Cheat codes appear to have fallen by the wayside in modern gaming, but they were almost inescapable in games of the 1990s and 2000s. Neversoft was a developer that was particularly enthusiastic about including cheats in games, as evidenced by the immensely popular Tony Hawk games as well as the 2000 Spider-Man release. Mods have made characters like Aunt May playable in Marvel’s Spider-Man, and they can generally allow for some memorable and enjoyable gameplay changes, but it’s hard to beat the charm and creativity of cheat codes designed by the developers themselves.
Before starting a session of Neversoft’s Spider-Man, players could access a cheat code input screen. The cheat codes themselves were often clever and or served as Easter eggs (Stan Lee’s famous catchphrase “XSELSIOR” is the cheat for level-select, for instance), and their effects could range from practical to absurd and hilarious. There are predictable cheats that offer buffs like unlimited health or double damage, but there are also codes for wackier tweaks like “Big Head Mode” (another famous staple from Neversoft’s Tony Hawk games). These cheats allowed for more freedom in gameplay alongside silly and enjoyable adjustments, and they would have been a great addition to Marvel’s Spider-Man, which could serve to loosen up a bit.
Neversoft’s Story Was More Colorful Than Marvel’s Spider-Man
To be fair, Marvel’s Spider-Man has the best Peter Parker of any Spider-Man game, and pound-for-pound, its story is considerably better than Neversoft’s. That said, Neversoft’s Spider-Man was far more reminiscent of classic comic books and cartoons, and crossed over with the wider Marvel universe in more tangible ways. Marvel’s Spider-Man, conversely, is more reserved and character-driven, taking the web-slinger in a new direction, but potentially at the expense of a classic Spidey team-up.
Because it was one of the first big-budget, narrative-focused Spider-Man game, Neversoft’s outing had no choice but to be bold in its narrative decisions. For instance, the central conflict of the story centers on a convoluted Spider-Man imposter plot, one that would have been interesting to see translated to Marvel’s Spider-Man (beyond the game’s brief side-mission involving a Spider-Man imposter). The story of this impersonator becomes unpredictable and strange, and while Marvel’s Spider-Man made good changes with characters like Mary-Jane, some more bizarre story beats would have been welcome.
Marvel’s Spider-Man Could Have Used Neversoft’s Linear Levels
The highly detailed and graphically impressive rendition of Manhattan featured in Marvel’s Spider-Man is one of the game’s highlights, and many would agree that it simply wouldn’t have been the same without it. This makes sense, as a Spider-Man game with a robust and expressive traversal system greatly benefits from being open-world. Still, there are aspects of Neversoft’s approach to level design that would have benefitted Marvel’s Spider-Man.
Self-contained missions and challenges are not uncommon in Marvel’s Spider-Man, as players are regularly tasked with infiltrating enemy lairs and engaging in other activities in enclosed spaces. While these sections are enjoyable and many interior areas house some of Marvel’s Spider-Man‘s best hidden details, they do suffer from a bit of repetition; these levels are generally focused solely on stealth and standard (if well-polished) beat-em-up gameplay, with notable moments coming from various boss encounters and city-spanning chase segments.
Neversoft’s Spider-Man, by comparison, provided significantly more variety with its levels, as each area was distinct in terms of both visuals and gameplay. Players would have to move forward in a given direction and face ever-increasing challenges, and these challenges would be interspersed with action-packed set pieces that kept monotony and boredom at bay. Meanwhile, many of Marvel’s Spider-Man most memorable gameplay moments come from the open world, which is great, but the inclusion of a few more diverse, scripted levels could have made things more interesting.
Granted, the level design of Neversoft’s level design is quite dated, but Insomniac could have taken the core principles of its levels and polished them up for modern gaming audiences. Spider-Verse-esque Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions proved that there is a place for a modern, linear Spider-Man game, so mixing in some of Neversoft’s level design philosophy with Insomniac’s stellar approach to open-world and traversal gameplay could have proven to be a hit. If done right, Marvel’s Spider-Man could have had moments rivaling other contemporary linear games like Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us.
Overall, Marvel’s Spider-Man was an undeniable success in terms of both sales and game design, bringing the beloved superhero into the modern era of gaming. While its narrative and gameplay are both fantastic, stepping further outside of the box and experimenting with tone, plot points, and special features like cheats could have made these aspects even better. If the sequel to Marvel’s Spider-Man can take a few notes from Neversoft’s classic game, then it could become one of the most memorable superhero games of all time.