Okay, “criticise” might be too harsh a word. Analyse? Scrutinise? Twitterise? You may not be aware, but something of a debate has been taking place on the webosphere after a series of screenshots from the upcoming Spider-Man title found their way online, probably from slightly mischievous review sources who have early access to the game. Anyway, the eagle-eyed, never-forgetting surfers of the net (of which I am a proud member) quickly noticed that something was amiss with the Spider-Man graphics. And it was mostly to do with puddles.
Here’s how the news, uhh, leaked…
Now, the internet’s main gripe with these still cool-looking images is that there is a noticeable difference in visual quality between the footage that has been used to promote the game and the footage from the Spider-Man retail copy. (In case you’re still wondering, the retail version is on the right. You know, the one with FEWER PUDDLES.) The follow-on from this is a web-wide suspicion that the latest console adventure from Insomniac Games has undergone something of a visual downgrade in the latter stages of development.
This is something that Insomniac firmly denies, with the developer stating on Twitter that this is “just a change in puddle size” and reassuring nervous Spidey fans that “there’s no downgrade at all.”
Community Director James Stevenson has also joined the Twitter debate, saying: “There is no downgrade. The sun moved during the course of development, which changed the lighting in the scene, and we reduced the amount of puddles there. Please enjoy the hour of amazing footage we’ve released since E3 illustrating this.”
Certainly, anyone hoping to make a splash with this story has already done so, with many gaming websites weighing in to offer their thoughts.
Me? Well, the Spider-Man graphics are not something I feel overly passionate about, as this isn’t a game I’m likely to play. Moreover, as someone who is largely indifferent to all-things Marvel and DC, I look at this purely as an objective outsider and, yes, I have to agree – at a glance it would appear that the visual quality has been slightly scaled back.
What I’ve found most interesting about this discussion is the slightly click-baity / sensationalist / slightly untrue headlines that have emerged from Puddlegate. Generic example: “Spider-Man fans are OUTRAGED. Over a puddle.” Which is yeaaaahhhhhhh, sliiiightly true – but not entirely. Actually, the internet is speculating whether a product has been advertised as being somewhat better than it actually is – which is not an unreasonable topic. If you order a 7UP in a bar and are handed an Orangina, which you then return, you wouldn’t expect the waiter to go, “Wha? All this fuss over some fruit!” He’d probably end up with that fruit over his head…
For console gamers, especially, these details matter; graphical quality is one of the factors that is often used to weigh-up a potential purchase. Nobody ever bought a Nintendo Switch expecting it to deliver a Witcher 3-level experience. But the PS4 Pro, whose games promise to “explode into life with intensely sharp graphics” with “stunningly vibrant colours” and “environments [that] come alive like never before” – at a price tag of around £300 / $400 – can reasonably be expected to make The Witcher 3 look like the bees knees. And ditto Spider-Man.
In addition, there is some precedent for this situation. Watch Dogs looked almost photo-realistic in its promotional videos, and it was only after the title hit the shelves that gamers realised the developers maaaaay have over-promised on its visual potential. Indeed, Eurogamer concluded as much in a very detailed analysis in 2014. Furthermore, as much as it pains me to say it, there were similar (and justifiable) accusations levelled at the troubled No Man’s Sky when it launched in 2016, although I think it’s fair to say that the game has since redeemed itself in the time that has elapsed.
The point I am trying to make is that not all gaming enthusiasts are crazy, hyper-emotional, blinkered, picky, scruffy-looking nerf herders (although some of us are…) I think that the Spider-Man graphics debate is healthy and necessary one to have. That being said, that’s not a free license for tweeters to troll the poor developers online forever and a day! But let’s at least admit that those who have posted comparison screenshots have undoubtedly spotted ‘something.’ I guess we’ll find out what this is when the game releases on September 7th.
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