Game Philosophy: Spider-Man Games

Look at the sky! It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! And here’s a ladybug! I’m way too easily impressed! Oh look, another:

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Today’s topic:
Spider-Man Games

Alright, who doesn’t know about Spider-Man?

I’m waiting…

Ah, you in the back?

GTFO

As for the rest of you, I am a huge Spider-Man fan.

I’ve have “The Real Clone Saga” in my comic book collection, I cried out of sorrow for Gwen Stacy’s death, I cried out of anger for “One More Day”, I cried out of confusion for “Renew Your Vows”, the point is, I’m a big and passionate fan.

Naturally there have been several games of Spider-Man as well.

Some of them are awesome, some of them aren’t.

Today I would like to talk about a few of those games which I think should be a MUST to have experienced at least once if you’re both a gamer and a Spider-Man fan. Not just for what it did RIGHT, but for what it did WRONG too.

For those who missed it, I am someone who believes in celebrating both the successes and the failures of people’s works.

So without further ado, let’s begin.

Spider-Man 2 (The Movie Game)
Spider-Man 2

Let me start by saying that in my opinion, Tobey Macguire is to me the perfect Peter Parker in the movies. But I’d like to point out I’m saying Peter Parker, not Spider-Man. See, the thing with playing Spider-Man is that you technically play three characters as an actor: Spider-Man, Peter Parker when he is in public, and Peter Parker when he is alone.

Spider-Man is pretty much the definition of a Super Hero. He is powerful, fast and has a sense of humour. He jokes around as he fights the bad guys, calling them names, pointing out their hypocrisies, etc. etc.

Peter Parker when in public is the typical Hollywood Nerd. He’s the nerd in school getting picked on by bullies, and even when he became a teacher as an adult, he’s still a big nerd. He purposefully puts himself in the role for the sake of staying out of the spotlight as a possible superhero vigilante.

Peter Parker when he is alone is very much the fusion of the two, the bridge between them. That is when the words “With Great Power There Must Also Come Great Responsibility” echo in his mind. (And yes, I used the long version, because THAT is what was in the original comics. God I’m a nerd.) This is where he starts thinking “Who am I?” or “What should I do?”

Spider-Man 2 Tobey Macguire

Tobey Macguire does the last two right. But as Spider-Man he’s boring, sadly. He makes jokes, but he delivers it in a way a geek would do with his friends rather than as a smack-talking confident Super Hero.

Sadly, Tobey Macguire also isn’t that good a voice actor.
And I won’t hold it against him, he’s a live-action actor and that’s what he’s better at. There are many different disciplines to being actor and being a voice actor.

But because of it, even the Peter Parker part in the game is actually kinda meh.

Alright, so the voice acting isn’t anything Spectacular. So what DOES it have?

The Web Swinging.

Spider-Man 2 Web Swinging

I have yet to play any, and I mean ANY, Spider-Man game where the Web Swinging was so perfect.

To put it simply, you press the Right Trigger to shoot a web against a building that is both in range and higher than you. This is the important part, HIGHER than you. It means that the web has to actually ATTACH to something rather than have Spidey shoot the web into the air and have it somehow stick to something (I don’t know, the moon?).

Then you will start swinging. By holding down the X Button, you will charge your jump.

Then depending on WHERE you were during the swinging, letting go of the X Button will propel you in that direction. This means there’s actual PHYSICS going on here.

Lastly, during the swing you can press the Left Trigger to make Spidey boost, which ADDS momentum to the swing at critical moments.

It is difficult to get the hang of it (haha, hang of it), don’t get me wrong. You will probably bump into the walls several times until you get it right.

But that’s the beauty of it, by the time you’re good at it, you will FEEL like Spider-Man.

There’s been many other Spider-Man games which tried to replicate this style of Web Swinging, but they alway chicken out in terms of how precise the control is, going more for the forgivable route and ends up making the Web Swinging more automatic.

Game Developers should learn to allow players to fail at something. It makes the experience that much more satisfying when you get it right.

Next up:

Spider-Man Web of Shadows
Spider-Man Web of Shadows

So now we’ve come from the best Web Swinging mechanic to the best COMBAT mechanic.

Specifically, the Web Strike ability.

Spider-Man Web of Shadows Web Zip

It’s a very simple ability, once you get down to it.

You press the Triangle Button which makes Spidey shoot a webline towards an enemy.

He will then zip towards them with high speed.

Depending on how the enemy reacts, there will be several things Spidey can do.

Either the enemy wasn’t prepared for it, you can then press Triangle again and have Spidey kick the enemy into the ground and have Spidey jump high into the air, ready to do another Web Strike.

Or they WERE prepared for it and are in fact about to do a counter attack.

In which case you can either press X so Spidey will pull on the Web Line and jump over the enemy, ready to try with another Web Strike, OR you press Triangle just before contact with the enemy to do a Counter-Counter Attack against the enemy’s Counter Attack.

OR you press Triangle at the EXACT moment as you make contact with the enemy, which will make Spidey do a different move depending on his current suit, each fitting with the suit’s powers.

Lots of people have admired this ability, especially for it’s awesome use of camera positioning and the rush of speed, but have also said it can get repetitive using it all the time.

I agree to an extend, but on the other hand, THIS is how I imagine a combat system for Spider-Man should be like. This is a combat system that fits Spidey and might as well be his game’s trademarks.

What about the bad thing about it, though?

Spider-Man Web of Shadows QTE

Quick Time Events…

Yes, sadly this game is made during the time when Morality Choices and Quick Time Events were the trend, and this game has both of them in spades.

