As an open-world superhero action game, Marvel’s Spider-man is sure to garner a lot of comparisons to other games of the genre. Specifically to the current king of super hero action games, the Batman: Arkham series from Rocksteady Studios. The Arkham games have been a hugely successful and impactful trilogy for Rocksteady and the industry. Many other games, such as Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, have borrowed different combat schemes from the series. The games are based on stealth and hand-to-hand combat, and Shadow of Mordor had many of the same multiple-enemy fight mechanics as the Arkham games, and Insomniac’s Spider-man seems to be lined up to utilize many of the same mechanics.
Mentioned above, the Batman: Arkham games are heavily based on stealth and hand-to-hand combat while utilizing a variety of tools and weapons to more easily take out the array of enemies found throughout the series. A common setup for the game is for Batman (the player) to walk into a room unnoticed with a half a dozen guards patrolling the area. Batman will then take on the enemies in any way he wants: swinging around with his grappling hook from gargoyle to gargoyle; hiding just out of sight from any guard; or setting traps with his explosive gel so the walls blow into the guards’ faces to take them out. Often in these scenarios the guards will have guns, so going around in the vents or on the ceiling is a good strategy to not to get shot.
Compared to the Spider-man gameplay seen as E3 last year, it is reasonable to assume that it might play similarly to these scenarios, but with more of a web theme. The gameplay trailer featured Spidey swinging into an area with members of the demons (a gang featured in the game) patrolling a rooftop, probably guarding something they are shipping. A couple different web mechanics are displayed in the gameplay, such as a web that sticks to a wall until an enemy will walk past it and then it grabs him to subdue him. The traps echo the different ways Batman would string up enemies in the Arkham series, but that is only natural. After all, in the comics both characters are often shown to sneak into different environments controlled by villains and take out enemies in a variety of ways. The Spider-man in the trailer then swings around over the heads of the enemies to sneak different traps. The trailer also features a perched take-down like the way Batman would jump from gargoyles and hang his enemies upside-down from the ankle.
The stealth combat bears a lot of similarities to the Batman games, but that is also common for many games with stealth mechanics. As sneaking up on enemies and taking them out quietly can often be easier than dealing with a bunch at once. The combat in the game takes a lot of pages out of the Batman: Arkham handbook. Spider-man is seen against a group of enemies twice in the trailer. When fighting the enemies one or two at a time, they will flash red, as if to show that that enemy is about to attack. In the Arkham games, when an enemy is about to hit Batman the AI will have three lines light up above his head, letting the play know they need to react to this henchman next. The top right corner of the HUD in Spider-man even has a combo counter, like it does in Batman, keeping track of how many hits a player has landed on enemy AIs in a row.
Different, but still Same-Same
One key difference in what we’ve seen of Spider-man and Batman is the utilization of the environment in combat. The Batman games use the environment more in a way to evade, and any damage comes from Batman’s tool belt. If Batman wants to take down an enemy, he needs to use his fists or take out a tool that can daze that enemy until he can hit him. Meanwhile, in Spider-man it seems that there is constantly something in the environment that can be interacted with. Spidey is seen using a crane to take down two guards at one time while in stealth and throwing boxes at enemies to distract them. He can even swing girders hung in a construction zone to take down multiple enemies at once, with ease. The ability to interact with environments can allow players to think creatively about how to handle enemies, while managing the numbers with their fists. This creates unique combat situations. However, in the Batman games there is a collection of combos to use to take down specific kinds of enemies. The system of combos then tests a player’s memorization, rather than awareness and creativity in the middle of a fight. While both can be fun, it will be interesting to see what all can be used in a fight in Spider-man.
Keeping Their Enemies Close
Stepping away from gameplay, it is also important to break down how the two games could be similar, based on their stories. Often regarded as the two super heroes in comics with the best rogue’s galleries, Batman and Spider-man face many memorable villains. Joker took a main role in every Arkham game, while other enemies, like Bane and Mr. Freeze, brought in interesting missions and fights to keep players interested. Spider-man will then follow suit with a wide range of enemies that could all work together—or against each other—to take down the web head and take over New York. Seen in the trailer are Wilson Fisk (AKA Kingpin), Mister Negative, and there is a teaser for Norman Osborne to appear via a billboard, advertising his run for mayor. It is unclear how the villains may fight together or against one another, but it appears Kingpin may be working with Spider-man to take down Mister Negative. The relationship between Spidey and Kingpin is akin to that of Batman and Mr. Freeze in Batman: Arkham City, in which Batman works with Mr. Freeze to develop a cure for a disease the Joker injected into him.
Insomniac’s Spider-man is sure to include a large portion of villains, just like the Arkham games, whether in a main story quest or a side mission. What matters is that the game includes the right villains in the right places and makes the content with each one interesting (unlike the Bane side quest in Arkham City). Rocksteady understood what makes Batman so popular and used his legacy to create a game built around the Batman mythos, and it seems Insomniac is doing the same thing for Spider-man. If the game’s mechanics and ideas are like that of the Batman: Arkham series, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the mechanics borrowed are used in a way that is emblematic of the Spider-man legacy, and creates a game based on being Spider-man, not based on ripping off Batman.