Spidey game that Web of Shadows arrived at. No matter how great Spider-Man PS4 and Miles Morales were as games, they did not have that level of combat gameplay.
At the same time, no Spider-Man title has embraced the scientific side of the web-slinger the way Insomniac has. It’s a really thin line to tread and we all have to weigh the pros and cons for ourselves. At the end of the day, gameplay peaked with Web of Shadows. Having that level of quality with Insomniac’s penchant for crafting gizmos would be a sight to behold. Even the inclusion of wall combat alone would elevate these new Spidey games to hitherto unseen heights.
Following Web of Shadows, Activision got Beenox onboard for this job. The job was to create Spidey titles like there’s no tomorrow. And I have to say, Beenox delivered a little over the few years it worked on Spider-Man. However, due to several factors, these games paled in comparison and failed to truly shock and amaze the players.
At the top of this list of factors stood the Arkham series. Rocksteady started out with Batman: Arkham Asylum, going on to produce top-tier superhero games, changing the perception of many. Meanwhile, Spider-Man was fading into obscurity with every new release, even with Beenox churning out entry after entry.
Shattered Dimensions in 2010 was a huge step up but it was followed by a rather uninspired sequel, Edge of Time. I love that game but can’t deny that it doesn’t do justice to the character. Combat with Spider-Man 2099 felt great in both titles, proving my point of exploring other Spider-Men but overall, the design of that game was simply bland. In contrast to the prequel, Edge of Time felt extremely shallow.
And then Sony decided to reboot the Spider-Man films, bringing us Andrew Garfield’s “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Of course, a new movie meant a new tie-in game, so we got just what the doctor ordered. I’ll be brutally honest, The Amazing Spider-Man did nothing to innovate on the character. In fact, it regressed as web-swinging went back to being Uncle Ben’s duty. Despite all of that, that game was pure fun.
Who would’ve thought that after a mildly enjoyable Spider-Man game, we would go on to receive the worst entry imaginable? An entry that, in my book, is on par with the PC port of Spider-Man 2. Yes, I’m talking about the sequel to Andrew’s first movie tie-in game. It came out, got panned by negative reviews, was a horrible experience, and a huge step down overall.
Meanwhile, Rocksteady released Arkham City and Arkham Knight. Between that, WB Montreal released Arkham Origins, a game that was equally as good, but for some reason, these guys refuse to acknowledge its existence. All these premium Batman games obliterated Spider-Man’s presence in the gaming scene, going from the Golden Era to down in the dumps.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 Is A Trip To The Past
Now I know many of you out there will find this weird since the first game was a phenomenal return to form for Spidey. It did something for the wall-crawler that the Arkham games did for Batman. However, what Insomniac is doing with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 appears to be one huge dose of nostalgia mixed with a modern twist of technology and mechanics.
I’ll start it off with the suit system. In the first game, we were able to unlock suit powers and mods, play around with them, and swap them to different suits, effectively creating a look that we loved the most. This was practically the Create-A-Spider system from Enter Electro. Now, in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Insomniac is taking it even further with over 200 ways to customize suit palettes. This cosmetic variety combined with the power and mod swapping is just one big bundle of joy for me.
And then we have the updated Augmented Reality tech in Peter’s and Miles’ mask lenses. In the previews we’ve seen, these icons showing up in the world remind me of item pickups from the PS1 era. I still remember the spider-shaped medicines, web cartridges, freeze, and electric webbing, and the exclusive anti-serum webs from the Lizard fight in Enter Electro. Having all of these colorful icons in the sky just takes me back to that time due to how similar it feels.
Then we have the web wings, a brand-new addition to the game, aiming to improve traversal and add more depth to it. Here’s the thing, this mechanic proves a belief I’ve held fast to ever since Shattered Dimensions hit the shelves. Developers need to explore other Spider-Men instead of the usual Peter Parker path. I’ll clarify a little more, there are other Peters out there and other Spider-Men/Spider-Women altogether.
Imagine a game based on Spider-Man 2099 and Neuva York, Spider-Gwen, and the neon-lit backdrop of her New York. Even Pavitr and Mumbattan would make for a great experience, especially in light of his popularity due to Across The Spider-Verse. Then we have Hobie Brown aka Spider-Punk and the list goes on. There’s tons of untapped potential here for great games but devs need to wake up and conduct some surveys. And that brings me to my last point…
Insomniac Has The Potential To Elevate Spider-Man Games
After everything that Spidey has gone through, in the comics and in the gaming space, Insomniac has pulled him out of the gutter and placed him on the podium. It started with Spider-Man PS4, from there we got Miles Morales, and now it’s time for Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. It’s the same old playground but with new boroughs, mechanics, features, and more.
The potential for Spidey games is vast; Insomniac is the only developer right now capable of tapping into it. With Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, it’s clear as day. With the official release just around the corner, it’s time for everyone’s friendly neighborhood web-slinger to once again stand in the spotlight.
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