Spider-Man Sequel Suggestions
If you were to Google Spider-Man within the past few weeks, you would have likely come across articles relating to Insomniac’s recent Spider-Man game. Chances are those articles relate to how great Spider-Man is, how it is one of the best games released this year, and how much the ending teases a potential sequel. Since I recently started a playthrough of my own, I can see where the praise comes from as web-swinging through New York is a blast, utilizing Spidey’s gadgets during combat is crazy fun, and the story captures the essence of the Spider-Man brand superbly. That said, I do have some problems with the game that I feel hold it back a little. With the aforementioned sequel teasing and strong sales, the chances of Insomniac developing a sequel are high. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for the sequel that can make it potentially a stronger game than the original.
Alright, this first suggestion isn’t merely a problem that needs to be fixed, but rather a precaution that should be taken into account during development. Ever since Spider-Man 2 introduced an open world New York for Spider-Man to swing around in, fans have come to expect a similar world as there’s little reason to not have Spider-Man swing around an open world. It makes too much sense. That said, I feel like some problems will arise if Insomniac decide to keep the same location as the last game.
If the previous map were to be remade in its entirety, then it will gain criticism for copy-pasting the last game’s map. The opposite (which will be to change the map) would also not be ideal since it makes little sense for New York to change literally the entire city’s structure (or just a large portion of it). My suggestion of changing the setting side-steps both of these problems. Sure, Spider-Man is often affiliated with New York, but there’s no reason why Peter Parker can’t don the suit if he’s on a business trip that goes awry thanks to a supervillain’s actions. Or maybe Spider-Man can swing around a different section of New York as I am certain Spider-Man’s map covers only Manhattan. Plus changing the setting can make it easier to justify my next suggestion.
Remove the Towers
The mechanic of activating towers to reveal the map and dump tasks for the player to do is archaic to say the least in 2018. This much maligned mechanic stems from Ubisoft open world games that have repeatedly tasked players with climbing them. It’s important to note that Ubisoft has been making an effort to move on from having players climb towers (with a guy in Far Cry 5 even promising you won’t have to constantly scale towers) in a push to change-up their open world formula. This makes their appearance in Spider-Man come off as baffling since no previous Spider-Man game integrated them and it’s arguably a dying trend.
Of all the open world elements integrated into the game, the towers feel the least necessary. They’re explained as being security systems installed by mayor Norman Osborn to monitor the city. During the events of Spider-Man, they have been hacked and are malfunctioning, so Spider-Man has to reactivate them (which conveniently also allows him to monitor crimes and find icons that signal activities and collectibles). Towers might seem inoffensive at first, but considering the act of finding a tower and matching radio frequencies must be done multiple times throughout the game with little game play evolution, that statement doesn’t age well. I feel like activating towers can be taken out of the game without widespread criticism since they just kind of exist. If my first suggestion goes ignored, then at least have the towers stay active.
Rely on Audio and Visual Cues for Collectibles
There’s nothing wrong with hiding collectibles in an open world as it encourages exploration. I can also forgive Spider-Man for relying on waypoints to reveal Spider-Man’s next destination as the purpose of the open world is to make the most of Spider-Man’s movement skills, not immerse yourself in the setting. That said, I feel like highlighting where collectibles are located can prove to be more of a detriment than a benefit because there’s no real sense that you found something on your own. Locating the many backpacks Peter hilariously hid across New York, landmarks you can photograph, missing pigeons (I can forgive pinpointing where the pigeon is flying once it’s found since it makes that mission doable), and the like is mostly about keeping an eye on the mini-map and pressing R3 to pinpoint their location. It creates a problem where there’s no reason not to use this strategy in order to locate the collectibles.
Thankfully, I do not have to think too hard about a solution since one already exists. When Peter comes across one of his old backpacks, a beeping sound is heard to signify its location. Audio cues can help hint at a collectibles location without giving it away as the challenge becomes finding the collectible within the coordinated area. Visual cues can also work in telegraphing a collectibles location. Now this does create a problem for people with visual and auditory disabilities, since they’ll struggle to notice both types of cues, which is why the cues should be carefully considered and flexible enough to support accessibility options. Heck, if sensory cues don’t work, perhaps hide some maps within the world so Spider-Man can go on little treasure hunts.
