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Now, I understand that everyone is discussing this new exclusive, praising it for the most part because of its solid storytelling to its addicting gameplay, but how could you not? In recent years we've had the misfortune of playing a slew of Spider-Man games that were only created to ride off the success of the films, none of which were made with the love and care to attention that Spider-Man for PS4 clearly shows. Judging from the reviews I'm not the only one who believes this, with Gamespot giving it a 9 out of 10, IGN rating it an 8.7, and Metacritic compiling all scores to give it an 87 out of 100, which raises a new question. Why is this Spider-Man game doing better than the others, and how does this game shine light on the Superhero genre in the video game world?
Well, let's dive in.
2-Bit Smash Hit
If we're going to understand what made Spider-Man such a popular force in the video game industry we'll need to go back in time to 1994 and 2004, as the games released in these two years are still credited as some of the best titles in the Webslinger's catalog. In 1994 a company by the name of Acclaim Entertainment teamed up with Software Creations to create the smash hit Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage for the SNES and Sega Genesis. When it was released it was met with high praise and even today is respected as one of the best Spider-Man games ever made, almost every top five list about best games starring the Scarlet Spider will include this title in its top three, but why is it so beloved even to this day? There are two core reasons; source material and gameplay.
In the 1990s it was common to see a beat 'em up style side-scrollers, perfect examples being Final Fight and Double Dragon, and Spider-Man was no different not necessarily changing the formula, but perfecting it for a new audience. With gameplay common for the time, the team could spend more time to make the gameplay fit in with the universe they were creating and work on translating the comic book's story into video game form.
Comics in Motion
The aforementioned 'source material' played a very important role in the success of Maximum Carnage. Avid comic book readers back in the day heard about this title well before the game was made, as there was a 14-part arc with the same title. The game's narrative was built around the storyline of Maximum Carnage in the books, giving the game a more compelling premise than most games during this time. Fans of the comic were surprised and over joyous about this, and with the strong gameplay along with a great narrative, gamers and comic book readers were more than happy to play this on the day it was released. Maximum Carnage was a large success for everyone involved, but what was 'ole Spidey going to do when 3D gaming became the newest craze?
Gaming Was Changin'
During the 90s video games were changing, and changing for the better. From Mario to Metal Gear, everyone was making the jump from 2D to 3D, some doing better than others, while Spider-Man thwipped through the air until he found his footing. A few 3D Spider-Man games were released between the years of 2000 and 2002, but none have reached the nigh timeless praise that their 2004 release has. A plethora of developers teamed up for the project with the main ones being Treyarch and Activision who went on to release the critically acclaimed Spider-Man 2 for PC, Xbox, PlayStation 2, and Gamecube (as well as mobile consoles). It's safe to say that this game took the world by storm, being commended for its realistic web-slinging and amazing core gameplay, as well as bringing comic book only characters such as Black Cat and Rhino onto the small screen. They had successfully made the jump to 3D following their 2D success and had cemented the Web-Head's name into the world of gaming for good... but at what cost?
From Highs to Lows
Following the success of Spider-Man 2 (both the game and the movie) our red and blue wall-crawler was on top of the world, at least, for the moment. In the years following this, both the movies and video game tie-in sequels were seen as lackluster and inferior to previous titles, with many fans falling off and losing hope for Spider-Man, with 2014's The Amazing Spider-Man 2 game receiving the lowest Metacritic score of 49 out of 100, being universally panned by critics and fans alike. So how come a game with superior graphics, a larger team, and a bigger budget in 2014 did far worse than a game created in 2004? It might sound cheesy, but the fact is that those games lack the same heart. The heart that can turn an underrated game into a cult classic, or a delayed title into a masterpiece.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 saw the same results as other movie tie-in games, there are few video games based off of movies that stand on their own as quality products, 2015's Mad Max game being the exception and performing better than it ever needed to. The film with a similar name had experienced massive success in the box office, but instead of rushing an unfinished product out and pushing it on to store shelves the developers took their time to craft a game with addictive gameplay and an above average narrative to tie it all together. The same thing can be said about the aforementioned Spider-Man 2, both of these titles should have failed if the track record of previous movie tie-in games is anything to go off of, but even over ten years later people still claim that Spider-Man 2 is their favorite Spidey game, it has garnished that unbelievable longevity through its fanbase that blended together their love of comics and their love of gaming, and the same thing is happening again with this newest Web-Head title for PS4
Over 30 years of gaming have come and gone for Spider-Man and the young wall-crawler is only getting better with time, as this newest edition focuses on what made Spidey classics so universally beloved in the first place. Insomniac Games, creators of Ratchet and Clank and Spyro, did a phenomenal job capturing what made older titles amazing, from creating a world inspired by past and modern open-world titles as well as gameplay to make playing as the web-slinger feel fresh again, to crafting a whole new storyline heavily inspired by the source material in the comics to make an original plot that's compelling enough to keep your attention for hours at a time.
We live in a time where superheroes are everywhere and Marvel is a large force in modern cinema and television, but for some reason, there aren't too many high-quality superhero video games to go around.
When people think about superhero video games Batman is usually the only other name that's been the gaming industry around for as long as Spidey has. The Batman Arkham series was groundbreaking, with each entry being better than the last, but unless you love Lego Marvel or DC, entertaining superhero games are a rarity these days, but I don't think all hope is lost just yet.
DC and Marvel have a very large list of heroes that can pick from in both of their respective groups, and the demographic is only growing larger as the year goes on. From Marvel's Daredevil and Punisher, DC's The Flash and Supergirl, and future shows in production, it would be fitting that superheroes enter the ring of gaming again for another round. Both heroes popular and obscure have a chance of becoming fan favorites or iconic characters in modern media, and following the massive success of Spider-Man, I believe that Spidey would be perfect to lead the charge in a dying genre in need of more heroes.