Insomniac Games’ Spider Man PS4 did some pretty interesting things in relation to how it approached its depiction of the police force. First of all, please note that “interesting” doesn’t always mean “good.” Now that that’s settled, onward, comrade.
Considering that you’re a vigilante superhero, who works with the police force, as opposed to for them, it’s of great interest to examine the ways in which you’re a far better force of justice than they are. “The ways,” by the way, includes all of the ways. Ever. They are literally the worst police force in the history of police forces, maybe in ever.
Martin Li’s crazy psychic demon powers are hella strong, I’ll admit. He does technically summon an ancient demon that seems capable of pretty much inducing the apocalypse. HOWEVER, his ability to infiltrate the police force at will is a bit of a joke, isn’t it? Like, the world-ending demon doesn’t make an appearance until Act 3, and Li still manages to pretty much dominate Act 1. This highlights the bureaucracy imbued in the very core of the police force. As an institution, Spider-Man‘s police force is inexplicably incompetent and laughably lackluster. Not only are they absolutely incapable of assisting Spidey as he engages in double-boss fights solo—they genuinely seem to be incapable of preventing even the most minor of crimes.
For instance, if you’ve gained some momentum and you’re hellbent on disproving Einstein’s theory of relativity with your godlike swing-speed, chances are you’re going to miss a crime or two from time to time. Don’t get me wrong—Spider-Man is crazy good, but it’s pretty ridiculous that the game will deem a crime failed if you go too far past it, when you’re clearly fast enough to turn around and get there pretty much immediately. That aside, the important part is the failure of the crime. After a crime is failed, the police will make comment over comms, saying something like, “Damn it, they got away.” Seriously? Every single time? The police seem to fail 100% of the crimes you fail. There’s never a “never mind, we got this.” It’s always “they got away.” Do you know what’s worse? When you prevent a crime, they say, “Thanks for the assist.” The assist? Are you serious right now?
The more you play as the hero, the more it becomes clear that the police force in the game, aside from Yuri, are completely incapable of doing anything even relatively productive. In fact, by making themselves so susceptible to attack, they’re actually being counterproductive. The police in Spider-Man‘s Manhattan are actively so shit at everything that they’re supposed to do, that they literally make your job more difficult. They’re almost worse than criminals, because at least you can arrest criminals for being shit.
By the time the game ends, the city is in ruins, and the entire populations of two prisons run rampant in the streets. This would seem to be ultimately dystopian if it weren’t slightly favorable to the relatively worse situation in which Ock, Li, Electro, and the rest of the villain bois were on the loose before the endgame. However, it isn’t a win. You can’t swing for ten seconds without having to dodge a sniper shot. That’s the state the city’s in. If only it had, I dunno, some kind of institutional body designed to protect civilians and apprehend criminals. Imagine that!
I will give a shout-out to Jefferson Davis, though. Aside from Yuri, he is the one member of the police who can do anything worthwhile. Actually, he does a lot more than that. He’s a fantastic character, and alongside Yuri, is the only redeeming factor of the game’s shitty police force. However, even his heroism can’t fully redeem them. The police win a grand total of zero fights in the game. That’s not a number worth bragging about. I get that in a superhero video game, it obviously needs to be up to the hero to save the city. If it wasn’t like that, it would be far less fun to play. However, for the sake of the story, the police could have been slightly more capable, if only to prevent them from being rendered entirely incompetent within the first hour of gameplay.
Just have them do something. Anything. Resolve one radiant crime. Have one scene in which a team of 100 isn’t getting absolutely thrashed by a solo Rhino. Do ANYTHING. They couldn’t even apprehend Fisk in the first chapter. Well, at least they didn’t let the populations of two prisons loo—oh, wait. They’re actually so bad at their jobs, that they let the entire criminal population of Manhattan, including its maximum security inmates, loose in the city. Who fixes this? The Amazing Spider-Man, of course. While he’s also taking on a team of six super villains, who the police also set loose, and attempting to administer a cure to an airborne chemical that has the potential to kill literally everyone ever. Don’t let anybody on this earth tell you that Spider-Man doesn’t deserve to be called Amazing.
It’s fine, though. That’s what we have superheroes for anyway, isn’t it? So that they can save the world while we twiddle our thumbs and say, “Oops, that button actually lets all the criminals out.”
(I’m aware that isn’t exactly what happened, but it might as well have.)