September 7th came and went, and hopefully, you’ve been able to pick up and play Marvel’s Spider-Man. Insomniac Games’ newest release is getting a great reception, and, yes massive sales numbers that broke all sorts of Sony records. You can check our review out here. Now, I wanted to highlight something in the game that most people probably won’t notice, and something I disagree with our review: how the game handles its collectibles.
Having collectibles in open-world games is nothing new. I still remember searching down hidden packages in GTA III back in 2001. I looked high, low and in corners. I checked guides to see if I was missing anything. I eventually fell in love with looking around in open-worlds, and it has a lot to do with finding these collectibles. Over the years though, my interest in locating these items dwindled for too many reasons to list here. In short, most games make it hard to keep my interest in searching, and a lot of it comes down to in-game tracking issues.
As time went on, I’ve noticed developers have understood these issues. Think back to any of the early GTA games. Finding those hidden packages became a chore. You knew there was 100, but knowing where they were was a Herculean task. There wasn’t much in the way of an in-game way to keep track of your progress. Now, developers have added progress bars and stats, breaking down how many collectibles there are in each area of the world. That progress has helped, but Spider-Man takes it to another level, and I love it.
In Spider-Man, Insomniac gives you a handful of ways to find the collectibles. In this case, I’m talking about the backpacks. In the story, Peter left 55 (how did he afford that many backpacks?) over the city during his early years as a crime-fighting superhero. Shortly after the game begins, you are given the ability to track these down and find the contents within.
Now, most games would give you a basic breakdown of where these items are located, but as I said above, Spider-Man gives you every tracking possibility. The game is basically giving you no excuse for not finding the collectibles (and all other side missions for that matter).
Let’s start with the map. New York City is broken down into multiple territories, each with their own stat sheet. On top of that, the map has each backpack shown as a green icon, essentially forgoing the entire hunting process right off the bat. Next, while playing, if you click R3 the screen turns grey and highlights important information. If you do that while looking in the general direction of the backpack, the same green icon from the map will show on your screen. Get closer to the designated area, and a green beam of light will shine into the sky. Get even closer, and you’ll hear an audio cue to help you locate the backpack. If you are still struggling to find it, press R3 one more time and the backpack will be highlighted in yellow.
In total, that’s five different ways to find these elusive backpacks. Keep in mind; this is all in-game. There’s no reason to turn to a guide or a walkthrough. Spider-Man turned what could have been an activity that takes a dozen or so hours, and turns it into a couple of hours at most. Now, why is this such a fantastic idea?
Because it turns a menial task that’s been around for years in games, into a must do activity. Look, I love completing games. I’m always satisfied when that percentage meter hits 100, or when those checkboxes are filled. I love getting that Platinum trophy on PlayStation.
But I don’t have the time to do all of that anymore.
Insomniac understands how tedious searching for these tchotchkes can be. Most of the time, the hunt for these items are saved for the end after you’ve completed the main game. By that time, I lack the drive to continue looking for something hidden in the world. Now more than ever, I have to move on to the next game, whether it’s for this site or personal playtime.
Think back to the seminal God of War. I fell in love with Kratos and Atreus’ journey earlier this year. While I do have an interest in completing the game 100 percent, tracking down Odin’s Ravens is something I’d rather not do. They’re a pain to locate. Yes, the game has a breakdown of how many are in each location, but once you go to the area, good luck finding those hidden birds.
I can continue to list dozens of games where this is an issue. I’m missing three orbs in the original Crackdown. I had to buy a guidebook to find all the feathers in Assassin’s Creed II. I have missing items in Horizon: Zero Dawn that leave holes in my knowledge of the world, again, I could go on and on all because of a lack of a proper in-game tracking system.
Spider-Man makes me want to collect everything in the game. As of this writing, I’m a little past Act 2, and I have 78% of the game completed. Every time a new collectible or side mission is introduced, I stop playing the main quest and finish those. All because how easy Insomniac made it. I’m no longer wandering aimlessly around a giant open world but now dedicated to completing this game top to bottom. Thanks, Spider-Man and thank you Insomniac for rejuvenating that passion again.