WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for "Turf Wars," the second episode in the Marvel's Spider-Man DLC series, "The City That Never Sleeps." Available Now.
The second in the three-part downloadable expansion for Marvel's Spider-Man was recently released. "Turf Wars" follows the climactic cliffhanger of "The Heist," which saw Black Cat seemingly killed by Hammerhead, the head of a Maggia crime family. The focus of the "Turf Wars" shifts to the gang war that follows, as Hammerhead consolidates power across New York using stolen Sable technology.
From the very beginning of this DLC, Hammerhead wages war on the NYPD, led by captain Yuri Watanabe. What we get is an emotionally intense storyline that doesn't just satisfy gamers, but fans of Spider-Man and the characters that keep him who he is.
Where the main game featured twelve supervillains, "The City That Never Sleeps" has thus far focused on one antagonist each. Hammerhead was mentioned and heard repeatedly in "The Heist," but only in "Turf Wars" does he make a full appearance -- and it does not disappoint. His first full scene is full of tension and results in a powerful emotional moment for both Spider-Man and Yuri. Like some of the best scenes in the main game, it's a grounded moment, free of the emotional limitations that come with binding poignancy to an outrageously costumed supervillain.
Hammerhead -- despite possessing a virtually indestructible head -- is a human character wielding authority over what appears to be a small army. The game grants him mechanized armor for the final boss battle for the sake of gameplay, but the story at its core is less about the superhero defeating the bad guy and more about how someone dedicated to the greater good, like Yuri, can eventually fall and surrender to their darker impulses.
With its film-like quality and storytelling style, what Spider-Man has demonstrated with the latest addition to "The City That Never Sleeps" is that you can get more out of Spider-Man in a story when the antagonist isn't a flying jolt of electricity or an eight-limbed scientist bent on revenge or twisted vindication. It's an indication that Spider-Man films should start exploring the down-to-Earth villains in the web-head's rogues' gallery and perhaps focus on the interesting aspects of the supporting characters.
It's important to understand that we aren't saying that Yuri's development arc in "Turf Wars" is in any way a new concept. The corruption of an important character has been explored many times in superhero films and television shows, but it's almost always in service to the creation or maintenance of a supervillain, rarely for its own sake. That's to say, comic book films are too often afraid to venture deeper into human nature and themes like moral fragility. Usually that's fine, but Spider-Man has and hopefully always will be, one of the few superheroes to which the average person can actually fully relate, not just because of his character and personal life but because of the characters that comprise his world.