On Monday night, Sony closed its E3 2017 press conference with a whopping nine-minute gameplay demo of Insomniac’s upcoming Marvel game, Spider-Man. From webbing up bad guys to webbing up falling cranes all across Midtown Manhattan, Spider-Man — exclusive to the PlayStation 4 — still has a whole year until it’s out in the wild, but there’s an abundance of action and universe-building clues to pore over until then.
Developer studio Insomniac, located in Burbank, California, was once best known for quirky action-adventure games, like 1998’s Spyro the Dragon and the Ratchet & Clank franchise that dominated the mid-2000s. In 2006, Insomniac switched gears for the gritty sci-fi shooter Resistance: Fall of Man, which was set in an alternate 1950s where alien invaders forced the British and American armies to unite. The game, one of the most popular launch titles for the Sony PlayStation 3 in 2006, spawned two sequels, released in 2008 and 2011.
Since then, Insomniac has assisted in development for games like Sunset Overdrive, and is working on its own games, Song of the Deep and the Oculus Rift game Edge of Nowhere. In 2016, Insomniac, Marvel, and Sony announced Spider-Man, a new game starring the famous web-slinger set in its own universe, disconnected from the comics or films. Because there’s no set timeline, the world of Spider-Man is Insomniac’s own to create, and the new E3 2017 gameplay demo revealed quite a bit about the game and its setting.
Here are five things we learned about Spider-Man at E3.
1. It’s an Arkham-Style Game, Possibly Open World
Early on, as the demo starts, Spidey sneaks around Mister Negative’s (more on him later) goons on New York City rooftops, webbing them up and taking them down before they know what’s going on. The action and gameplay are strongly reminiscent to anyone who played Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham series, while the clear blue skies and (generally) clean roofs ensure Spider-Man will at least feel different than the overly grim Gotham City.
It isn’t confirmed (yet), but the gameplay strongly hints at another open-world New York City, evidenced by the Grand Theft Auto-style map/compass on the bottom corner of the user interface. The game wouldn’t include a map if the action were linear, so this suggests New York is once again explorable for Spider-Man, a feature innovated by 2004’s Spider-Man 2 movie tie-in, and imitated by almost every other Spider-Man game since.
2. It’s Got Quick-Time Events Down Pat
All games that make use of quick-time events owe a debt to Shenmue, but until recently, QTE started becoming old hat for spectacle-centric action video games. Spider-Man is no different, but the tech inside today’s powerful consoles adds some pizazz to the tired mechanic. Also, having to web up falling cranes isn’t just peak Spidey, it’s also never been achieved before in other Spider-Man games, of which there have been plenty of.
3. Yuriko Watanabe, aka the Wraith, Is Your Oracle
In the Arkham games, Barbara Gordon was Batman’s guide throughout Gotham City, operating as her hacker identity, Oracle. Spider-Man doesn’t have someone in his mythology to sit at a computer and hack doors open for him, but in Insomniac’s game, Peter Parker is in communication with Captain Yuriko Watanabe of the NYPD.
While Watanabe isn’t a hacker like Barbara, she is a dedicated officer of the law, who, in the comics, suited up as the superhero Wraith (using leftover tech from Spidey villain Mysterio) in order to circumvent the pencil pushers at city hall. She teams up with Spider-Man to take down New York’s warring crime gangs, one of which was led by Mister Negative.
4. The Villain Is Mister Negative
While other villains like Wilson Fisk (aka the Kingpin) and Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin (who is also running for mayor — look out for a smashed billboard), appear to exist in Spider-Man, the chief antagonist is a more obscure foe, Mister Negative. A Chinese immigrant named Martin Li, he was subjected to drugs from the crime syndicate Maggia that gave him dual personalities: his normal, kind-hearted Martin Li and the super criminal Mister Negative, who is capable of harnessing black energy. Mister Negative made his debut in comics in 2008, in Dan Slott’s The Amazing Spider-Man #546.
Mister Negative is a cool choice for a villain. Not only is he less famous than other members of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, he’s also vastly underused, which will allow Insomniac’s Spider-Man to be free to tell its own story, with no expectations from fans.
5. Miles Morales Isn’t Spider-Man, Yet
At the end of the demo, two teens witnessing the action, Ganke Lee and Miles Morales, are revealed. The half-black, half-Latino Miles Morales is another Spider-Man, originating from the parallel Ultimate universe before his reality collided with the mainstream Marvel Universe (comics!). It’s unknown if Miles has his Spidey powers or will attain them throughout the game, but the reveal that he just plain exists was enough to send Twitter screaming.
Spider-Man will be released on the PlayStation 4 in 2018.