By Bradford William Davis
Maybe you live under a rock, like a literal large stone, without contact to the outside world. Maybe you just have Spectrum. Or worst of all, maybe you bought an Xbox. But everyone else? We’re thwip thwip-in.
The PlayStation 5 exclusive Spider-Man 2 is, according to Sony, the fastest-selling game the studio has ever published. When I turned on my digital preorder at midnight — which notifies everyone else in your PlayStation online gaming network — by 12:13 one of my boys sent me a one word text that just read: SAME. It’s not just one of the most popular video games of the year, it’s one of the biggest cultural artifacts of the year, easily.
For the unacquainted: You’re Spider-Man, both the OG Peter Parker and the new-fangled Miles Morales, swinging and gliding through the verticality of a replica New York City, trying to stop bad guys, from regular thugs, bizarre fire-worshipping cultists, and the occasional suped-up super villain like Kraven the Hunter (don’t ask what he does, it’s all in a name). Sometimes you go to high school with Miles, sometimes you take Mary Jane out on a date, and all the generic citizens bombard you with “Ayy I’m walking here” accents.
I suspect part of the charm and appeal of the recent run of Spider-Man games, all similarly constructed adventures with a large map and acrobatic web slinging is the ability to experience a decently to-scale build of the city — minus Washington Heights, the Bronx, Staten Island and all the unsexy flyover neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens — with the superhuman strength, dexterity and flair of a beloved herald of American lore.
And since you’re not grooving with us for pedestrian game reviews, you’re here to learn how to do New York better, even digitally. So here’s the FUBU guide to playing like a real New Yorker.
🕸️ Don't use fast travel
After beating up enough thugs, webbing up enough getaway cars and defending the sanctity of armored trucks siphoning your hard-earned money into the hands of billionaire elites like Norman Osbourne within one of the game’s neighborhoods, Spider-Man 2 awards players the ability to fast travel to that region. (For the unacquainted — fast travel is a video game crutch that lets you traverse an open world map quickly.) There was a similar mechanic in the PS4-era Spidey games, one that, if you utilized the in-game subway stations, would feature a load screen of a fully-disguised Spidey dwelling with fellow strap hangers.
To which I say, booo! Weak. Fast travel is like Uber for video games (derogatory). And if there’s one thing New York, virtual or otherwise, needs less of, it’s parasitic ride-shares infesting our roads. Besides, you’re literally Spider-Man. Why would you opt out of doing the coolest mechanic in gaming: swinging through New York freakin' city?
🕸️ Don't web swing either
Oh just because you got your little thwips you thinks you’re better than us? This is not only the most walkable city in America, it’s even safer because the endless stream of cars can’t hurt you.
Come down from that flag pole! You got two feet dontcha?
🕸️ Find your New York home
I was raised in Forest Hills, Queens — the canonical, comic book home of the original Peter Parker. And as a web-head of a certain age, I remember being in elementary school when the very first Spidey flick started filming. Most superhero movies, even the great ones, are best enjoyed by tweens so you can imagine my thrill at seeing Tobey Maguire awkwardly test his superhuman limits in the same streets where I would like, eat ice cream, or swing past the overpass where girls turned me down. At a stage of life where childhood myths were steadily being put to rest, Sam Raimi’s attention on my neighborhood felt like a secret dispensation to a Queens kid that I, specifically, could be a hero.
Learning that Spider-Man 2 — after its predecessors included a pretty reasonable, close-to-scale rendition of Manhattan in the previous PS4 games — would include a condensed iteration of Queens and Brooklyn almost immediately restored that feeling. As soon as I completed the intro missions and opened up the full city map, I found the landmarks and real street names.
I got to stroll through Forest Hills Gardens, the semi-gated community of stately tudors, and experience it without rent-a-cops following me around, asking me if I lived here. Even when I played as Miles Morales! It was surreal. It was lovely. And if you’re a New Yorker, I want this for you.
While walking — NOT SWINGING, walking —try and find your intersection in the game. You can’t, well, maybe you’re not a real New Yorker. Or you live in the Bronx, Staten Island, Washington Heights, or any of the less sexy Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods.
🕸️ Don't play with Peter Parker unless you absolutely have to
You heard me romanticize the Peter Parker era of Spidey that I was introduced to in my youth. And unless you were a child when Miles Morales was revealed in 2011, you likely did too, and also, if I just unlocked a new millennial-Gen Z divide, I sincerely apologize. But Miles, the other Spider-Man and central figure in the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, is the truer New Yorker experience.
First of all, Peter’s moveset includes robotic spider legs from his back you can intermittently release from his high tech suit to claw and smash your enemies. This is borderline Spidey sacrilege. As a general principle, if your tech could be reasonably integrated into an NYPD digidog, it’s not halal. Ain’t we supposed to have a concealed weapons ban? Not friendly, and absolutely not in my neighborhood.
My Spider-Man disarms weapons, he doesn’t invent them! Miles has electricity coursing through his veins. Peter has a bookbag that would rightly have you pinned to the carpet at JFK. There’s no comparison.
Also, if you have a comic that disproves my thesis, come and box me in front of the Javits Center next Comic Con. I’ll be the guy in cosplay.
Second, there is literally nothing more New York than having a Black dad from Brooklyn and a Puerto Rican mom from East Harlem. (Having a Jewish dad and a Puerto Rican mom comes very, very close. Where’s our Pedro Perlman variant or nah? @Marvel??)
Now some might say, Bradford, there are parts of the main story where you can *only* move the plot forward by playing as Peter. Fair. Enjoy your dad jokes, weapons, and the uncanny valley of Mary Jane’s Watson’s face, which no amount of next-gen polygons can heal.
But if I catch you
swinging walking as Peter, that’s a dog whistle loud enough to get my spidey senses tingling.
🕸️ Stop playing Spider-Man
Now, some might ask: Is punching a civilian with the voltage of 1,000 police tasers a woke response to criminal activity? And to that I say … fair point. I needed to be reminded that not all skin folk is kinfolk.
Sure, you get occasional opportunities in the game to make beats and speak Spanglish. But playing the Spider-Man game as its makers intend not just incentivizes, but necessitates beating thousands of New Yorkers into ICU care, all under the thin veneer of moral justification that you’re gaining experience and powerups to defeat Kraven — who, let the record show, is an immigrant! And let’s not forget that Miles was raised by a cop named Jefferson Davis, which begs the question: whose Black mom gave her Black son the same name as the first and only president of the Confederacy?
Yeah, matter fact, Miles is the opps too. Black or white, those webs sting just as hard. I needed to be reminded that not all skin folk are kinfolk. Thank you for that.
Real New Yorkers stick to NBA 2K.