Marvel’s Spider-Man 2’s Black Suit might just lighten the series up

Marvel's Spider-Man 2's Black Suit threatens to bring chaos and drama into Peter Parker's life, yet it might just bring a few more laughs to the PS5 series.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2’s Black Suit might just lighten the series up
Lee Brady

Opinion by Lee Brady


Today, we like to think of Insomniac Games as a safe pair of hands. It's hard to imagine the developer failing to turn collecting those Marvel's Spider-Man 2 trophies into a best PS5 games list-worthy experience. That said, this is also a studio that built its name off of games that thrived on blending goofy concepts with sturdy game designs, and with Marvel's Spider-Man 2's Black Suit, we might just see that classic Insomniac comic genius peeking through.


Peter Parker's Black Suit has Insomniac comedy written all over it

When I first watched Marvel's Spider-Man 2's gameplay reveal — that's the embedded video below where we first caught a glimpse of Spider-Man's Black Suit — I'll admit I was a little busy worrying about the story implications to think about what the game actually played like. It took me a few re-watches just to stop wondering how on earth the writers were going to navigate the Venom problem they had just introduced to their story.
However, now that I've had a little time to chew the gameplay footage over a little and digest it, my main takeaway is this: Spider-Man 2's Black Suit is the most Ratchet & Clank thing I've ever seen in my life. By that, I mean that there's serious early Insomniac Games energy coming off this power-up. It just looks inherently funny to use in combat, and that's important because comedy through combat is something Insomniac does impeccably well.

There's always been a Ratchet flavor to Insomniac's Spider-Man series — especially when you think about the handful of gadgets players can unlock and upgrade. You can pretty handily play the first Spider-Man game without ever using any alternative to the default web shooters, but then you'd miss out on the ridiculous suspension matrix — which makes a room full of enemies float in the air — or the web bomb — which just coats an entire area in sticky fluid.
Insomniac Games are masters at this kind of design: they know how to introduce something to the player that looks and sounds utterly ridiculous, and then slowly over the course of the game, have them take it seriously. You might have laughed at the "Sheepinator" while playing Ratchet and Clank once, but by the end of the game, you've probably found yourself earnestly relying on a weapon whose function is to turn foes into sheep.

Insomniac Games embraces ludonarrative dissonance brilliantly

You can understand my initial concern for the narrative when you see the Black Suit in action for the first time; it just looks like Spider-Man has officially lost his mind. Yet, that's only true when you're not playing the game. In context, while playing the Spider-Man series, your mind frequently invites ludonarrative dissonance — the term for describing that disconnect between the narrative intentions of a game and the often contrary behavior of the characters while in gameplay — to the table, and the experience is all the better for it.
Why is Spider-Man unrelentingly savage to complete strangers in this series? Well, because it's a video game, and it's funny, and we like having fun. If you want a perfectly decent Spider-Man, he's in the cutscenes. Likewise, does it matter that Ratchet and Clank remain unphased about having turned other people into sheep? No, of course not. Does the story fail to land because there's a gun that turns people to sheep in it? Nope — if it fails to land, it's because it's just one of the less well-written Ratchet games (I'm sorry, Ratchet 2016, I just felt nothing but contempt).

The studio just knows how to balance comedy in combat perfectly, and that carries perfectly over to Marvel's Spider-Man's combat too. It is naturally very funny that Spider-Man can blast foes with webs until they're inevitably stuck to the nearest wall or fire hydrant. Insomniac knows that Spider-Man won't canonically kill people, but that's not going to stop them from designing a game where Peter Parker regularly trapeze-kicks dudes face-first off the top of skyscrapers.

Spider-Man 2Just look at this mess!

That same rule also doesn't stop the studio from implementing Marvel's Spider-Man 2's Black Suit, which just looks straight up like Spider-Man is killing bad guys in fantastically brutal ways when he's wearing it. In the trailer, we see Peter morph into a ball of slime, torpedo at a bunch of enemies, launch them sky-high, pound them back into the ground, and then use Venom's gooey limbs to utterly devastate a dude's face on the rebound. Let's be real, that man's bones are officially jelly at this point, and that's hilarious.

Marvel's Spider-Man 2 should embrace comedy further

When we think about the Marvel's Spider-Man games, I don't think the word comedy comes straight to mind — which is a shame. Sure, both Peter and Miles are backflipping spandex-wearing quippy dudes, so there's technically "humor" front and center here. However, I think we let the grounded tone of the writing and often quite serious (melodramatic) twists of the narrative convince us that these games aren't funny, which just isn't the case.

Spider-Man GTALet's get serious.

I myself felt this way quite recently when I suggested Marvel's Spider-Man 2 should borrow more from GTA, with the entire centerpiece of that argument being that I felt the series takes itself too seriously at times. In honesty, I do still feel that way, and I do wish that Insomniac would on some level loosen up its restrictions on player actions outside the campaign.

That's something I want precisely because these games are rather funny in other ways, particularly when it comes to combat. Everything we've seen of Marvel's Spider-Man 2's combat, especially with the introduction of Miles' new powers and Peter's Black Suit, continues to show us that this studio puts player expression way above narrative interpretation of the character's actions, and that's fantastic. I just wish that same comic energy could be applied outside of combat as well.
Then again, and in fairness, we've only just recently got a glimpse of the latest Marvel's Spider-Man 2 State of Play trailer, and I'll be honest — there is something very funny about Miles and Peter gliding across town with those "web wings." While it's not exactly as funny as letting us web stuff together and fling it around however we like, it's at least another example of the designers not worrying about something looking silly so long as it feels good.

And I think nothing exemplifies my hope for that spirit to continue to grow at Insomniac better than Marvel's Spider-Man 2's Black Suit. I mean, it literally has a cooldown move that lets Peter just envelop people with Venom tendrils, lift them into the sky, and slam them into the sidewalk with goofy-looking motion blur. It's cartoony in the best way — expressive and just a little over the top. It's the kind of magic that makes these Spider-Man games genuinely funny to play, it's exactly what Insomniac Games are brilliant at, and it's why this series excels under the studio's leadership.

Spider-Man 2This is beautiful nonsense.

Well, clearly I think Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is looking like another smash from one of the PlayStation Studios' brightest stars — but what do you think? Are you excited for this game? Do you agree with this being, at its heart, a series centered around comedy? Let me know in the comments down below.
Written by Lee Brady
Staff Writer Lee keeps one eye on the future (Marvel's Spider-Man 2), one eye on the past (PS Plus Premium, recent Sony news), and his secret third eye on the junk he really likes (Sonic Superstars, Final Fantasy XVI). Then he uses his big mouth to blurt out long-winded opinions about video games.
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