The title “Spider-Man 2” is a pretty sacred moniker at this point. The PS2 classic set a standard for what to expect from a superhero video game, and only recently has Marvel’s Spider-Man met that mark (at least in games including the wallcrawler). With Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 releasing, one has to ask, “Can you top peak Spider-Man?”. It’s not easy, but Insomniac has done just that, with one of the best superhero games to ever grace a gaming machine.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 begins with a bombastic villain chase, introducing both Spider-Men (Peter and Miles) and your ability to play as each one. It’s a perfect way to start you off, showcasing what makes them tick and reminding you of past abilities as well as new ones. After the fight, everything dead ends back into the personal lives of our webheads, although with an underlying feeling that more is coming.
What follows is one of the most “pulled from a comicbook”, emotional, heartfelt, and personal stories you’ll see in the genre. This is some of the best character writing you’ll see in a video game, superhero or otherwise. Each act is well defined, with twists in each that pull you deeper into what’s going on. The Spider-Men aren’t chasing villains just to do that; it’s because they’ve been freed by Kraven for his devious purposes. Once the symbiote suit is in play, Spider-Man isn’t just looking to kick butt because he can, but because he’s actively pursuing a solution to a problem created by his having said suit. After Venom shows up on the scene, his presence causes a massively wild third act that feels like I read it in the latest Amazing Spider-Man issue.
Story is one of the more important elements to anything Spider-Man. While we’ve seen our share of misses over the past decades, whether in film, comicbook, or video games, that’s not the case here. Insomniac is a master of their craft, and that shows through in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. There’s an understanding of this character and his universe that Insomniac has and few others possess, and it lifts this depiction to new heights.
Part of that is their understanding of Peter Parker and how integral he is. Too many narratives focus solely on the costumed side, only to miss the emotional component. After all, there is no Spider-Man without Peter Parker. I’ve always related to Peter, through past rejections and finding my place in the world. Even with several years on the job in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Peter is still trying to make things work in his personal life. It may seem cruel to put him back through the ringer of losing his new job right out of the gate in the first hour, but that’s part of what Peter Parker struggles with. His choice of being Spider-Man and that responsibility is going to hold him back in other areas, whether he likes it or not.
Even with Peter’s issues, it’s nice to see Insomniac not make everything be ugly in his life. His and Mary Jane’s story, although with a few moments of tension, is far better than what we’ve seen before. The entire arc of them working through their problems and solving them, and building that relationship we’ve grown to love, is a fantastic journey. As someone who’s had to weather different obstacles with my spouse, their story is beautiful as it unfolds. In the end, it’s just nice to see moments of them both being happy compared to the constant ups and downs in the first game.
Of course, Peter’s relationship with Harry Osborn comes into play, with the lost best friend reappearing after several years away. The back and forth between Peter and Harry is top notch, exactly what you’d expect from best friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time. Where the story leads… well, I’m not going to spoil anything, but the conflict between them always seems real instead of manufactured. Even if some misunderstandings could be repaired by a calm conversation.
While the story does focus on Peter, Miles Morales still gets plenty of time on the stage. He has a bit of the “same yet different” problems compared to his mentor, in that he needs to get things accomplished in his personal life (like a college essay), but Spider-Man provides him an escape from it all. He wants to be needed – to be a protector – and that comes across so well in his story. Some of his encounters end up the most rewarding, including some of the resolutions of later friction with Peter, showing his growth as a human being. Your time with him feels just about right, fitting excellently for a character who thankfully wasn’t but could have been confined to the sideline.
Making real stories is a key piece of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, extending especially into the side missions, which frankly feel like they could be main missions most of the time. While there are still many fights with villains, and you’ll have those missions where you’re collecting things, there are quite a few human narratives that are bigger than just a video game. Several of these come from the “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man app” from Miles Morales, with one in particular involving you searching for a lost grandpa. Let me tell you, the dialogue that ensues will mess with your emotions. Do your best to listen during these quests, the portrait of our real human selves that is painted will tug at your heartstrings. Insomniac has done a phenomenal job putting the “neighborhood” in our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.
Also, Spidey (both of them) are flipping hilarious. I had so many moments during the story where I burst out laughing from certain one-liners, or even just mannerisms. Case in point, there’s a spot where the wallcrawler (Peter this time) is referenced as “The Fool’s Beacon” on a video call from a villain. Spidey actually looks behind him to see if they’re addressing someone else. It’s attention to detail like this that makes me love Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.
These stories all hit so well because of the performance by the main voice cast. Yuri Lowenthal is the perfect Peter Parker Spider-Man, Nadji Jeter is a heartfelt Miles, and Laura Bailey embodies MJ. But, as much credit as I give to them, I have to heap even more praise on Graham Phillips’ portrayal of Harry Osborn. This video game wouldn’t hit on so many levels without his transcendent performance. Also, Tony Todd is an incredible Venom. I just wanted more of his amazing, guttural Venom voice.
