Can We Cool It With The Spider-Man Hot Takes Already?
Spider-Man is taking the video game industry by storm right now, which can only mean one thing: It’s HOT TAKE TIME! Everywhere you look, someone’s got a J. Jonah Jameson-worthy Spidey rant vying for your peepers. After thoroughly reading all of them, I have crafted the most meta-hot take of them all: Can we cool it with the friggin’ hot takes already?!
As you are probably aware (and if not, my condolences for what you are about to learn), the Spider-Man hot takes started before the game was even released with the maybe-ironically-named-but-who-knows-anymore PuddleGate controversy. PuddleGate revolved around a series of screencaps that compared an in-game cutscene from Spider-Man’s E3 demo to the cutscene in the final release. The main difference between the two versions was that there were more puddles on the ground in the older footage (flip between the above pictures to see for yourself), which obviously signaled that the dastardly developers at Insomniac had secretly bamboozled gamers with fake footage, only to downgrade the visuals at the end of development into a non-puddley heap of revolting eye garbage!
Of course, buying into the PuddleGate conspiracy meant ignoring the fact that all of the Spider-Man footage – no matter what version of the game it came from – has been positively gorgeous, and exhibits a fluidity and fidelity – a fludility, if you will – that few games can match. But that doesn’t get as many clicks as missing puddles, so until the game was released, that’s what people wrote about! Now would probably be a good time to note that I won’t be linking to any of the hot takes mentioned in this article, because THAT’S WHAT THE HOT TAKES WANT.
As you might’ve guessed, PuddleGate dried up (...GET IT?!) shortly after release, thanks in part to a thorough debunking by Digital Foundry, which used their technical wizardry to prove that the release version of Spider-Man is actually upgraded from the E3 demo – Insomniac just happened to move some puddles around. Most of Digital Foundry’s analysis flew right over my head, so I did my own analysis when I played through the sequence myself.
Sure looks puddley enough to me!
Once Spider-Man was out in the wild and people could actually start playing it, the controversy shifted from puddles to the police. A surprising number of critical op-eds focused on Spider-Man aiding the police, which is *checks notes* a bad thing.
And look, I totally appreciate and agree with the real-world concerns regarding police brutality, racial profiling, and the lack of accountability when people in power commit injustices. The fact that Spider-Man is set in New York City and not a fictional metropolis lends a certain amount of credence to those concerns. However, if you’re worried about a powerful policing force using physical violence against citizens without any kind of accountability, you may want to take another look at, oh I don't know, SPIDER-MAN?! All he does is swing around and smash face with literally no oversight whatsoever! If Spider-Man deems you a criminal – Ka-pow! You can voice your defense to the EMTs when they scrape your broken body off of whatever wall Spidey stuck you to.
Some hot takes have gone even further, criticizing Insomniac for portraying all drug dealers as violent criminals in the game, when in actuality most drug dealers are nonviolent. Again, it’s an argument that I can certainly appreciate in the real world. But what the hell kind of video game are we even describing anymore?
*Spider-Man leaps down in front of a criminal in an abandoned alley*
Spider-Man: Greetings, Mr. Drug Dealer – based on that package of white powder you are carrying, it appears you are breaking the law. However, as you are statistically likely to be a nonviolent offender, I will not be engaging you in a physical altercation. Also, since I am highly skeptical of the police’s ability to fairly dispense justice, I will not be calling them, either. Instead, I will kindly ask you to think about the ramifications your actions have on society, and to pursue a more honorable career path – which is not to say that selling drugs isn’t honorable, or maybe it is, I don’t know…uh, have a nice evening!
*Spider-Man zips away*
And the worst part about these hot takes is they’re not particularly valid to begin with. Most of Spider-Man’s interactions with the NYPD are restricted to Captain Yuri Watanabe, who is clearly keeping her work with Spider-Man off the books – in other words, you aren't working for the NYPD proper, but rather an individual within the NYPD that Spider-Man has grown to know and trust. And seeing as how Watanabe brings her problems to Spider-Man and not her own officers, that individual trust and skepticism of the larger police force seems to go both ways.
This tenuous relationship is reinforced every time Spider-Man mops up a gang of bad guys – he makes a variety of quips about how he should clear out before the police get there and how he wishes they would stop shooting at him. Sure, he accepts a random tip from the cops every now and then, but he is a crime fighter after all – why wouldn’t he respond when an officer, or anyone else for that matter, asks for help? That’s the whole point of his damn origin story! The Uncle Ben part, anyway, not the nonsense about the radioactive spider…
Others have complained about an early chain of missions that has Spider-Man rebooting the NYPD’s Oscorp-funded surveillance network, while speaking in a gruff voice he refers to as "Spider Cop." And sure, I guess the voice is outdated and out of touch – in the same way that all of Spider-Man's half-baked, groanworthy jokes are outdated and out of touch. Does anyone really expect Peter Parker to be woke?
As for the real-world privacy concerns, they’re once again preaching to the choir – I will happily chat your ear off about the dangers of mass surveillance and the unethical way corporations collect and use our private data in this day and age. However, it takes Mr. Magoo levels of shortsightedness to apply this criticism to the opening hours of Spider-Man. We’re talking about Oscorp here! Of course it’s bad! When has Norman Osborn ever been considered a good guy? And not only is he a cold-hearted CEO of a megacorporation in Insomniac's version of the Spider-Man universe, he’s also a politician – that’s double the sleaziness! Without spoiling anything, do you maybe think that Spider-Man’s decision to help Osborn might just come back to bite him in his silk-spinning ass? If you're uncomfortable with helping Osborn keep tabs on the city, you SHOULD BE.
