Marvel’s Spider-Man: Turf Wars DLC Review – Retreading Ground (PS4)
Turf Wars does not pull its punches. The second DLC entry for Marvel’s Spider-Man opens with an intense and difficult brawl and doesn’t let up for the duration of its short campaign. It’s a darker entry, going down a path that had a number of turns I didn’t expect it to take (and a few I did). Though Turf Wars suffers from many of the same problems as its predecessor, The Heist, it once again provides an excuse to strap on the web shooters and become Spider-Man. As the second part in a three part DLC series called The City That Never Sleeps, Turf Wars tells the story of Hammerhead brutally taking over the Maggia stranglehold on New York. More importantly, Turf Wars casts its eye on another central character: Police Captain Yuri Watanabe.
Yuri’s angry. Cops are being killed, and she’s clearly got a beef with Hammerhead and the Maggia. But Yuri’s anger doesn’t really fit with the cop we’ve come to know. Although the three chapters are part of a complete story arc, they are each sold individually. So to some extent, it feels like Insomniac needed to make each one stand on its own. The rushed presentation does a disservice to Yuri’s character—a once strong-willed character who has suddenly fallen onto a path of anger and vengeance. If there was any foreshadowing of this internal conflict, I must have missed it. The Heist was predicated by Black Cat’s missions within the main campaign, which also began to play on Felicia Hardy’s affections for Peter. Turf Wars has an interesting story to tell, but never gave us the opportunity to see the incoming fall sufficiently set up beforehand. Yuri’s personality shift came as something of a shock.
Even so, it’s a dark and chilling tale. Hammerhead is brutal, perhaps the most brutal villain we’ve seen in Marvel’s Spider-Man yet. He’s done playing cunning little games (kind of. He wouldn’t really be a super villain without a nefarious plot). He’s just a raging bull, charging through the city. He wants to bring fear back to a police force that he doesn’t feel respects him or the crime families. Lots of people are going to die. Like I said, Turf Wars doesn’t pull punches.
Once again we get a smattering of Miles Morales’ story through phone calls that happen in between missions. Mary Jane gets a couple of obligatory lines about investigating the Maggia (no stealth sections this time around). Turf Wars really steps away from Peter, however, and focuses a lot more intently on Yuri. Peter’s worried about her and what she might do, not to mention, he’s also worried about stopping Hammerhead. Spidey is little more than a lens through which we see this story play out while we punch a lot of bad guys.
Unlike The Heist, Turf Wars graces us with a boss battle, though it’s nothing as interesting as what can be found in the main game. It ends up mostly being a variation on the new enemies that were added, so they act as a kind of training for a less-than-bombastic final encounter. It’s not that the fight isn’t fun, but after some of the really intense boss battle sequences in the main game, the gameplay offered in the DLC chapters feels like peanuts in comparison. Perhaps like the main campaign, the boss encounters will be heavily loaded onto the back end of the story arc and the final chapter will provide us with a huge finish.
Still Doing Whatever a Spider Can
One of the biggest upsides is three amazing new suits. The Spider Armor Mk I is spectacularly rendered in excruciating detail, and it’s a treat to have this one on during all of the cutscenes or to use in photo mode. Reflective plating really gives a great armor feel to this suit. The Iron Spider Armor is the suit that Tony Stark made Peter in the comics, blending elements of Iron Man and Spider-Man together. Finally, Spider-Clan gives us yet another great cel-shaded suit that pops everywhere it’s used. Problem is, by the time you unlock it, there’s nothing left to do in the DLC. Guess I can wear it for when the final DLC chapter comes around in December.
Just like with The Heist, new suits are strictly visual upgrades, and don’t offer any new powers or abilities. If you maxed out your Spider during the main game, you won’t be adding anything new to your arsenal here. A significant ramp in difficulty at least makes it seem like a step up. There’s one new enemy to fight, featuring a shield and a jetpack, and the story supports why Hammerhead’s goons will make for some of the toughest challenges that Peter has had to face yet. In that respect, Turf Wars does a lot better at adding on as post-game content than The Heist did.
Even the extra tasks feel a lot tougher, even if they’re the same old collection of things we’ve done before. There are four Hammerhead bases to take down, which offer a significant challenge through enemy composition and sheer numbers. Screwball is also back with a bunch of challenges, mostly the same as The Heist, though stealth challenges have added motion detectors to throw a wrench in the works. Random crimes still happen throughout the city (well, at least in the northern districts), and they do offer some slight variations on those that played through the campaign.
Living in a Bubble
Turf Wars is once again contained within its own little bubble, quarantined off from both the main game and The Heist DLC. More than likely (and given the additional menu space for it), the final DLC chapter will follow suit. The problem still remains that New York was built for a full game. Placing these DLC chapters into that massive world without any additional activities makes them feel tiny and stretched thin. The rote and formulaic open-world was already one of Spider-Man’s weakest points, so taking that same formula and diluting it creates a largely empty New York that only serves as a webslinging backdrop for a simple checklist of activities.
I understand why Insomniac felt the need to cordon off the DLC chapters. In terms of continuity of the world, the story is moving forward. It wouldn’t make sense to still have Sable there as Hammerhead goons appropriate their tech. Hard to have the roving groups of prisoners and gangs still causing chaos on the streets now that some time has passed since the conclusion of the main story. I usually don’t like to offer criticism without a fair solution, but I’m just not sure what the right answer here is. Insomniac had to do what they did for continuity’s sake, but it does itself a disservice to the content of the DLC by having it stretched so thin over the world, feeling largely disconnected from both the main game and the campaign of Turf Wars.
As many faults as I can find with Turf Wars, it’s still a lot of fun to play. Stepping back into the Spidey suit is exhilarating, and this chapter offers up some of the toughest challenges yet. Turf Wars is more Spider-Man, and while it’s a lot of fun, it mostly retreads on things that we’ve seen or done in the main campaign without meaningful advancement.The story has a lot of dark potential, though it’s clearly the middle of a three-part arc. It rushes its opening and conclusion, but does touch on some very interesting themes. We’ve still got one DLC chapter to go that will close out The City That Never Sleeps story arc. I’m hoping that it actually ties up some of these loose story threads, despite each DLC being available individually. More and more, it’s looking like the best way to experience The City That Never Sleeps is as one big arc, rather than broken into chunks through the split release (and if you’re waiting on all three to release before jumping in, keep an eye out for a giveaway from us next month).
Marvel’s Spider-Man Turf Wars review code provided by developer. Version 1.11 reviewed on a standard PS4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.