We aren't the only ones who think that Spider-Man was one of the best games of 2018, and we can hardly wait for the inevitable sequel. Fortunately, we didn't have to wait long for more, as the first of three episodes that from The City That Never Sleeps expansion was released six weeks later with the two other chapters arriving a month apart after that. This led to the usual discussion about downloadable content being released close to the initial launch. Would this expansion feel like content cut from the game or something extra for those of us who loved the original? The answer is somewhere in the middle.
After spending approximately twelve hours doing every single thing in the expansion, there's no doubt that the best aspect of The City That Never Sleeps is its story. Sure, the first hours of Turf Wars feel stale and uneventful, but everything else is stellar. Being introduced to Felicia Hardy, a.k.a. Black Cat, and learning about her... let's say "complicated" relationship with Peter is without a doubt one of the biggest highlights of the three-part story. Their humorous or semi-flirty banter and interactions are great examples of how the fantastic writing and character-arcs from the core game continue over into the expansion.
Being able to blend drama and humour is an art few developers have mastered, but Insomniac shows us exactly how to do it and everything comes together when we go up against Hammerhead and Silver Sable in Silver Lining. The former might not get enough time to be as interesting as Mister Negative and the doctor but does just enough to make his and other characters' motivations clear. Some of the best arcs also work as pure teasers for the future and made our itch for more Spider-Man grow to new levels when the credits and post-credits scene ended. Just know that you'll have to endure a lot of déjà vu gameplay-wise before you get there.
You shouldn't go in expecting many new mechanics, activities and general changes. Besides story and side missions, most of the expansion is basically just a reskin of stuff you've already spent hours upon hours doing in the base game. Each episode introduces one new enemy type, three new suits without special abilities, Taskmaster-like challenges now given to you by a very chatty Screwball, and a few very minor tweaks to different crimes. As stated before, we've really enjoyed ourselves with these in the base game, but they became repetitive towards the end so seeing them being copy and pasted into the expansion made it a lot less enticing to 100% it. Adding a few sequences where we have to search for bombs with our spider-bot, defending specific areas from waves of enemies, and clearing out enemy bases starts to lose its charm very quickly when the only noteworthy new thing about them is the fresh enemy types.
Considering the familiarity we felt in certain areas, it's fortunate that the new enemies force a change to your playstyle. Big minigun-wielding baddies make dodging incoming fire a lot harder, goons with jetpacks and electrified shields that leave a damaging trail of fire will cause you to avoid certain areas on the battlefield, while grenades that generate a sphere of web-disabling electricity will make you think twice before going airborne. These new dangers aren't exactly groundbreaking, but they offer just enough variance to keep the combat engaging and fresh over the course of the expansion. What kept us pushing forward was mainly the story, the characters, and the incredible setpieces spread out throughout the different missions.
Like the rest of the expansion these missions and setpieces start out okay in the first two episodes before being turned up to the max in the final one, so it's well worth swinging on through even if you experience a drought or two in terms of fresh-feeling content. Silver Lining won't just make you like Silver Sable a lot more, it will also take you through some of the most memorable sequences in the entire game, culminating in a powerful boss battle (who's actually surprisingly easy to defeat) that's followed by some quick updates on other characters which clearly lay the groundwork for a sequel.
To put it simply: Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can. No more - no less. The City That Never Sleeps is definitely well worth the money for those of you who loved the original story and gameplay and just want more of the same. Peter is just as likeable as he was before, while turning some of the spotlight on Black Cat, Silver Sable, and Peter's friends made them a lot more interesting while at the same time leaving a few loose ends that make the wait for the continuation a lot harder. Our only problem is that we were hoping for something new and fresh, and those moments are few and far between in these episodes. You can compare it to watching one of Marvel's TV shows ahead of one of the blockbuster movies; the story and action rarely reach the heights of the main event but then it's really meant as a small taste of the greatness that awaits. Still, we're confident that this return to Manhattan will be more than enough to satisfy most of your spidery needs.
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