Editor’s Note: Slight spoilers for the end of the main story in Marvel’s Spider-Man may be discussed in this article. Read at your own peril.
The first piece of post-launch DLC for Marvel’s Spider-Man has arrived this week and with it, Insomniac Games continues to prove just how intimately familiar they are with the titular character and his universe. The Heist, which is the first episode in a three-part story that is being called The City That Never Sleeps, includes a new storyline, new challenges, additional enemy types, and most importantly, formally introduces Black Cat into this world. It’s a brief trip back into the world of Marvel’s Spider-Man on its own, but one that is wholly enjoyable for the three to four hours it lasts.
The Heist begins soon after the events of the main story and with Spider-Man having now cleaned up most of the criminal factions around New York, there is a vacuum of power ripe for the taking. This then leads to the introduction of the Maggia, a criminal organization akin to that of the mafia and run by classic Marvel gangster Hammerhead.
The story kicks off with Spider-Man finding himself at an art museum in the pursuit of stopping the Maggia from stealing various artifacts. After an opening battle that sees you bouncing off of the walls of the museum, one of Spider-Man’s old flames, Black Cat, appears and in her usual manner, steals an item that sets the course of the rest of the story in motion.
In the lead up to The Heist’s release, Insomniac Games and Sony really honed-in on Black Cat’s appearance in this DLC, and for good reason. Black Cat is easily the star of the show in The Heist and whenever she isn’t on screen, you’re always looking forward to her next appearance. I continue to be impressed at not only the quality of writing with Black Cat’s dialogue but the voice acting performance by Erica Lindbeck is also stellar. It’s clear from their performances that Lindbeck and Spider-Man voice actor Yuri Lowenthal had a ton of fun playing off of one another.
What’s even more enjoyable about Black Cat in this DLC is that it is made clear that she has a prior relationship with Spider-Man prior to the events of The Heist. This contextualization of past events through character dialogue is something that Insomniac did a lot of in the main game of Marvel’s Spider-Man with villains such as Electro and Scorpion, but I’d argue that the way they go about it with Black Cat is their best work of all. Insomniac skirts a fine line between divulging the history between Spider-Man and Black Cat outright while also leaving you asking plenty of questions. It’s this engagement with the characters and their back and forth interactions that really stands out amongst everything else in The Heist.
I’ve long loved the character of Black Cat, but it’s really been quite awhile since I’ve read or watched a great storyline featuring the cat burglar. More than anything else in The Heist, I’m just so happy that Insomniac did Black Cat justice and reminded me of why I found her to be such a great character in the first place. It’s one of the better Black Cat plots that we’ve had in any medium over the past few years and I love how she fits into this world.
Since The Heist is also a continuation of the main story, what I also loved was seeing how the relationships between Peter, Mary Jane, and Miles continue to grow in the aftermath of Marvel’s Spider-Man. Peter and MJ’s connection and their conversations now have a bit of a different feel to them having salvaged their relationship at the end of the main game. On the Miles front, he is now requesting that Peter begin training him in how to use his powers, something that Pete is very apprehensive of. In these ways, The Heist is covering topics and conversations with characters that I didn’t think we’d see in Marvel’s Spider-Man until its eventual sequel. The fact that they’ve been explored in the first DLC add-on was something I didn’t expect, but I’m happy to see nonetheless.
If there are any complaints to be had with the storytelling of The Heist, I was somewhat annoyed with its abrupt cliffhanger ending that faded to black with a “To Be Continued…” message appearing. While this is somewhat to be expected given that The City That Never Sleeps is a three-part story, it still kind of sucks that the narrative can’t really stand well on its own in a vacuum. Because of this, I really don’t understand the point of selling the game as individual episodes.
I also have to point out that the Black Cat side-activities from the main game of Marvel’s Spider-Man weren’t alluded to or really mentioned whatsoever in The Heist. I expected that side-tangent from the base game to somehow incorporate itself back into this DLC, but nope. In retrospect, those Black Cat missions from the main game seem more like an ad for the add-ons more than anything else.
As for what The Heist actually gives you to do in terms of gameplay, it’s not anything all that different from the usual. There are a series of new challenges featuring Screwball to do around the town, along with some new crimes to thwart that now involve Maggia members. The best new side activity in The Heist though involves collecting more items scattered around the city. Much like with the backpack collectibles, it isn’t all that fun to track down these items on their own, but each piece has a new bit of story attached to it. You feel more motivated to find all of these new items just to see how the through-line connecting all of these items plays out.
Still, I’m left feeling a bit saddened that Insomniac didn’t do anything else all that interesting in the realm of side activities. I was expecting to see more side missions that would tell smaller stories off of the beaten path, but they really weren’t there to be found. Maybe my expectations were just too high for the amount of content that I wanted to receive in this pack. In the end, though, I think I’m more just disappointed that there isn’t more to keep me in this world, because it’s really one that I don’t want to leave.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: The Heist is an enjoyable first chapter in what is setting up to be another phenomenal story arc from Insomniac. Even though you won’t find anything all that new in terms of gameplay and things to do around New York City, the overarching narrative that has been set up along with Black Cat’s inclusion easily make this add-on worth picking up. More than anything, I’m just glad we won’t have to wait too much longer for the follow-up episode, as it is due out sometime in November.