Marvel 1943: Rise of Hydra needs to avoid Insomniac's Spider-Man's biggest flaw

Marvel 1943: Rise of Hydra needs to avoid Insomniac's Spider-Man's biggest flaw
Image via Insomniac Games | Skydance New Media

Written by 

Joseph Kime


2nd Apr 2024 15:23

We’re no strangers to Marvel games at this point, with their appearance being peppered throughout the history of video games, but it seems as though the last decade has truly brought them into focus. The appearance of the MCU stoked fresh interest in the superheroes of Marvel, with Marvel’s Spider-Man offering immense hope for the superhero games once again, before Marvel’s Avengers swiftly stomped out the thought that simply having the company’s name in the title would be a sure thing. Either way, hopes remain high as Spider-Man dominates, and as Wolverine and Blade wait in the wings to prove themselves. And now, a new competitor has pulled up alongside them.

We’ve been offered our first official look at Marvel’s 1943: Rise of Hydra, a narrative game set during World War II that charts (you guessed it) the dominance of Hydra, the comic universe’s Nazi-ridden terrorist group that has spent decades seeping into the baddies and goodies of Marvel alike. The game is looking immensely compelling, especially as it proves in its narrative trailer that it’s a visual powerhouse in its cinematics - but there’s one issue that could come to define the title before it’s even had the chance to spring to life.

Marvel 1943 could have a serious MJ problem

Marvel's Spider-Man 2's MJ in shock.
Click to enlarge
Image via Insomniac Games

Even the very best superhero games end up forgetting themselves, delving into fresh perspectives to keep players on their toes, but in doing so, they strip players of the power that they come to the games for and cause a harsh dichotomy between reasonable choices and what a fan wants. It’s this issue that Marvel 1943 runs the risk of meeting head-on, and exactly the problem that has held the Marvel’s Spider-Man games back. For all that we love her, MJ is a problem.

Insomniac's Spider-Man games divvy up their perspectives every once in a while by shifting player control to Mary Jane Watson, a brilliant journalist and object of Peter Parker’s affection. It’s a great idea on paper, putting a taser in the hands of a boots-on-the-ground character to amplify the importance of the game’s world and turning regular goon enemies from simple batter-fodder into genuine threats.

The sections are predominantly stealthy, and frankly, they’re well-designed around MJ’s importance to the game’s story - but their mere appearance has proven itself to be a problem for fans. Having the freeing abilities of the titular Spider-Men taken away is frustrating because the game relies on them so heavily across the rest of the series’ gameplay, and serves as a dramatic change of pace that has led to groans around the world when the camera pans to MJ crouching behind cover. And there’s a good chance that we can see Marvel 1943’s future in this.

Marvel 1943 needs to find a middle ground

Marvel 1943 runs the risk of entering the same category of intermittent shifts in power, and frustratingly, it could be doing it far more often. Players will take control of four characters - Steve Rogers’ Captain America, Azzuri the Wise’s Black Panther, Howling Commandos member Gabriel Jones and leader of Wakanda’s Spy Network, Nanali. The four act as two-person reflections of two different positions during the rise of Hydra, and putting players in the boots of all four people could lead to an incredibly diverse narrative, but differences in actual gameplay could lead to two superheroes doing fun superhero stuff, and two relatively unremarkable people cleaning up messes that feel minor in comparison.

This, of course, depends on the gameplay itself. We haven’t actually seen what’s to come from the game when it comes to what players will actually be doing just yet, but if it takes an action-heavy approach, the likelihood is that the mandatory gameplay of Jones or Nanali will become tiresome, with the “worst” gameplay likely decided by player preference for differing styles.

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Fans have predicted that the game could follow a similar structure to that of a Telltale game (after all, if the game looks this good, they must be taking the time away from more extensive gameplay, if you ask fans), and this would certainly be a means of ducking the power balance issue, though its presence poses entirely different frustrations. If not, though, there’s a great danger here that fans will grow bored.

Even in spite of this, there is huge potential that Marvel 1943 will be a treat. Being headed up by ex-Naughty Dog writer Amy Hennig is a bright omen, and we’ve seen via The Boys that superhero stories told from the perspective of regular people can be just as powerful. Challenges lay in front of Marvel 1943, but if it can buck the trend that poor MJ unfortunately highlighted in Marvel’s Spider-Man games, then maybe the brilliance of Marvel’s storytelling can pour through onto consoles unmoored once again. That is, providing that Marvel 1943 won’t make you chase those bird drones.

Joseph Kime is the Senior Trending News Journalist for GGRecon from Devon, UK. Before graduating from MarJon University with a degree in Journalism, he started writing music reviews for his own website before writing for the likes of FANDOM, Zavvi and The Digital Fix. He is host of the Big Screen Book Club podcast, and author of Building A Universe, a book that chronicles the history of superhero movies. His favourite games include DOOM (2016), Celeste and Pokemon Emerald.

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