To have a narrative this good means you have to support it with the proper systems, and those come in the form of the open-world, traversal, and combat. Make no mistake, this is no simple reskin of New York City, but a gorgeous look at the metropolis, with the addition of the Brooklyn and Queens side. As such, it’s a huge space, with so much to explore and revel in. Each section feels so alive, and between the magnificent visuals, extraordinary ray-tracing, and packed streets of cars and civilians, it feels like the city that never sleeps. The Spider-Men will also make their way into several level-based sections inaccessible in the open-world, and quite a few are simply breathtaking. Insomniac has created several staggering set pieces matched with epic boss encounters, ones you have to see to believe.
I discussed some of the side missions earlier, and while Marvel’s Spider-Man had you chasing pigeons and puzzling over scientific formulas, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 does a much better job of condensing these to keep them from being too repetitive. There are still plenty of missions in each district you need to do to clear them 100%, most just feel more engaging. Chasing pigeons is gone, and scientific formulas are only relegated to a few story moments and a couple of science-y projects you’ll partake in. Even those don’t overdo it, swapping out the mini-games to keep your attention.
For instance, I piloted a bee drone around to train them to defend hives from predators, only for it to end in my freeing actual kidnapped bees from a warehouse once the drone was stolen. In another, I rode a bike as Peter in the park to test a new battery charged via kinetic motion. A lot of the monotony of the original’s open-world is gone, not just because they’ve switched up your tasks more often in 2, but because they’ve made them more interesting. Also, tracking all of them is easier than ever, with large, augmented reality style signs that pop into the air when you use your Spidey Sense to pull them up.
Instead of putting everyday street crimes in the district menu, these are persistent, meaning you can engage in them more if you need some tech parts for upgrades. While these still get a little stale over time, you sometimes encounter the other Spider-Man when dropping into one. This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen, and opens up the chance for a few tag team attacks and some fun back and forth dialogue.
Traversal is especially important to a Spider-Man game, because if you do it right, your player will drop hours in just to swing around. Insomniac already nailed that in the original, so here they only needed to find ways to complement and refine it. Web swinging is still one of the best things about Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, but the webwings give it a run for its money. Remember how much fun you had gliding around Arkham City as Batman? It’s that times ten.
Not only that, it fits in flawlessly with the web swinging, so if you go up really high and want to rest a finger, pull out the webwings. Same with if you drop too low and need to regain some height. The wind tunnels are a fantastic addition as well, with a rush of adrenaline hitting as you bullet through those areas of the city and across the bay. There are also a few bonus skills you’ll pick up, like a jump in mid air to gain verticality, so overall traversal is flawless. Heck, there are even super slingshots around the city to give you a nice launch, so you can get places pretty quickly.
If you don’t feel like swinging across the city or just need to get to bed soon, the fast travel system still exists. You don’t take the subway as in previous entries, however, because the loading is so ridiculously quick. By the time you’ve finished holding the button prompt, you’re already swinging or gliding between the buildings of the burrow you’ve chosen to visit, something incredible by any standard. Swapping Spider-Men is also super fast, with a quick fade to black into a small in-game cutscene of whatever that Spidey may be doing. You still load in the same area, but that’s to keep you from going all the way to a mission only for it to be for the other Spider-Man with no way to change over.
It wouldn’t be a Spider-Man game without beating up the bad guys, and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has that covered. You begin simply hitting the square button to punch and kick, just like the first game. Eventually you’ll gain some different additions in skills to lengthen your combos or add to the aerial/juggle combat (which is a staple of the Spidey arsenal), but it’s very similar to what you know in function. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Insomniac still has managed to make it feel deeper however, with a parry system. Your dodges are still here, along with perfect dodges that give you an extra webshot to the shooter’s face who was trying to fire a gun at you. In Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 you can also parry during that window with an L1 press, giving you an opening for a big strike. This isn’t just there for kicks either, as some larger enemies will have attacks you cannot dodge but can parry. Similarly, there will also be a few you can only dodge. It’s a smaller addition, but it enhances the already great feeling of combat.
Never fear, true believers, you can still be a sneaky Spider. Taking foes down from your perch or the ceiling is one of my favorite things to do, especially when clearing an area with no one knowing I was there. This is even easier with a new item, the webline, which creates a thread you can walk across from your position to whatever you’re pointing at. It isn’t infinite, so you can’t span too great of a gap, but in most areas where it will be useful it’ll work. A moment of silence please for all of the thugs that are still stuck in my spiderwebs, hanging from my webline like hams in a smokehouse.
This is bolstered by abilities, which are different depending on the current Spider-Man. The “Iron Spider” arms are now a permanent part of Peter’s suit abilities, which work in part with the parry system. For Miles, this treads familiar ground with his Venom (not the symbiote) ability, with the parry utilizing his electricity. Both of these are used in more than just this, however, with big blows hitting from Peter’s spider-arms and Miles Venom attacks. These are mapped to an L1+Face Button menu, which makes them very accessible. Both Peter and Miles will gain some new abilities as the game continues, but you’ll only have access to four at a time, leaving you to pick and choose which you prefer the most. There’s also an ultimate ability each acquires, and these are very useful for ending fights you need to be over.
