When it comes to superhero games, they can be a bit hit or miss. Whether it comes down to balancing their powers, delivering captivating gameplay that takes advantage of everything a fan would hope for, or even making the best use of the long established lore of a hero, it can be quite the daunting task. It just so happens that Insomniac Games managed to hit a home run when it came to their first Spider-Man game that not only was the developer able to expand upon the story with Miles Morales, but now has arrived with a full-blown sequel ready to take advantage of everything the PlayStation 5 has to offer. After delivering an amazing experience throughout their first two Spider-Man games, is Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 just as spectacular?
Both Peter Parker and Miles Morales find themselves stuck in a difficult situation. On one hand, they both have superpowers and an obligation they have taken upon themselves to protect the city and their loved ones from harm. On the other hand, they are still trying to live out their normal lives with Peter trying to keep a job while Miles struggles to deal with his future, constantly putting off his plans for getting into college. Of course, when Sandman starts demolishing parts of Brooklyn, any hopes for a normal day fly out the window. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is quick to demonstrate the human element to the story of these pair of superheroes as they struggle with finding balance in their lives, be it demonstrating how their superhero activities can strain their future prospects or get in the way of friendships.
Things grow even more dire once the powerful warrior Kraven and his army of hunters arrives in New York City, planning on making it his personal hunting ground as he targets supervillains both reformed and imprisoned. With this new powerful threat endangering both those close to them and even their current and former enemies, Peter and Miles find their abilities put to the test all while trying to handle their personal lives as well. Going too much further into how certain events play out, other than the highly advertised fact that Peter finds himself bonded with the Venom symbiote and undergoes various changes as a result of it, would be spoiling things best experienced by the player.
Insomniac Games’ writing staff has seemingly mastered the balance between showing off the two halves of a superheroes life. Throughout the roughly fourteen hour long campaign, with at least five or six hours worth of side-content to explore, players will watch Peter as he deals with his relationship with Mary Jane as well as his newly returned friend Harry Osborn alongside trying to obtain a steady job all while Miles is doing his best to feel at home again after losing his father and figure out his own future, his friends all being accepted into college while his work as Spider-Man gets in the way of his own attempts. Watching these two characters grapple with their personal lives one minute and then battling it out against Kraven and his hunters the next makes for an exciting and unique take on a superhero’s life. Combine this with the eventual introduction of the aforementioned symbiote that starts to affect Peter’s personality and Spider-Man 2‘s character interactions and development remain the true stars of this already impressive storyline.
Outside of the main quest there are also quite a few story threads to explore through the numerous side-quests on offer. Sure, they are a bit of a mixed bag as some of the side-quests feel almost like busy work compared to others, but the vast majority of them feature compelling developments that players will want to see through to the end. This is especially true for a few specific questlines that we won’t spoil here, but they can be quite emotional once they reach their conclusion, both heartwarming and heart wrenching being key feelings throughout many of the better side-quests. If there is anything to criticize when it comes to Spider-Man 2’s narrative is the fact that older villains from the first game, as well as a number of referenced enemies that longtime fans of the franchise will quickly pick up on, are kind of given something of a disservice here. Many of Spider-Man’s most sinister foes appear either as child’s play in an attempt to lift up Kraven as a threat or given barely enough time to feel like nothing more than cameos. That being said, a couple more noteworthy ones at least get a series of side-activities devoted to them. This can be a bit disheartening to fans hoping to see some of the Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery get more of a chance to shine here, though the way that Insomniac handles Kraven as well as Venom does work exceptionally well in their place.
For the most part, Insomniac Games has taken the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to Marvel’s Spider-Man 2‘s gameplay as those familiar with its predecessors will feel right at home the second they start swinging around New York City. That isn’t to say of course that this familiar territory isn’t spiced up with plenty of new additions and reworked elements to help make the already exceptional gameplay even better. Swinging around the city feels as good as ever and, thanks to the additional traversal options for swinging and ability to adjust the assistance level, players can truly feel like they have control of Spider-Man’s momentum if they so please. Web-swinging has seriously never felt as good in a Spider-Man game as it does in this one, though strangely enough Insomniac has crafted a few other ways to get around should players choose.
One of which is an unlockable quick-travel option to quickly traverse through the city, something that can be useful when completing side-quests or collectables but feels like a waste at times as well as the new Wingsuit. The wingsuit, while a quick way to literally fly through the city using apparently never-ending wind gusts, will likely be a point of contention for some players as it is a quick way to navigate and immediately go back to swinging should players choose, it does feel a bit… odd to be included at all even if it is integrated into a few side-quests. There are numerous points in the expanded map that also feel like they were designed specifically for the wingsuit to be used, otherwise players will need to navigate long distances without useful web-swinging points. While the wingsuit works well and isn’t required to be used, it feels as if it will be a bit hit or miss compared to the excellent feel of web-swinging.
