Sony closed out its press conference earlier this evening by showing off what was potentially one of its most highly-anticipated titles: Marvel: Spider-Man. During the presentation, however, there was one thing that I simply couldn’t shake: much of the gameplay looked remarkably similar to the Batman: Arkham series.
Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The Batman: Arkham series is a treasure — a superhero video game among superhero video games. Prior to that series, I had lost all hope for Marvel/D.C.-inspired titles, plagued with painful memories of titles such as Iron Man and Superman Returns. Granted, there were some good entries here and there, but they didn’t do enough to improve my perception of the genre as a whole.
This all changed when I got Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2010. I went to a nearby Gamestop in order to cash in on a Holiday sale where you get 2 used games and you get one for free. I went there in the hopes of getting Final Fantasy XIII and God of War III, then getting Bayonetta as my free game. While I did wind up getting my first two games, Bayonetta was out of stock, so a staff member recommended Batman: Arkham — and I went with it. Little did I know my perception of Marvel/D.C.-inspired games would soon be altered forever.
I grew increasingly impressed as I played through the game: between the combat, atmosphere and various features, I truly felt like Batman and I wasn’t bored while playing. I’ve always felt the weakness with many superhero games is that they try to emulate the hero featured in the comic they’re from (which isn’t bad), but the problem is that many of these superheroes are difficult to translate into a video game in a meaningful way and developers don’t necessarily do a good job in said translation. More often than not, the end result are boring beat’em ups with no depth or sense of danger. I never had this feeling when playing Arkham Asylum. Yes, I could beat the snot out of generic foes, but I still had to play intelligently.
I quickly found myself falling in love with the Arkham Asylum, and it appears pretty much everyone else did as well. Rocksteady Studios soon proved that Arkham Asylum wasn’t a flash in the pan either, because Arkham City came out two years and was even better than its predecessor. In fact, every game in the series was met with highly-favorable reviews — even Arkham Origins which was considered the weakest title in the series. At that point, I was convinced Marvel/D.C.-inspired titles could work and just needed a developer who could see what worked with the Batman: Arkham series and apply it to its own game.
Now, fast forward to E3 2017 and it appears Insomnia has done just that with Marvel: Spider-Man. Based on what has been seen thus far, its impossible to not draw parallels between Marvel: Spider-Man and the Batman: Arkham series. The combat in both entries look similar and so does the stealth options. Despite that, it still manages to retain that classic Spider-Man feel, incorporating the acrobatics and web-slinging the character is known for.
Of course this doesn’t mean the game will automatically be amazing, it could very well flop for all we know — which would be disappointing considering the Spider-Man series’ track record. However, what’s clear is that Insomnia managed to retain many of the better features of Spider-Man 2 and incorporate much of what made the Arkham series so great. Borrowing from great games from the past and intelligently building upon them is how you make you great games in the present and it looks like Insomnia is doing just that. As things stand, I’m very much looking forward to 2018 when this arrives — Marvel: Spider-Man could very well be the next great superhero game and help pave the way for others in the future.