Insomniac made an interesting claim about Marvel’s Spider-Man 2  in a new interview with Inverse. As they put it, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 had sandbox elements.

Creative director Brian Intihar makes the case for it this way:

“If you go back to the gameplay reveal that we did, the Miles section, when he’s sneaking around the fish market, he creates a web line. Then he throws a new gadget out called the web grabber. It brings all the enemies together, smashes them together.

And that sets him up to do a big lightning, ground-pound move that he does. That’s that sandbox nature of taking all these toys and letting people try them out. We just want players to improvise with the experience, whether it’s Ratchet & Clank, whether it’s Resistance, and now Spider-Man.”

Some gamers will dispute this characterization of Insomniac’s Games, since it doesn’t fit the typical definition of a sandbox game. Minecraft and Roblox are closer to what we think of when we say sandbox games, because these games offer the ability to not only create things in the game, but to improvise their own game experiences. While many Minecraft and Roblox are happy to play levels made by other players, they can just as well choose to just wing it for one play session and just come up with things to do on the fly.

The kind of sandbox gameplay Insomniac is referring to is closer to the type that we saw in the likes of Grand Theft Auto III and Deus Ex. These games are not as free-form as Minecraft and Roblox. They have predetermined goals, and an overarching structure with levels and story beats. But the sandbox emerges from the coming together of several systems interacting with each other.

There’s no practical reason to gate away what is or isn’t a sandbox, but it’s clear that these are different kinds of experiences. For Insomniac, what matters is the sense of freedom that they can afford to players to be spontaneous.

In Insomniac’s defense, it has become more and more popular to include precisely this kind of gameplay to more of these single player story based games. The likes of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Starfield, Horizon: Forbidden West, and The Last of Us 2, are call cited as games that have this kind of sandbox, open ended design. And of course, it’s clear that these games are hardly like each other, but what they share in here is a shift if game design, that we may see even more of in even more AAAs in the coming years.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 will be releasing on October 20, 2023 exclusively on the PlayStation 5.

 Insomniac argues that they have made Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 a sandbox game, by adding new gameplay elements that encourage creativity.  Read More