If you’re anything like me, you might have thought Spider-Man ran a little too long. Getting the platinum trophy is nothing short of exhausting, and it’s a surefire way to get burnt out on the game. As fantastic as my time was, I felt nauseous at the thought of returning so soon to play the DLC. The Heist does about as much for that feeling as lukewarm Chef Boyardee on a queasy day.
The Heist is more Spider-Man. I mean – literally – it contains every strength and weakness of the main game. There are great combat sequences, crappy side activities ala Taskmaster quests, and the errant MJ mission. When I first had to do another stealth mission as everyone’s favorite reporter-next-door, my eyes rolled back in their sockets. Then they kept rolling, off the couch and out the door.
It isn’t all bad, of course. I did enjoy my time with the DLC, however sparse it was, because the strength of the writing and main narrative kept me engaged. Black Cat is a wonderful foil to Spider-Man, and their scenes together are by far the most engaging portion. The overarching crime-family backdrop might not be my cup of tea, but the bad guys take a back seat to the drama that plays out between our main characters. We never even lay eyes on the big bad this time around, Hammerhead, and are instead sleuthing around behind the scenes with the master thief herself.
You’ll spend most of your time tracking down USB drives of unknown content. They belong to overly stereotypical New York crime bosses, so we can assume they contain either bank codes or 40GB of spaghetti sauce recipes. I won’t spoil why your quest is so urgent, but the plot thread is more than enough to make the seemingly low-stakes mission exciting. It does this so well, in fact, that the sparse side activities and “patrol” sequences feel at odds with the narrative. If I’m supposed to be stopping the self-destructive Black Cat before all hell breaks loose, why am I searching air conditioning units for twenty minutes, trying to find a collectible?
Speaking of side activities, I need to talk about Screwball. She’s the DLC’s equivalent of Taskmaster, only worse. Her missions are all timed challenges of combat and swinging around quickly. Sounds familiar, right? Only this time, you have the game’s most annoying and cringe-worthy D-list supervillain barking in your ear about her followers and other things 30-somethings think kids talk about constantly. These missions are terrible and overly difficult for what they are. They’re also about 20% of the entire experience.
The harsh reality is, besides the strong story, enjoyment of The Heist rides entirely on the coattails of what came before it. Swinging definitely didn’t get worse, nor did the combat. Nothing truly new is on offer here, it merely extends the experience of the main game, tweaking a few aspects to fit the narrative better. Side activities are near replicas of pre-existing ones with a fresh coat of paint slapped on. Combat takes place with the same groups of thugs, albeit with one new enemy type that doesn’t do much to mix up the flow of encounters. It all feels overly familiar, and arriving so soon after the main game is sure to sour the experience for some.
What’s sure to really upset people is how the DLC ends. I’m not going into details here, but the “To be continued…” screen flashes in at the exact moment I thought to myself, “Wow that got interesting.” I laughed out loud at the stupidity of it — all the tense build-up and crescendo pacing lead up to… nothing. I don’t think length is a metric for success in a game, but when one is so brazenly more of the same I expected to at least be able to play it for more than an hour or two. I would recommend fans to wait for the whole City That Never Sleeps trilogy to release before indulging themselves. I’m confident the experience as a whole is more satisfying than the hilarious and poorly-timed ending we got here.
Developer Insomniac Games seems to be taking a cheeky drip-feed approach, trickling out content to keep Spider-Man in the conversation. The DLC was even advertised before the game released, much to fans’ chagrin. This might be fine, if only the experience didn’t already feel so stale. There’s no lack of content in the main game, and The Heist is the DLC equivalent of a fortune cookie after a filling meal. Not filling or memorable enough to be the reason for coming, but inoffensive enough to be welcome. Fans are bound to be put off by a short length and lack of new ideas, but as part of a whole package, I’m hoping The Heist serves its purpose well.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.