Spider-Man: The Heist DLC offers an enticing story but little reward
Just a month after launch, Insomniac has rolled out The Heist, the first DLC of the City That Never Sleeps three part expansion for their break out superhero title, Spider-Man. The Heist rolled out with as much a whisper as a bang alongside some serious AAA contenders like Red Dead Redemption 2 and the Fallout 76 B.E.T.A. which could easily distract from the launch of any piece of content, DLC’s included.
That said, after playing The Heist, it’s clear that it’s is all about giving players a chance to websling through New York on a whole new adventure rather than on massively changing up the formula from the main game. This DLC isn’t about changing the experience, it’s about giving players more Spider-Man, and in that respect, it delivers in a big way.
Black Cat crosses your path
As you might expect, The Heist is primarily a story based DLC. There are plenty of small challenges, new crimes to stop, and tiny pile of fresh collectibles for you to chase down as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, but for the most part you’re focused on following Black Cat across the city as she hops from heist to heist and dances a showtune on Peter’s emotions.
Overall, the story lacks some of the tension from the main game’s story arc, but it makes up for it with a lot of raw emotion and a pretty good hook line and sinker of a mystery that’s dropped fairly early in the DLC.
This creates a lot of momentum that Insomniac uses to explore the relationship between Black Cat and Spider-Man all while the city is on the brink of another full-blown gang war. Similar to the main game, Peter’s forced to balance his personal relationships and his feeling for flames both old and new all while duking it out with criminals and bad guys that are trying to take over the city.
It’s a balancing act that Peter manages to take in swing but that clearly frustrates him, and everyone involved which in turn makes all the characters feel well-rounded and interesting as we watch them struggle to come to terms with the past, future, and present.
Black Cat in particular feels like she gets just enough of the spotlight to make her feel like a strong female lead. Although there is a focus on her relationship with Peter, it feels a lot like she’s on her own personal mission, and she would pursue her goals regardless of Spider-Man’s opinion on the matter.
This is further fleshed out by a series of collectibles you can find throughout the story that give you a glimpse into Black Cat’s origins, which adds a nice extra layer of flavor to her motivations. Her character could have been a colossal fan service flop, but instead Insomniac manages to make her exactly the kind of interesting character comic fans would hope to see from Spider-Man’s most confusing relationship.
Same city, new crimes
The only downside to The Heist as a DLC is that it really doesn’t do a lot with any of the basic gameplay features from the main game. There are no new gadgets, skills, suit powers, or really anything that you wouldn’t expect from the vanilla Spider Man experience.
You do get a chance to hunt down three new suits, all of which look fantastic, but that are entirely cosmetic, which is surprising considering you would think they would be the ideal place to slide in a few new suit powers. It’s not a huge deal, because the base Spider-Man formula still feels fun and satisfying whether you’re swinging through the city or delivering the beat down on a gang member with a minigun, but it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity for Insomniac to roll out some cool new ways to play their game.
Unfortunately, this has both a positive and a negative effect on the DLC as a whole.
The negative is that there’s really no reason to hunt down crimes and the challenges at all, because if you’ve managed to max out your gear beforehand (because maybe you’ve already 100 percented the main game) then The Heist doesn’t add anything new for you to spend your tokens on.
As a result, if you want to get your hands on all the new suits, then you’re left grinding away at crimes and sub-objectives just to get a cosmetic option with no other real benefits. This doesn’t really feel like a satisfying reward for the effort, and in general it just kind of feels like a gamey barrier that contrasts with the rest of the DLC.
We could see these being of more value to a player that hasn’t completed everything in the main game and needs more challenge tokens to round out their gear, but for players that have already maxed out their gear these side objectives just feel like a meaningless distraction.
The positive spin on this is the fact that because there’s no new gear to upgrade or tokens you have to gather, you can skip anything that you don’t really want to do. This is particularly important for the Screwball challenges, which replace the Taskmaster challenges from the main game.
Personally, I didn’t really like the Taskmaster Challenges in the main game and the Screwball challenges are no different. All in all, they feel like a series of pointlessly nitpicky objectives that are satisfying to complete, but rage inducing and frustrating to fail 10 to 20 times in a row.
The Screwball challenges themselves might have a bit of new flavor to match Screwball’s style and flair, but the fact that you don’t have to get gold in all of them in The Heist is a nice breath of fresh air when you’re seconds away from throwing your controller at the TV.
The city that never sleeps
All in all, The Heist is a solid DLC that’s meant to serve up more Spider-Man goodness for fans that are craving a chance to slip back into a Spidey-suit. For what it is, it’s a great story that fleshes out old characters while adding some new flavors to the pot with a classic comic book character, but if you’re expecting The Heist to change up the formula at all you’re going to be a bit disappointed.
That said, it’s still worth playing if you enjoyed the base game because it takes advantage of a system that works well and uses it as a platform to continue the story we saw in the main game, which is perfectly respectable.