This past week, I was invited out by PlayStation to attend their exclusive Hand-Ons gameplay preview of "Spider-Man 2" held in Los Angeles. While there, I sat down with Insomniac's Senior Programmer Director, Dough Sheahan - who answered a lot of the questions I had for the upcoming game.
A big part of Spider-Man 2’s story direction revolves around the duality of having 2 Spider-men swinging around New York – what type of challenges did this dual-protagonist concept create?
I think a big part of it for the narrative was just making sure that both of the characters got their time in the spotlight – they both have full, complete arcs. I think that we were able to really make it so that both Peter & Miles had a lot of growth, had a lot of challenges, and are presented with a lot of things that make them question what they’re doing. And so I think that it’s really important that they both get their own arc. That you don’t just have Miles serving Peter’s arc, or Peter serving Miles’ arc.
I think in a lot of ways that was a big challenge – of making sure that we were able to do that – but also interweaving it in a way that you had the main plotline of the story moving forward and keeping those connected enough that they felt cohesive, while also being separate enough that both characters were able to develop independently. Narratively I think that was one of the biggest challenges that we had. Peter’s putting his life back together to some extent, he lost his aunt, he lost his job with Otto’s lab shutting down – so figuring out how he moves forward is a really big part of what he does, and then we inject the symbiote into that as a sort of wild card that brings out a side of him we’ve never seen before. Mile’s trying to figure out, how is he a different Spider-Man. What is he going to do with the rest of his life after High School. They both have their own independent lives that also come together.
When deciding on a sequel to 2018’s Spider-Man, was a return to New York City the first choice for the setting?
I think so – I think for us, a big part of it is – it’s so hard to take Spider-Man out of New York. They’re so linked. There’s potentially some other places that we could take Spider-Man – I don’t know if we’re going to have Spider-Man: De Moines necessarily, but you know, it’s one of those things where there’s a really big connection – and it’s not necessarily just about the city as a playground, it’s about Peter’s connection to his family and his life there. So pulling him out of that was not something we really wanted to do, and it was the best place to continue to tell these stories about how the life of Peter & Mile’s move forward – and that has to happen where they live.
2018’s Spider-Man featured a large swath of different classic Spidey villains, including Electro, Vulture, Rhino, and Scorpion. What kind of villains can we expect in addition to previously revealed villains like Venom, Lizard, and Craven?
There are more – there are some returning villains we’ve shown in previews, we’ve shown Martin Li who has a part to play in all of this. But we also have some new villains that you’ll just have to wait and see and play the game, that’s the fun of that. But for now, the primary – motivating ones that you see through are going to that Craven and Venom -and the role of Connors and Lizard and how that plays out.
Do you recommend players play both Spider-Man Remastered & Miles Morales to understand what’s happening in Spider-Man 2?
I think you can play the game standalone – I think that the story stands on its own two feet. There is a recap to let people know a little bit of the history of what got to where we are, and so as a jumping off point, if people want to jump right in than it’s gonna be a great standalone story. I think that people who played the previous games are going to see some of the nods, they’re going to see some of the continuing elements and so they’re going to get an experience that definitely carries forward from that. They’re going to get some deeper elements that may otherwise be missed. But I’d absolutely say that if someone is new to the franchise with this one, then they’re going to have a great time. They’re going to understand everything that happens with the story and it’s full and complete and contained within itself. They’re going to be able to get everything out of the experience that they would want.
How does player swapping between Miles & Peter work?
When you’re playing the main missions, we lock you into the narratively appropriate spider-person. But anytime you’re outside of the mission, you can freely swap between the two characters. That happens quickly & instantly as you go around – and then in terms of open-world content there’s going to be additional story arcs both for Peter & for Miles that are independent just for them. And then another set that is shared between the two, so you can play as either one in order to complete and play that content. And so for players who want to go through that, have their shared progression, do all that kind of stuff – they can really lean into the one that they enjoy the most.
For random crime activities, and other open-world activities - are those checklists shared between both characters for progression?
Any progression that you get, whether it be experience, whether it be currencies and things like that are going to be shared between the two characters. So if you play as Miles and want to spend the skill points on Peter’s skill tree, you’re absolutely able to do that.
How have the game’s iconic web slinging mechanics evolved for this latest entry?
The number one thing that players are going to notice right off that bat is “Speed.” With the PlayStation 5 we were able to really take the cap off of speed, and allow people to have more momentum, and to carry that momentum through to what they’re doing. And to really reward skillful play in more meaningful ways. We also revisited nearly every mechanic and how we chain them and flow between them to make sure that that speed integrity is maintained and that flow is maintained.
But then on top of that, we also were able to add the new web-wing mechanic, and the goal of that was to make sure it integrates really cleanly with all the existing traversal so that it isn’t something that you do exclusively, it’s not designed to be something that replaces any of the existing traversal – it is merely to supplement and solve new problems. What that allowed us to do is players can have a more varied experience of gliding when they want to use the web-wings, going over different locations.
When we have and when we talk about the city, you have this whole new part of the city with Brooklyn & Queens that is very topographically different than Manhattan. What the web-wings allow for and that area allows for is a different flavor for traversing around those spaces: you’re probably going to use the web-wings more and the point launch more – whereas if you visit Manhattan and go down to the financial district, you might get a lot more of these taller buildings where you’ll want to swing more or use the wind tunnels with the web-wings. And so it gives a little bit of personality and flavors to getting around these spaces – not to mention just trying to cross the river and all the different elements that go into that.
Maintaining flow and momentum was paramount to us, we didn’t want people to hit that water and feel like it was that punishing. So we had that little ski-glue mechanics to make sure people could keep going.
How does the game’s new slingshot & wingsuit mechanics work?
The slingshot: you can do it pretty much you’re on the ground or on a perch, you use [L2 + X], and it’ll throw out two webs, build up a lot of power, and fling you off it at really, really fast speeds – immediately hitting top speeds. So you get this immediate boost, whereas if you just jump and swing – you have to build up momentum, but the slingshot can take you there *snaps* instantly.
For players that are a little bit more exploratory – we have what are called “Super Slingshots” that are these kind of, you know – there’s these lights on and things like that – and those send you out at even crazier speeds – but there’s places in the world that you can go that do that kind of stuff.
The web-wing is pretty straight forward, triangle to turn them on – triangle to turn them off. For those – we experimented with a lot of different ways for how they would function under the hood and we really wanted to start with something that felt a little more physically accurate to a glide and a flight kind of thing with lift and drag and all of that kind of stuff, and then start layering on all the extra mechanics like being able to control your dive, control rising up, steering, and doing all of those elements to really make it so you can glide – and then sticking to the existing concepts that we have for traversal; trading height for speed and making sure that all goes there. So if you just want to glide far – you’re not going to go very fast, but if you want to get that speed, you gotta dive and start to use your other moves.
Unfortunately, the rest of the interview had to be cut short for time - and I had some audio difficulties with my microphone that made some it the later conversations harder to decipher. But I do want to thank Dough Sheahan for his time and I'm greatly looking forward to seeing what else is in store for Insomniac's upcoming "Spider-Man 2."
Check out the full video preview from the event now on my channel here: https://youtu.be/iviYPyQSI6w?si=1RlSBDU5roOgZngh