While I was dealing with the lows of grade school and not being able to watch Star Wars on the USA channel because it aired past my bedtime, I did have my cartoons to enjoy. One of them was Spider-Man. It became one of the iconic comic book cartoons of its day next to X-Men and Batman: The Animated Series. Getting older, superheroes went on the back-burner. Other fandoms/interests like Pokemon, or video games, or who had the best Sanrio pencil box, plagued middle school. Then, once high school arrived, Xbox made its debut onto the market. I eventually got to play the game adaptation of the first Spider-Man movie starring Toby Maguire. Released in 2002, Treyarch and Activision created a great representation of the movie. You became the spider-bitten photo-journalist who saved the world and told J. Jonah Jamison that you wanted a pay raise because minimum wage sucks.
Considered the best Spider-Man game of its time, sequels for the movie and the game soon followed. I enjoyed both the movie and game adaptations of Spider-Man 2. Unfortunately, both iterations of Spider-Man 3 were a complete fail for me. By then it was already 2007, and I was dealing with the dramas of undergrad. The only other experience with Spider-Man that I had around that time was with Web of Shadows. This was one game that wasn’t based on the movies by Marvel. Unlike the disaster that was Spider-Man 3, it was fun to play. It also introduced Venom in a better way than the third movie ever could dream of.
This year, Insomniac Games brought fans their interpretation of the wall-crawler, and it has eaten its predecessors alive. It’s skyrocketing popularity proves that the single-player genre is alive and well. So eat your heart out, EA (Electronic Arts). This also applies to those who write off single player games and who have a blind addiction to multiplayer-heavy/battle royale. Yeah, I am talking about you Fortnite.
“Writing memoirs? Don’t forget the hyphen between Spider and Man.”
My passion is due to the fact that I’m inundated with Fortnite and its fan base on a weekly basis. I honestly don’t see the appeal of Battle Royale games. A player will eventually work hard towards attaining Number 1, “Chicken Dinner” (PubG), etc. Of course, someone getting that achievement is commendable. But, what is the replay value afterward? In addition, multiplayer dynamics like that can easily be found in Halo, Call of Duty, Battlefield, etc. Sometimes you lose, go solo or with friends, and sometimes you win it all. Rinse and repeat.
Story-based, single-player games, whether they are 20+ hour roleplaying games like Mass Effect, and/or straightforward campaigns like Halo, have proven to be successful. Campaigns in games like Spider-Man have a beginning, middle, and end. Who can resist the desire to pick up the controller and go on an adventure? Who’d not want to step in the shoes of Lara Croft, Master Chief, or Commander Shepard? Even after the game is over, the appeal to experience those memorable feels /moments will always ignite the need to replay the game again.
My experience with this most recent iteration of Spider-Man started not too long after its release. I bought the standard digital edition because I wanted to save money like a good responsible adult (j/k). I also thought I could get the DLC during Christmas. Therefore, later on, I could enjoy new storylines even when I’ve finished the original campaign. As for gameplay, it takes some getting used to controlling Spidey, especially when you jump from the Xbox One controller to PS4 controller.
Five to ten minutes into the Insomniac’s Spider-Man, I died. I then came to the conclusion that I should set the difficulty down from “Amazing” to “Friendly”. Rarely do I capitulate and lower the difficulty, but the situation called for it, and it was for the best. “Friendly” difficulty is best for newbies and those who are not proficient at memorizing “Street Fighter-esque” combo maneuvers. In the end, I had a lot more fun swinging around the streets, fighting crime, and progressing through the story. Sure I still died a couple of times, but I wasn’t ashamed of that in the end. The important thing for me was that I was having fun. I feel like I am saving New York City, and maybe the world as Peter Parker/Spider-Man.
The Lasting Appeal Of The Single-Player Heroes Journey
Spider-Man for the PS4 is a well-made game. Insomniac clearly put its time and effort into this reincarnation of Spider-Man on the consoles. As of late September 2018, Spider-Man is the fastest selling 1st party PlayStation title, knocking off another iconic single player game, God of War, from the top spot. Multiplayer-only games like * cringe* Fortnite *cringe* dominate the mainstream discussions and corporate interests via Samsung/T-Mobile commercials (for example). However, Spider-Man is irrefutable proof to disreputable video game corporations like Electronic Arts that story-based, single player games are here to stay. They can and will destroy anything else on the market.
