'Spider-Man 2' on PS5 has officially launched, and to go with a launch of this scale, of course, Dublin had its very own premiere event.
In what was already a historic week for Irish gaming with the Virgin Media/Wylde A-Games, the Nexus gaming industry conference, and Gamerfest over the weekend, we had the pleasure of attending the premiere as well as having a Teams chat with Bobby Coddington and Lindsay Thompson from Insomniac Games – two of the animators responsible for the incredible cinematics in game.
The event was full of passionate gaming journalists, as well as your favourite Instagram and TikTok stars like Darren Conway, and even stars in a more traditional sense like Jay Boland, the bassist from Kodaline. While many of us industry folks had already gotten our hands on review copies, Sony had set up an array of PS5s for everyone else to play. Every guest was blown away by the game, and there were prizes and photo-ops for everyone.
The game is simply fantastic, which we’ll delve deeper into in our review, but that’s due entirely to the passion of the development team. They have been working together for a long time, and the trust they have built helped them overcome their biggest challenges. Bobby Coddington tells us "It was a big game, we made maybe twice the content? I didn’t count it but it was a lot more!"
For Lindsay, it was the goo (among other things) "The goo, the symbiote tentacles, you know you look at the scope of the game… you’ve got multiple different enemies, factions, villains, you have so many different things that are specific so you can’t necessarily re-use anything, it’s all bespoke… and every game we make we want to be better than the last… when you’re making more content but you also want it to be better, there’s a lot of work that goes into that. And our team just stepped up."
Insomniac are always innovating and evolving their dev tools, and Bobby explained that the facial animation rigs they have access to now are seriously impressive. If you’ve played the game at all, you’ll see in any and every cinematic that the days of janky facial animation should be well in the past. In fact, since Insomniac are always evolving their technology, he couldn’t put his finger on any one feature with a sexy hi-tech name, it was all of their tools being constantly improved and working well together that allowed the team to make a game so incredible.
In harmony with this, Lindsay explains that working with such a tight-knit and experienced team means they can really make the most of the tech. They have a keen understanding of what they’re trying to do, and a consistent way of working. They’re like master craftspeople using the absolute best available tools – think Michaelangelo with a power chisel (that’s our opinion – Bobby and Lindsay are too humble for a metaphor like that). Bobby said the team are working on nine years of experience, and it clearly comes through in the in-game cinematics.
While it’s not their area of expertise, Bobby and Lindsay also touched on the “friendly neighbourhood” difficulty setting in which the player can’t get knocked out in combat. Lindsay excitedly said, "That’s how I play games! Friendly Neighbourhood Spiderman is for me!"
She goes on to explain that this is for the people who want to enjoy the story without the grind. Knowing that many of us gamers are at a certain age where we have work, family, social and other commitments, not everyone wants to spend hours on a single boss fight.
"One of the core values of Insomniac is ‘we want our games available to everyone’" – so regardless of your skill level or expectations, you can tailor the experience to the one that fits you best, and most importantly just enjoy the game.
On the weight of making a game centred on such a beloved character and IP "we still worry, we still try, we still want it to be great, we still panic internally," Bobby explained, but "we have a pattern of success… the team has been here for a long time…"
Lindsay expanded on this that the team really care, and the whole team want it to be amazing "when we have a little magic moment, it’s so rewarding."
At the end of our discussion, Lindsay and Bobby shared a little more insight into what it means to them to be part of something like this. Working on a team with such an incredible level of creativity, where everyone is independently making important decisions, Bobby said: "To be part of it, not only with the actors and the writers, but the animation team itself, it’s an incredible family of creativity and it’s so exciting to get to have this be our lives."
Lindsay followed suit, saying: "All of our animators are storytellers, directors, editors… you know, they do it all. We have an incredible team, we have something really special here at Insomniac that I’ve never seen anywhere else that I’ve worked. And shout out to stunt people! They are the backbone of an action game like this."
Talking to people who are so passionate about what they do, as Lindsay and Bobby are, is always a pleasure. Their passion, as well as that of the rest of the dev team, is clear in the finished product.
Insomniac have yet again used the PlayStation 5's hardware to the fullest of its potential, resulting in what will be - without wanting to spoil our review - a certain contender for game of the year.