Open world games are very en vogue at the moment and for good reason: they let us run wild and explore beautifully crafted worlds in all their glory. In fact, most triple-A games these days seem to be flag bearers for open world games, with big budget studios cramming points of interest, hundreds of non-playable characters, and quests into these sprawling creations. But it doesn’t have to be like that, and Insomniac really has the chance to rock the boat with Marvel’s Wolverine.
After what seems like an eternity, Logan is getting some triple-A treatment, with a gory-looking, mature Wolverine game on the way. Insomniac has previously shown its creative calibre with the Spider-Man games, but with Wolverine the studio doesn’t need to make it an open world blockbuster in order for it to thrive. Instead, it should deliver a narrative-driven, semi-linear game that ties in with Logan’s rocky past.
With Marvel’s Wolverine, the developers have the chance to tell a true, compelling Logan story with a well-fleshed out plot and a massive focus on setting up the world. A linear structure would allow both the game’s story and the protagonist to be at the centre, without unnecessary bloat and meaningless collectables from open world games diluting the core story and disconnecting you from the character arc.
A linear world design that features varied levels, complex puzzles, and rewards inquisitive behaviour from time to time seems to me like all the right ingredients for an immersive game.
The Last of Us 2 packed some truly amazing and harsh landscapes in this respect. Naughty Dog managed to create a great blend of both urban and jungle scenarios, and while all the levels were linear in nature, the way they were designed made them feel bigger than they actually were.
In Wolverine, this landscape would make the perfect environment for Logan – someone who’s literally survived an explosion in Japan, thanks to his regeneration abilities. There’s an opportunity here for Insomniac to put players into intricately designed semi-linear environments that feature a mix of lush green jungles, snowy mountain terrains, plagued cities, and underwater areas, that all showcase Logan’s spectrum of superpowers.
There could be regions – or even specific missions – where players could be required to use Wolverine’s heightened sense of smell or his night vision to hunt for clues or leads in any way they choose. Like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice’s linearly created maps, which are some of the best and most intricately created out there, Marvel’s Wolverine should feature a dark and gritty world that tests the patience of players, forcing them to figure out mysteries for themselves, with no hand holding from the game.
This independent experience is exactly what playing Logan should feel like. His entire backstory lends itself well to a linear narrative driven game and that shouldn’t be forced through side missions and cosmetics.
Insomniac has, rightfully, been lauded for its work on the Spider-Man series in which its New York City is almost as realistic as the Big Apple itself. The charm of this bustling city works, though, because its main character is able to traverse so fluidly through it. But Logan can’t fire webs from his hands and he can’t swing his way from building to building – he has to walk or drive there on his dapper motorcycle instead.
With this in mind, what’s the point of creating a sprawling open world? Logan isn’t the type of person who’d wander around the streets waving at strangers or visiting tattoo parlours in the early hours of the morning. He’d be sitting in a bar somewhere having a drink, silently judging people from afar.
Marvel’s Wolverine could be a brilliant linear experience that’s just as complex and fulfilling as some of the best open world games out there, but Insomniac has to bite the bullet here and be brave. Sure, Logan’s story can work in an open world setting, but a linear formula would allow the developer to explore the hidden world of this superhero and showcase a side of Wolverine that simply isn’t touched upon in modern media.