"Our Spider-Man games have sucked for the last five years," Activision CEO Bobby Kotick admitted to Game Informer in a recent issue of the magazine, addressing quality concerns. "They are bad games. They were poorly rated because they were bad games."
"We went away from what is Spider-Man," he continued. "It’s about web-slinging. If you don’t do web-slinging, what is the fantasy of Spider-Man?"
Kotick’s "We went away from what is Spider-Man" sentiments are interesting because they echo how Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada felt about the character until last year. Unfortunately, Quesada’s approach to taking Peter back to his roots involved retconning his marriage to Mary Jane in exchange for a deal with the devil (Mephisto) to save his Aunt’s life (again). It was an utterly bizarre concept, even by Marvel standards, a complete cop-out after the events of Civil War, and the reason I finally stopped following their comics altogether.
Because, hey, if you’re going to undo a character’s life at the height of his evolution, count me out.
With regard to the games, however, Bobby Kotick is probably right. The last Spider-Man game I can say I really enjoyed was the Neversoft game on PS1. The movie games were decent, but as a longtime fan, I much prefer when they take place in the "comic universe." It gives the developer far more creative freedom, and the potential for fanservice is vast. Levels like the SWAT helicopter chase from Spider-Man on the PS1 still haven’t been outdone in my personal opinion.
That isn’t to say web-slinging is the only issue that needs to be addressed. Something I’d very much like to see Activision consider is some sort of a dynamic monologue / dialogue system, based on your actions within the game, which emphasizes Peter’s personality. I feel like that’s at least half the appeal of the character. A story that isn’t as outrageous or overused as Web of Shadows would be nice, too. Did we really need another symbiote outbreak?
I’d point to dialogue, characterization and conveying the "feel" of the character himself as great starting points for bringing the games back up to scratch. The PS1 game was great because it looked to the right source (the ’90s Fox cartoon) for inspiration. What else can you think of?