“A story about the man behind the mask as much as the man in it.”
By Andrew Goldfarb
It’s a classic Spider-Man scene: Peter Parker is chasing after a bad guy. The dude has a decent head start, but Peter is slowly closing the gap. Web over web, turn after turn, he’s catching up. He’s going to get him.
Then, SNAP!, a huge piece of debris disconnects from a building, hurtling toward the streets below. Peter can stop it, but the guy he’s chasing will get away. If he pushes ahead to catch the guy and ignores the debris, hundreds of people below could be at risk. He has to decide what to do. Now.
Decisions like that have always defined Peter Parker, and the choices he makes define the type of hero he is. The mantra has become a cliche, but with great power does come great responsibility. Peter Parker doesn’t take these decisions lightly. And Insomniac isn’t taking them lightly either.
In a behind closed doors demo of Spider-Man at E3, creative director Bryan Intihar explains that this is Insomniac’s own unique Spider-Man universe, but one that respects the legacy of the franchise. “We want to surprise people, but I don’t want it to be so foreign that this isn’t the Spider-Man I know,” Intihar says.
Peter Parker’s identity is a major part of that legacy. In Insomniac’s Spider-Man, Peter has been doing this for eight years. He’s become a master of combat and traversal; “like an elite athlete at the peak of his career,” according to Intihar. But he’s still just a 23-year-old, figuring out his life, balancing being a hero with being a good man. “We don’t want to make him so powerful that you can’t relate to him, because relatability is so important for this character, a sense of vulnerability. Half of his jokes come from that, and we want to make sure we retain that,” Intihar explains.
Relatability is so important for this character, a sense of vulnerability.
“We talked a lot about what makes the best Spider-Man stories, and it’s when Peter’s world and Spider-Man’s world collide,” he added. Even in our demo, that conflict comes to light. Peter is chasing after Martin Li, the head of a gang called the Demons and a man destined to one day become the villain Mister Negative. But only half of Peter’s mind is on taking down Martin Li as a villain; the other half is thinking about Martin Li as the man who runs a homeless shelter — the homeless shelter where Peter’s Aunt May works.
“This is a story about the man behind the mask as much as the man in it. Expect to see a lot of Peter in this game,” Intihar says.
Spider-Man will indeed be open-world, though once you accept missions such as the one shown in Sony’s E3 conference, there will be fail states for not completing certain objectives, such as not catching up with an enemy in time.
We talked a lot about what makes the best Spider-Man stories, and it’s when Peter’s world and Spider-Man’s world collide.
Intihar confirmed that there’s a logic to web-slinging, and webs will actually attach to buildings rather than arbitrarily shooting into space. “When it comes to traversal, we know this character is identified by his swinging. We want to deliver that, plus deliver things you haven’t seen before. This idea of parkour elements makes it so there are no obstacles in the environment you can’t get around.” Peter’s webs aren’t organic; they’re something he built, and while managing webs won’t be something you have to worry about while playing, Peter’s mastery of technology is something that will come into play.
Finally, Intihar addressed the quick-time events shown in Sony’s conference and emphasized that they’re meant to punctuate blockbuster moments rather than define whole sections of the game. “The superhero experience isn’t fully there unless you have those big set pieces that only someone like Spider-Man can survive,” Intihar says. “For us, that can’t be the game, but you have a sense of spectacle. Sometimes we are going to do things that even break the core of the traversal or the combat. It’s not something we rely on, but it’s something we’re going to use to our advantage.”
“Swinging around the city, combat, things that you’d expect from the game, that’s all there. But we do use those events from time to time to sell certain moments,” he added.
The game won’t be a success if we don’t deliver on the Peter Parker part of this journey.
Details like the role of Miles Morales, additional costumes, and other Marvel cameos are all under wraps for now, but those details are all supplementary compared to the element that Insomniac clearly understands the best: the heart of what makes Spider-Man a hero. “We talk a lot about delivering a human story,” Intihar says.
“He can’t just be the guy in the mask, because after a while there’s going to be a disconnect. You’ve got to show what he’s going through, what he’s experiencing, what he’s thinking, and the challenges of being Peter Parker. It’s very important to us. It’s got to live on that. To me, the game won’t be a success if we don’t deliver on the Peter Parker part of this journey.”
Andrew is IGN’s executive editor of news and occasionally gets mistaken for a former Spider-Man. You can find him rambling about Persona and cute animals on Twitter.