Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was revealed at yesterday’s PlayStation Showcase as just one of two titles that developer Insomniac is currently working on. It appears Insomniac really lives up to its name, but that’s beside the point. The game’s main antagonist, it seems, is the creepy symbiote Venom. The hulking creature is the opposite of Spider-Man in just about every way. He’s tall, bulky, jumps real high instead of shooting webs, and … oh yeah, he eats people.
That’s why I want Insomniac to put me in the driver’s seat behind that monstrous force of nature.
I’m going to say the extremely generic gaming journalist thing and praise Insomniac for the job it’s done on the Spider-Man games so far, because they really do make a player feel like the webslinger. The style and fluidity of Spider-Man’s movements, his gadgets and combat mechanics, and the developer’s perfect implementation of web-swinging all play into that. Now imagine for a moment, if you will, what it would be like for Insomniac to lend that kind of craftsmanship to Venom, an extremely powerful, monstrous character.
Venom has been playable in games before, with my favorite iteration of the symbiote coming in 2005’s Ultimate Spider-Man on the PlayStation 2. This game had some choice developers behind it, including Beenox, Treyarch, and Vicarious Visions, and they combined to make one of the most engaging versions of Venom in a game. While he was Ultimate Spider-Man‘s antagonist, he could also be unlocked as a playable character, adding an entirely new way to explore and interact with the game’s version of New York City. Venom could leap to the top of buildings, chuck cars, and had a combo that ended with bending a target until their back snapped in half with a sickeningly satisfying crack. My 10-year-old self loved it.
Considering its extremely faithful handling of Spider-Man, if Insomniac were to give players control over Venom, the result could be out of this world. Instead of Spider-Man’s speed, we’d be able to play around with Venom’s strength. It would give Spider-Man 2 the variety that the first game needed so badly. Sure, it’s fun playing as Spider-Man, but eventually you have to wonder what it would be like to play the game as one of the game’s other superpowered characters. Rhino goes through the game knocking massive storage containers aside like they’re nothing, and Shocker can fly freely while shooting beams of electricity. These antagonists aren’t just threatening, they’re cool as hell, and I wanted to play as them. Venom presents an opportunity for Insomniac to do just that, and do it right.
Really though, Venom being a playable character would just feed into something else that’s been missing from games for quite a while. We’re all too used to playing the human-shaped hero, the basic good guy. I am, quite frankly, sick and tired of it. Playable characters in games don’t always have to be the good guy, and they absolutely don’t always have to look like us. Instead, I miss when games let players control monstrous characters, the ones that were so distant from ourselves visually that we could really vicariously embody them. Want to throw a car from a skyscraper? You’d do it because it’s fun and you’re a monster that doesn’t care that someone’s going to have to walk to work from now on. The Prototype games were the last to really accomplish this, but games have had a distinct lack of playable abominations in recent years.
Spider-Man 2’s Venom has the potential to change all of that. Sure, he seems like he’s being presented as the game’s antagonist, so chances are we won’t be able to play as him through the game. But remember, it’s a game. There doesn’t have to be continuity or any kind of “realism.” I’ll simply be happy if I can go into an extras menu and play as Venom after the game’s credits roll.
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