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For many years, Marvel has struggled to get a foot in the door when it comes to the gaming industry. While having major successes with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they had failed to set up a gaming counterpart worthy of their prestige. Ever since the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009, DC with a little help from Rocksteady studios has always excelled within this realm. DC’s reign, however, ended on September 7, 2018 with the release of Spider-Man for the PlayStation 4; due to the simplicity of the game's title, many fans referred to the game as "Marvel’s Spider-Man" which bolstered Marvel's foothold within the community and showed just how much faith they had in both Spider-Man and Insomniac Games, the developer behind Marvel’s Spider-Man.
Nobody can argue with the masterpiece created by Insomniac. They have achieved something most fans could not dream of. They have made a Spider-Man game worthy of the character, one that is truly... Amazing (Bare with me I couldn’t help myself). Now I can try and tell you how good this game is but I would simply be wasting my breath... or text, whichever one is applicable. All the reviews for this game prove just how good a job Insomniac have done and in the process they have displayed their expertise and cemented themselves as a top level developer that is up there with the likes of Rockstar.
While some may argue that the web-swinging is the best part of the game, I believe that the story is what sets it apart. Never before have we seen a Spider-Man game that focuses on Peter Parker as much as his alter ego and I must say it was refreshing. If I had been told before playing that I would have enjoyed playing as Peter Parker more than Spider-Man I would have laughed you out the room, but I did due to a stellar cast and the joint efforts of many writers including Christos Gage, known for his work on the Netflix TV series Daredevil, and Dan Slott, best known for his long run on The Amazing Spider-Man comics. The voice actors behind the likes of Peter, Mary Jane, Aunt May, and Otto Octavius propel the narrative tremendously and their performances coupled with the excellent writing create a story that is emotionally satisfying and unexpectedly thought provoking.
It is the latter point I’d like to focus on here. It has been made clear from the start of the game that Peter Parker has been active as Spider-Man for 8 years and while he’s been fighting crime in spandex all this time, his life has carried on and it has gotten to a point where his civilian life is now more important to him than being a superhero. This is made clear through an exchange with Mary Jane who initially sounds surprised by Peter’s passion for his day job; this may be time to mention that Peter works as a lab assistant for Doctor Otto Octavius (pre the extra mechanical arms).
Spider-Man: A Relatable Hero
Spider-Man’s relatability has always been a staple of the character; it’s obvious Insomniac understood this, Spider-Man being the only comic book character that has to face real life problems as well as super villains. This is why the appeal of the character has never wavered, not with the comic book community or this introduced to the hero either through film, television or games. Insomniac took note of the previous stories told about our web swinging hero and decided to set their story during the early adult life of Peter Parker. A lot of fans had never seen this side of the character so Insomniac had the unenviable task of creating a Peter Parker that felt like a natural progression of his younger self.
Along with his advanced crime fighting knowledge, Peter also gains a wisdom never before seen in the character. This is perhaps seen in his encounters with Miles Morales (Miles in the comics actually operates as Spider-Man and possesses similar spider-like abilities as Peter—in the game, Miles is still an ordinary teenager). In Miles, we see a younger Peter who Peter feels a sense of responsibility towards. It’s this side of Peter that is so refreshing to see. He may not have his life together—being evicted springs to mind—but he finds time to mentor a teenager who needs the same lessons and guidance he once required. This act of mentoring may seem like a plot point to maintain Miles’s presence in the story, but it simply isn’t. Peter’s view of the world is mature. He doesn’t need to be Spider-Man to change it anymore. He wants to use his scientific knowledge to make a difference. A line that stuck with me through the rest of my playthrough and after it—hence why I’m writing this—occurs late in the game. Peter and MJ are reminiscing over a childhood adventure for pizza and discuss how easy childhood is compared to being an adult, with MJ simply saying, "If we nap the whole world may come to an end"; I’m aware this may not be verbatim but nobody’s perfect. This off-hand remark holds a lot of weight if you look further into it. Perhaps it’s not so serious that the world would end but adult responsibilities bear a certain importance that a child could simply not understand. Peter then proposes an idea—in simpler words, of course, don’t hate me—that they as adults have to use their gifts to help the world so that kids can have their own adventures for pizza. I interpreted this as a cycle in which as children we can have fun and not have to worry about every little thing. It’s not until we grow older that we have to put our own desires aside and do what we can to nurture the future, be that through a career or through our own children. It’s this deep message that’s stuck with me and also applies to my own life. It’s this small moment that adds levity to an important life lesson that not a lot of players will understand, and what other superhero would help convey this message? Further reinforcing Spider-Man’s standing as a truly relatable hero.