One thing that's interesting and cool about superhero video games is that the most popular superheroes don't kill their enemies. That's how most video games handle conflict resolution: You kill the bad guys. The best example of this is one of my favorite video games, 2016’s Doom, in which the Doomslayer gleefully murders his way to victory, even when more sensible solutions are possible.
Superman, on the other hand, could melt Lex Luthor's head with his eyes or fly through 100 henchmen’s torsos at the speed of light, chopping them in half, but he doesn't, because he's an American hero or whatever. The same is true for Marvel's Spider-Man, a PlayStation 4 exclusive we at Motherboard generally liked a lot and that is already proving to be a huge critical and commercial success.
Spider-Man's schtick is that he's a cool and friendly New Yorker, which means that, unlike the NYPD, he doesn't choke people to death on the streets of New York City without a trial. He'll mess them up by kicking them in the face, webbing them up to lampposts, and electrifying them until they’re unconscious, but he won’t outright kill anyone.
However, now that the game is out and people are playing it, some have expressed concern that Spidey is committing murder.
Since Marvel’s Spider-Man is all about swinging around Manhattan, much of the game's fights with criminals take place on the roofs of skyscrapers. In these fights, it’s actually a good strategy to kick people off the roof, and there are specific combat moves in the game that facilitate tossing bad guys to oblivion. Players can web up bad guys and whip them around their heads in a circle before throwing them off, or punch them high into the air, then swing kick them to hell.
Perhaps not without reason, some players have assumed that when bad guys are thrown off the roof of a skyscraper by a mutant with super-strength, they die. I had the same thought when I played the game prior to release. Surely, no one is going to survive a fall from the top of the MetLife building. I immediately emailed Sony's public relations team to ask: Is Spider-Man a murderer? The answer was quick and clear cut.
"Insomniac [the game's developer] has confirmed that Spider-Man never kills anyone in the game," a Sony representative said. "He is a protector. For the guys that get thrown off the building, there are contingency animations where they’re brought back to safety/webbed up."
I went back into the game to confirm, and Sony's explanation checks out. If you jump down after a bad guy that you just kicked off the roof, you'll see that he will spontaneously be pulled by a web and stuck to a wall before being liquified on impact with the pavement.
Danny O'Dwyer, the creator of the No Clip video game documentaries, got good footage of this:
Good save, Insomniac, but it still doesn't make sense, really. Is Spider-Man attaching a web tripmine—one of the game’s many gadgets—to these bad guys with his big toe as he kicks them off the roof? Is the device equipped with a speedometer that activates once these bad guys reach terminal velocity? How does it find a surface to attach to?
Also, and I've reported this "bug" to Sony, I've definitely kicked bad guys off the roofs of shorter buildings, say 5-10 stories, and watched them plonk on the sidewalk, at which point they stopped moving. To me, they looked dead. Another player has also shared footage of Spider-Man webbing a bad guy to an armored truck that then explodes:
And this is all after we accept the fact that Spider-Man beating the living shit out people doesn't kill them. He's strong enough to lift a helicopter, but when he's pummeling escaped convicts like they owe him money they somehow survive?
It seems unlikely if you think about it seriously, but that's true about most video games. In the Arkham games, Batman also folded bad guys’ bones like origami without ever killing them somehow. It's not a problem that diminshes the game in any form, and the same is true for Marvel’s Spider-Man. All video game require players to suspend their disbelief at times.
If anything, the problem is that Sony turned Spider-Man into a cop.