Insomniac’s Spider–Man game is still a ways off yet, but it certainly stole the show at Sony’s E3 presentation this year. Sporting top notch graphics and impressive-looking physics, the web slinger’s outing on the PS4 is sure to make for a memorable experience. One of the common criticisms leveled at the game seems to be that it takes too much inspiration from the Batman Arkham series, but that’s not actually bad thing, and this article is dedicated to explaining why.
I’ve recently dug the remaining Batman Arkham games out of my backlog. I finished the excellent Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games some years back, but never got to the Arkham Origins games or Arkham Knight. Suffice to say, I think the first two games are still my personal favorites, but this series in general has been consistently great. Aside from maybe Arkham Origins: Blackgate, which has its moments despite not holding a candle to the rest of the series.
I may actually go as far as to call Arkham my favorite sandbox series as though it has all the trappings of the open world mechanic, traversing around as Batman allows for easy enough travel between points, and the map system is self-explanatory enough that I’m not consistently frustrated by confusion on where to go next. Also, I really just enjoy soaring around as Batman and beating up baddies. Combat can feel a bit clunky at times, and the grapple can often latch onto things I didn’t want it to latch onto. For the most part the Arkham games are mechanically sound, which is great for a series that relies on precision gliding, grappling and stealth, among other things.
Most of all though, Rocksteady’s series draws me more into the world, characters and lore of Batman than any of the movies ever could. That could be partially because the Nolan films don’t even scratch the surface of what Batman has to offer, and the more recent Batman vs. Superman does even less with the IP. Ater playing the games I don’t think I can ever go back and watch them again as they’re pretty lame by comparison. Also, characters and concepts that were actually in the movies are presented many times better in Batman’s more recent gaming excursions. The length of a game compared to that of a movie probably helps, but I can’t help but feel that Rocksteady wins out here.
I’m sure there is plenty of content that will forever be exclusive to the comics and even a game series is somewhat limited in how much it can adapt. The Arkham games offer a large enough sample that even someone like myself who has never read a Batman comic can feel like I’m getting a basic understanding of the Batman universe.
Heck, on numerous occasions I’ve actually considered checking out the Batman comics as I think I want more. Such a long-running comic series has been too intimidating for me to pull the trigger thus far and I’m a gamer, not a comic fan, beyond enjoying the occasional graphic novel.
Anyways, Insomniac’s upcoming Spider-Man game can provide all of the above for the Spider-Man universe. Yes, it has been confirmed that this Spider-Man is its own self-contained story that just takes characters and elements from the Spider-Man comics, but the Batman games are self-contained and have done wonders for promoting Batman to gamers. Moreover, the source material still provides the foundation for filling a sandbox world.
Spider-Man has arguably fared much better than Batman on the big screen, and no matter which of the three Spider-Man adaptations you prefer, they’re all arguably vastly superior to Batman vs. Superman. I prefer them all to the Nolan Batman movies too, not to mention the 90s Batman movie series eventually treaded into cringy territory. I suppose Spider-Man 3 got pretty cringy too, but at least Spidey didn’t sport a Spider credit card.
Game-wise Batman has set the bar for superhero titles. Well, Batman is technically more of a vigilante than a superhero. It is part of why I like him, but he’s lumped in with superheroes all the time and acts like any superhero, so he may as well be one for all intents and purposes.
Spider-Man has the excellent Spider-Man 2 game from the 6th gen. It deserves props for blowing us away at a time when Superhero games weren’t known for being very good, and it’s a movie adaptation to boot. To this day it is is not known for being very good. I think part of the secret is that Spider-Man 2 the game deviated considerably from the source material, and story-wise I definitely preferred the parts with Mysterio and Black Cat. I mean, if I really cared about the story of the movie, I could just watch the movie, and I had. Gameplay wise, Spider-Man 2 set the standard for a web-slinging sandbox game.
Insomniac could have simply chosen to modernize the formula of Spider-Man 2, but there’s one big problem with that: superhero games have changed and evolved since the PS2 era, and right now Batman Arkham is the benchmark for a great superhero sandbox game. I’m also glad Insomniac didn’t just opt to adapt the admittedly excellent Spider-Man: Homecoming as adaptations are limited in the scope of what they can offer, even if they deviate considerably from the main story that the movie offers.
What I want is a Spider-Man game that takes into account what can be learned from Batman, and adapts its gameplay in a way that fits the web-slinger. Spider-Man is supposed to have cool gadgets to use, but he doesn’t glide, does more swinging than grappling, and though he may or may not rely on stealth at times he doesn’t just operate exclusively at night. Gone are the days when he can swing on thin air too, so he’ll need actual surfaces for his webs to connect to. So, even if Insomniac’s game ends up feeling Arkham-like, there’s no way controlling Spidey would feel exactly the same as with Bats, nor should it. But, if core mechanics feel very similar, I won’t mind. As I’ve established, I love the Arkham games.
In addition, a character profile database and more characters and concepts than we’ve seen from Hollywood would be nice too. I feel like I know more about Batman than I ever have, so I want a game that accomplishes the same end for Spider-Man.
In summary, I think the Batman Arkham games are excellent. If Insomniac’s Spider-Man is to take inspiration from anything or even be downright derivative of something, it should be something excellent. I think Spider-Man will play differently enough even if it draws heavily from Rocksteady’s series, but Arkham is a fairly mechanically sound sandbox series that provides an excellent sample of the world and characters from the comic it’s inspired by. If we can have the same for Spider-Man, then so much the better.
Are you excited for the upcoming Spider-Man game? Do you think it should draw inspiration from the Arkham series? As always, feel free to leave your comments below.