Spider-Man PS4: What We Learned From the Hostile Takeover Prequel Novel

This web of spoilery secrets, from the Spider-Man Hostile Takeover prequel novel, will boost your hype levels for Spider-Man PS4...

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

Hey there, True Believers. The long-awaited Spider-Man PS4 game will web-sling its way onto shelves on September 7th, and it promises to deliver an epic open world filled with iconic characters at every turn. It is, quite simply, one of the most hotly anticipated games in recent memory, with fans around the globe hoping for an experience that surpasses the as-yet-unmatched excellence of the Spider-Man 2 tie-in game.

If you simply can’t wait until September 7th to visit the world of Spider-Man on PS4, you’re in luck: David Liss has penned a prequel novel, entitled Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover, which will allow you to learn an awful lot about this game before you first load it up.

The book is available for pre-order now as a paperback and a Kindle download, ahead of its release on August 21st. We were lucky enough to check out a preview copy, which managed to make us even more hyped for the game itself. 

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Spidey isn’t sure about his future

If you’ve been following the pre-release hype train for Spider-Man PS4, you’ll know that its take on Peter Parker is not a rookie superhero or a high school student. A lot further down the superhero road than Tom Holland’s Marvel Cinematic Universe version, Spider-Man PS4’s protagonist (who’s voiced by Yuri Lowenthal) has been Spidey for eight years. His suit is very snazzy, and his fighting style is honed to perfection.

Despite really knowing his stuff, this seasoned Spidey is conflicted about his role in the world. He has a history with the NYPD, but is glad to find new allies over the course of the book. He’s locked up numerous villains over the years, but he’s also seen some walk free. Spidey even considers, at one point, planning his retirement from the superhero scene. He reckons that he might be able to hang up his web-shooters for good in a year and a half’s time.

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Spending such a long stint of his life as Spider-Man has had an effect on Peter Parker. He is just about holding down a job as a lab technician for an important science company, but at various stages in the book he lets his bosses down by shirking work to fight crime. The company works on projects that benefit mankind, such as building super smart replacement limbs for amputees, and Peter laments that he can’t spend more time at his desk. It’ll be interesting to see if this struggle, and the idea of superhero retirement, rears its head again in the game.

Classic characters, fresh roles

Hostile Takeover also makes it clear that supporting characters will play important roles in Spider-Man PS4. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is Mary Jane Watson, who undertakes a career change in the book and starts a new job as a features writer for the Daily Bugle.

Her initial beat is culture and events, but MJ makes it clear that New York’s criminal element – mainly Wilson Fisk’s machinations as the Kingpin – is what she really wants to be writing about. MJ’s interest in Fisk drives a wedge between her and Peter, who were dating at the start of the book but seemingly separated by the end of it. This subplot from the book makes it easier to understand why MJ is a playable character in the game that has been sneaking around a lot in the trailers. (Interesting side note: in the book, MJ is the only person that knows Spidey’s secret identity.)

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Other familiar characters who take on new roles here are J. Jonah Jameson (who goes from former newspaper man to shock jock podcast host over the course of the book) and Aunt May (who, rather than being another damsel in distress for Peter and his alter-ego to look out for, is actively helping the community by working at a homeless shelter named Feast). NYPD Captain Yuri Watanabe, who becomes the superhero Wraith in the comics, also has a key part to play in the book: she’s leading the official investigation into Fisk, and working with Spidey to gather evidence.

All in all, it seems like Spider-Man PS4 will be something of an ensemble piece, with numerous characters having meaningful tasks to complete. This is a world that feels properly inhabited, unlike, say, the Arkham Asylum games (where Gotham is usually deserted and Batman seems to be the only person doing anything).

Villains aplenty, and more to follow

Fisk is the main baddie in Hostile Takeover, but so many more menaces are mentioned. This makes sense, of course, given that Spidey must’ve fought a fair few foes in his eight years of activity. Shocker makes an appearance at one stage in the book, and Scorpion and Electro are both said to be locked up at The Raft super prison. Roxxon, a morally bankrupt company from the comics, are also referenced. The big-headed gangster Tombstone is active at the moment, as well.