Fix up the Peter / Mary Jane / Miles Game Play
For many, part of Spider-Man’s appeal isn’t just the chance to play as everyone’s favorite web swinger, but also how the game slows down to focus on the man behind the mask. Throughout the game, players will play as Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, and Miles Morales. They work from a story perspective, but I wouldn’t say they provide satisfying game play. Now, I am not referring to when, Peter, MJ, or Miles enter an area they can freely walk about in. Those sections work because the player can choose to freely explore the environment and soak in all of the details or run past it all and return to more substantial game play, can provide a change of pace from constant action, and aren’t forced in comparison to “we’re going to restrict your movement because we can“ walking sections. The “get spotted and you instantly fail” stealth sections, meanwhile, need some adjusting.
The biggest problem with these stealth sequences is what I just said, the threat of instant failure. Stealth sections where you fail instantly if spotted are not fun. Not only do they ditch the thrill of returning to hiding after being seen, but they can get frustrating depending on how the player is doing and feel unsatisfying when completed. The easy solution would be to get rid of them entirely, which I can get behind, but there will have to be a substitute since they make up the most substantial game play in these sections. Perhaps have these sections focus more on puzzle solving, introduce various concepts throughout the game that later interconnect and evolve. These sections already contain light puzzle solving, so why not go all the way and have the game have three core game play pillars comprising of movement, combat, and puzzle solving.
Have Deeper Movement Mechanics
Web swinging does not need a lot of changes as it’s the strongest piece of game play in Spider-Man. Web swinging both feels great to use and is easy to learn. That said, while I wouldn’t change much about it, I feel like a little more can be done with it. Perhaps integrate some more advanced maneuvers that aren’t explicitly taught or unlocked through the upgrade system. Players can learn about these either through experimenting with the mechanics like in Super Mario Odyssey and Titanfall 2, or by looking at environmental cues like the animals in Super Metroid.
Now of course in order to make full use of more technical movement options, the game would have to be designed with those in mind so players can feel free to use them, but I feel like that’ll be worthwhile. Even if it’s just completing objectives or reaching places at a quicker rate, that’s still time being shaved off through player skill (the mechanic already exists since Spider-Man can run up walls quicker if he web zips on them). Plus it’ll give people who want to explore the traversal options in the game more to dig into. While it wouldn’t be the end of the world if advanced maneuvers aren’t integrated, I feel like their inclusion would be justified.
Do Not Have Random Crimes Count Toward 100% Completion
Like the open world, Spider-Man 2 also introduced a system where random crimes can happen across New York and Spider-Man can react to them accordingly. This system makes a return in the new Spider-Man game, but has been brought up as repetitive. Why is that? Well, I feel like it has something to do with how they’re required for 100% completion. Although the crimes have some variety to them, with crimes ranging from terminating armed robberies to stopping hijacked vehicles to ceasing drug deals, being forced to do a certain amount within a dozen or so districts is going to get repetitive. I know for sure early in my playthrough I started ignoring them (even though I shouldn’t) since they feel same-y and lack the more engaging combat found with the enemy bases.
I feel like they can be taken out of the 100% requirements list without much repercussions as they’re more so random events than set ones and provide reason enough to do them with the Crime Tokens Spider-Man can use to unlock gear and gadgets. You wouldn’t end up with a situation like the one in (the otherwise brilliant) Celeste where the collectible strawberries offering zero reward for collection can lead to more casual players playing it safe and ignoring them.
Do Not Fret Over Including Fast Travel
One point often brought up in reviews of Marvel’s Spider-Man is that fast travel was barely used since swinging around the city is so fun that the feature ultimately becomes ignored. Fast travel can certainly be included in a Spider-Man sequel, but I feel like if Insomniac are tight on time and need to focus on polishing more important mechanics, like web swinging and combat, then fast travel can take a hit in order for the developers to focus on fine tuning the core game play. Yes, that would mean missing out on the quite amusing animations that play out when fast travel is activated, but considering how ignored the feature arguably is, I would imagine its absence (if necessary) would not be a huge detriment considering how little it ends up being used.
Overall I feel like making these changes could lead to a better game. Although the announcement of a Spider-Man sequel is unlikely to happen for some time, I imagine Insomniac are currently prototyping it given the aforementioned teasers and success of Spider-Man. Nevertheless, if Insomniac are able to tweak the weaker elements of their first superhero game and build on the mechanics, then I imagine Spider-Man 2 (or whatever it’s called) can be not only a great Spider-Man game but also a great superhero game.