On May 24, PlayStation held its first large-scale showcase since 2021. While it had some cool games, it was lacking the big and wild exclusives the company has historically put out. However, most would agree that the finale—a large gameplay preview of the upcoming, PS5-exclusive Spider-Man 2—was an impressive end for the show. Well, unless you ask some eagle-eyed gamers who have decided to focus on the game’s water.
This has happened before. Ahead of the release of Insomniac’s first Spider-Man open-world action game in 2018 for PS4, the studio, naturally, showed off early gameplay and cinematic trailers to feed the hype beast. At some point during the pre-release hype cycle, people noticed that a certain area in a construction site was missing some puddles.
This quickly exploded into a full-on controversy—dubbed Puddlegate—with some claiming the devs had downgraded the game or that the puddles were removed due to laziness. Eventually, Insomniac explained that it was likely just an example of how open-world games—with dynamic times of day and weather—can look different in various screenshots of the same space.
Now it’s 2023 and Insomniac’s next Spider-Man game features at least one major battle over the yucky waters of New York City, and because nothing ever changes, people are mad about the water all over again. It’s time for “Puddlegate 2.0.”
In the new Spider-Man 2 gameplay shown during the Playstation Showcase we see Miles and Peter web-slinging above and around NYC’s East River. After the trailer debuted, however, people started pointing out “issues” with the water. Some said the splashes look bad. Others had complaints about how the water just looks “rough” or lacks reflections. Still more gamers started to zoom in on far-away details to point out problems that they suggest make the game look like a PS3 title. A screenshot—taken from a 1080p stream of the game on someone’s phone—has been shared around as an example of how “unfinished” the game is.
Some gamers are worried about the water reflections in Spider-Man 2
On Friday, Digital Foundry’s John Linneman tweeted that the demonstration shown on March 24 “looked pretty good, right?” and pointed out that the game had improved ray tracing and other visual features. Within minutes of tweeting this, however, a cadre of gamers replied that the man who has spent years analyzing video game graphics and visuals was, actually, very wrong. In fact, Spider-Man 2—a game still in development—is ugly and its water is horrible.?
At one point, Linneman shared a screenshot of the game’s diffused reflections on choppy waters and compared it to a real-world photo of reflections on choppy waters outside New York City. And then, hilariously, a person replied: “The one on the right looks rough.” The one on the right was the real photo. Apparently, the water in real life is pretty bad, too, huh?
Before anyone assumes otherwise, I believe folks should be free to criticize games, movies, etc. And I also think it’s fair to judge trailers and pre-release footage of games released by the people asking you to pre-order them based solely on this kind of stuff.
However, we also need to keep in mind that pre-release footage of games is not the final product and that a highly compressed 1080p stream on your phone is not fully representative of what the actual game will look like on your own TV. Likewise, taking a single frame of a game and using that as a weapon online is silly and not very useful.
It’s also shitty to start suggesting game developers are lazy or rushing something out simply because you spotted a (possibly) low-res texture or particle effect in a piece of pre-release footage. If you wonder why so many game developers are nervous to share early looks at games, well, this is the kind of behavior that likely makes many devs pause before showing pre-release content. Thankfully, I will note that I saw plenty of comments from folks pointing out how silly these complaints were getting and that insulting the devs wasn’t right.
Really, everybody just needs to relax, put away the microscopes and go outside. Maybe jump in a real puddle. Enjoy your life. I promise it’s a better use of your time.