Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 Review
Marvel Spider-Man 2 Review
In a time where PlayStation’s first-party offerings have been quite slim, how fitting is it that a beloved superhero comes in to save the day?
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is Insomniac Games’ follow-up to the excellent Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Miles Morales and is the first Spider-Man title built exclusively for the PS5 (not including the remaster). This time, Peter Parker and Miles Morales team up for the biggest fight of their lives as they protect New York City from incoming danger.
As far as superhero games go, it’s easy to consider these titles as one of the best outings in recent memory, but Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 isn’t content at just being great as it invites everyone to be greater, together.
And it does so with such confidence and flair that pushes the capabilities of the PS5, outdoing the previous offerings by a clear margin and cementing Insomniac as one of the best in the industry. It’s not absurd to consider Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 as one of the greatest superhero games, something J. Jonah Jameson might even agree with.
Two is Better Than One
10 months after the events of Miles Morales, Spider-Man 2 is a direct sequel that starts out with our protagonists feeling the pressure of juggling too many things around. Between school, work, and some friendly neighborhood heroics, being a superhero ain’t easy. Add the looming threat of Kraven invading New York and Venom looking to “heal the world,” it sure is the perfect blend for an upcoming disaster.
It goes without saying that since this is a direct sequel, you’ll want to have played Spider-Man and Miles Morales first. While Spider-Man 2 does come with a brief recap of events, it’s hard to condense two games’ worth of story and revelations into a few minutes. Between the many references and callbacks, having played the first two games is almost a requirement.
Spider-Man 2 will feel like an old friend: the phenomenal feeling of swinging through NYC, the bombastic set pieces and sequences, and some friendly neighborhood crime-fighting on the side. It would be easy to dismiss this as just another DLC as it creates an illusion that it is the same exact title from years ago, but Insomniac has gone above and beyond to make this experience feel fresh and fantastic despite its familiarity.
Traversal sees one of the biggest upgrades in Spider-Man 2. Not only do Peter and Miles swing faster but both can deploy web wings to breeze through the city at a much faster pace. Players will find streams of air that will carry them with ease and it’s even a next-gen showcase owing to the fact that the game can load New York seamlessly with no noticeable pop-ups as you fly through its boroughs, offering impressive views and draw distance all while feeling dense and filled with a lot more NPCs and traffic.
The addition of the web wings really improves traversal by a fairly significant margin because the act of transitioning from action to action is extremely fun, satisfying, and exhilarating. There’s a certain level of visual flair as Peter and Miles swing and glide acrobatically, and they can even do loop-de-loops, which is a highly requested feature that does justice to their characters.
While the web wings allow for a more diverse traversal mechanic in Spider-Man 2, some techniques have strangely been locked in the skill tree such as corner tethers, which were freely available in the original. High-speed chase sequences can often be frustrating in tight corners, breaking momentum and ultimately, immersion, if you’re not skilled enough.
Another upgrade that ultimately takes advantage of the power of the PS5 is allowing our Spider-Men to jump from literally anywhere to a specific spot on the map with minimal loading times once you unlock the feature. In fact, apart from the initial load into the game, there’s almost no loading at all except for a few fade-to-black transitions. It’s seriously impressive once you start using it, but there’s a catch… you’ll almost never use it! At least we never did.
Exploration in Spider-Man 2 was made in such a way that players will be able to see quests and side activities while exploring the map, made visible by map markers that indicate points of interest when pressing R3 to scan the environment. These markers are non-obtrusive, which is great if you still want as little clutter as possible because Spider-Man 2 is such a visual affair that a lot of its elements are effectively communicated to the players, allowing them to keep playing without having to peek at menus often.
Apart from checking out the Spider-Man app for new activities, you can freely switch between Peter and Miles at any time while exploring the world, and it’s a nice touch that switching between them will reveal that they are in different locations doing some friendly neighborhood Spider-Man stuff. It’s the little details that really elevate the experience!
Doing these side activities will award you with XP and various tokens that are needed to upgrade your gadgets, abilities, and suits. Spider-Man 2 has over 60 suits to collect, and most suits will have additional variations that further customize their colors, leaving players to choose from 4 variants per suit! They all look absolutely amazing, ranging from comic and movie references to even artist collaborations from the likes of Peach Momoko and more.
Speaking of activities, both Peter and Miles will have their own set of tasks to deal with. While the main story missions will see scenarios switch between the Spider-Men, side missions are a different story and both can accomplish character-specific questlines that result in story and character development that’s absolutely worth doing.
