There’s no denying that Marvel’s Spider-Man is a great game. It earned itself multiple nominations in our Game of the Year Awards for 2018 and landed on numerous top 10 games of 2018 lists. It’s hard to say the same of its The City That Never Sleeps expansion trilogy, three additional story chapters that pick up on latent threads from the main game’s narrative and side missions. The Heist followed Felicia Hardy, aka Black Cat, as she begins stealing items from Maggia dons. Turf Wars saw Hammerhead taking control of the city, and more importantly, Yuri Watanabe’s spiral of vengeance. Silver Lining concludes the trilogy with the return of Silver Sable.
Just like the last two, Silver Lining comes with a brief main campaign that can be completed in about an hour, three new suits, and a few side activities to complete. Focusing on Spider-Man’s third leading lady, Silver Sable makes a return to take down Hammerhead, who has been stealing shipments of aid meant for a civil war in her home country of Symkaria. Following the main campaign line reveals a basic plot—figure out what Hammerhead is up to and stop him—though there are some great interactions and chemistry between Sable and Spidey throughout. In terms of character to character banter, the back and forth between these two quickly became some of my favorite. That’s saying a lot in a game full of great dialog.
Besides that and a great final boss fight (more on that in a moment), that’s all Silver Lining really has going for it. Once again it’s instanced into its own separate New York, away from the main game or even the other two DLC chapters. This again makes the city feel quite empty, a massive world that can’t quite be filled out with the limited activities available in the DLC. There are more bases to take down by fighting increasingly difficult waves of enemies, and additional Screwball challenges that finally lead into a lackluster finale with the social media obsessed neon villain.
Perhaps the biggest sin of all is relegating the major story turn for Yuri Watanabe into a series of collectibles for this final expansion. Where she and her quest for vengeance were such a major part of Turf Wars, it’s disappointing to see that story just kind of fizzle out. That’s been the theme of The City That Never Sleeps story beats, though. The payoffs in Silver Lining feel unearned. Black Cat makes an appearance again, like it was obvious she would, but it doesn’t really do justice to the fact that she was the central character in the first DLC. Hammerhead becomes the only real unifying thread through the expansion trilogy, but even his story takes a backseat to the chopped up main focus of each chapter on Black Cat, Yuri Watanabe, and Silver Sable respectively. Sable easily gets the most satisfying conclusion, being that her thread is the one that culminates The City That Never Sleeps storyline, but it leaves her initial setup feeling stunted and left short.
Fight Like a Spider
Each of the DLC chapters has attempted to up the ante on fights by adding additional difficult enemies and new configurations of bad guys to kick in the face. While the first two managed to add a challenging layer of difficulty, Silver Lining just gets overwhelming with unfair fights as enemies of all types swarm and attack you all at once. It was all too common to end up stun-locked by enemies with shields, jet packs, rockets, and energy whips, unable to do anything without some thug nearby having a counter to it. Without any new abilities for Spidey to earn and play with, the difficulty of the fights goes from providing new challenges to just being downright frustrating. It’s most obvious in the base assault side missions, where waves of enemies come at you from all angles in fairly enclosed environments.
The silver lining (see what I did there?) is that the final boss battle with Hammerhead provides some new and interesting mechanics, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the boss encounters in the latter third of the main game. This was actually a very fun and challenging boss fight to engage with, instead of the usual punch and dodge fest that have punctuated the majority of Spider-Man’s battles. More of these unique encounters in future games would be highly welcome.
Like the ground rushing up to meet a spider without his webs though, the end came all too fast. I was legitimately surprised when the final boss battle with Hammerhead turned out to be just that. As mentioned earlier, the expected payoffs from major characters and plot points across the DLC series ended up being less of exclamation points as they softly fizzled out. The major story cliffhangers of Black Cat “dying” and Yuri Watanabe going dark side as she gave into her vengeance ended up being disappointingly “resolved” in throwaway scenes and non-critical side missions. The lurking threat of Hammerhead is finally felled with only the help of Silver Sable randomly popping back up for this final chapter. Even Mary Jane takes a backseat as she randomly disappears to go overseas and chase a story midway through the DLC.
There’s finally a bit of a payoff with Miles Morales, but again, it’s done through non-critical story points that don’t actually weave themselves into what’s going on throughout The City That Never Sleeps. It sets up some definite possibilities for a sequel, but ends up feeling like just that: sequel setup. Had the DLC trilogy released as a single big expansion, it would definitely feel less choppy. There are great and interesting narrative threads lining The City That Never Sleeps, but splitting the chapters means they never get a chance to weave into a great cohesive story that I can care about. It also makes each DLC’s instance of New York seem empty and boring. Spider-Man’s rote open-world “checklist” was already a weak point, and the DLC just accentuates that fact by being separate rather than additive.
Silver Lining is another excuse to strap on the web shooters and play more of one of 2018’s best games, but it makes that excuse in a way that feels complacent. Some great banter and a decent boss fight aside, it doesn’t provide satisfying conclusions to the stories that were started in the first two chapters while hastily wrapping up its own narrative threads without giving the nuances any room to breathe. For the players that have long since mastered Spidey’s web of abilities, there’s nothing new to learn here. It’s more Marvel’s Spider-Man, but that’s about it. Now that Silver Lining is out, we can finally start looking forward to the potential innovation and forward-swinging momentum that a proper sequel might take.
Marvel’s Spider-Man Silver Linings review code provided by publisher. Version 1.13 reviewed on a standard PS4. For more information on scoring, please see our Review Policy.