Turf Wars, the second leg of Marvel’s Spider-Man: The City That Never Sleeps DLC saga, is a departure from the main adventure and even last month’s DLC, The Heist. Whereas the campaign and The Heist had strong narrative arcs with interesting dynamics between its characters, Turf Wars underwhelms in this respect. The combat is still top-notch and a few of the missions feature some of the most chaotic and challenging scenarios Marvel’s Spider-Man has offered thus far. In the end, though, Turf Wars, like many middle entries in trilogies, feels like filler. Fun filler that hints at a grand conclusion, at least.
Referenced frequently throughout The Heist, Spider-Man villain Hammerhead makes his first appearance in Insomniac’s excellent take on Spidey. Hammerhead looks just as brutish and nefarious as you’d expect him to, and he’s wreaking havoc across New York City with his large team of underlings — and the help of Sable International technology.
You play as Spider-Man of course, but this story really isn’t about our hero. Instead, the story centers on police chief Yuri Watanabe, who is out for revenge against Hammerhead. Turf Wars is very short with a handful of main missions that can be completed in two hours or less. Anything more concrete I say about the story would feel like spoilers. Unfortunately, Turf Wars focuses too intimately on this arc, leaving little room for the other characters to grow. Mary Jane doesn’t have a main role, nor is she ever seen on screen. And besides one lone, though funny, conversation with Miles, the bond between Peter and Miles isn’t advanced.
Adding to the disappointing story is that Hammerhead isn’t nearly as compelling of a character as the other villains in the game. One of the standout aspects of Marvel’s Spider-Man so far has been its ability to humanize its villains, from Martin Li to Doctor Octavius to Norman Osborn to Black Cat. All of them had nuance. Hammerhead is just bad for the sake of it at this point.
The main missions themselves are pretty good, but like The Heist, they aren’t as good as the ones in the main campaign. The Heist focused heavily on the Spider-bot as a gameplay tool. In Turf Wars, the Spider-bot still has a big role in one mission, but the new wrinkle is listening in on conversations by lining up wavelengths like you did in some of the campaign puzzle sequences. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t all that exciting of an addition, but it’s still nice to see the gameplay tweaked a tad.
Like The Heist, Turf Wars adds a new enemy type: Electric shield-bearing dudes. Similar to the large minigun-carrying guys, they are tough to take down. Every few seconds, they hover slightly above the ground and bolt quickly via jetpack in your direction. If you get hit or touched by the trail they leave behind, you temporarily lose the ability to use gadgets. Knocking them down requires perfect dodges and deft gadget play, which sometimes can be a tall order considering how many enemies are thrown at you at once. The epic, large-scale battles against every enemy type in the game thus far is where Turf Wars excels. It’s really satisfying to chain together long combos, carefully utilizing all of your gadgets and nimble Spidey moves to avoid taking damage that can become deadly in a hurry.
Along with the main missions, there are Hammerhead hideouts and Screwball challenges to partake in. The Hammerhead hideouts play out almost exactly like all the other hideout side missions in the game. Still, these are some of the best, thanks to a slightly more difficult onslaught of enemies. Screwball, the annoying social media star, again asks you to take part in her challenges to please her followers. The challenges are largely variations on previous challenges. For example, in one challenge you have to silently take out all the enemies, but if you take them out in the spotlight you can earn a higher score, which is necessary to achieve the highest rank. Three new suits have been added with Turf Wars, including the really cool animated Spider-Clan suit hailing from Marvel’s Mangaverse.
Even though Turf Wars is the low point for Marvel’s Spider-Man, you should absolutely play it if you enjoyed the main game. In terms of season pass content, The City That Never Sleeps is better than most add-on single player content in modern games so far. There’s reason to believe that Silver Lining, the farewell for Marvel’s Spider-Man, will find a way to tie the arcs from The Heist and Turf Wars together to create a fitting postscript for a truly incredible game. Turf Wars, despite its flaws, is a necessary segment of the overall story.