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Editorial

Bringing the Swinging to HD — History of Spider-Man Games (Part Three: 2008–2018)

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Spider-Man swung into high-definition in the late 2000s with the move to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. While the last decade has seen several more adaptations of Spider-Man films, it has also seen the emergence of numerous original mobile games featuring the superhero, from side-scrolling action to endless runners. After following the character through the late 1990s and early 2000s, OnlySP continues its Spider-Man Week coverage with the final decade of Spider-Man games, up to this week’s latest entry for the friendly neighbourhood hero.

2008 – Spider-Man: Web of Shadows

Shaba Games, which had previously worked on smaller titles such as Shrek SuperSlam and Wakeboarding Unleashed Featuring Shaun Murray, led development on an original Spider-Man game in 2008. Similarly to Spider-Man 3, Web of Shadows has three different versions: while it is a 3D action game for PC, PS3, Wii, and Xbox 360, the game is a 2.5D side-scrolling beat-’em-up action game for PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 2, and a 2.5D side-scrolling platformer for Nintendo DS.

Following the recent release of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3—the lowest-rated film in the trilogy—the developer felt particular pressure to create a good game. “Most people pointed to Spider-Man 2 as the high point and really just wanted to go back to basics, focusing on solid web swinging and open-world mechanics rather than story-based cutscenes and quick-time events,” lead gameplay programmer Tim O’Neil told OnlySP.

“While I don’t think we dialled it in as much as I would have liked, we did a lot of good work with the camera systems and aerial combat, breaking ground that had not really been covered before […] The camera would swivel off angle and show you things all around you, giving much more cinematic views of the action without changing the core mechanics.”

Despite its mediocre reception upon release, the game is remembered fondly by the developer. “I look back and I’m very fond of the game we managed to make,” said O’Neil. “Spider-Man is such an iconic character and many of the elements that make him who he is are so damned hard to replicate through a controller.”

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows

2009 – Spider-Man: Toxic City

Gameloft partnered up with Marvel Comics to develop a short series of mobile Spider-Man titles, beginning with Toxic City in 2009. Featuring 13 missions, the game is a 2D side-scrolling action game in which Spider-Man must stop the Green Goblin from taking over New York. While the game received praise for its environments and story, it was criticised for its short length and awkward controls. Toxic City is no longer available to download.

Spider-Man: Toxic City

2010 – Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem

In 2010, Gameloft Beijing developed Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem, an action-adventure game for iOS and Android. Despite its title, the game does not take place within the Ultimate Universe continuity, though several main characters from the comics make appearances, including Green Goblin, Electro, Doctor Octopus, Sandman, and Venom. The game is no longer available to download.

Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem

2010 – Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

After several years of porting Spider-Man games to PC, Beenox finally had a chance to develop an original game with Shattered Dimensions. “It was an honour to work with Marvel and to design games with such an iconic character,” said creative director and co-studio head Thomas Wilson. “Having the opportunity to start fresh with Shattered Dimensions was extremely exciting.”

Players control four different versions of Spider-Man, each from a different Marvel Comics universe. The game’s original story was written by Dan Slott, best known for his work on The Amazing Spider-Man series of graphic novels, but character changes forced some narrative alteration.

Mark Hoffmeier, a staff writer on all five seasons Spider-Man: The Animated Series, was brought on to assist with the story changes. “[The game] was originally supposed to involve Doctor Strange and Dormammu,” Hoffmeier told OnlySP. “But some sort of movie deal with them was being shopped, so they got pulled in favour of Madame Web and Mysterio.”

One of the four Spider-Men featured in the game was Spider-Man Noir, a darker, alternate version of the slinging superhero, which Hoffmeier found particularly appealing. “I do remember really liking the Spider-Man Noir stuff as that was my introduction to that universe. I found it really fun and appealing, but then I’m a history buff.”

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

2011 – Spider-Man: Edge of Time

A sequel to Shattered Dimensions, titled Spider-Man: Edge of Time, was released by Beenox and Activision in 2011. The game features two Spider-Men—the original hero and Spider-Man 2099—and features a ‘cause-and-effect’ system wherein the actions of one Spider-Man affects the other. The game’s response was mixed, with several considering it a decline in quality after Shattered Dimensions, and it was Beenox’s final original game for the character, with only adaptations of films to follow. After Activision lost the Marvel license in 2014, Edge of Time was removed from all digital storefronts.

Spider-Man: Edge of Time

2012 – The Amazing Spider-Man

Beenox’s next project with the character was The Amazing Spider-Man, a tie-in with the 2012 film of the same name starring Andrew Garfield as the titular character. “Being a movie goer myself, you can imagine how much I was geeking out when we were sitting down somewhere in Sony’s office reading the [movie] script ahead of time in full confidentiality before everyone else!” said creative director Thomas Wilson.

However, the game’s status as a film adaptation led to even more pressures for the developer. “Spider-Man was the most difficult character I had to work with,” lead game designer Rodolphe Recca revealed. “He is so iconic and fans like me want the best for him.” The studio used several innovative techniques and engine upgrades to achieve this goal. “We did a lot of work on animations, camera, and gameplay. We also did the full game with no-cut camera to increase the challenge but to give this feeling that you are living a full experience.”

“One of the things that we went through during the production,” says lead designer David Deschenes, “is that, at first, when using the web navigation tool, we needed to generate all possible landing spots. At one point, someone mentioned that it was useless to have choices when all you wanted to do was target exactly where you wanted to go. We removed all the possible landing locations and left the player target where [they] wanted to go exactly.”

Recca adds, “We also changed the combat mechanics to promote his Spider-Sense and acrobat combat skills inspired by wrestling while using his surroundings and webs. I remember pushing toward this direction that fits Spider-Man so well.”

