Just one of the surprises to come out of Sony’s E3 2016 press conference was the announcement of a new Spider-Man game. A glossy debut trailer that shows off gameplay promises a different, and hopefully, better take on everybody’s favorite New York superhero. The game was rumored to be in development a few months leading up to the show, with inFAMOUS developer Sucker Punch believed to be working on it. That rumour does make sense, given Sucker Punch’s work on its flagship superhero series. One could argue that inFAMOUS is already basically a Spider-Man game, but much to everyone’s shock, Ratchet & Clank, Resistance, and Sunset Overdrive studio Insomniac Games is actually heading development. Though Sucker Punch might seem like the more obvious choice, Insomniac is still the perfect studio to take on Marvel’s hero.
The most notable thing to note is Insomniac’s experience making games that are lighthearted, funny and visually bright and colourful. Even the Resistance series, which is thematically quite dour, has a stunningly vivid aesthetic. More importantly, all of Insomniac's games contain relatable, flawed, and grounded characters; all major characteristics of Peter Parker. Both Ratchet and Clank are outcasts and underdogs who have to save the galaxy countless times from much more powerful villains. Ratchet is the last of his species and often feels lonely and hollow. He has questions about his past and his parenthood. At the surface he might seem like a cute, furry, and funny hero, but there’s plenty of pain buried beneath his armour and fur.
Clank is similar in that he is a defective robot that gets chased after because he’s different from the countless generic machines that were built to wreak havoc. One of the main reasons why people love Peter Parker is because he’s just a normal kid who’s trying to make it through high school while coming to grips with his newfound powers. He has crushes on girls, he is constantly bullied, and the people he cares most about (excluding his aunt) are all murdered or missing. He’s not some otherworldly God, a billionaire, or an immortal mutant. Insomniac has the experience and the storytelling chops to nail this character, and finally provide players one of the first truly great Spider-Man video game stories.
Also, let’s not forget, Peter Parker is pretty funny too. Comedy is often a major aspect in the hero’s comic books, shows, and movies. Insomniac is one of the best when it comes to both subtle and crass humor.
Mechanically, Spider-Man is right up Insomniac’s alley as well. Spider-Man 2, arguably the best Spider-Man game, employs highly enjoyable open world gameplay, platforming and traversal, and hand-to-hand combat. A new Spider-Man title needs to have a stunning New York City setting that allows players full freedom to swing their way to any destination they’d like. Sunset Overdrive proves Insomniac is more than capable of completely nailing fast-paced traversal. The game lets you hop, jump, and weave from one area or platform to another in mere seconds. You can make across an entire world map without touching the ground as well. It’s dynamic, exhilarating, and satisfyingly ridiculous. Much like Sucker Punch with inFAMOUS, Insomniac might as well just call Sunset Overdrive a full-blown comic book/super hero video game; it does play like one.
Finally, in a business and resource sense, Insomniac is the best choice for Sony. This is a PlayStation 4 exclusive, and by having Sucker Punch or another first-party studio work on the title, Sony won’t allow its developers to work on new ideas or make sequels to beloved PlayStation franchises. Sucker Punch wouldn’t have been able to make another inFAMOUS or a completely new title. Instead, Sony now has Insomniac working on yet another exclusive for it. Apart from Ratchet & Clank, the developer has been releasing multiplatform titles alongside Xbox One and virtual reality exclusives. This way, Sony has two new exclusive franchises in partnership with one of PlayStation’s oldest contributors in Insomniac. It really is the best-case scenario for Sony.
Spider-Man doesn’t have a release window yet, nor an official name, but it’s been confirmed that it won’t be tied to the upcoming Marvel film. All that’s left to do is patiently wait and see if Insomniac can finally deliver the first great Spider-Man game in years.