At one point, Spidey goes to a villain-stuffed bar to search for intel. We’re really hoping that this location, which reminded us of the Villain Pub from the How It Should’ve Ended series on YouTube, is available to visit in the game.

Some villainous characters from the comics show up in the book without appearing to be evil as of yet. Norman Osborn, for example, is the mayor of New York and a rival of Fisk’s, but there is no reference made to the Green Goblin. Harry Osborn, similarly, seems to be a fairly normal guy at this point in his life: he’s plotting a trip to Europe during the book, and Peter describes his old friend Harry as an “all-round good person.” There is a reference to Harry having a shaky hand at one point, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s on the Goblin serum.

Martin Li, who is known to comic book fans as the fearsome Mr. Negative, appears to be a totally charming do-gooder during his one brief appearance in the book. He is a benefactor of the Feast shelter where Aunt May is working, and he even encourages Peter to volunteer. If you’ve seen any of the Spider-Man PS4 trailers, though, you’ll know that Spidey and Mr. Negative are set for a sizeable scrape in the near future. And if you’ve read any comics with Mr. Negative in them, you’ll know that duality is a key part of his character.

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And as a potentially noteworthy sidebar, Hostile Takeover doesn’t include any references to Doctor Octopus. The tentacled terror has long been rumored as the mystery villain at the heart of Spider-Man PS4’s E3 trailer, but we’ll just have to wait and play the game to find out if that’s the case.

Fisk and Spidey have a history

Earlier on in his superhero career, Spider-Man put Wilson Fisk briefly behind bars. The Kingpin’s lawyers found legal loopholes, though, so the master criminal was released. This significant setback is one of the reasons why Spidey isn’t so sure about his future or his usefulness. Spidey is determined to put Fisk back in prison permanently, and this is the only real goal he has before wanting to retire from heroics.

The difficulty, though, is that Fisk has put a lot of time and effort in appearing legit. He’s even launched a housing scheme to support low-income locals. It’s hard to gather evidence to prove that Fisk is still up to no good, not least because the Kingpin uses Roxxon muscle to spy on judges – and other important officials – to ensure he has leverage on all of his potential enemies. The one judge that does side with Spidey soon ends up dead.

Kingpin is also managing a smear campaign against Spidey during the book. He employs an imposter (who was given powers by an Oscorp experiment) to run around in a Spidey suit that’s almost identical to the real thing. This imposter, later revealed to be a deranged criminal named Bingham, blows up a restaurant and kills the innocent people within it. Bingham, who gives himself the comics-referencing name Blood Spider, is eventually defeated by Spidey and put in prison. Bingham is still alive, though, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the game.

Fisk also has an adopted daughter in the book; a deaf woman with expert martial arts skills, named Maya Lopez, who Fisk took into his care after killing her mobster father. Maya is initially obsessed with taking down Spidey, because Fisk pinned the blame for her dad’s death on the wall-crawler. But Maya learns the truth when Spidey shows her the relevant police file, and, as a result, she decides to fight by his side as a superhero named Echo.

Maya leaves town at the end of the book, having helped Spidey to stop Fisk’s latest scheme. Fisk was trying to blackmail Norman Osborn into giving him an official role as the city’s finance minister. Fisk reckoned that nabbing a governmental title and grabbing control of the city’s purse strings would make him “too big to fail”, but Maya destroyed the memory stick containing the blackmail. We never learn what the information on the memory stick entailed, but it is interesting to know that Fisk had something on Osborn. Again, we wouldn’t be surprised if that subplot reared its head again in the game.

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Spidey isn’t the only hero in town

Spidey and Echo aren’t the only comic book heroes to be referenced in the Hostile Takeover book, either. It is made abundantly clear that numerous Marvel Comics characters inhabit this world. There are references and allusion all over the place, all of which support the popular fan theory that Spider-Man PS4 could spawn a shared universe of Marvel-inspired video games.

Early on the book, a criminal confuses Spidey for Daredevil, which confirms without a doubt that The Man Without Fear exists in this world. This has us hoping that we could see these iconic red-suited heroes crossing paths, either in this game or a future title from Insomniac. (Just the possibility of that is enough to bring back fond memories of Daredevil’s cameo in Spidey’s first PS1 game.)

