The Heist is Insomniac’s first Spider-Man DLC, and their first attempt to follow up on the story and universe they created with the main game. The main game was amazing, with outstanding controls and a new Spider-Universe that played with the existing setting to make it a joy to discover. What does the DLC do to expand on this success? Bring in another one of Spidey’s classic and most morally ambiguous villains, Black Cat.
The story is treated more like an extended side quest than a full-on new campaign. Interweaving storylines have been replaced with a much more focused story: Black Cat is back to crime and Spider-Man has to stop/help her. To that end, most of the Peter Parker sections of getting sleep and paying rent are left by the wayside to show only the important bits that progress the Black Cat narrative. Even the cast is tiny; There are really only 3 characters and an additional fourth who drives the plot but doesn’t bother showing his face to do so. The pace is faster and the story is tighter, managing to still tell a fulfilling story in its compressed timeframe. Watching the drama unfold and wreak havoc on both Peter and Spidey gives fans the dual narrative that comes hand in hand with any good Spider-Man story.
What does remain from the original campaign is the fleshed-out backstory that makes every character interaction interesting. Because these characters have already had such an extensive past together, the problems spawning from their reunion are more elaborate than if they were two strangers meeting for the first time. Spider-Man isn’t just dealing with a thief on the loose, but also the lasting impact their first confrontation had on his life. Add to that the fact that the relationship isn’t totally adversarial or friendly, and the story unfolds with plenty of tugs on both sides of that rope. The story toys with Pete’s emotions and sense of justice in its own way that make it differentiate from the game itself.
The Heist adds some new wrinkles into the existing gameplay, though they aren’t as substantial as one might hope. Some of the story missions introduce different objectives and different enemies from what’s been offered before, and it’s nice to have a little more variety in the game. It’s exciting to discover the new crimes, challenges, and hidden objects that replace the city’s existing offerings, as each is different from what the main game offered. These are fine as far as giving players additional Spider-Man content, but there’s no standout new mechanic or challenge that helps this DLC feel iconic and special in its own right. There are no new upgrades or gadgets, and even the new costumes don’t come with suit powers. What is new is given in such small chunks that it’s hard to experience it to its full potential. Fresh mechanics are contained in one specific activity or story mission, not granting a lot of time to explore the possibilities.
Apart from the new bits, The Heist feels like a highlight reel of making sure everything from the main campaign is still present in some form here. Fans hoping to have been freed from MJ stealth sections or science puzzles will be disappointed to learn that they’re back and the same as ever. There’s even a section or two where Spider-Man is forced to free roam because he’s waiting for the story to do something. These help the DLC feel like a true extension of the game that preceded it, but nobody came out of that game demanding more MJ stealth sections.
For some reason, The Heist is separated off from the rest of the game and given a different New York map to work in. All the Sable Crimes, Research Stations, and Hideouts left undone during the main story can’t be accessed or even seen while playing The Heist. It’s a completely separate map, though identical to the original. On one hand, this is a blessing; Navigating your way around Sable Rockets and Escaped Criminals at the end of the main campaign was challenging enough, and it’s nice not to deal with it anymore. However, this separation makes The Heist feel empty. With so much less to do and deal with in the city, the massive environment feels boring. The main campaign ended with the city jam-packed with objectives, so returning to it and finding a sparse city is disappointing.
There are also more bugs and glitches than there were in the first story as well. At several points, the game was still in the “loading and changing it to night” screen when the cutscene began anyways and the only visible parts were muted subtitles. By the time the loading was completed, the mission had been started. I missed the entire pizza scene because the game thought it was important to show me how pretty NYC was going from daytime to nighttime. It doesn’t ruin the experience and this could be a very uncommon glitch, but the story was a lot harder to follow when the beginning of every cutscene showed the skyline.
The Heist is smaller than what you’re probably expecting, but it’s still more Spider-Man content that can fill the void left by a platinum trophy. The new content and new mechanics make it a slightly different experience than the main campaign, but nothing changes too much to really shake things up. The most important part, the story, is great and different from what Spidey has dealt with in this universe so far. It’s worth warning, however, that it’s clear this DLC is intended to be played as part of the trilogy rather than an isolated experience. At the end of the day, The Heist is more of Insomniac’s Spider-Man, and that’s hard to argue against.