One of the things that disappointed me most about Marvel’s Spider-Man was the way the game shoved some iconic characters from the world of the comics into underwhelming side content. Felicia Hardy, aka Black Cat, struck me as one of the biggest missed opportunities, relegated as she was to a series of collectibles without any actual onscreen appearance. But I took solace in the fact that Insomniac announced it would be making Black Cat a big focus of the game’s first DLC episode, The Heist, offering an opportunity to better explore a new take on the complex relationship Felicia and Peter have shared over the years.
So does The Heist make the most of that opportunity? The answer is a resounding maybe. The DLC is clearly structured as the first part of a larger narrative, known collectively as The City Never Sleeps, and I’m not entirely clear on whether the Cat will be as central to the future episodes. Still, if this is all we get of Felicia, the story here does give her plenty to do. Set after the events of the main game, The Heist kicks off with a museum robbery and spirals out into a larger mystery centered around Black Cat and the Maggia crime families. The action unfolds at a decent pace across a handful of story missions and cutscenes. In a curious move, the new content is accessible from a DLC menu and kept mostly separate from the base game’s campaign, essentially loading you into a new instance of the city. Once there, your character progress and some collectibles carry over between the two, but everything else is kept separate.
The Heist mines the sometimes-lovers, sometimes-allies, sometimes-enemies vibe of Spider-Man and Black Cat pretty decently, and refreshingly without resorting to a bunch of unnecessary love-triangle conflict with Mary Jane. But it’s undoubtedly an abbreviated character study, and most of the story beats are fairly predictable. I doubt anyone will be blown away by the twists and turns here, which is a little disappointing given that Spider-Man‘s biggest strength was the way it reconfigured familiar moments into something new enough to be affecting, if not exactly surprising. Still, it’s a decent little microcampaign that’s just as well designed as the original game, albeit much less ambitious. New enemy types help mix things up a bit across the board, though not enough to force you to change the tactics you’ve already learned to rely on.
Apart from the story, you also get one new collectible, a handful of random crimes which are mostly different from those in the base game but still manage to feel like copy-and-paste filler, and new Screwball challenges. The last bunch probably take the most time to complete, but they’re quite similar to the Taskmaster challenges from the main game, only mixing things up by including a new “photobomb” mechanic. In combat challenges, these take the form of highlighted areas on the ground where you can take out enemies to score bonus points. In traversal challenges, they’re water towers you can zip through to nab extra score. In both instances, once you activate the photobomb you’ll need to time a button press as a meter fills up to earn the largest bonus. Revolutionary, it is not, but it adds a little extra strategy to the challenges that’s enough to make them feel somewhat fresh.
Ultimately, what you get with The Heist isn’t really the problem. The bigger issue is what you don’t get. I’m not really bellyaching about quantity or length here—though it is probably worth noting that the average player should be able to get 100 percent completion in four hours or less. It’s more a question of the sense of scope. There’s no boss fight, no new side missions of any real substance, and no story mission that really feels like a setpiece. There are a few neat segments where you team up with Black Cat in combat and stealth, but they’re quite understated compared to the most ambitious missions from the main game. At best, the quality feels about on par with some of the side content in the main game, particularly the Tombstone storyline.
The three new suits on offer all look quite spiffy, but they don’t come with any attached suit powers, which means they’re purely a cosmetic swap. Nor are there any new gadgets, additional upgrades for existing gadgets, or new skills to unlock on a skill tree. If you’ve maxed out Spidey in the main game, you won’t find any new gameplay abilities. It’s a curious decision, too, because all the new side content still awards new unlock tokens when you beat it. The base game already dishes out more than you need to purchase all the unlocks. Now I’ve got dozens more useless tokens, seemingly destined to remain forever unspent on my pause screen.
With all that said, my biggest takeaway from The Heist is that I should probably reserve judgment until the next two episodes are out. (That’s why I declined to do a full scored review, as well.) For now, The Heist is a fun little way to spend more time with the delightful gameplay, characters, and world of Marvel’s Spider-Man, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a complete, satisfying expansion on its own. I’m not even sure it feels like a third of one, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if The City That Never Sleeps pulls out something special across its next two chapters. At the moment, though, unless you’re really desperate to extend your stay in Spidey’s Manhattan, you may be better off waiting for the whole story. Cliffhangers and month-long waits might be fine in the world of comics, but they’re a little more frustrating as a way to extend a game that felt so complete and satisfying at launch.