Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 Review
When Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was first revealed, I found myself to be less excited than I was when the original was announced. It looked great, but I wasn’t convinced that Spider-Man 2 would do enough to differentiate itself from its predecessor. Thankfully, my concerns have proved to be utterly unwarranted. I was downright wrong. Spider-Man 2 is an incredible experience. One that punches the needle forward in nearly every conceivable way, culminating in a breathtaking ride that solidifies Insomniac Games as one of this generation’s most talented development teams.
Following up on the events from the previous game, Spider-Man 2 tells the story of both Peter trying to move ahead in life after losing May and Miles coming to terms with the burdens of his past. Once again, Insomniac has crafted an intricate, expertly woven narrative that’s as comical yet heart-wrenchingly devastating as you’d expect from a Spider-Man script. This time around, Jim Pirri’s excellent performance as Kraven the Hunter is integral in driving our heroes to and from one another. Through and through, Spider-Man 2 enforces the idea that being a hero doesn’t always come in shades of black and white. Rather, it falls into an ever-changing grey area. At times I found myself questioning how my own morality would hold up against such circumstances, and I always find that to be the mark of brilliant storytelling.
Two of Us
Crucial to intertwining Peter and Miles’ journey is the ability to switch between the two at (almost) any time. Of course, specific points in Spider-Man 2 will constrain you into a role, but generally, you’re provided the freedom to choose who you’d like to control. Most importantly, Peter and Miles feel quite different from one another. Peter uses Doc-Ock-inspired mechanical arms that are fantastic for one-on-one encounters, while Miles hosts several electrical abilities that are wonderful for crowd control. They share skills in traditional traversal, but the accompanying animations are entirely their own. Web swinging, aerial tricks, takedowns, and more are unique to each character. And this has been vital in encouraging me to spend equal amounts of time with both of them. Although, I will say once Peter acquires his Venom powers, Miles started to appear on my screen less and less.
Bring Me That Horizon
Speaking of traversal, it’s astonishing how well Spider-Man 2 feels when zipping through New York City. There’s a boatload of ways to get yourself from point A to B, all of which feel fluid, responsive, and exhilarating. Swing speed is dramatically increased from the original, allowing players to feel a rush that’s never before been achieved in a Spider-Man game. Yet, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. New to Spider-Man 2 are the Web Wings, which offer Peter and Miles the chance to take flight with the tap of a button. When combining these tools with the plethora of upgrades obtained throughout the adventure, it was rare that I ever felt like two trips were the same. Hands down, Insomiac has perfected the most realistic and rewarding Spider-Man simulation ever to grace a console.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention just how on-point the city itself is. Insomniac has fully utilized the power of the PlayStation 5 in ways we may have yet to see. The shining example of that is their take on New York. The streets bustle with life in ways that simply weren’t possible on last-gen hardware. Sidewalks are more crowded, and the draw distance for vehicles has significantly improved. Combined with spectacular sound design, this version of New York has – by far – been my favorite to explore. This includes not only previous Spider-Man titles but games in general. It should be noted, though, that NPCs still look like lifeless mannequins when compared to the more important characters.
City of Dreams
While working my way through the city, I found it imperative to stop and smell the roses. Much like the last game, Spider-Man 2 is brimming with meaningful side content that evoked genuine emotion out of me more often than not. Some sidequests had me smiling ear-to-ear. Some brought tears to my eyes. Not every quest is a home run, but the vast majority must be played through at least once.
A big reason why the side content is so important is that each set of missions evolves in ways unseen in prior games. For example, Peter has a set of assignments that involve splicing plant cells in hopes of one day solving world hunger. At first, they sounded repetitive and redundant. But, I was ecstatic to find that each quest would throw a wrench into the formula, keeping them fresh and exciting. Coupled with the fact that they provide ample resources to build Peter and Miles further, it wasn’t long before I was putting off the main storyline in search of stuff found off the beaten path. Spider-Man 2 does a phenomenal job of rewarding your time and effort without ever feeling dull.
The same can be said of the combat. Fights are fast, hard-hitting, and ridiculously fun. You’ll see the same moves now and again, but the sheer number of different ways to build combos is nearly overwhelming. Spider-Man 2’s combat feels decidedly heavier than its predecessor, in turn making each encounter with enemies much more satisfying. Whereas the last game felt a tad floaty, Spider-Man 2 knocked my socks off with its visceral, engaging battles. To the point, I have a hard time deciding during moments that encourage hiding if I’d rather just jump down to ground level and start knocking some baddies into the dirt.
However, stealth still remains a thrilling option if you choose that route. Admittedly, the stealth mechanics have seen the least change, but this doesn’t make them any less entertaining. It’s still a blast to methodically work your way through a room of enemies, picking them off from the shadows. The addition of a new web line ability also opens the door to new opportunities. The web line acts as a tightrope, so to speak, giving Spider-Man a near-limitless number of avenues from which to strike. Though, the web line also provided Insomniac with the opportunity to create more diverse environments, as they no longer need to rely on having rooms filled with things Spider-Man can perch himself on.
Spider-Man 2 is close to perfection, but there are a few (extremely minor) issues that I should mention. While the aforementioned stealth scenarios are done well, they do present a couple of problems. The worst of these is that launching across hiding spots can sometimes force the camera into an undesirable position. With enemies constantly on the move, the few seconds it takes to re-situate yourself may cost you that perfectly planned takedown. Also, there are plenty of times I would end up incapacitating an enemy well within the sights of someone, but they didn’t react to it. It’s not a game-breaker by any means, but it somewhat hinders immersion.
A few other hiccups pop their head in from time to time. I had a few infrequent audio bugs that would leave my character silently standing in place as his dialogue was waited upon to finish. And, with so many moving parts, you’ll notice minor occurrences of clipping and pop-in. While these never hurt the experience, they can be noticeable.
The most egregious of Spider-Man 2’s shortcomings, however, occurred when I would end up clipping inside of a building. Maybe it’s a by-product of how fast you can move throughout the city. But there were a few instances where I needed to reload a save because of this. Again, all of these problems are sporadic and inconsequential. Especially given that Spider-Man 2 has next-to-no load times. The truth is, even if I were to find another twenty issues, this would (easily) still be a game-of-the-year contender.
Spider-Man 2 is the greatest superhero game ever made. Period. The way it builds off the foundation laid by 2018’s Spider-Man is a shining example of how to create a sequel. It pulls no punches when evolving the experience, delivering an unforgettable ride that unequivocally demands your attention. Other developers need to take note – this is how you expand upon a franchise. Spider-Man 2 caught me in its web from the opening scene and didn’t let go until the credits rolled. Now, excuse me; I need to go play it again and again and again.
***A PS5 code was provided by the publisher***
- Greatest Spider-Man simulation ever
- Thrilling, hard-hitting combat
- Supremely written/acted
- New York City is breathtaking
- Instantaneous loading
- Minor technical issues
- Mannequin-like NPCs
- Camera can be a tad wonky