Mr. Negative is just one of the villains in Insomniac’s PS4-exclusive Spider-Man

Hands-off E3 preview is full of new details on Spider-Man

Our first extensive look at Insomniac’s new PS4 Spider-Man came at the end of Sony’s E3 presentation. It also introduced us to a villain, Mr. Negative, but he is only “a villain in the game,” according to creative director Bryan Intihar. Please note the emphasis on the “a.” 

At a behind-closed-doors appointment with Sony, we saw a live demo of everything that was shown off in the E3 trailer (and a little bit more) running on a PS4 Pro. Intihar narrated and was available for questions after where he explained, “we have a very large cast, and there’s many more surprises.” Mr. Negative does, however, have an “elevated spot” among the rogues gallery because of his personal connection to Peter Parker; he runs a soup kitchen where Peter’s aunt volunteers.

Insomniac is “not saying a ton about the story,” but did note that, “the best stories are where Peter’s world and Spider-Man’s world collide” and Mr. Negative provides a “great opportunity to see [that].” When asked if you’ll play as Spidey outside of the suit, Intihar said they’re, “not going to say” if you play as Peter in civilian form, but “Peter is going to be an integral part of this.” Intihar name-checked Netflix’s Daredevil, the current slate of superhero flicks (specifically the recent Wonder Woman), and Brian Michael Bendis’ comic work as influences, noting, “we really want to develop those characters when they’re not fighting.” As for the fighting, “[we] played a lot of [Batman] Arkham, obviously.”

It’s worth reiterating that Insomniac’s Spider-Man is its own thing. The team is working closely with Marvel — “it’s been an incredible pleasure to work with [them] and Sony” — but this game is its own story and Spider-Man world. And Insomniac is still brimming with enthusiasm at handling the character. When people at the studio were first catching wind of the possibility, “I literally ran into Ted Price’s office, our CEO, like ‘Please, please, let’s do this,” Intihar said.

From day one the team was sure they “were not doing an origin story.” Insomniac’s Peter is 23. He’s been Spider-Man for a while — Intihar likened him to an athlete in his prime — has just finished college, and is still trying to figure things out in his life. The other day-one nugget of clarity: “the webs have to attach to buildings.” That also means if you’re higher than the Manhattan skyline, you’ll have to figure something else out. 

The movement system looks to be as fluid as it seems in video. The team didn’t want a Spider-Man that gets tripped on basic level geometry, so that scene of him running through the exploding building and jumping into the helicopter is representative of his basic, parkour-style movement. The wall running on buildings while swinging, too, is automatic and contextual; he has a host of animations that react to the obstacles placed in front of him. After all, while there is going to be some kind of progression — gadgets, like the web tripwire, are a big gameplay component — this is supposed to be a very talented webslinger already.

Accordingly, Spider-Man can more than hold his own in combat and the team “want[s] to have that creativity” that lets you use his natural abilities and toys in cool ways. That tripwire that slammed and stuck a passing guard to a wall? You can toss that on an enemy so they automatically stick to any wall they pass, or to a second enemy, knocking them both out, for example. Or you can put one high on a wall and knock an enemy up into one. Spider-Man also has in-air combos you can use to juggle enemies you’ve launched upward. At one point Spidey kicked a thug off a building and there was a quick prompt to web him and pull him back in, though we’re reassured that even if you don’t, “he will not die. We’ll have things in place in this game where if you didn’t pull him back, he’ll be okay.”

While I didn’t see much more gameplay than debuted this week (just a few more brawls and one whiffed bit of live web-swinging), Intihar said that acrobatic combat and traversal make up the bulk of the game and that the “big blockbuster moments” quick-time events “are really a fraction of the experience and saved for those “more spectacle-driven moments.” Intihar was mum on the size and structure of the open-world and wouldn’t confirm a day/night cycle, though we’re promised it’ll be big (“it would be silly to make a Spider-Man game where you can’t fully explore Manhattan”) and “there will be things in the world to do.”

As for the Miles Morales cameo, he is going to be a part of the story, in order to help show, “a different side of Peter.” Intihar wouldn’t go into detail, but talking generally about his presence, noted, “I love the character and I want to expose him to more people.” Insomniac’s enthusiasm for the project is evident and I think this week’s meaty look at their new Spider-Man shows they’re on the right track. At the very least, swinging through Manhattan should be a blast.

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Steven Hansen
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