The Spider-Man PS4 prequel book also makes reference to Avengers Tower and the Wakandan Embassy, both of which exist in this version of New York. That’s all the confirmation we need that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Black Panther inhabit in the same world as this video game version of Spidey.

Spidey also makes reference, during Hostile Takeover, to an old house on Bleecker Street that always gives him the creeps. He doesn’t seem to know that Doctor Strange famously lives on this road, within the iconic Sanctum Sanctorum. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Strange will show up in the game, of course, but it’s still a nice little Easter Egg.

With any luck, this game will do a huge amount of business, enabling Insomniac to invest in more high-end video games based on the Marvel universe. We know that Black Cat, Miles Morales, and Silver Sable are slated to appear in the Spider-Man PS4 game (despite not being mentioned in the book), but there are so many other Marvel characters that also deserve a glossy game adaptation.

Web-slinging is great, but you also need to be stealthy

There are a few snippets in the book that tease what Spider-Man PS4’s gameplay will be like. Early on, for instance, Spidey explains that he has communications systems built into hit suit, which allow him to take calls and catch up with his contacts while fighting crooks at the same time. This read like a reference to the game itself, where presumably Spidey will field calls on the regular. (Can’t you just imagine Peter trying to talk normally to Aunt May while also taking down street thugs?)

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His Spidey-sense is also mentioned, with the wall-crawler describing it as sometimes being “on automatic.” This makes him “barely aware” that he’s changing direction. Perhaps this is a reference to the game will work: if he builds up enough focus, will Spidey be able to dodge bullets and avoid enemies without much direction from the player?

Stealth also seems to be a key component in this Spidey’s heroic activity. When he sneakily breaks into Fisk’s HQ, for example, Spider-Man has to web up the relevant security cameras and jam them into a specific position in order to pass by unseen. And in another chapter when he’s infiltrating a gala, Spidey picks the wrong moment to drop down from the ceiling and is immediately set upon by gunmen.

During an exterior scene, Spidey offers a brief description of his car-pursuing tactics. In the old PS2 games, Spidey could land on any car roof without endangering his mission. But now, if Spidey doesn’t stay stealthy during chase-based tasks, he’ll be beeped at by drivers and lose the element of surprise.

And, perhaps most excitingly, Spidey describes the experience of web-slinging as “alive and electric.” Swinging around the city makes him “full of the joy of movement and action.” We can’t wait to experience this for ourselves, as it’s been far too long since we experienced those kinetic joys on a PlayStation.

The Fisk takedown is the game’s first level

In the final chapters of the book, Spidey teams up with Echo to defeat Bingham and destroy Fisk’s memory stick of blackmail materials. Now that he doesn’t have any leverage against Osborn, Fisk’s plan to hostilely takeover the city’s finances has well and truly been thwarted. This clears the path for Captain Watanabe to finish putting together her watertight file on Fisk’s criminal activity.

In the epilogue to the book, Peter is awoken in his untidy apartment by a phone call from Watanabe. She’s calling to alert Spidey, who’s become her ally over the course of the book, that she’s heading to Fisk Tower with a warrant to take the big guy into custody. This time, it should stick.

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Spidey asks how he can help, and Watanabe gives him some instructions: the wall-crawler should head to Times Square and hold off Fisk’s goons, while Watanabe and her NYPD colleagues go into Kingpin’s building and make the arrest. Excitedly swinging towards the scene to put Fisk away for the second time, Spidey absolutely jinxes his immediate future with the final words of the book. Assuming that he’s about to set the city straight, Spidey thinks to himself, “Life couldn’t get any crazier, right?”

Having read a few reports by lucky folk who’ve already played the first few hours of Spider-Man PS4, it sounds like Spidey being summoned into action to assist with the takedown of Fisk is exactly where the game begins. What Spidey doesn’t know, at least when the book finishes, is that putting Fisk away will actually awaken the city’s criminal element. Fisk was – in his own weird way – keeping a lot of bad people in check.

Things are indeed about to get a whole lot crazier for ol’ web-head, and we can’t wait to play through the mayhem for ourselves. Here’s hoping for a game that somehow lives up to our skyscraper-high expectations, which just swung up to heady new heights thanks to this prequel book’s teases.

You can pre-order the Spider-Man PS4 game right here. 

Here’s the cover of the book…