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Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 Addresses the Most Challenging Aspect of Mary Jane’s Playable Character

by Lidia Lucovic

The portrayal of Mary Jane Watson as a playable character in the original “Marvel’s Spider-Man” left much to be desired, with many players finding these segments to be among the most disappointing in the game. However, the upcoming sequel, “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2,” aims to rectify these common grievances. While introducing multiple perspectives in a video game can offer valuable and engaging experiences, it occasionally diverts attention from the inherently enjoyable role of Spider-Man himself. The concept of embodying Mary Jane’s character appeared promising on paper, yet the gameplay implementation in the original game fell short of providing a truly gratifying experience.

Mary Jane’s role in the “Marvel’s Spider-Man” games centers on her position as an investigative journalist at The Daily Bugle, as well as her role as Peter Parker’s girlfriend, marked by a rich and intricate personal history. Her profession inherently lends itself to investigative gameplay, a facet that titles like the “Batman: Arkham” series have effectively demonstrated as a compelling complement to the superhero genre. However, in practice, the execution of her playable segments was marred by lackluster stealth sections and comparatively sluggish mobility, which paled in comparison to Peter’s agile maneuvers. These segments, at their best, felt merely average and, at worst, actively detracted from the overall gaming experience.

A significant shortcoming in Mary Jane’s gameplay within the original “Marvel’s Spider-Man” was the dearth of engaging interactivity. Mary Jane lacked any discernible abilities, rendering her gameplay experience largely restricted to basic movement. While this design choice aimed to create a deliberate contrast with Peter’s segments, it necessitates a cautious approach to avoid lapsing into tedium. For instance, a horror game may strip players of resources as a deliberate choice to amplify fear, but in “Marvel’s Spider-Man,” the title did not cultivate the emotional depth, atmospheric elements, or level design needed to transcend the limitations of its core gameplay.

The sequel, “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2,” adroitly addresses this issue by granting Mary Jane a heightened level of agency. The pivotal change is that she is no longer entirely defenseless, and players can now engage with and combat enemies when the situation demands, despite her absence of superhuman powers to bolster her combat capabilities. This transformative shift substantially enhances the sense of player involvement and autonomy. Moreover, it broadens the spectrum of potential pathways within her gameplay segments, abandoning the previous frustrating linearity that occasionally marred the stealth sections in the initial game, making her gameplay a less burdensome experience.

It is evident that Insomniac revisited their approach to the Mary Jane segments in “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2,” and an analysis of games known for their successful implementation of stealth played a pivotal role in this endeavor. A notable reference to “0451” was incorporated into one of her escapades, serving as an Easter egg previously featured in titles such as Thief, Deus Ex, and Dishonored. While it initially symbolized a door code in Looking Glass Studios, the creators of System Shock, its recurring appearance in immersive sims and stealth-based games over the years has become synonymous with a distinct style of gameplay.

Within the context of “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2,” the inclusion of the “0451” reference signifies that Insomniac drew inspiration from the games mentioned above, all of which excel in integrating stealth and interactive elements in captivating ways. Although the results may not rival the dynamic experiences of teleporting behind an unsuspecting guard for a stealthy takedown, as seen in Dishonored, the introduction of Mary Jane’s taser and the opportunity for players to formulate individual strategies for avoiding detection are commendable features in light of her profession and character traits. Moreover, an overall increase in pacing contributes significantly to infusing her segments with a heightened sense of urgency and excitement, aligning them more closely with the intensity of Peter and Miles’ gameplay.

Arguably the most crucial aspect is that the Mary Jane gameplay segments in “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” are kept in check regarding their narrative prominence. With the game already juggling the narratives of both Peter and Miles, aiming to provide a more substantial role for Miles compared to the first installment, it’s apparent that gameplay with Miles has become markedly more dynamic, building upon the powers showcased in “Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales” and pushing him to new heights of capability.

Nonetheless, in the grand scheme of the narrative, Miles may sometimes appear to be overshadowed by the emphasis on Peter’s storyline. Consequently, centering Mary Jane’s segments around a select few captivating encounters serves to prevent an overabundance of the narrative’s focus being shifted away from Miles. Furthermore, this approach enhances the likelihood that players will remember her sequences fondly, as forcibly inserting them during climactic moments to maintain frequency could potentially lead to player fatigue. While the enhancements in design may have tempted an expansion of her playable role, a degree of restraint proves to be a judicious decision in this context.

Mary Jane’s role in “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” offers an intriguing continuation of her story from the first game. Her connection with Peter remains a focal point, essential for the development of both characters. Nevertheless, the game takes strides in providing her journalistic career with a more substantial platform, ensuring her character transcends the role of a mere love interest. As the narrative delves into darker territories with Peter, the evolution of Mary Jane’s character contributes to the emotional depth of the story, intensifying the impact of critical narrative junctures. Simultaneously, her struggles with stepping out of a superhero’s shadow add layers to her character.

While the prospect of the return of Mary Jane segments might not initially excite many fans of the first “Marvel’s Spider-Man,” this time around, things are notably different. By bestowing upon Mary Jane the engaging gameplay she rightfully deserves, the overall quality of the game is substantially elevated, providing a source of entertainment for enthusiasts of well-executed stealth gameplay. “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” marks a significant evolution from its predecessor in various aspects, and the enhancements made to Mary Jane’s investigative segments deserve recognition for rectifying one of the most prominent issues while preserving the core concept.

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