The past two Spider-Man games have given us a whole city to fling through and stories featuring some iconic Marvel superheroes and villains. Each one has also given us a look into their respective protagonists as they juggle their daily lives while still answering the call of danger, even if it happens during school. So what happens when you add two protagonists, more villains, and some additional areas to explore? The answer is pretty obvious, and the results are still just as amazing as you’d expect.
What works in favor of Spider-Man 2 is that it’s more consistent with our expectations of Insomniac’s brand of superhero video game. There are more references to comic book lore, varied missions to complete, and a balanced game that builds on both prequels achievements. In fact, while swinging through skyscrapers and pummeling Kraven’s band of goons is all fine and good as is admiring how cinematic the game feels at times, the real highlight here is a narrative that truly brings the human angle of being Spider-Man to the forefront.
A Script Straight out of a Movie
- A riveting story that rivals any seen on film
- Fun story and side missions that further emphasize the unique struggles of Peter and Miles
- A gorgeous cinematic experience that you can see and hear play out before your very eyes
- Combat can get repetitive if you don’t vary your attacks
- Some fights can tend to drag
Spider-Man 2 picks up 10 months after the events in the first game and sees Peter Parker and Miles Morales facing off against a new main villain, Kraven the Hunter, and his army who storm Manhattan to wrangle up and hunt down villains that were once put behind bars. The story begins with a new bad guy terrorizing New York City, but it also lays the groundwork for the kind of game this sequel will be. In the first 30 minutes, you’ll web-sling between skyscrapers, face off against a giant version of Sandman, and realize your superheroes just had to ditch school and their first day of a new job to keep New York safe.
In fact, this struggle to balance normal life with the one of a superhero is the overarching theme in many Spider-Man comics, movies, and games, and it’s central to Spider-Man 2’s engrossing plot that starts off small and centralized but soon spreads to impact various characters in Peter’s and Miles’ life. Balance, as Aunt May tells Peter in one flashback scene, is the key to success, and the game achieve this balance in an impressive way even with two protagonists.
In telling its story, Spider-Man 2 will shift viewpoints to Peter or Miles depending where you are in the story. There are missions that only Peter can complete that revolve around his relationship with MJ and his new partnership working with his friend Harry. Miles, on the other hand, needs inspiration for his college admissions essay and is still struggling to move on after the loss of his father. As Spider-Men, their conflict is shared, but even donning the mask, each superhero experiences different conflicts that make each of their stories unique and powerful. Each character has moments in the story where you can really appreciate the raw emotion behind their struggles — Miles with forgiving his father’s killer and Peter fighting to save his best friend’s life — and it’s these scenes that really make the human aspects of being a superhero an intriguing story to see unfold.
Of course, that’s not to say the game’s action-packed sequences aren’t any good, either. Again, the game manages to achieve perfect level of balance giving you scenes that will tug at your heart strings one moment followed by Kraven or Venom crashing the party that leads to something blowing up. Even when you think the game has thrown everything at you, the story’s last arc will surprise and impress you, as you’ll be making your way to its conclusion. I obviously don’t want to spoil much of what you’ll be playing through, but the game is filled with humor, heavy topics, and action sequences that rival those of Marvel films. It’s pretty amazing how much it feels like its own movie.
Combat also balances two playable heroes and offers you two, distinct sets of abilities to experiment with. When not playing character-specific missions, you can switch between Peter and Miles on-the-fly, and each one has his own set of abilities you can upgrade as you level up. Both may share universal abilities, fighting styles, and tech upgrades for the suit, but the special skills they can each utilize really change up how you approach certain fights.
Miles for example, uses electricity in some of his attacks, and my favorite one pulls enemies together for an electric shock that then opens them up for additional combos. The majority of the battles you’ll play through require mixing combos, abilities, and special attacks to ensure you stay alive. Most fights happen against several enemies, so you still need to rely on your spider sense to know when to dodge or parry a move, depending on their indicator color.
The only confusing part about this is that red, close-ranged attacks can be parried, but red long-range attacks need to be dodged. This can sometimes make it harder to distinguish certain attacks, but the majority of your fighting can be mastered by understanding your enemy’s movements, varying your attacks, and pummeling them when they’re open. Still, when you have 10 enemies coming at you from all sides, trying to not get hit or waiting for your skills to recharge can get hectic, and so the difficulty can suddenly spike during more critical story missions.
One-on-one battles, such as with bosses, are more fun because you can focus on just one enemy and be more strategic with your attacks. The downside to these fights is that they sometimes tend to drag considering you just need to repeat the same pattern of hit, parry, attack, and dodge while mixing in your special abilities and some environmental blows to do extra damage. Usually bosses have three phases or health bars to strip down, but there is one fight near the end that goes on for four. By that point, I just wanted to move on with the story.
Detailed Art Direction
It may not reinvent the superhero video game format, but Spider-Man 2 refines what came before and gives us an adventure that carefully balances gameplay and storytelling while keeping us entertained even after the credits roll.
If you played the last two Spider-Man games, gameplay is what you would expect: sit through some exposition, fight off some bad guys and maybe a boss or two, and then take a break exploring the city until the next story mission starts up. That’s not a bad thing either considering the last two games showed us NYC filled with things to do and people to save. Spider-Man 2 again tells a linear story, but its story-based missions offer plenty of variety in the structure. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly start playing as someone you didn’t realize you could as the game has unique segments that change the perspective of the story and offer you some Last of Us-gameplay where stealth is key. Not only does this change up the flow of the game but it makes you appreciate certain characters a lot more.
Spider-Man 2 will take you a little under 20 hours to finish, and then a few more if you want to check everything off your list including a plethora of cool suits you can unlock. You shouldn’t dismiss the side missions either. These give you a deeper look into the lives of Peter and Miles, and a few are more about the community they live in so there’s definitely substance to them. Plus, like the main missions, these side objectives are more fleshed out than just a fight with some enemies. Some offer you puzzles to solve, flashbacks where your abilities are limited, or timed challenges to complete.
The game is also a beautiful sensory experience, and the performance powerhouse of the PS5 lets it tell a story that feels as close to watching a movie as a superhero game is going to get. Whether you choose between Performance or Visual mode, you are going to get an autumnal New York City that’s filled with detail and cutscenes that showcase a cast that really breathes life into characters that are not just flawed, but also relatable. Plus, zipping through Manhattan at breakneck speeds between skyscrapers and gliding over the East River to Queens just feels exhilarating. And if you want to go even faster, the game’s impressive Fast Travel feature means you can point at any location on a map and instantly watch as the camera zooms in on your hero swinging right along. It’s that fast.
Spider-Man 2 is a lot like the two games that came before, but its writing and story make it feel more powerful than the others. Friends, family, and adulthood woes can really catch up to you, and that’s the kind of relatable story that appeals to all of us even if we can’t all be superheroes. And as a game, it offers another top-notch open-world adventure filled with challenges and a familiar combat system that grows with you as you play.
It may not reinvent the superhero video game format, but Spider-Man 2 refines what came before it and gives us an adventure that carefully balances gameplay and storytelling while keeping us entertained even after the credits roll. A must-buy for any PS5 owner — here’s hoping the next installment somehow manages to outdo itself again!
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com