If the overwhelming reaction when you completed Marvel’s Spider-Man was “Oh man, I just need more of that” then you’re in luck because the first DLC offering for the game, The Heist, gives you an experience that is just that.
However, while a grand expansion to the core Spider-Man experience, The Heist is one that doesn’t stray beyond the boundaries of its core ambition and thus plays it a little more safely than we perhaps would have liked.
*WARNING – THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ENDING OF MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN*
Spider-Man: The Heist Extends The Original Experience Beautifully
Again, please don’t get me wrong; if you enjoyed Spider-Man (you would be crazy not to quite frankly), then The Heist is basically one of the biggest no-brainer purchases you’ll likely make this year. Clocking in at between three and five hours, The Heist is just the right size – offering just enough content to keep you busy without ever risking the burnout that so often comes from over-saturation of familiar content and mechanics.
As far as that content goes, fans of Spider-Man will recognize much – from the impromptu crimes that must be stopped around the city (including a new mini-game where you must disarm car bombs using the Spider Bot), to the usual gaggle of goons that must be defeated (though a new mini-gun toting enemy presents a new challenge) and the usual array of slot and alignment puzzles that must be completed, this is more Spider-Man in the most traditional sense – more story, more combat, more web-swinging and more side activities to get stuck into.
To that end, the brightly hued and super annoying villain Screwball returns to test our hero with a variety of Taskmaster style ranked activities that award additional XP and tokens, which in turn allow our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man to work towards purchasing the three brand new spider-suits that this expansion brings. Elsewhere collecting stolen paintings essentially replace Peter Parker’s backpacks from the main game, and while the former doesn’t provide insight into our hero like the latter, they are still well worth collecting because they shed light on another character that is central to the story.
Though more Spider-Man is never a bad thing when the base game is so assuredly great, there are certain aspects of Spider-Man’s design that I would be just fine not revisiting in future expansions. The insta-fail stealth sections that broke up the superhero portions of the main game return here, and while they are both shorter and more digestible than those glimpsed in the base game, their presence still feels a touch superfluous all the same.
Spider-Man: The Heist Shines A Grand Spotlight On Its Characters
Ultimately though, while the established mechanics of Spider-Man have their own sort of appeal, it’s really the characters and their interactions with one another that are given the chance to really shine in The Heist. Taking place after the events chronicled in the main campaign of Marvel’s Spider-Man, The Heist puts Peter Parker up against the dangerous Maggia crime family while his former flame and associate Black Cat re-emerges to take on the heist of her life.
Granted, though the stakes of The Heist are far less than the city-spanning threat of the main game, they are still keenly felt all the same simply because there are themes of family, togetherness and sacrifice that resonate with you far beyond what Spider-Man’s otherwise fanciful setting might otherwise suggest.
Indeed, the humorous and heartfelt exchanges that occur between Peter Parker and Miles Morales are a highlight of this focus that underscore the newly formed and quirky relationship that now exists between the two; an entertaining dynamic in which Parker takes on the role of a reluctant mentor to Morales as he attempts to prepare him for his new life as a superhero all the while trying to navigate the treacherous waters of his own. It’s great stuff that leans heavily into both comic book lore while also providing a great setup for future Spider-Man games and expansions.
A special mention must also go out once more to the visual quality of Marvel’s Spider-Man – what Insomniac Games have wrought here still remains nothing short of miraculous. Pointedly, in Black Cat the animation remains a highlight; from her super detailed character design to her intimately complex facial animations, Black Cat remains nothing less than a joy whenever she saunters onto the screen (thanks in no small part to voice actress Erica Lindbeck whose sassy and nuanced intonations really bring the character to life).
Though Spider-Man: The Heist is largely more of the same from a gameplay point of view, it seems to churlish to criticize this first of three DLCs for simply giving us more of what was already a Game of the Year candidate effort.
That said, the real bounty that this expansion offers is one that is most richly enshrined in its writing and character development, as The Heist fleshes out Peter Parker and the characters around him to such an extent that comic book and video game fans alike will find themselves very well served by this essential continuation to one of the best games of the year.
Review code provided by publisher. You can catch our original review of Marvel’s Spider-Man here.
Marvel’s Spider-Man from Insomniac Games is out now exclusively for PS4. The Heist DLC is also currently available from the PSN store.