Ultimately – and despite what the tone of this
rant column might suggest – I get the penchant for hot takes. When you are playing and excited about a high-profile game, it’s only natural that you want to join the discussion in some way – and being the hundredth person to shout “It’s good!” into the void isn’t particularly fulfilling. Expressing a unique perspective on a game has real value, and even if everyone doesn’t agree with it, the ensuing conversations it may provoke can be just as enlightening and rewarding. So, with that in mind, here are a couple of my own Spider-Man hot takes for your reading enjoyment.
Hot Take #1: Insomniac Has Turned J. Jonah Jameson Into Alex Jones, And It’s So Effective I Hate Him
The editor-in-chief of The Daily Bugle has always been a thorn in Spider-Man’s side, but is still oddly likable in his own grouchy way. At least he was until Insomniac got their hands on him. In the game, Jameson has retired from the venerable newspaper and now hosts his own conspiracy-theory-spewing podcast, entitled Just The Facts. As you might guess, the show focuses on anything but, and is an effective send-up of “Fake News!” loudmouths as Jameson barks out one nonsensical rant after another. In fact, it's too effective. I get what Insomniac is going for, and I love it on a conceptual level, but that doesn’t stop my blood from boiling every time Jameson opens his big stupid mouth and blames Spider-Man for destroying the city. No Like, no Share, and definitely NO SUBSCRIBE!
Hot Take #2: Ditto For Spider-Man’s Social Media
Also flawlessly executed, Spider-Man’s social-media feed continuously updates with a bunch of funny comments and references to your in-game actions. And I HATE IT! Every hour or so, I feel compelled to stop the high-flying, web-slinging action and perch on a water tower somewhere so I can scroll through all the inane comments people have been spamming Spidey with, lest I miss that one clever gem in the sea of worthless opinions. It’s just like real life, where I ALSO HATE IT! This is so meta it's hurting my brain. At least Spider-Man's feed has way less racists than real life. Can Spidey's social media be the only social media from now on?
Hot Take #3: Something Something…MODS!
The mod system for Spider-Man’s suit is just about the only thing I don’t like in the game. You can unlock a slew of helpful bonuses, but you can only equip three at a time. As such, I hardly ever change them – I’m not going to give up the ones that grant me bonus XP or more Focus, so I have little wiggle room to work with. Most of them, like increasing the range of your AR scanner or automatically healing when you’re low on health, should just be permanent upgrades. I don't really have a joke here, so just consider it the "point" in Funny To A Point. I'm allowed at least one, ya know!
Hot Take #4: Aunt May Sucks At Acronyms
I know Aunt May is getting a bit old, but this is just inexcusable! If you can’t make an acronym out of the first letters of the words, don’t even bother. It’s not even uniform – she’s just pulling out random letters, for crying out loud! At that point, it’s a damn word jumble!
Hot Take #5: Insomniac Thinks You Can’t Read
Come on, guys – three copies of WMD Island, all in different colors? Are we supposed to believe these are different editions? And the same with The Woman In the Well, The King In Carcosa, and The Cuckoo Clock? It’s like one of those nightmares where you’re somehow back in school and you have to take a test, but every time you look closely at the words, they change. Well, kind of like that anyway. At least they didn’t take the Ubisoft approach and just label them all “BOOK TITLE.”
Hot Take #6: I Found Homeless Shia LaBeouf!
Wait, is that a hot take? It seemed like one when I hurriedly took the screen shot, but now I’m not sure any more. Let’s just count it and move on.
Hot Take #7: Insomniac Thinks Scientists Are Stupid
Now that’s a hot take for sure! Peter Parker has two types of minigame puzzles that he performs when working as a “scientist,” but this one is clearly just a fancy version of Pipe Mania. If making insanely complex gadgets is this easy, why the hell are we wasting time playing Spider-Man? We could BE Spider-Man!
Hot Take #8: Spider-Man Depicts College Kids As Drunk Idiots And Oh Wait That’s Correct Never Mind
Hot Take #9: Freaky Sex Stuff?
I mean I think it’s awesome that you can unlock all kinds of crazy costumes from the comics, but this one should get shoved back into whatever kinky spinoff series it came from. We get that you’re flexible, Spidey, but don’t pose like that when you’re wearing a rubber sex suit!
Hot Take # 10: The Photo Mode Needs Serious Work!
You better believe I saved one more serious entry for last! Spider-Man is basically using the same photo mode that all of Sony’s major exclusives use, and while it performed admirably enough for Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War, Spidey deserves more! First of all, how about more poses and hand gestures than just the Spidey salute? Even Aloy could bust out a selfie heart! And while the ability to make your own comic-book covers and panels is genius, it requires more flexibility. Being able to rotate stickers is a must, and you should also be able to shrink and enlarge them further than what’s already allowed. Also, give us the ability to type our own text for the action words and dialogue bubbles. The following pictures should demonstrate the creative restraints auteurs such as myself currently have to deal with.
See how the fart clouds are coming off at an angle? You can go ahead and click on it for a more zoomed-in look. Anyway, I would’ve liked to have straightened that out. Also, while “Crak!” is funny in its own right, I only picked it because the other action words weren’t angled correctly for the picture. I would’ve liked to put the embarrassed Spidey emoji over Spider-Man’s head in the issue stamp as well, but it wouldn’t shrink down far enough.
Again, being able to shrink down and rotate the question mark to fit the title really would’ve sold the concept that Spidey’s amazingness is up for debate.
And finally...actually, there’s nothing wrong with this one. It’s bloody perfect.
Spider-Man is out now, and if you couldn't tell from the tone of the column, I am thoroughly enjoying it – flawed photo mode and all. For more Spidey laughs, check out this Amazing(ly stupid) episode of Sick Stunts. For actual information, check out Reiner's review, and hot, hot tips.