While I do despise EA and its practices, this article isn’t a slight to anybody that loves multiplayer based games. Love what you love, to be honest. But to me, those games don’t make you think about life. There are moral consequences to life, and the “hero’s journey” makes you ponder them. Loved ones and family are important. The drive to be inspired to make the world a better place is ignited. Isn’t that what superheroes are all about? They are our bastions of altruism; examples that we can follow when it comes to our daily lives.
Again, I am not going to deny the popularity of multiplayer heavy franchises like Battlefield, Call of Duty, etc. Black Ops 4 is going to make its money back and more because its fanboys do find joy in kicking each other’s collective asses in multiplayer, become “top dog”, and make lasting memories at each other’s house via LAN parties (if people still do LAN parties today). The market has clearly made room for that genre of gaming. However, the gaming environment seems to be drowned out in the multiplayer-verse. Gamers like myself, who grew up on Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, etc. pine for similar adventures. Today, we are wary about if we will get something so epic again.
Thankfully, at least in this instance, Insomniac pulled through. Other gaming companies like Square Enix continue producing iterations of behemoth franchises like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts. One game that is piquing my interest (despite tepid interest in JRPGs over their Western counterparts), is Dragon Quest XI. There’s a hero’s journey, interesting roleplaying mechanics, brilliant artwork by Akira Toriyama (of Dragon Ball Z fame), and well-done voice-over work. There are 50+ hours of gameplay for one player, and a story that immersive and deep deserves attention.
Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise is another example of the success of single player-story based games. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey has been lauded as one of the company’s best iterations of the series. Friends have told me that it can be a long while till you see the end credits. While the adage that too much of a good thing can be bad, I’d rather err on the side of having a lot of fulfilling content than barely anything at all. As long as the story and gameplay mechanics are well done, you’re pretty much safe knowing that you’ll have a good experience.
The Importance Of Representation
PlayStation’s Spider-Man’s MOCAP (motion capture) and overall graphics are phenomenal. The writing is great, the gameplay is fun, and despite using the same moves from time to time, it doesn’t get stale. However, my favorite aspect of what Insomniac did with this rendition of Spider-Man is the fact that everyone, protagonist or antagonist, has agency. None of the characters are fit into a particular stereotype. Peter Parker is an all-around decent guy with a handful of years as Spider-Man under his belt.
Unlike the Sam Rami movies, Mary Jane Watson isn’t some aspiring actress. She isn’t waiting tables while having an angsty relationship with Peter and a five-minute fling with Harry Osborne. Mary Jane in this game is a journalist for the Daily Bugle and she investigates on her own accord. She is not dependent on anyone, nor is she taking up stereotypical jobs for her gender/age. She has her own agency. Without agency, characters become stale, or they fit old outdated beliefs that are frankly not modern for the times we live in today.
Yuri Watanabe is an NPC that works for the NYC Police Department. She has a working relationship with Spider-Man where they both make NYC a safer place. The banter between them is well written and humorous to hear while web-swinging across the district/boroughs of the city. Peter does meet and befriend someone else, and avid comic book readers and even casual fans of Spider-Man in pop culture will know who this person is. But for those who don’t, I won’t spoil it for you. Seeing this character was a surprise, to say the least, and welcome one. All I will say is that diversity is a significant part of Marvel’s mandate today, and I am eager to see where things go.
Everyone should feel represented when it comes to our escapism, and thankfully comic books and their video game counterparts are doing that well today. Sure, there are some hits and misses along the way. But when someone feels oppressed, when life is wrought with injustice, reading about your favorite superhero overcoming similar struggles is encouraging. If you’re a person of color, seeing yourself being as a superhero is inspiring. It gives one hope, and maybe that fire within them to keep going and tackle those insurmountable obstacles that are in the way. So if you need some good escapism and it isn’t in a book, Spider-Man for PlayStation 4 is your spoonful of sugar.