Spider-Man’s story continues in The City That Never Sleeps, a three-part episodic expansion. Featuring an original storyline, new challenges, side quests and suits, this 8-to-10 hour add-on is a worthy addition. However, some of the core game’s shortcomings persist, making for an inconsistent experience that provides some of Spider-Man’s highest and lowest moments.
Episode 1: The Heist
The Heist provides a strong start to the expansion, establishing the main players and setting the stakes. With families in The Maggia crime syndicate making a resurgence to fill the power void left by Fisk and The Demons, New York once again needs its friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.
Tipped off to the titular heist, you swing in only to find your old acquaintance Felicia Hardy, aka Black Cat, raiding the museum. Her actions do not go unnoticed however, grabbing the attention of mob boss Hammerhead and his men. Black Cat is an endearing, captivating character who fits into Spider-Man and Peter’s life in fascinating ways. Their history makes for some well written back and forth as they reminisce over their relationship which once was. Felicia’s motives are compelling and the effect she has on Peter and MJ’s relationship enables some insightful exploration of their characters.
Hammerhead acts as more of an indirect threat with his mob cronies making up the bulk of your web fodder, allowing the focus to remain on Black Cat’s story. The usual blend of combat, exploration and stealth constitute this episode’s missions, while MJ gets to do some familiar sneaking and sleuthing. The Heist tells an excellent, concise story with strong writing and compelling characters while its shocking cliffhanger sets up the story to come in tantalizing fashion.
Besides the roughly two-hour main story a variety of side content rounds out the experience adding a good hour or two. Screwball makes a very unwelcome return with a set of challenge missions which do little other than to bulk out the episode. Additionally, some Black Cat themed collectibles and a related side quest do a great job of fleshing out her story while three new suits; the baby oil soaked Resilient suit, the sleek Scarlet Spider II and of course Spider-Brexit pad out your wardrobe.
Episode 2: Turf Wars
Turf Wars sees Hammerhead take centre stage in the narrative, unfortunately marking a lull in the quality of this episodic content. Making a push for domination as boss of the Maggi, Hammerhead poses a more immediate threat, with his gnarled face getting plenty of screen time. Hammerhead is a weak villain; his motivations are dull and generic, and his hammy mob boss persona feels all to familiar and uninspired. Yuri’s story thread, which weaves its way parallel to Hammerhead and Spidey’s conflict, provides a much more compelling tale, exploring her hopeless frustration and depression as her police force struggle to hold back the Maggia.
Missions are a familiar affair, with the exception of Spider-Drone infiltration mission which has you scouting out the iconic Bar with No Name, making for an enjoyable change of pace. A final showdown against Hammerhead proves anticlimactic, doing little to diversify gameplay or build on the villain’s character. The Heist’s cliffhanger is also largely ignored, leaving a frustrating lack of payoff which only acts to weaken Turf Wars further. Yuri’s arc remains the most compelling throughout despite being neglected in favour Hammerhead, culminating in dramatic fashion which leaves her to reflect on the consequences of her actions.
This episode represents a significant difficulty spike in combat. I found myself overwhelmed on several occasions by hordes of rocket launcher wielding thugs, mini-gun totting heavies and goons equipped with Sable Tech jetpacks and energy shields. Even on the lowest difficulty these encounters prove punishing. While they encourage a much more tactical, methodical approach to combat, this sudden increase in challenge feels inconsistent compared to the regular difficulty of the two episodes which bookend it.
Screwball is back once more to spout cringeworthy memes and irritate you with pointless challenges while side content feels sparse apart from another three suits; the fabulously chrome Spider Armour MKI, the unsettlingly anime Spider-Clan and the Super Sentai inspired Iron Spider Armour.
Episode 3: Silver Lining
As this episode’s title suggests, Silver Sable takes the spotlight for this expansion’s conclusion. Returning to New York to set Hammerhead straight and take back the stolen tech to aid a rebellion in her home country of Symkaria, Sable’s motivations are clear. Having been somewhat outshined by the Sinister Six in the main game, the mercenary gets some further character development in this episode, helping to humanise her and clarify her agenda.
The multiple threads that make up The City That Never Sleeps converge in Silver Linings in a mostly gratifying way. While Hammerhead remains a dull villain to his end, the cinematic finale brings Spidey and Sable together to topple the metalheaded FrankenDon in a thrilling showdown. Some exciting sequel exposition is also set up for MJ and Miles, while Yuri’s story takes a turn in a fascinating side quest, which also teases her role in the sequel.
The eternally annoying Screwball finally gets her comeuppance, but not before she can burden you with one final set of challenges. By this point they surpass annoyance and just become an accepted part of attaining 100% completion. Let’s just hope Insomniac take a leaf out of Rocksteady’s book when it comes to side content in future Spidey games. Finally, three fresh suits fill out Spidey’s wardrobe; the top-heavy Spider-Verse movie tie-in suit, the janky cybergoth looking Aaron Aikman suit and my personal favourite the quasi-Bionic Commando Cyber Spider-Man suit.
The City That Never Sleeps does a good job of building off the core game while telling its own story. The story it tells however is inconsistent, with standouts Black Cat and Yuri being pushed to the background in favour of lacklustre antagonist Hammerhead. While Spider-Man’s gameplay is endlessly enjoyable, this expansion feels like a missed opportunity to diversify it, opting for safety rather than creativity. Screwball’s unshakeable presence dilutes the handful of quality side quests on offer and overall content does feel a little sparse. Despite these shortcomings, this expansion is more Spider-Man, successfully expanding the world’s lore while bridging the gap to the inevitable sequel.
Overall - Very Good - 7.5/10
The City That Never Sleeps is more Spider-Man which a good thing, but the story it tells is inconsistent. While Black Cat, Yuri and Spidey himself get some strong character moments, main antagonist Hammerhead proves to be a dull villain, weakening the story at large. This is still a worthwhile expansion, telling an engrossing story while bridging the gap to the inevitable sequel with some exciting teases.
– More Spider-Man
– Some strong storytelling and character exploration
– Works well as an isolated story and in the context of the franchise
– Weak antagonist
– Screwball challenges are irritating filler
– Short on content or gameplay variety
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
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