Spider-Man 2 was a beloved game in my youth. It was one of my first truly open-world experiences. But there was a darker side to Spider-Man 2. It taught me lessons about people that I’ve never forgotten, and helped turn me into the crusty, cynical man I am today.
But Marvel’s Spider-Man for PlayStation 4 has come along to crack my shell, and hold me gently in its eight hairy arms.
Like Insomniac Games’ take on Spider-Man, Treyarch’s Spider-Man 2 — I played it on a PlayStation 2 — had random crimes that would happen on the street. Civilians would call up to you, “hey, Spider-Man!” as you swung by them like a streak of light. Jumping down to greet them would give you an opportunity to chase down a purse thief or take out some other street-level thug.
But sometimes, you weren’t there to save the day. Sometimes, you just had to fight to survive. There was a chance that when you’d land to be the helpful, neighborhood Spider-Man of your dreams, that the civilian would apologize and reveal that they’d set you up. All of a sudden, you’d get jumped by a bunch of appropriately leveled bad guys.
Of course, you’re Spider-Man. You beat the stuffing out of the bad guys like always, but then you swing away feeling a little more empty inside. Did you really save anyone? Or did you just save yourself? Why even do all this hero business if the citizens of New York will turn on you so easily?
As a kid, it was a taste of betrayal. It taught me that people are not to be trusted. Every time someone calls out for help, there’s a small chance that they could just stab you in the back instead. I’ve carried that baggage with me for 14 years!
But in a matter of hours, Spider-Man for PS4 has undone all of that damage. Every citizen is thrilled to see me. It warms my heart to hear people defend me against J. Jonah Jameson on his terrible podcast. But they do it because I love them, and they love me. I save them when they need help. Their calls of “hey, Spider-Man!” never end in betrayal; instead I get a loving thank you, and their undying support.
The new Spider-Man reminds you that you’re Spider-Man by letting you wall-run and swing around New York and all that other stuff. But what really makes me feel like a superhero is the undying gratitude of the New Yorkers I save. They’d never betray me, and are willing to spend their lunch breaks yelling at red-faced podcasters in my name.
And when I float down to their level, and walk among the people, they cheer for me. They remind me that I’m Spider-Man, dammit. Hell yeah. Fist bump, high five, headbutt. We’re best friends. Because we’re all New Yorkers here, and we look out for each other. Even in this wretched hive of scum and villainy, we’d never betray each other.
Spider-Man 2 tarnished my hope for humanity at a young age. If these people can betray Spider-Man, what’s to protect me in the real world? But Insomniac’s Spider-Man makes me feel like an important member of the community; one where we all look out for each other in the face of bullies and bad guys.
After 14 years, I’ve finally learned that the only real bad guys dress up in super suits and give themselves cool nicknames. Thanks, Spider-Man!