This is not to say I don’t see the reasoning behind it.

Quick Time Events are based on reflexes, and it fits with the theme of the Spider-Sense.

And the Morality Choices reflect the fact that Spidey has the Venom Symbiote on him again.

But honestly, they REALLY don’t do anything interesting with it.

They’re boring and they take away from the elegance of the actual combat of the game.

The writing of the game isn’t really the greatest either, but I blame that on the Morality Choices and how the writers are pigeonholed into writing all the jerk moments to Black Suit Spidey and all the nice angelic moments to the Red Suit Spidey. Honestly, a human being is much more complex than that.

Lastly:

Spider-Man Edge of Time
Spider-Man Edge of Time

First off, this game has some problems.

The Web Swinging is toned down from Spider-Man 2, like… ALOT.

No longer do you have the complex web swinging based on momentum. Now you only hold down the Right Trigger, have Spidey (and Spidey 2099) swing once, and you press X to jump off the web and repeat.

No momentum, no boost, not even caring about whether there are buildings above Spidey because they’ve written everything to be indoors anyway. Just Spidey doing the swinging animation and repeating it after jumping off it.

The only thing that makes it look interesting at all is the Web Zip ability, where you press the Right Trigger, rather than holding it, while in range of the edge of a platform or anything that resembles a bar, where Spidey will zip towards it with his webline and land on it.

Now for the combat, it’s not bad, it’s the standard kind of combat system inspired by God of War, but without the Quick Time Events (Thank GOD).

But sadly the Web Strike has been nerfed, like… ALOT.

No longer is it a visual spectacle where Spidey zips towards them and has several options depending on the enemy’s reactions. It’s just Spidey zipping towards the enemy and punching them to break their guard.

That’s it, no high jump, no cancels, no suit exclusives, no nothing.

Jesus, well I'm SORRY, alright?
Jesus, well I’m SORRY, alright?

But, what it makes up for in the downplaying of the previous game’s awesome features is the AMAZING Story, Acting and Writing of this game.

I give the big credit to Christopher Daniel Barnes and Josh Keaton.

Spider-Man Edge of Time Voice Actors
Christopher Daniel Barnes and Josh Keaton

These two are AWESOME voice actors. There’s so much passion in their words and they’ve truly sold me in their voices as the Spider-Men.

Yes, I say Spider-Men, because Christopher Daniel Barnes plays Spider-Man 2099, Miguel O’hara, a guy in the future who due to DNA Manipulation ended up getting Peter Parker’s cells and became Spider-Man in the year 2099. Josh Keaton plays the Spider-Man we know and love, Peter Parker.

Both of these actors had played Spider-Man previously in their career. Christopher Daniel Barnes was the voice of Peter Parker in the 90’s Spider-Man Animated Series. Josh Keaton was the voice of Peter Parker in Spectacular Spider-Man, my all time favourite adaptation of Spider-Man.

Both of these actors know how to voice act, and it was only strengthened by putting them in the same room together. Usually when you do voice acting, you’ll be in different booths and sometimes even different sessions. You don’t hear the other side of the conversation, you have to imagine it yourself. Instead these two were together in one booth and answered naturally to each other.

But it is one thing to have great voice actors, what about the story and writing?

Well, this game starts with Peter Parker dying.

Spider-Man Edge of Time Death

Yeah, I hear some savvy Comic Book fans already shaking their heads and say “Heh, they won’t stick with it, he’ll be brought back to life anyway”.

Well you’re right, but that’s not the point.

The writers KNEW killing off a character is a cliche and that it was over-used and how bringing them back to life only cheapens it, yadda yadda yadda.

But you know what? They friggin went all out on it.

Peter Parker and Miguel O’hara had VERY emotional scenes about the death, and it’s not just about the death itself. It’s them having EXPERIENCED it.

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying Peter gets brought back to life, but that’s not where it ends. His character development is all about him having experienced death, and how it changed his outlook on life.

Even as he was dying, him and Miguel O’hara had lots of development and changes as it happened.

And guess what, that was just the first act. That’s not even going through the second and third act.

Well okay, what about the actual story in itself, then?

Spider-Man Edge of Time 2099

Well, that’s where the genius lies, the writers KNEW the focus of the story is the relationship between Peter Parker and Miguel O’hara, and by extension the chemistry between Josh Keaton and Christopher Daniel Barnes.

Because of that, everything and I mean EVERYTHING is pretty much written to make use of that chemistry.

The story is about Miguel having witnessed Peter’s death and him trying to prevent it.

Because of a time gate which links the two time-lines, Miguel and Peter can psychically talk to one another and the one in the Past can influence the events of the Future.

It’s Comic Book Physics at it’s finest.

But that’s the thing, it truly celebrates in it’s Comic Book Universe.

It is action packed, full of twists, full of heart and full of passion.

Miguel and Peter’s Psychic Link also gives us many character interactions between the two characters, and their contrasting personalities truly shine here.

In my opinion, “The Real Clone Saga” is the best Spider-Man Comic Book Story I’ve read, but when it comes to the best Video Game Story of Spider-Man, it is this one.

If you can stomach a downgrade in gameplay compared to the previous Spider-Man games, you have GOT to play this one, if only for the awesome story and acting.

Published by Huy Minh Le

Huy Minh Le is a Video Game Enthusiast, Movie Lover, Writer, Content Marketeer and regular TvTropes reader! His studies in Game Design, Art, and Writing has led to a very creative, yet analytical mind.

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