I’ve always been a fan of Peter Parker and his alter ego. In all other forms of Spider-Man media, Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man has always been a fresh take, deviating away from the norms of its source material while still keeping the most important aspects of what makes Spider-Man, Spider-Man. Spider-Man 2 further exceeded my expectations, and that’s what I love about it.
Having both Peter Parker and Miles Morales in the same game is exciting. Switching between heroes, executing tag-team combos, and witnessing our heroes grow are memorable.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 may look like it reused most of what its predecessors had in terms of gameplay and visuals, but it didn’t. The game puts you in enjoyable, engaging battles, a gripping storyline that will keep you playing for hours, and magnificent world-building; Spider-Man 2 is undoubtedly the greatest PS5 game of this generation.
Caution: this following review may contain spoilers!
The story still takes place in New York, with our protagonists juggling their daily lives and being masked web-slinging heroes. Pete is a new teacher at Brooklyn Visions, and Miles is his student in his class; everything is going great until a familiar villain wreaks havoc in downtown Manhattan, thus showing us the impressively expanded sandbox of New York in Queens and Brooklyn. I have to say, compared to the Fisk and Rhino boss battles during the prologues of the previous Spider-Man games, the Sandman boss battle in Spider-Man 2 is my favorite. Being able to showcase both Spider-Men’s latest Spidey-tech really got me going.
While the story beats almost follow the same path as the first game, the inclusion of Miles as one of the main protagonists in the story sets a new challenge for Insomniac’s storytelling. Harry’s expected return to Pete’s life creates a rift between Pete and Miles, adding more emotional tension as our daring second Spider-Man still needs his mentor. The narrative slowly builds upon Pete more than Miles in the later parts of the game; however, that’s not to say Miles was set aside in the story, no, Miles plays a crucial role in the game’s most climatic moments. It’s still a Peter Parker story, but with Miles in the picture. Not to mention, Mary Jane is more involved than ever before. You will see more of MJ, in some cases as a playable character, giving her the spotlight she needs as one of the most lovable supporting characters in the game, all thanks to the superb performance of the ever-popular Laura Bailey. Spider-Man 2’s story is captivating at best; it kept me holding on to the controller, wanting to know what’s next.
Since Insomniac’s reveal of Spider-Man 2’s main villains, I got so excited for Venom, but not much for Kraven. Venom has always been my favorite Spidey villain in the cartoons and comics, despite Topher Grace’s cringeworthy performance in Sam Raimi’s film in 2007, Spider-Man 3. However, Insomniac’s take on Venom initially felt weird when it was revealed that it would be Harry Osborn. In the history of Spider-Man comics, even if you search it in the interwebs, no Spider-Man story ever featured Harry as the symbiote’s first host. I’ve always seen Harry as the successor of his dad’s Green Goblin persona. I loved that the studio created a compelling way for us to accept this new direction for Venom by giving us a refreshing take on the character. Kraven, on the other hand, proved to be a worthy adversary that tested the might of our dynamic duo, and his role was a perfect fit to build such a strong arc leading to the game’s finale.
I wanted to discuss more about Spider-Man 2’s story, but that’s dipping into heavy spoiler territory. I can only say that Insomniac took the risk of going outside the norms of a typical Spidey plot and delivered an incredible story fitting for a fantastic sequel.
Insomniac made numerous refinements to Spider-Man 2’s fundamental gameplay mechanics and progression, making it structured better and much more rewarding than its predecessors. Suit bonuses are gone, and the studio instead added them in Suit Tech upgrades. Unlike the first game, I don’t have to worry about choosing a suit I don’t like for the sake of the bonus perk anymore, and I love it. Plus, the game has more than 60 Spider-Man suits, including Miles’ own!
This time, the skill tree has been completely revamped to cater to the other Spider-Man. This new skill tree ultimately gives both Spider-Men their own abilities to upgrade. It also includes a general skill tree that enables specific abilities available for both our friendly neighborhood heroes. Pete and Miles have distinct skills and combos that give them a well-deserved nuance. Pete can use his Spider Barrage ability with his newfound Spider Arm tech. While Miles, much like in the standalone release, uses his chain lighting ability to damage enemies. This direction clearly defines the Spider-Men with their unique skills and abilities, giving them better distinction than a mere copy of one another.