The game was released to a generally positive response. “It was a lot of pressure and a full re-design of the brand—a technical hell to develop,” said Recca. “It was an experience where I learnt a lot and I’m really proud of the result.”

“It was  dream to work on Spider-Man,” agrees Deschenes. “I was a big fan when I was younger and I thought to myself that this was probably the only way that I would be able to work with that character, because I can’t draw!”

The Amazing Spider-Man

2014 – Spider-Man: Ultimate Power

Another side-scrolling action game from Gameloft, Spider-Man: Ultimate Power was released for mobile devices in 2014. In the game, Mary Jane is kidnapped by the unlikely alliance of the Green Goblin, Sandman, and Venom, and the player must defeat their goons to track down the villains and save Spider-Man’s girlfriend. The game received little attention upon release and is no longer available to download.

Spider-Man: Ultimate Power

2014 – Spider-Man Unlimited

Gameloft’s final entry in the Spider-Man universe is the endless runner Spider-Man Unlimited. “Working on a Spider-Man game was kind of a bucket-list assignment,” lead designer Corentin Delprat told OnlySP. “If you’d told me as a kid I would be lead designer on a Marvel game one day I probably wouldn’t have believed you.”

Despite being restricted to the endless runner genre, Spider-Man Unlimited was not restricted in its gameplay. “I had the objective of creating a game that used never-before-seen gameplay mechanics,” said producer Stephen Melanson. “We had to create something much more than just a ‘runner,’ and put our focus on innovative gameplay.”

“We had to make the game accessible for people who never played a game before and interesting enough for hardcore fans,” said creative director Baptiste Marmey. “For the atmosphere we wanted to catch and emphasize the comic book feeling so we added cel shading with fat strokes, ‘pow’ batman effects, comic book style menus […] We also wanted to show New York as Spider-Man sees it: verticality and landmarks as playgrounds.”

“At the start of development, the game was entirely built around the touch-based ‘web-slinging’ mechanic,” said Delprat. “But we quickly realised that there weren’t enough interesting hazards to be found 100ft above Manhattan […] so we started incorporating rooftops here and there to offer more traditional running parts between these swinging sections. From then on, everything all clicked into place and we started pouring more diversity into the gameplay until it felt like the right dose of action.

Unlimited was actually the first game to feature pretty much every single variation of Spider-Man ever released,” Delprat continued. “So we had to come up with a story that relied heavily on the Marvel multiverse to make it possible.” The game is not short on Marvel characters—the Sinister Six, Nick Fury, and S.H.I.E.L.D. all make appearances—and this is no surprise considering Gameloft New York’s influence by the universe. “Our office at the time was in midtown Manhattan, a stone’s throw away from Times Square and the Marvel HQ […] so we were literally living and breathing Spider-Man during the whole of development.”

The game—which was recently updated to tie into the release of Avengers: Infinity War—had a profound effect on the developer. “Being able to contribute to the Spider-Man universe and meeting actual fans of Spider-Man Unlimited was one of the best experiences I ever had,” said Melanson.

Spider-Man Unlimited

2014 – The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Beenox’s final interaction with Spider-Man was in the adaptation of Andrew Garfield’s second (and final) film as the eponymous character, The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Though similar to its predecessor, the game improved several gameplay features, including the addition of stealth options and the expansion of the game’s world and side content.

“In retrospect, the introduction of the ‘Hero vs. Menace system’ was probably one of the worst game design decisions of my entire career,” said creative director and co-studio head Thomas Wilson, referring to the gameplay feature wherein players are rewarded for preventing crimes or punished for failing to do so. “It was one of those ideas that sounded cool on paper, but crumbled under its own weight in the end.”

“We had good intentions! How could we make the player care about the criminal activities that were running rampart all over the city? ‘Let’s have some kind of reputation meter!’ we decided. After all, it was a recurring theme in all Spider-Man films, right? We unfortunately ran out of time to create enough mission variety and to balance the experience so players would not feel penalized for not keeping up with all the criminal side missions that were popping on the map once in a while. We eventually considered shutting down the whole idea but we were unfortunately too late in development to remove it.”

Despite the disappointing of this major gameplay system, in many ways, the two film tie-in games were a return to form for the swinging superhero. “The Amazing Spider-Man series marked the return to the open-world genre, which I believe is a decision the community welcomed,” said creative director and co-studio head Thomas Wilson. “To this day, I’m still being told by people who learn we’ve been making these games how much fun they had swinging through Manhattan or fighting a particular villain.

“It always warms my heart because, after all, we do this for the fans!”

Check back on Friday for OnlySP’s full interview with Thomas Wilson, featuring a deeper discussion on Beenox’s Spider-Man games, and a look to the future for the studio.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

2018 – Spider-Man

After 22 years of developing original intellectual properties, including Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet & Clank, and Resistance, Insomniac Games teamed up with Marvel Games to develop  Marvel’s Spider-Man. Announced at E3 2016, the game has remained at the forefront of Sony’s promotional campaigns. The title features an older Peter Parker, who has been using the Spider-Man moniker for eight years, fighting against some of his greatest enemies. Spider-Man releases on Friday, and OnlySP’s review will be available early next week.

Spider-Man 2018

OnlySP’s Spider-Man Week coverage continues on Friday with an interview with Thomas Wilson. In the meantime, be sure to bookmark OnlySP and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

Rhain discovered a long time ago that mixing one of his passions (video games) with the other (writing) might be a good idea, and now he’s been stuck in the industry for over six years with no means of escaping. His favourite games are those with deep and captivating narratives: while it would take far too long to list them all, some include L.A. Noire, Red Dead Redemption (and its sequel), Wolfenstein: The New Order, The Last of Us, and the Uncharted series.

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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