Spider-Man’s first piece of DLC was a welcome surprise. The Heist gave us a different look at Peter Parker, properly introduced the Black Cat, and kicked an intriguing plot into motion. Turf Wars, the second episode, is poised to pick up after that shocking cliffhanger ending and continue Spider-Man’s greatness into its post-launch releases. And while it does have the core combat, swinging, and a bit of the personality that lifted the main game, Turf Wars is a relatively tame middle chapter with only a few notable events.
Turf Wars, like its name implies, is drowned in the chaos following the events of The Heist that compromised New York’s criminal families. Hammerhead is leading the charge to overtake the other syndicates to come out on top, headbutting and shooting anyone that gets in his way. Spider-Man has to not only stop Hammerhead and his ruthless game but every other criminal scumbag defending their turf and looking to make that hard-headed lunatic sleep with the fishes.
Spider-Man Turf Wars DLC Review – Disorganized Crime
This setup isn’t a prime premise for involved storytelling especially when compared to the previous episode’s personal plot. Whereas the main game and The Heist had a emotional core and depth that served as the narrative bedrock for the whole game, Turf Wars isn’t quite as deep. Most of the missions hardly have any character building, instead relying on Hammerhead’s trite schemes as the primary motivation to keep moving. Your main mission is to stop that metalheaded mafia mook and that goal rarely becomes more complicated than following the by-the-numbers breadcrumb trail that he leaves for you.
The Heist was impressive because it laced the grand story with in a bunch of small character touches in the span of only a few hours. Spider-Man demolishing a pizza and his realistic discussion with Mary Jane were among the highlights that grounded the game in a way reminiscent of the campaign’s best moments. Turf Wars is comparable to a large portion of the other downloadable content out there that doesn’t make the space for intimate moments that good narrative needs to succeed.
It does attempt to give Yuri, Spider-Man’s cop friend, more complexity but her arc is quite rushed. Her behavior swings drastically from one extreme to the other within the two-hour runtime and the reason why is locked behind the new Hammerhead fortress side activities in the hub world. If you don’t complete all of them, it makes her actions seem even more irrational and random. While it is important to make side missions that reveal more about the characters, the information you learn from the fortresses seems vital in a way that should have been handled in the main storyline.
Spider-Man Turf Wars DLC Review – Swinging Into Its Comfort Zone
Turf Wars isn’t a total narrative misstep though as it does still have some of the Spider-Man signature charm. Spidey continues to be a lovable goof, J. Jonah Jameson is a hilarious crackpot yet again, and Miles Morales’ curiosity plays as wholesome banter in the moment as well as tantalizing sequel bait we will likely see more of in the long run. The problem is that there just isn’t enough of it and what is there takes a backseat to chasing down Hammerhead who barely gets to make a compelling case for his actions. Turf Wars might be seen in the future as a necessary stepping stone for a thrilling finale since there are some unanswered questions, but it could have still used a better, more detailed focus on its endearing cast.
Spider-Man does still know how to swing webs and swing fists as well as ever. He controls exactly the same as he did in the main game and that parkour-based combat and traversal still juggles complexity and accessibility quite incredibly. Turf Wars also introduces one new enemy type that sits between the brutes and the regular grunts. Having a new mid-tier foe that is a solid combination of two existing enemies is welcome but there’s only so much one new punching bag can bring to the fighting sequences.
Spider-Man Turf Wars DLC Review – An Expansion That Doesn’t Expand
Like the first episode, this second installment also has no new abilities or any additional toys and is as disappointing as it was last time. It’s the same ol’ Spidey that we’ve spent around 30 hours playing as. Expansions have the responsibility of actually expanding upon the gameplay and story and failing to expand upon the gameplay half is a missed opportunity. Even the new suits—which look fantastic—have no new powers or associated gameplay features. And while there are a couple additional crimes, tweaks to the Screwball side missions, and a new instant-fail stealth sequence, they game is still mostly the same.
The open world is also once again segmented into its own separate corner away from the main campaign and The Heist. Isolating Turf Wars makes the entire experience less cohesive since you can’t bounce between side missions from the main game the DLC episodes. Rather than being one cohesive world, it’s chopped into chunks that needlessly separate each part of the game. The Heist had the same exact issue and it’s one that’s likely to be repeated in the final episode and be just as disconnecting.
Turf Wars is a minor step backwards because of the high bar set by the main game and the prior episode. It set up a story worthy of telling and had a promising ending that this installment doesn’t quite squander, but meanders through. As a middle chapter, some of the threads may make more sense when paired with the bigger picture. But it doesn’t quite stand on its own eight feet. Sublime combat, unmatched traversal, a captivating cast, and potential for a satisfying finale are enough to revisit Spider-Man even if all the narrative beats don’t quite live up to the game’s past efforts. And if the next episode doesn’t make good on this episode, then it will be sadly be quite easy to forget about it fugetaboutit and the potential it fumbled halfway through.