Warning: this article contains full spoilers for Marvel’s Spider-Man!
Marvel’s Spider-Man for Playstation 4 draws from decades of classic Spider-Man stories in order to craft its take on Peter Parker and his world. But even though the game’s comic book influences run deep, it also made some pretty significant changes to the source material — from Mary Jane Watson to Gwen Stacey (or the lack thereof) to Miles Morales.
Here are the biggest ways in which the game changed what we know about the Spider-Man franchise.
Otto Octavius and Norman Osborn
The game establishes that Peter Parker has been active for about eight years. In that time he’s run up against many of the most iconic villains from the comics, with two notable exceptions. As of the start of the game, Spider-Man has never battled Doctor Octopus or the Green Goblin, arguably his two most important foes. That’s a pretty significant change right away, especially considering that both characters debuted early on in Amazing Spider-Man (Ock in 1963’s Amazing Spider-Man #3 and Goblin in 1964’s Amazing Spider-Man #14).
Not only that, the game reveals that both Otto Octavius and Norman Osborn have a long history together, as they used to be friends and business partners before Osborn became a wealthy industrialist and politician. In effect, Otto is the Walter White of the Marvel Universe in this game, as years of resentment over the successful scientific career he missed out on fueled his transformation into a terrible villain.
The long-running comic series Ultimate Spider-Man (which is set in an alternate, streamlined version of the Marvel Universe) did feature a connection between the two villains. Octavius was shown to be Osborn’s lab assistant, and the same accident that transformed Osborn into the Green Goblin also fused Octavius’ robotic harness to his body. But even there, the two characters weren’t shown to be anywhere near as close as they were in the game.
Peter and Otto
The game also establishes a long history between Otto Octavius and Peter Parker. Peter is shown to be Otto’s lab assistant and basically the only person in the world who believes in Octavius’ ability to revolutionize the field of cybernetic prosthetics. That’s a major departure from the comics, where Peter doesn’t encounter Otto until after he’s become a costumed supervillain.
If anything, the game seems to be taking its cues from the movie Spider-Man 2 rather than the comics in terms of the Peter/Otto relationship. There too, Peter and Otto were shown to have an almost father/son bond before the latter was driven mad by failure and loss.
No Green Goblin?
In the comics, no one has done more to torment Spider-Man over the years than Norman Osborn. As Green Goblin, Osborn has murdered Gwen Stacy and threatened the lives of Peter’s loved ones over and over again. In the game universe, Osborn does not become the Green Goblin (Update: though some of his tech is reportedly hinted at). He’s portrayed as a far more sympathetic character than usual, one whose misdeeds are motivated by a desperate desire to save his son Harry from the same genetic disease that claimed his wife.
Here again, the game seems to be drawing more from the movies rather than the comics. 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 introduced Harry as the Green Goblin, with Harry injecting himself with Spider-Man’s blood in a desperate attempt to cure his worsening condition.
A Different Venom
One of the game’s post-credits sequences reveals that Norman is keeping his son Harry in a stasis tank as he works to cure his terminal illness. The final shot in that scene shows the supposedly comatose Harry reaching out and attacking the glass with a tendril. It could be that the game is setting up Harry’s transformation into Green Goblin in the sequel, but we have a different theory. The shape of the tendril reminds us more of another iconic Spider-Man rogue – Venom.
It could be that the Venom symbiote in this universe isn’t an alien life-form as it is in the comics, but rather a synthetic bio-suit created to cure Harry’s condition. This would fall more in line with Marvel’s Ultimate Universe comics, where it’s revealed that the Venom suit is a failed medical device created by the parents of Peter Parker and Eddie Brock.
Mary Jane Watson’s New Job
In the comics, Mary Jane Watson is portrayed as a famous supermodel and one of the great loves of Peter Parker’s life. The two were even married for a long stretch of time (at least until the infamous 2007 story “One More Day” came along). But while the game focuses a lot on the chaotic romance between Peter and MJ, MJ’s career path has taken a very different course. Rather than working as a supermodel, she’s an ambitious reporter working for the Daily Bugle. That allows her to take a more proactive role in Peter’s costumed adventures.
This is another case where the game borrows more from Marvel’s Ultimate comics than the traditional Marvel Universe. MJ was also an aspiring journalist in Ultimate Spider-Man, though in that case she was still a high-schooler.
It’s also worth noting that, in the traditional comics, Peter and MJ don’t meet until adulthood. In fact, Amazing Spider-Man used to feature a running joke where Peter was constantly dodging blind dates with the mysterious redheaded girl Aunt May was always trying to set him up with. In the game, though, Peter and MJ have been close friends since grade school.
Aunt May’s Fate
One of the biggest surprises in the game comes when Aunt May succumbs to her Devil’s Breath infection and dies, but not before revealing to her nephew that she knew he was Spider-Man. Technically, this is a huge departure from the comics, where May is still alive, well and oblivious to Peter’s secret. However, the full story is a lot more complicated.
