Warning: There will be some spoilers for Spider-Man Homecoming, we recommend not reading on if you don’t want things spoiled.
Just a few years ago we all would have expected a full tie-in video game for Spider-Man Homecoming. Every movie featuring the web slinger since Sam Raimi’s first in 2002 has had a video game counterpart, each of varying quality, but there has been no full tie-in released for Marvel’s new film. This got me thinking, would Spider-Man Homecoming make for a good video game? How would the characters, over-arching plot, and set-pieces fit into the structure of a game? One thing that’s for sure is that the answer to the first question is more complex than a simple yes or no.
The image of Spider-Man swinging between buildings, high above the city streets, is something that would undoubtedly make for a great game. 2004’s excellent Spider-Man 2 made that clear with its open world and fun web-slinging mechanic. It’s both thrilling to look at and a convenient way of traversing large game worlds. The fast paced action of Insomniac’s upcoming Spidey game, that we saw at E3, shows just how exhilarating controlling the young superhero could be. Making an enjoyable game based on Spider-Man’s movement alone is certainly possible, but other superhero games such as Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham games show that players are looking for more than just an entertaining traversal mechanic; they want a compelling story and gameplay variation.
How closely a Homecoming game would resemble the thrilling exploration mechanic of Spider-Man 2 would depend significantly on how closely any theoretical developer would stick to the structure of the new film’s narrative. That’s important because if they’re happy to be loosely connected to the film, they can add features and scenes that weren’t included in the silver-screen version. Homecoming isn’t over stuffed with scenes of Tom Holland’s character swinging between New York skyscrapers but instead focuses on his exploits in the city’s suburbs and his life as a “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”. Additional web slinging action would have to be added to make the gameplay more enjoyable and to pad out the experience. Not that that would be too much of an issue due to the likelihood of any game being produced as an open world title, but that may lose the movie’s pace and flow that make it such a fun ride.
Changing up the structure to suit the game the developer is trying to produce is exactly what we’ve seen from the Spider-Man Homecoming game we’ve been given – the virtual reality experience that also released last week. While it’s a short experience that mostly uses the movie’s title as a marketing tool rather than a signal of an adaptation, it is the perfect example of a game having to be made without keeping the structure of its influence. The VR experience sees you briefly fend off The Vulture, played by Michael Keaton in the film, on top of a crane. There is some web-slinging action that feels phenomenal in virtual reality but it is preceded by a lengthy calibration mini-game that takes just as long as the experience itself. Aside from character’s appearance and the experience’s title, it is in no way a representation of the movie. That is a choice a developer would have to make, whether to stick with the movie’s structure or simply be influenced by it, but the structure of Homecoming doesn’t seem to be best suited to a video game adaptation.
While it is certainly a good Spider-Man film, it is superior to the hero’s other films as a portrayal of Peter Parker. Tom Holland’s portrayal of a young man thrust into the world of The Avengers is excellent and, aside from the suit upgrade given by Tony Stark at the start of the film, the majority of the film’s character development happens to the man inside the suit rather than Spider-Man himself. Homecoming is essentially a coming-of-age high school movie in the guise of the Marvel superhero movies we’re familiar with. Peter Parker struggles with responsibility, his relationship with people like Tony Stark and Aunt May, and potential romance. The film’s arc is about how he grows into the role of Spider-Man, learning what is expected of him, and how he should deal with danger. We already know what Spider-Man is about so we don’t need explanation of incremental upgrades or frequent suit changes. That probably isn’t the best recipe for a traditional video game adaptation in the style of those that have come before.
However, maybe the prospective developers could take a different approach and move away from the open-world structure you would probably expect. Instead of collectible spider items and skyscraper viewpoints, the game’s focus could be story and the character development we see in the movie, maybe a similar style to that of Telltale’s games. Their Batman series showed how effective it could be to spend more time with the man underneath the mask. It split time between Batman and Bruce Wayne, letting you choose how to approach situations and allowing for more powerful and emotional moments.
The action set-pieces of Homecoming could also be perfect for the quick-time event moments of Telltale style, narrative focused games. From the film’s early fight against the goons in the bank, to the finale atop Tony Stark’s invisible plane, most of the action takes place in contained locations. The action rarely opens up into larger spaces and is often focused on the acrobatic movement of the characters than their brute force. It is easy to picture some of the action scenes presented as quick-time events. For example, when Spidey leaps over the helicopter from the top of the Washington Monument and through the window, that isn’t something that would work well as a free piece of movement in a game that gives the player more control. Perfectly timing button prompts to launch your character through the window would work well with that scene.
The trio of The Vulture, Spider-Man, and Iron Man could make for a spectacular video game, however. Flying through the air alongside Tony Stark’s alter-ego would look phenomenal and the potential for impressive action involving the three of them is mouth-watering.
Ultimately, while the web-slinging action associated with Spider-Man should work perfectly in a video game, the structure of Homecoming isn’t the best option for one, especially one set in an open-world. Tom Holland’s movie is far more focused on Peter Parker and his development than Spider-Man showcasing his power and the action is far more contained and choreographed than you’d expect to see in a video game. A game like Insomniac’s upcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive, one that develops it own characters and story to fit its style, would be the far better option and, thankfully, we’re being treated to exactly that some time next year. From what we’ve seen so far, it seems to be borrowing from the best superhero games to create a great Spider-Man game. The combat looks much like what we’ve seen from the Batman: Arkham games and the open-world looks as filled with activities as the greatest Ubisoft titles. Also, the E3 gameplay demo featured a chase sequence with a helicopter that spanned most of the city, with the web-slinger leaping between building. It is shaping up to be the game Spider-Man deserves.
Do you think Spider-Man Homecoming would make for a good game? Let us know in the comments below.