The PlayStation 5’s headlining title for 2023 is “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2,” and developer Insomniac Games finally feels comfortable releasing more details.
Peter Parker and Miles Morales share top billing for the long-awaited sequel to the most successful PlayStation 4 game of all time, with 20 million copies sold since its 2018 release. Many game critics argued that the game’s story was better than the films, while its controls made Spidey’s web-swinging fun and easy to use. It’s often cited as the best superhero video game ever made, so expectations for its follow-up act are high. There was a smaller 2020 project called “Miles Morales” in 2020, but it didn’t quite rank as a full-fledged sequel. (The character is the lead of the new “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” movie out this weekend.)
Insomniac Games spun up a 12-minute gameplay demonstration during last week’s PlayStation Showcase event, showing an action-packed chase sequence down one of New York City’s rivers. For anyone unfamiliar, the PlayStation version of Spider-Man is in a completely different universe than the Marvel films and comics.
Bryan Intihar, the game’s creative director, and Ryan Smith, game director, revealed a few more details about the game in an interview with The Washington Post. Here are the highlights.
The map will be twice the size
The 2018 game was lauded for its surprisingly accurate depiction of Manhattan, with many portions of the city constructed to scale. While Manhattan returns, the sequel adds Queens, Brooklyn and other boroughs.
“In terms of the size of the city, it’s double the size compared to ‘Spider-Man 1,'” Intihar said, adding, “When you play in Queens, there’s much more of a neighborhood feel, smaller buildings, which is why the web wings work so well traversing in that area, where you can swing low to the ground if you want to, or you can fly through.”
Co-op was never an option
Two Spider-Men for two players seems like a logical conclusion for a video game, but that was never on the table for this sequel. PlayStation’s first-party studios have won accolades for their single-player experiences, and “Spider-Man 2” wasn’t going to buck that trend.
“From day one, we always said we wanted to make a single-player experience,” Intihar said. “There’s a lot of great co-op games out there, but we wanted to tell the experience of two spider heroes. You have to make some big decisions, whether it’s design decisions, tech decisions for something like co-op.”
The game is coming out this year – but there’s no release date yet
PlayStation fans were puzzled that despite the content-rich demonstration last week, the game still had no release date.
“It’s really just making sure that we’re really confident that when we announce the date, we’re going to hit it. It’s really just about that,” Intihar said.
It taps into PlayStation 5’s horsepower
The PlayStation 5 is now about three years old, but rare is the video game made exclusively for the platform. The coronavirus pandemic hobbled game development, and its effects are still felt today, with many studios struggling to create products, and Sony having difficulty moving them thanks to the global supply chain logjam. This has made many studios develop games for the 10-year-old PlayStation 4, with cleaner-looking versions made for the fifth console. But because these games are made to cater to old technology, they’re never designed to take full use of the fast memory within the PS5.
Not so with “Spider-Man 2,” which is built from the ground up for the newer console. Insomniac Games already has one original title exclusively for the PS5, “Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart,” which took advantage of the solid-state drive to allow fast loading of other dimensions and worlds in the space-age adventure. It’s easy to trace the DNA of an Insomniac Games title. The open-world Xbox exclusive “Sunset Overdrive” paved the way for the first Spidey title. Now Spidey is absorbing the lessons from “Ratchet.” The PS5 allows you to move more quickly through the city.
“As a player, you can build up more speed, you can use the wings and wind tunnels to go even faster, and that helps enable things like crossing the river into the new boroughs that we built. All of those things are part of the PS5 experience,” said Smith, the game director.
The speedy loading also helps with the new feature to switch perspectives between Peter Parker and Miles Morales. On the PS4, switching characters could take several seconds of loading time. On the PS5, it’ll be practically instantaneous.
“Making these big set pieces that span multiple city blocks, interiors, exteriors – a lot of that is built upon stuff we started in ‘Spider-Man 1,’ ‘Miles’ and more recently in ‘Ratchet,'” Intihar said. “It’s the same engine and the same team working all of those and applying those lessons.”
The story will be familiar until it isn’t
The fundamentals of good Spider-Man storytelling are in place, Intihar assures, including the idea that when the superhero wins, Peter loses. The studio has earned Marvel’s trust to do what it likes with the characters. In “Spider-Man 2,” Peter is now mysteriously wearing the black alien suit, which nearly corrupted him completely in the comics and films. This arc may feel familiar, but Intihar said the sequel will have its own spin.
The first game made some bold decisions about iconic characters, including Peter’s best friend Harry Osborn, who is a prominent character in past storylines but mentioned only in whispers and gossip. Insomniac’s writers also killed off Peter’s aunt, which has happened in the comics, but never as early as it happened in the game.
“We went back and forth on (killing Aunt May) during the first development, and I think you’re going to see a similar theme (in the new game),” Intihar said. “I think you’re going to see things you’re hoping for as a fan, but you’re also going to see some surprises along the way.”