The game actually is drawing heavily from a classic Spider-Man comic. 1995’s Amazing Spider-Man #400 features a similar scene where a dying May reveals that she had always known Peter was Spider-Man. However, it was later revealed that this was all a ruse orchestrated by Norman Osborn, and that the real May had been replaced by an actress. The real May eventually discovered Peter’s secret when she walked in on him after a violent confrontation with the villain Morlun. But even there, May eventually forgot Peter’s secret (along with the rest of the world) when Mister Fantastic, Iron Man and Doctor Strange helped him restore his secret identity after the events of Civil War.
Miles Morales’ Origin Story
The game is notable for introducing a new take on Miles Morales, even setting up Miles to become the second Spider-Man in a potential sequel. In the process, Insomniac changed many elements of Miles’ comic book background. Miles acquired his powers in more or less the same fashion (via a genetically modified Oscorp spider), but that’s about where the similarities end.
Miles actually made his debut in Marvel’s Ultimate line, taking up the mantle of Spider-Man after that world’s Peter Parker was killed. In that version, his mother Rio, not his father Jefferson, is the one killed in a supervillain attack. Miles eventually encountered the regular Marvel Universe’s Peter Parker in a 2012 miniseries called Spider-Men. Several years later, Miles and his family permanently crossed over into the regular Marvel Universe after the Ultimate Universe was destroyed. In the process, Rio was resurrected in a sort of karmic reward. Nowadays, Miles fights alongside the adult Peter Parker and retains little memory of his original universe.
Naturally, that’s way too much back-story for the game to get into, and we don’t blame Insomniac for wanting to simplify Miles’ origin story.
Mister Negative’s Past
When it comes to Mister Negative, the basics in the game are pretty much identical to the comic book source material. By day, Martin Li is a wealthy philanthropist who funds a homeless shelter called FEAST. By night, he leads a ruthless gang called the Demons and seeks to control New York’s criminal underworld.
There’s a lot about this character that was altered for the game, however, especially when it comes to his background and motivations. In the comics, Li once worked on a slave ship before assuming the identity of a drowned passenger and vanishing. He was later captured by the Maggia and subjected to genetic experiments that unleashed his negative powers. In the game, those experiments were performed by Oscorp, with Norman Osborn basically using Li as a guinea pig in his ongoing efforts to cure his wife. Where the comic book version of Li is mostly motivated by a thirst for power, the game Li craves only vengeance.
The Devil’s Breath
The game uses the substance known as Devil’s Breath as one of its major plot devices. Devil’s Breath does exist in the comics and is one of Mister Negative’s weapons of choice, but its nature is a bit different. In the game, Devil’s Breath is an unintentional byproduct of Norman Osborn’s research into his son’s disease. In the comics, Devil’s Breath was always intended to be a deadly bio-weapon. What’s more, it can be tweaked to target specific victims so long as Mister Negative has a DNA sample to draw from.
The Sinister Six
The Sinister Six has long been one of the biggest thorns in Spider-Man’s side. Spidey has clashed with numerous incarnations of this team in the comics. Every time, the Sinister Six is undone because these villains can’t put aside their personal differences long enough to work together.
For the most part, the game’s incarnation of the Six features a pretty traditional lineup, including Doctor Octopus, Electro, Rhino, Scorpion and Vulture. The one outlier is Mister Negative, who to date has never been a member of this team in the comics.
Where’s Gwen Stacy?
The game casts a pretty wide net when it comes to Spider-Man’s supporting cast. Even those characters like Robbie Robertson, John Jameson and Eddie Brock who don’t physically appear in the game are alluded to or featured in various Easter eggs. However, one major Spider-Man character is conspicuous in her complete absence – Gwen Stacy.
In the comics, Gwen was a major love interest for Peter in his college years, as well as being the daughter of police captain George Stacy. Gwen was eventually killed in 1973’s The Amazing Spider-Man #121, with Green Goblin throwing her off a bridge and Spider-Man accidentally breaking her neck when he tried to save her. Needless to say, it’s a tragedy that haunts Peter every bit as much as the murder of Uncle Ben. And it was only after Gwen’s death that Peter and MJ’s occasional romance grew into something deeper.
The game gives no indication if Gwen Stacy even exists in this universe, much less if she and Peter have a romantic history together. In recent years, Gwen has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity thanks to a comic called Spider-Gwen, which takes place in an alternate universe where she, not Peter, was bitten by the radioactive spider. Given that Insomniac went through the trouble of introducing Miles in this game, we wouldn’t be surprised if there are plans to bring in Spider-Gwen next time.
For more on the characters that appear (and are hinted at), check out our growing list of Easter eggs in Spider-Man on PS4.