Combat at the same time feels as wonderful as ever and flows fluidly together no matter how poorly the player may feel like they are doing at times. That isn’t to say it isn’t a challenge though, as players will need to always be careful of incoming attacks and people shooting at Spider-Man as they deal out their combo attacks, launchers, web-pulls, and of course finishing moves. New to the arsenal this time however is the ability to counter attacks from both simpler enemies as well as bosses. Counters work similar to a parry and can be used to quickly turn the tide on a standard foe or survive the onslaught from a boss with helpful “spidey-sense” indicators. Alongside the standard combos players will also gain access to a sadly dialed back set of gadgets that feel a bit less impressive compared to the previous game but can be used far faster during a fight thanks to their quick-activation method. While standard combat as either Miles or Peter will feel mostly the same, their special abilities is what sets them apart. While Peter may start with the mechanical spider arms as assistance his powerful Symbiote powers are spectacular looking in a brawl while Miles’ electrical abilities and ability to temporarily turn invisible can make for some great action sequences kicked off by a few sneaky takedowns.
It is nice to note that the Stealth mechanic is also revamped a bit this time around. Both Spider-Men have the ability to eventually use the web-line to now create their own walkways allowing for easier stealth-eliminations of foes, no longer limiting them to pre-existing beams or walls to string a foe up from. The stealth sections where players control Mary Jane also return and have been reworked to be less frustrating as she now no longer instantly fails if seen as she has ways to defend herself or simply avoid detection long enough to resume her stealthy approach.
It is nice to note that the advertised feature that players can swap between Peter and Miles at nearly any time they want was delivered fairly solidly here as well. While story missions can often only be triggered by one of the Spider-Men or have specific pieces of side-content specific to the character, players can usually free-roam as whoever they wish. The game will even automatically swap to the required Spider-Man depending on the side-quest they are taking on, not requiring players to have to manually swap. Speaking of side-content, as mentioned before nearly every side-quest in the game feels worthwhile to complete outside of a few duds as the storyline is great but they are also quite rewarding with XP and upgrade parts used to boost the strength of the player’s arsenal and characters. There are a few types of collectables/simple missions that dot the map that can feel a bit redundant, especially when it comes to a few that require the heavy use of the returning series of mini-games.
It must be said that the DualSense controller is really given a chance to show off its unique elements while playing Spider-Man 2 as it makes use of every feature available. The controller will make plenty of noises between phone notifications, chiming collectables, and more while the haptic vibrations work wonders to help make players feel like they are in the action. The trigger resistance also works quite well when it comes to web-swinging or taking part in the numerous mini-games that appear in the game, even if they are on the excessive side.
Ironically, Spider-Man 2 has more than its fair share of bugs. These range from simpler issues such as clipping NPCs or the occasional strange animation to more troublesome ones that result in the loss of progress. These have ranged from enemies spawning in the ground or getting launched and stuck in the level geometry requiring a reload of the mission to straight up crashes. These crashes were rare, happening only twice in my time with the game, but still problematic.While the general experience throughout my time with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was fine, these small bugs quickly became noticeable enough that they are worth mentioning.
Audio & Visuals
Insomniac Games once again has proven that they can craft a truly exceptional city and series of action-packed set pieces so incredible they feel like a movie sequence at times as Spider-Man 2 is just that impressive looking. Throughout my time with the game I primarily played using the Fidelity mode that locked the game at 30FPS but presented an absolutely wonderful looking city to swing through and a delightful extra bit of flair to every combat encounter. The facial animations for the characters in cutscenes is truly impressive and the suits that players can unlock and use are fairly solid as well. While some of the more classic Spider-Man suits seem to have been ignored in favor of MCU references, and a few of Miles’ are straight up terrible, many of the costumes players can choose to unlock and use are great looking as well. It is also nice to note that, even at our worst, the combat always felt fluid and fast-paced, even if we ended up dying to an encounter it only made the returning revenge feel all the better as we got used to the combat system against ever more challenging foes.
The voice cast behind the characters in Spider-Man 2 truly put their all into their performances here and the story excels because of it. The emotionally charged conversations between the characters during cutscenes made them feel all the more impactful when combined with the great character animations. Along these same lines the soundtrack features a great collection of background music as well as atmospheric music to enjoy while swinging through the city.
Insomniac Games has proven once again that they know exactly how to make a superhero game work. By capitalizing on the excellent elements they already perfected in the first game and expansion they have made the experience in Spider-Man 2 all the more enjoyable by expanding upon it in nearly every way while not going overboard. Sure, this does mean that some of the elements are already a bit too familiar and surprisingly a large number of bugs have snuck through with this pair of Spider-Men but the this spectacular superhero adventure is full of incredible moments with a storyline that may not make the best use of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery but still feels truly exceptional thanks to its emotional weight and balance between action and development.
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