When Insomniac Games dropped their smash-hit Spider-Man in 2018, it seemed they might have done the impossible. Against all odds, the project was almost universally acclaimed by the character’s widespread fandom. The studio received praise for their work on the story, graphics, voice acting, mechanics, character designs, and much more. Yet, there was one aspect that left a good chunk of players wanting more. The game’s many side quests proved to be a fun way of traversing the open-world map of New York City, they often felt as though they were lacking a little spark.
The video game’s main plotline was an emotional rollercoaster filled with surprising twists that involved a number of big-name Spidey characters. As a result, it began to feel a little flat when the majority of the side missions were simply repetitive jaunts to fix broken pipelines and knock the mind-control out of raging college jocks. Sure, a game about your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man should probably have a few friendly neighborhood objectives, but they shouldn’t take up most of the game’s precious real estate. The recently revealed Spider-Man 2 should take advantage of this to improve its take on side quests, and Insomniac should start the process by revolving the goals around more intriguing characters.
It makes sense that Insomniac might not want to use a major Spider-Man villain for a side mission when they could be used as the main antagonist in the future. This might be part of the reason Taskmaster set the challenges instead of a character like Kraven, who the company clearly plans on using in the franchise’s next installment. Luckily, our beloved heroes exist in a universe toppling with extravagant foes and tales just waiting to get adapted. One could take a look at any member of the webhead’s extensive rogues gallery and turn them into a short chain of mission objectives. That being said, the villains selected for the game would work best if their stories are able to possess a solid emotional core to build on. Peter Parker and Miles Morales tend to be at their most interesting when they have a little skin in the game. The stakes of their quests are raised by a personal connection to the threat they face.
A great way to accomplish this is by telling stories that build on the previous game or even hint towards the future. For example, the first game featured a character named Dr. Morgan Michaels, a precursor to Morbius. A fantastic follow-up to this would be Spider-Man hunting down a mysterious new serial killer, only to discover a vampiric Michaels. As this is a character Peter already knows, it would make his efforts to help him all the more engaging. The resulting side quest would feel far more earned and satisfactory than trying to race through Screwball’s obstacle courses ever did. Imagine the controversial F.E.A.S.T. building is taken over by Dr. Elias Wirtham and establishes his new medical center, H.E.A.R.T. Around the same time, the vigilante known as Cardiac begins stealing experimental medical equipment around the city. It results in two separate side stories combining into one.
The upcoming sequel’s additional expeditions would also be best optimized if they added new mechanics. Far too many of Spider-Man‘s added crusades utilized the same gameplay structure. It felt tedious in nature and led to a lack of replayability outside of the game’s grand narrative and general free-roaming. The next adventure’s inclusion of two active Spider-Men with different abilities will play a role in alleviating this issue, as Miles’ camouflage and venom strikes could be used for special stealth-based quests that Peter isn’t equipped for. The intermittent release of Spider-Man: Miles Morales also lends Spider-Man 2 the advantage of additional material to work with, some of which might give Miles some personal connections to new side villains.
A potential example comes to mind in regards to Miles’ brush with the Tinkerer. Building upon one of the last game’s best side quests, it would be interesting to see what might happen if Tombstone’s gang got their hands on her technology and used it to transform a pair of their wayward youths into the rivals Rocket Racer and Big Wheel. Feeling obligated to deal with Tinkerer’s fallout, Miles could rush to detain the duo and attempt to set them on a better path. Despite having just mocked the original game’s Screwball missions, the idea of a speed-based task to break up combat objectives isn’t a terrible one. It would just be better executed if Miles, and the player, had a deeper relationship with the material.
Insomniac looks to be on track to develop another success with Spider-Man 2, but if they really want the game to top its predecessor they’ll need to fix what didn’t work last time. The quality of the game’s side quests won’t make or break it, but they will be an integral part of the project’s legacy. Making them worthwhile through world-building and proper storytelling is something that could help cement the project as one of the industry’s great sequels.