In addition to the new tech, abilities, and progression system, Spider-Man 2’s combat mechanics, while retaining some of its core fundamentals, are improved in such a way that makes it entertaining and thoroughly engaging! This time, you’re not just dodging incoming attacks by spamming the Circle button when the Spidey senses go off. Pete and Miles can now block enemy attacks that lessen damage, while executing a perfect parry will push back an enemy, leaving them vulnerable for a good ol’ beating. Abilities are now reusable after cooldown and are not tied with Focus anymore, leaving finishers and healing as the sole purpose of refilling the Focus bar. You can’t spam the heal button this time, as you must wait for the Focus bar to recharge completely, making you think twice before you overcommit, thus making the entire combat experience in Spider-Man 2 fun and rewarding.
Combat has never been this fun in a superhero game since Batman Arkham Knight. I have to admit, while I love the Batman Arkham franchise by Rocksteady, and to that I’m a huge Batman fan, Spider-Man 2’s combat has perfected this formula in every angle I see fit. The boss fights shine the most for me, especially in the final act. Venom will surely get you pressing dodge and parry buttons tirelessly in most cases. Kraven will take you down aggressively, and the Lizard lands unparryable attacks. They all prove to be formidable adversaries, and defeating them gives you that satisfaction after a few trial and error. The fluidity of the animation paired with fantastic camera movement and shakes, plus the amount of tech and abilities at your disposal, makes Spider-Man 2’s gameplay the newest benchmark of superhero video games.
New York is bigger in Spider-Man 2. Manhattan won’t only be your playground this time; Insomniac opened up the city’s eastward portion, allowing Pete and Miles to swing by and help the New Yorkers living in Brooklyn and Queens!
The city is teeming with more life and activities to keep you busy, and with the help of the all-new Web Wing tech, you can traverse the entire sandbox with ease and style. It’s always an exciting feeling whenever I get into those jetstreams to gain that tremendous speed when gliding across the city; it’s undeniably fun.
There’s a significant number of side activities you can do in Spider-Man 2 compared to its predecessors. From solving puzzles Uncle Aaron left exclusively for Miles to Pete helping Wraith bring down the cult group called The Flame. I’ve always found myself taking up character-specific sidestory missions simply because I wanted more lore and to see how our heroes, especially Miles, are fleshed out as individuals. Sometimes, I want to relax and take photos of iconic landmarks around New York, or if I want to bring down some baddies, I look for Hunter Blinds and clear out Symbiote Nests.
There’s a lot of content to keep you busy with all the enjoyable side activities Spider-Man 2 has to offer, but there is one side activity I enjoy doing the most: the FNSM. Spider-Man isn’t just there to stop crooks; he cares for the little guys that other superheroes don’t. Spider-Man is about helping the neighborhood, whether posing for a photojournalist or doing one last favor for a dying man’s wish. Spider-Man is there to help everyone out, even if it’s just helping a little girl get her cat from a tree. That’s what’s lovable about FNSM missions. They’re touching and light-hearted, and it’s not always about punching a bad guy’s face; it’s about helping everyone out.
It’s no question that Insomniac Games never fails to deliver the best visually-looking games. If you look back at Spider-Man on the PS4 in 2018, the attention to detail is unbelievably impressive, especially the love they put into Miles Morales on the PS5 in 2020. This time, Spider-Man 2 even further excels in the visual department, especially when you play the game on a Sony Bravia 4K 75-inch television! Every fabric of Spider-Man’s costume is sharply detailed, the facial animations look lifelike, and the entire city is visually staggering. I can’t count how often I had to press the Options button to get into Photo Mode to capture moments and remarkable viewpoints.
What even impresses me more is Spider-Man 2’s technical achievements. The studio brought a few things they’ve learned from Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart to Spider-Man 2. The game had a specific mission that featured almost something similar to the Rift mechanic from Rift Apart, where Miles was seen going through Doctor Strange’s portals into different areas of the city, showcasing the power of the PS5’s SSD. It was excellent, and it felt like Insomniac was teasing something for the future.
Insomniac has always ensured its games run at the most stable, optimized state before they release them, and I can say the same for Spider-Man 2. The frames per second have been consistent throughout my playthrough, especially in its most demanding graphics preset – Fidelity. Despite one minor bug I encountered where Pete got stuck in a railway that I had to restart to the last checkpoint, there were no other bugs I bumped into.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a culmination of superhero games in decades. Insomniac outdid themselves this time, and Spider-Man 2 is what every Spidey fan is looking for. It’s such a spectacular game and an incredible sequel. Spider-Man 2 isn’t just a technical feat; it’s brimming with lovable characters and exhilarating combat, accompanied by a compelling and emotional story, and has a city full of activities that will get you sidetracked. Spider-Man 2 deserves a Game of the Year award.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2
When a title gets a grand number, it’s a video-game worth spending your whole life in.