Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Released: October 23, 2018
Copy supplied by publisher
Releasing the first batch of post-release DLC for Spider-Man right in-between the launch of two of the year’s biggest games doesn’t exactly scream “good timing,” but considering this is the fastest-selling PlayStation 4 exclusive ever we’re talking about, Insomniac Games likely won’t have too much trouble attracting some people away from Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Red Dead Redemption 2 … at least for a few hours. That’s because you can see and do everything in Spider-Man: The Heist, the first of three installments in the larger “City That Never Sleeps” package, in just a few hours, adding up to an enjoyable, if somewhat insufficient follow-up to what is unquestionably one of the best games of the year.
The Heist kicks off sometime after the events of the main story, with Black Cat being the main focus. Mary Jane is with Peter for most of the ride, though largely as a voice in your ear capacity and even Miles makes a brief appearance, but the plot is firmly centered on Felicia Hardy’s return to town. Actress Erica Lindbeck’s portrayal of Spider-Man’s antagonistic former flame (the game establishes early on that the two have a romantic history, leading to some truly awkward exchanges between Peter and MJ) is wonderfully flirtatious and sympathetic, and the story does a fine job of teasing out revelations so that Black Cat’s true intentions aren’t glaringly obvious. If you’re hoping for a radical reinvention of the character, you’re not going to find it here, but this is certainly one of the best Black Cat storylines I’ve personally encountered.
It’s a bit reductive to call The Heist just “more Spider-Man” but that’s a pretty accurate description of what you’re getting here. Outside of an early mission that sees you rushing around a museum to stop bad guys from stealing artifacts and a new twist on the Taskmaster style challenges from the main game, much of what The Heist has to offer is familiar territory. Not that that’s a bad thing necessarily, as Spider-Man’s core gameplay is so good that even just getting more of the same feels like a treat, but if you’ve had your fill of swinging around New York and fighting bad guys, there may not be enough here to entice you to come back.
One source of disappointment is that you don’t get to control Black Cat directly. I was hoping maybe Spider-Man would go for something like Batman: Arkham City’s Catwoman sections and offer a fully playable new character, but the most you get to do is order Felicia around in one specific stealth section. It’s not a big deal and it’s probably unfair to have expected Insomniac to introduce a totally new playable character into the mix, but given Black Cat’s abilities, it sure would have been fun to get to maneuver her through the game’s beautifully-realized New York City.
In addition to new story missions, The Heist introduces some new collectibles in the form of stolen paintings, which are worth tracking down thanks to the engaging subplot built around them. Screwball also makes a return and has her own set of largely optional challenges, including a particularly inspired combat one that restricts Spider-Man to just two of his gadgets. It’s a little disappointing that there aren’t more challenges of this variety, but the addition of photo bomb targets, which award bonus points for hitting correctly, at least help Screwball’s challenges avoid feeling like rehashes of Taskmaster’s.
Going into The Heist, I assumed that it would be a standalone chapter but from a narrative perspective, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Although you can purchase it as a standalone piece of DLC for $10, it really is part one of a three chapter arc, at least judging by the cliffhanger ending. With that in mind, it really feels like buying the complete “City that Never Sleeps” pack for $25 is the way to go here. As for whether The Heist — and by extension, the full three-chapter pack — is worth purchasing … that really depends on how much you enjoyed Spider-Man.
While I was hoping for a little more than a 2-3 hour DLC chapter with a few unimpressive new Spidey suits tacked on for good measure, The Heist is on par with the quality of anything else in Spider-Man and feels like a necessary pick-up for anyone who fell under the game’s spell back in September. Plus, it’s quite rare to find a big-budget game from a major studio that doesn’t nickel and dime its customers with microtransactions, so I think supporting this kind of business model is a good way to ensure that more games follow Spider-Man’s example in the future. As things stand, I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes in the next DLC chapter, Turf Wars, when it drops this November, but I can understand wanting to wait for all three chapters to come out before making a purchasing decision on this one.
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