(Note: This review contains light spoilers for the Turf Wars DLC. If for some reason you’re reading this and haven’t played the main story, come back when you have.)
After much anticipation, the second part of Insomniac’s trilogy of DLC releases for Spider-Man PS4 has arrived. Titled The City That Never Sleeps: Turf Wars, the story continues the Spider-Man’s battle to suppress the eponymous battle. Fulfilling the tease at the end of The Heist, Turf Wars sees the villainous Hammerhead attempting to take control of the Maggia crime families. To do this, Hammerhead seeks out a piece of Sable International tech mysteriously called “Project Olympus.” Naturally, Spider-Man and his trusty police contact Yuri Watanabe are on the trail – which is where this chapter of the story picks up.
In comparison to its predecessor, Turf Wars is a massive improvement in terms of overall quality. Whereas the story of The Heist was more of a slow burn, this story starts off with a bang. The first mission is particularly enthralling as a story within itself. It not only sets up Hammerhead as a formidable presence, but also one that brings a considerable amount of stakes into the fray. Right from the start, it’s apparent that there’s a significant difference in the way that Turf Wars handles characterization. This mission is indicative of the story as a whole in the way that it ropes you in, only to leave you salivating for more after it’s conclusion.
Main Story & Characterization
Indeed, the story of Turf Wars is a vast improvement over The Heist. What makes it work so well here is the attention to detail that it puts into developing character. By taking an introspective look at what drives Yuri, Turf Wars is able to add a new layer of complexity to her moving forward. The story also manages to challenge the relationship between Yuri and Peter in unexpected and engrossing ways. We actually learn a great deal about Yuri’s past, and it certainly informs where she might go in the future.
Similarly, Hammerhead is also treated with a great deal of care. The character was lurking in the background throughout most of The Heist, but it’s here that Insomniac proves why this character worthy of inclusion in the game. In terms of popular appeal, Hammerhead is a relatively unknown character. In the comics, Hammerhead’s forehead was surgically reinforced with Vibranium, which gave him his signature flattop look. Instead of being a mob buffoon as he is in the comics, Insomniac was able to craft Hammerhead into someone who is much more intellectual and calculating. As a result, this re-imagining of Hammerhead ultimately serves as a formidable villain.
Despite all the good that Turf Wars does, there are some missteps. Without getting into spoilers, there’s a post-credits scene that feels like a betrayal of everything that came before. I see why the developers decided to make this decision, but it destroys the impact of the story we just witnessed. The ending manages to test the characters in a jaw dropping way and having this post-credits scene lessens the stunning nature of the finale. Aside from having the developers wanting to have their cake and eat it too, it just feels unearned. Aside from this fairly large misstep, Turf Wars finally manages to bring a sense of stakes to this ongoing story.
Challenges & Collectibles
Unlike The Heist’s singular side mission that added a great amount of character depth to Felicia, Turf Wars falls flat in terms of side quests. There are two side missions in this chapter of the DLC, and no collectibles other than the new suit skins. Although only one of these pertains to the story at hand, they are not much different than the Demon warehouse bases in the main game. The game introduces another new enemy type that slightly increases the difficulty, but this is essentially more of the same.
Unfortunately, the Screwball challenges also make a return in what eventually becomes the second side mission. It’s a bit of a fake-out, but there’s also something about Screwball as a character that feels woefully misguided. I get why the developers decided to include her for the sake of filling out the DLC package, but she’s just a nothing character. Ultimately, the Screwball challenges are still an unnecessary and fairly irrelevant distraction when compared to the compelling nature of the main story.
As mentioned before, there are three new suit skins that become unlockable throughout the Turf Wars storyline. First up, we have the Spider Armor MK1, which is a great callback to the comics. Next, there’s the Iron Spider Armor, which directly adapts the suit’s look from the comics. Finally, there’s the Spider-Clan skin, which is a cell-shaded nod to the Marvel Mangaverse comic books. All of these skins are welcome additions to the game, but don’t go looking for any additional suit powers. Because there once again aren’t any.
Is The Turf Wars DLC Worth It?
In short, Turf Wars is a massive improvement over The Heist. It features a compelling story that – for the most part – manages to feel engrossing and completely worthwhile. In terms of standalone appeal, Turf Wars offers a great story that wraps itself up nicely by its conclusion. The character work feels earned and there’s finally a sense of personal stakes by the conclusion of the DLC.
Considering that The Heist was supposed to offer the set up necessary for this chapter, it feels fairly inconsequential in retrospect. With that said, the length of this chapter, as a whole is once again disappointing considering the price. Turf Wars manages to prove why this story was worthy as a standalone piece, while also contributing to the larger arc of The City That Never Sleeps. At roughly 5 hours of total gameplay, Turf Wars ultimately has enough appeal to justify the quality of the content that you get for the price.