Variety is not a worry, from clearing waves of Sandmen to clearing Hunter outposts and even one that resembles a rhythm game, these activities are a great way to shine the spotlight on both heroes as most have fantastic resolutions that add so much depth and dimension to the characters.
Before you pull out the pitchforks, let me tell you that stealth missions are back in Spider-Man 2. There are quite a number of them, actually, even with a whole mission segment dedicated to our favorite Bugle Reporter, MJ, but Insomniac has made it so that these missions are much more engaging thanks to the addition of a stealth takedown. Unlike previous titles, we really didn’t mind these sequences as they provided a much-needed change of pace after all of the web-swinging. They’re not as bad as you think, trust us!
Combat remains the shining jewel of the series and the tradition continues in Spider-Man 2. Encounters with thugs and villains remain fast-paced and familiar as many moves and combos make a return. Both Peter and Miles will still be equipped with the ability to grab objects and pull off flashy finishers, and they even have individual skill trees (3 skill trees in total!), but the addition of a parry mechanic really enhances the whole experience, making it less of a button masher and adding a strategic layer not seen in earlier installments.
Unblockable attacks are still present, but players can parry certain telegraphed attacks to turn the tide of battle in their favor, and this skill really shows its value during the larger-than-life boss fights that pump up the tension to eleven.
Supervillain boss battles in Spider-Man 2 are possibly the best they’ve ever been. Players will get to fight the featured villains namely Kraven and Venom, but there are quite a few surprises that come your way to get the blood flowing, which we won’t spoil for good reason. These are highly cinematic affairs that bring story sequences to a crescendo and end with extreme satisfaction.
These fights are completely different from the usual thugs and will require more of a dance of alternating attacks and dodges. Bosses will have full health bars and multiple phases with varying attack patterns, offering a more dynamic and engaging battle. If anything, I felt that these boss battles relied too much on multiple phases, made most of them tedious, and extended the fight unnecessarily. They’re fun, without a doubt, but could’ve used one less phase for sure.
Various enemy types abound, many of which are copied and carried over from previous games like the long-range firearm guards, shieldbearers, brutes, and more. Some of Kraven’s mechanical beasts make an appearance, but overall, there’s good enough enemy variety to shake up encounters. Oftentimes, Peter and Miles will even do tag-team attacks during combat sequences, and they also have an ultimate ability that can clear enemies when in a pinch, adding another ability to their arsenal on top of the ever-useful gadgets.
Going on full assault mode isn’t always the best use of your powers, and Spider-Man 2 provides a very useful tool in the form of Web Line, allowing both Peter and Miles to create walkways like a tightrope from out of nowhere, opening up more stealth options and setting unsuspecting enemies up for a perch takedown. It is extremely useful, maybe too useful, as some encounters can be completely “stealthed” with ease.
At times, Spider-Man 2 may feel a bit too easy for players experienced in action-adventure titles because of how useful all of the abilities and gadgets are. That’s not to say Insomniac didn’t balance the game correctly, but it does feel more like players are being allowed to fulfill the superhero fantasy, pumping up the fun factor a few levels. You can always choose to crank up the difficulty if you wish!
A recurring theme in Spider-Man 2 is how this latest title doesn’t overhaul its foundations but instead adds on top of it. The moment-to-moment gameplay has been improved, with fantastic transitions from gameplay to cutscenes that are masterfully done. While these improvements mostly apply to traversal and combat, Insomniac has outdone itself with arguably one of the most important facets, the story, and dare we say that it is one of its strongest elements.
One of the toughest challenges Insomniac Games had to overcome in Spider-Man 2 was keeping both Peter and Miles relatable and relevant, sharing screen time while not overpowering each other. They passed with flying colors, maintaining a good balance between the parallel character arcs and keeping the focus on the current hero without losing sight of the others. Each arc is as seamless as the next, and while there are some minor story beats that were waylaid, most are resolved properly by the end.
What impresses most is how even the supporting cast and the villains get their time to shine, weaving seamlessly into Peter and Miles’ spotlight and empowering the overarching narrative. Insomniac Games took creative liberty to mix and match some lore that works for this specific universe, and while the purist may scoff at some of the creative choices seen in Spider-Man 2, many of it is grounded, logical, and clever.
