Sony debuted their upcoming Spider-Man game at #E3, one in a long list of new console exclusives. While there were many reasons to go wild for the game's slick style and gameplay, one aspect of Spider-Man stood out: Spider-Man actually cared about hurting people and collateral damage.
Despite often having no choice but to engage in violence, superheroes often moralize about violence a great deal. #Batman, for example, has his "no killing" rule. He will not, under any circumstances, kill someone.
However, he's usually depicted as the very image of brutality in his games. While the #Arkham franchise plays up Batman's refusal to kill, its combat system emphasizes his brutal fighting style in bone-crunching detail, as if savoring every broken bone and skull-shattering concussion.
This Is The Spider-Man's Spider-Man
Apparently, Batman killing a criminal is wrong, but paralyzing them (or worse) for the rest of their life is legit. It's hard to take Batman's moralizing seriously when he's breaking peoples' spines over his knee with a horrifying snap, crackle, and pop. I don't care what you say, Batman. Those people are probably dead now.
Batman certainly doesn't seem to care about collateral damage, either. The Arkham series continuously comes up with reasons to clear all civilian life out of wherever the last game takes place to give him the freedom to destroy everything in sight. The guy runs around Gotham City in a tank and doesn't even care about the sheer volume of property damage he causes.
Don't get me wrong: I like superhero mayhem. I'm not going to blame a guy if something gets destroyed in the process of taking down a supervillain who intends to cause significantly more damage. I would expect a superhero to care about the damage they're causing, however.
From what we've seen so far, Spider-Man is doing it right. Throughout the gameplay preview, Spider-Man is engaging in the same slick combat we've seen in the Arkham games, but you can read Spider-Man's intentions in his motions. He's fighting the bad guys, but he isn't trying to cripple anyone.
Where Batman would happily crush a man's skull, Spider-Man shows restraint. In one particular fight, Spider-Man sends a man hurtling off a building — only to reel him back in to safety. (Safety is relative in a comic book world.)
Sure, that small touch was the result of player input, but it shows that sort of gameplay is possible. More, the player is presumably someone who works at the development studio, showing they know what Spider-Man is all about.
When it comes to collateral damage, an entire cinematic sequence is dedicated to Spider-Man trying to prevent it rather than cause it. Where Arkham's Batman would lay waste to the city in a tank, Spider-Man puts himself on the line to minimize the mayhem.
Overall, this Spider-Man title is a breath of fresh air. It's a bright, colorful superhero world, where a superhero actually cares about the people and world around him. The game manages to balance heroism and giddy comic book violence without sacrificing one for the other. Simply put, Spider-Man seems like a hero, and that's amazing.
Batman will always be a dark, grim sort of hero, but the next Arkham title can probably learn a thing or two from Spider-Man.