Do you want to play a superhero game where you sneak around the rafters, taking down enemies below in the cover of darkness? Or use an arsenal of tech to neutralize multiple enemies at once? Or maybe glide from the highest rooftops over a city in crisis, helping citizens in danger whenever it suits your busy schedule? If you said yes to all three, consider playing the newest Arkham game: Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.
That the Spider-Man series is so indebted to Rocksteady’s Batman games isn’t a dig at Insomniac’s newest take on the Marvel hero, which has closely followed Rocksteady’s Arkham playbook since day one — but with its own Spidey twist. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they say, and the Arkham formula was so good plenty of games have borrowed it, from Lord of the Rings to Assassin’s Creed. But here’s where things get funny: we know what Rocksteady is working on next, and it’s not an Arkham-style game.
The two studios responsible for the Batman Arkham games, Rocksteady and WB Studios, have each deviated from the original Batman trilogy for multiplayer and cooperative pastures. WB released Gotham Knights in 2022, a multiplayer take on Gotham City that had some Arkham DNA, but was clearly doing its own thing. Meanwhile, Rocksteady’s Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League supposedly takes place in the Arkhamverse, but it’s ditched The Dark Knight’s detective work for co-op four-player mayhem that has as much in common with Borderlands as it does Batman.
As it stands, if you want to play a modern, Arkham-style superhero game, you can only turn to Spidey, who has spun a complex web on the foundation of this style of open-world superhero game that Batman so carefully laid out more than a decade ago. Spider-Man 2 doubles down on a lot from Insomniac’s first two games, but also from Arkham. From the new wingsuit flight mechanic, to a pyromaniacal criminal faction sidequest reminiscent of Arkham Knight’s Firefly storyline, and Riddler-like environmental puzzles courtesy of Miles Morales’ uncle Aaron aka Prowler.
Spider-Man’s success can’t just be chalked up to its Arkham-style gameplay though. In lesser hands, slapping Spider-Man on Arkham and calling it a day might suffice, but Insomniac has an almost fanatical devotion to its Marvel characters, while also imbuing their games with a fresh mythology distinct from all previous corners of the Spider-Verse, on page or screen.
Rocksteady is no slouch in the technical department, and the studio has pushed the boundaries of the open-world action genre — but it can’t be overstated how much the Spider-Man titles have become technical showcases for PlayStation hardware thanks to their status as first-party exclusives. Spider-Man 2 is a true PlayStation 5 game in every sense of the word, and possibly the system’s first must-own game.
I suppose, like superpowers, it’s a blessing and a curse knowing that while we might not get another Batman Arkham game anytime soon, there is a proper successor in Insomniac’s Spider-Man series. Considering the immediate and record-breaking financial success of the latest installment, it’s safe to assume there’s more of Insomniac’s Spider-Man on the way. Sadly, the same can’t be said of Batman who has effectively gone into hibernation for the time-being.
While I’ll miss the gothic corridors of Gotham, and Batman’s superior rogues gallery (give me Killer Croc over Lizard any day), it’s not often there’s a ready-made successor to one of the most successful superhero games of all time. Spidey’s colorful aesthetic and quippy demeanor might be a hard sell for DC die-hards craving a brooding caped crusader, but it’s hard to argue this friendly neighborhood franchise hasn’t carried to the torch — or rather, swooped in to prevent it from plummeting into obscurity.
For instance, Silent Hill is another franchise I love dearly. I was heartbroken when the franchise went into hibernation, which was compounded by the lack of survival horror games there to take up its mantle at the time. Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell fans have had similar woes, and no other stealth franchises have emerged to continue the fight follow Kojima’s departure and Ubisoft relegating Sam Fisher’s role to DLC guest appearances.
It truly sucks that we won’t be seeing another Arkham game for the foreseeable future, but like the greater DCU around it, the series is in the midst of a reboot, most likely. And DC needs to clean its own house first and foremost before we can start to dream again of seeing DC in video game form.
That Spider-Man not only exists, but looks to keep the good times rolling shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially as the next era of Rocksteady looks to move away from the franchise that made it so successful. I’m grateful to Rocksteady for laying the groundwork for the modern superhero sandbox, I’m grateful to Insomniac for keeping the fires burning.
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Author: Matt Kim