Each of the main characters – Peter, Miles, and MJ – have their own struggles and issues that are constantly put front and center as they strain their relationships. You can feel a palpable tension communicate itself through the screen, and this is put into overdrive when Peter dons the Symbiote suit, taking over his logical faculties and transforming the friendly neighborhood webslinger into an anxious and aggressive threat.
This transformation serves as the catalyst that pushes the story to a deeper emotional level and its succeding sequences into high gear, offering unexpected twists and turns in the plot that serve well to push the theme of being greater together, and that even Spider-Man needs help from, well, another Spider-Man along with the rest of their friends and family.
There are quite a number of story sequences in Spider-Man 2 that put players in control of the characters in “normal” activities that don’t require Spidey powers. Some may find these to be overdone, and while I can see where that complaint may come from, I felt that these sequences served to humanize the characters and show another side of them that’s not usually seen outside of the suit. They don’t feel shoehorned and really add more depth to the cast.
Side stories also tell great tales, highlighting fantastic interaction design that we subtly overlook. There’s a pretty cool sequence where you take the role of Miles’ deaf friend, Hailey, as you navigate the world through her eyes. You can feel your way through the sequence in haptics and vibrations, which is something that stood out immensely and is really a shining moment in the game. While some may feel somewhat disappointed due to their mostly slice-of-life nature, Spider-Man 2 really adds a humanizing element to the whole experience.
Spider-Man 2 blends both narrative and gameplay seamlessly, treading a fine balance with precision. Quicktime events are still present but don’t interfere with the overall enjoyment of the game, providing an extra layer of immersion that’s nicely executed.
Spider-Man 2 is also a sensory treat. Cast performances from Nadji Jeter (Miles), Laura Bailey (MJ), and the rest of the characters are really well done, but the dynamics between Yuri Lowenthal (Peter) and Tony Todd (Venom) are simply phenomenal. Their portrayal of these iconic characters is top-notch and does well to highlight and elevate the storytelling aspect.
The visuals are obviously great, but the subtle interactions between the game audio and the controller audio add great depth that immerses you more. No expense was spared in terms of production value, and even though it comes with a fidelity and performance mode (both with ray tracing), both are extremely optimized to the point that it almost doesn’t matter which one you choose to play with as frames almost never drop.
Despite all of its praise, Spider-Man 2 has some misses. There’s still a barrage of open-world activities that will eventually feel tedious, and it’s disappointing to see that story beats that highlight some characters and villains are locked behind base raids, time trials, and traversal challenges. It’s pretty much the same gameplay loop from before, despite new variations on activities such as using your web wings to chase a drone.
Completing Spider-Man 2’s main story could take you anywhere from 20 to 25 hours depending on the difficulty setting and how you play, and it took us 20~ hours to mainline the story with some side shenanigans in between. Platinum hunters will likely see this total shoot up to around 30-35 hours to complete everything, further reinforcing the theme of quality over quantity that the previous titles have established.
There’s always the argument that it copies too much from previous installments, and while it is true to a certain extent, the Spider-Man 2 experience is reminiscent of God of War Ragnarok, opting to keep the formula, polish it, and improve it to extreme levels players expect from a PlayStation Studios title. If there was ever any doubt, Spider-Man 2 is indeed greater than before.
What We Liked:
- Blend of thrilling narrative and dynamic gameplay
- Highly improved and emotional story arcs
- Streamlined combat and character progression
- Subtle yet impactful quality-of-life mechanics that cut a lot of unnecessary busywork
- Achievement in immersion courtesy of the DualSense
- Technical triumph with hardly any bugs
What We Didn’t Like:
- Some story beats are gated behind some tedious open-world activities
- Boss fights rely too much on multiple phases
Verdict: Buy It!
Insomniac Games requested that we let them cook and they did so in tremendous fashion, improving previous entries in almost every way imaginable and resulting in a stellar outing that reinforces the notion that quality is always better than quantity. This is a bona fide system-seller and will go on to be one of the best games in an already impressively stacked year.
Two Spider-Men are indeed better than one, and Spider-Man 2 proves that an ensemble cast can shine at equal levels thanks to a fine balancing act that weaves seamless and intuitive gameplay with a tight and cohesive narrative that’s emotionally gripping and relatable.
Spider-Man 2 succeeds where many superhero adaptations miss the mark, which is to deliver a spectacular piece of immersive entertainment that gives us, the players, an exhilarating experience without compromising the DNA of its established pedigree.
*Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was reviewed on a PS5 with a review code provided by the publisher.