It’s a good time to be a Spider-Man fan. In addition to Homecoming renewing faith in the wall-crawler as a film franchise and a new animated series, Spidey also has a new game in the works, courtesy of Insomniac Games of Ratchet & Clank and Sunset Overdrive fame. Though the title isn’t due out this year, each new trailer continues to impress, and the latest certainly continues that streak. Admittedly, it’s nothing that you haven’t seen in other trailers -- plenty of web-slinging and chaos, as usual -- but, there’s something that may be going on in the background. Namely, a hint that this new Spider-Man game may be giving us multiple playable characters.
Playing as different characters in a Spider-Man game is nothing new. In previous games, players were mainly able to use alternate versions of the Peter Parker character. Shattered Dimensions from 2010, for example, let you play as Spidey in four different universes: Amazing, Ultimate, Noir, and 2099. Despite their claims, there was nothing really different between the four Spider-Men besides a different voice actor and setting change. Perhaps the most distinct departure was 2005’s Ultimate Spider-Man, where you got to play as Venom after completing the main story and use his symbiotic skill set, which included the ability to drain civilians for health -- which was very dark, but also very distinct in a Spidey game.
Granted, back in 2005 and 2010, Peter Parker was the only Spider that Marvel was willing to actually do anything big with. Other Spider characters such as Scarlet Spider, Venom or Carnage pretty much had to stay connected to him in some capacity, and it didn’t really change in a big way until Marvel made two decisions in 2011: to make Venom a hero via Flash Thompson, and to introduce a new Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales. Since those two events, it’s like a creative dam burst over at Marvel, and now there’s an entire Spider-Verse, with a roster of Spider-Characters that’s involved nearly two dozen active players in the last two or three years, including Mary Jane Watson and her and Peter’s daughter in an alternate continuity.
But, of course, the biggest new addition to the Spider-Verse is Miles Morales. His media presence really took off in 2015 thanks to the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, and it’s only going up from there, thanks to his upcoming animated movie, YA novel, presence in the new Spider-Man show, and (eventual) arrival in the MCU. On the side of video games, the young Spider-Man has primarily just been an alternate costume for Peter, or in the LEGO and mobile games.
The fact that Miles is included in a big-budget, non-LEGO Spidey game is a pretty big deal. Since the reveal of his inclusion at this year’s E3, hopes of him being playable have been persistent. Insomniac has been naturally cagey on that, but the fact that the company is acting such a way is almost a confirmation itself. As creative director Bryan Intihar said at E3, Peter and Miles know one another before they’re both donning the web shooters, which does tell us that this is a very different Spider-Man continuity from what we know.
Even if his time being playable is incredibly brief and doesn’t actually let him be Spider-Man, this is a big deal for Miles. His E3 appearance shows that he’s a fan of Spider-Man; there’s something pretty cool about playing a character who's a huge fan of our other playable character. Spider-Man as a character has always been important to younger readers because they could see themselves in him, and one has to imagine that’s the same logic in the Marvel universe as well. If he does indeed get his powers by the end of the game, then that sequel (and yes, there will be a sequel, because Spider-Man) is going to be incredibly interesting with the two of them swinging around.
Surprisingly, there may be even more playable characters in the game, including one Mary Jane Watson. The most recent trailer contains a brief shot of MJ in the middle of a bank robbery that looks like gameplay (minus the HUD, natch) rather than a cutscene. With the game already said to be delving into both parts of Peter’s life as hero and human, playing as his One True Love would not only give her some agency and prevent her from being a standard video game love interest, it would also offer a new perspective on Spider-Man.
Video games love secretly having other playable characters to take players by surprise. It wouldn’t be entirely surprising that Spider-Man does this, and it would be a very welcome addition. Peter’s supporting cast is quite large enough that he can share the spotlight with others, and if this game is going to be the great piece of work Insomniac, Sony, and Marvel want it to be, the additional characters will definitely do it some good and make it truly amazing.