Updated: Jan 20, 2019
The City That Never Sleeps has been regarded by some as an unfortunate blemish on what is overall, a fantastic game as seen in our review here. Its first installment was regarded as “a middling experience that is more repetitive than innovative.” Unfortunately, with Silver Lining, the third and final piece of content for Marvel’s Spider-Man, it concludes such a fantastic experience on a bland and sour note. But its existence to the gaming industry cannot be understated. Silver Lining, and the other two portions of DLC effectively, are a study on how amazing, tight gameplay can be blemished by sheer mission design. Every activity that the player accomplishes in this roughly 90-minute DLC highlights the issues that the original game had. From the janky camera to the frustratingly unclear UI in combat, Insomniac chooses to throw these issues in a loop as they are repeated constantly in a series of poorly designed combat sequences. Compared to the original game, Silver Lining lacks variety, and relies mostly on endless cycles of enemies for the player to take down. In just the first fifteen minutes, I was already prepared and willing to set the DLC and effectively the game down. And it doesn’t help that the story isn’t able to maintain the player’s interest when the gameplay frustrates. Featuring a bland and underwhelming story, Silver Lining concludes Insomniac’s achievement on a sour note, serving as a devastating reminder on the importance of game design.
If a game doesn’t have the intense or innovate gameplay, then the narrative is usually the one to glue the disparate parts together in order to create something somewhat cohesive. 2018’s Detroit: Become Human and currently being developed The Walking Dead: The Final Season are representations of this. However, while the gameplay of Silver Lining is frustrating and repetitive, its story simply isn’t there to supplement it. Nearly entirely dropping the intensive and promising conclusion of Turf Wars, Silver Lining chooses to resort back to one of the original game’s most under-developed characters, Silver Sable. And while this DLC does try to develop her through prolonged sequences of exposition from Mary Jane, Sable still comes off as a wasted opportunity, whose inclusion doesn’t add anything necessary to the overarching narrative.
In addition, as the final piece of DLC, there aren’t any prevalent stakes. Taking place in the bright sunlight, it’s an odd transition from the first two DLC packs as they both took place at night, giving it a pressurized atmosphere. Here, the stakes are never established, making the hollow villain in Hammerhead feel structurally useless. It also doesn’t help that his physical appearance isn’t seen until the conclusion of the entire episode.
Finally, the relationships that did have emotional resonance heading in, are strangely undercut. MJ and Peter’s relationship is strangely cut off halfway through, eliminating the entertaining chemistry that the two shared. Miles is rarely even mentioned, outside of a brief post-credits sequence that helps set up the future. But this sequence itself was seen in the actual game itself. For a developer who has proven that they are capable of writing deep, layered, and enjoyable narratives, the steps backwards that Insomniac takes here is disheartening. Reeking of pure laziness, this final DLC fails on nearly account narratively.
But what is still the biggest disappointment is the gameplay tying this weak narrative together. The original game, released on September 7th this year, had innovative and tight gameplay which allowed the player to truly feel as if they were Spider-Man. Silver Lining takes those systems and chucks most of them out the window, leaving only the combat system remaining. It seems as if Insomniac has had a strange fascination towards the combat system, as the previous DLC packs did have strong use of it. But none of it rivals what is on display here. The combat system isn’t terrible or unplayable by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it’s quite sufficient for what Insomniac designed it for in the original game. But in the original game, the enemy sizes were a lot smaller, allowing the player to use new tricks and moves to inject some variety in their styles. Silver Lining opts for a completely new direction. The sequences of combat are large, emphasizing the issues that the system actually has.
Facing forty or so enemies in one sequence really emphasizes the repetition, making the unwarranted difficulty spike even more frustrating. In addition, the system has structural flaws in the camera. The player often has to fight this wonky system as it generally chooses to do the exact opposite of what the player wanted. In relation to the Batman Arkham franchise, that series from developer Rocksteady understood that the combat system they were striving for, needed a polished camera system. Insomniac simply doesn’t have that, forcing the player to be constantly adjusting the camera in order to see incoming attacks. And when these attacks do come, the player is too busy adjusting the camera to even notice it, causing some annoying deaths. It’s a catastrophic flaw on their part, removing any encouragement I had to go back into the original game to reach the esteemed platinum trophy.
In the end, Silver Lining fails in almost all regards. It may function and have the same gorgeous animation as seen in the original game, as well as include a fitting tribute to the legend Stan Lee. But when judged for its gameplay and narrative, it’s repetitive, hollow, and at times torturous to experience. It’s a strong testament for how poorly designed missions and narrative motivations can completely destroy a title, and why game direction is so important. I’m still excited for what Insomniac can do with a fully-fledged sequel, but this trio of disappointing DLC does soften my excitement considerably. And at ten dollars, it’s a disgusting reward.
Score: 2.9 out of 10
Silver Sable is back in the action-packed conclusion to Marvel’s Spider-Man: The City That Never Sleeps. The deadly mercenary is back to reclaim her stolen Sable International tech and gear from the city’s thugs. But with Police Department Captain Yuri Watanabe on administrative leave after her controversial efforts against crime boss Hammerhead, and bigger threats on the horizon, Spider-Man must rely on unlikely allies to keep the city safe from impending calamity.
MARVEL'S SPIDER-MAN: SILVER LINING is available for purchase now.