Abilities are boosted by Skills, which is exactly what it sounds like. Each of our Spider-Men have their own skill tree to give them specific augments to what they can do, but also a shared tree so you aren’t having to buy the exact same thing for each Spidey. I appreciate this greatly, because it cuts down significantly on the grinding you’d have to do otherwise.
An interesting change from Marvel’s Spider-Man is a much lower amount of gadgets. Whereas you had seven available then, the sequel moves to only four. Some may bemoan the lack of these, with no impact webs or trip mines, but what’s here feels right. It’s also easier in hand, with only four available leading to your activating them via an R1-Face Button push. Using a gadget called the upshot to blast a few energy shots off, popping thugs into the air, or a web grabber that pulls several gang members into a heap is helpfulful, so it’s a good decision to go with quality over quantity.
Spider-Man wouldn’t be Spider-Man without the suits, and here Insomniac has gone wild. There are over sixty-five suits to unlock and choose from, and really you can’t go wrong here. You have recognizable ones, like Miles’ Into The Spider-Verse outfit, or Peter’s The Amazing Spider-Man movie suit. Even with all of those, there are some awesome custom ones, like Peter’s Assassin’s Creed-like Arachknight suit, or Miles’ Black Panther themed costume. The throwbacks, the nostalgia trips, and creative newbies are all appreciated.
I’m not a fan of one thing though; they got rid of the suit mods. Before in Marvel’s Spider-Man and Miles Morales, each suit had a perk you could unlock that was usable across your collection. Now, Suit Tech is a separate set of skills away from the actual suits with unlocks in the vein of health, damage, and so on. This isn’t nearly as interesting as before. Buying new suits simply for the aesthetic is fine, but they had more functionality in the previous entries.
Before we move on from suits, we’ve got to talk about the Venom suit. The black suit is one of the most iconic in Spidey history, not just because of Spider-Man, but the villain it carries with it. I think the story handles it extremely well, showing Peter’s descent into anger from the symbiote, and Venom himself is a sight to behold. As for using it, your combat stays largely the same beyond several abilities, but those are show stealers. Using the tendrils in these grandiose displays is spectacular, a big draw for anyone wanting this game. When you use the ultimate, it’s on an even larger scale, with beatdowns befitting the power of the black suit.
From ultimate power to… quite a bit less, the Mary Jane stealth sections do return. However, as groan worthy as they were to some in Marvel’s Spider-Man, the sequel improves on them tremendously. MJ has some training with Silver Sable behind her now, and while she isn’t flip kicking around these levels, she’s easier to control and also is equipped with a taser that gets a few upgrades in later missions. These aren’t necessarily highlights of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, but they are well designed and even enjoyable to play.
The game design overall is simply pristine and smooth, which is backed up by remarkable fidelity and performance modes. I prefer performance, and during my session didn’t see any drops from the 60fps target. Considering this is running at 4K with ray-tracing, it’s quite impressive. Fidelity is about adding the finer details in, along with propagating more life via NPCs and cars in the city, but at the sacrifice of 30fps. Either way you go, you’re covered, and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 supports VRR and 120hz displays.
When it comes to accessibility, PlayStation has been on the forefront of adding useful features to assist the community to play video games. There’s a complete list here, but rest assured that there are a plethora of options available. Included are settings such as different shader colors to help with visibility, or changing the difficulty by reducing things like game speed or enemy health or damage. Insomniac even offers a Narrated ASL function, to narrate subtitled American Sign Language Lines. So much is covered, providing many more the opportunity to enjoy this epic superhero tale.
All of that in the rearview, there are still a few things I wasn’t as fond of in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. As with any product this large, you’ll encounter your share of bugs and glitches. Mine weren’t ever game-breaking issues, like a civilian in the middle of the air, or a batch of molotovs hovering waist high. The NPCs are occasionally poorly rendered as well, suffering from looking like plastic, wide-eyed models. It’s nothing that will ruin your experience, but it is noticeable.
There is also a boss fight or two that lingers for longer than it has to. Health bars have been added, which is great, but some of the villains have several of them. This causes some of the boss fights to be a bit long in tooth, with one specific standout in the third act. I can’t call it out given its spoilery nature, but you’ll know it when you get to Aunt May’s house and it occurs. Even though the health bars help for save points to keep you from having to start fresh, some could use one less of them. That said, there are some amazing boss fights in some awesome locations, so credit where credit is due.
David Burdette is a gamer/writer/content creator from TN and Lead Editor for Gaming Trend. He loves Playstation, Star Wars, Marvel, and many other fandoms. He also plays way too much Call Of Duty. You can chat with him on Twitter @SplitEnd89.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a straight-out-of-the-comicbooks masterpiece, and one of the best superhero games ever made. The narrative swings to heights writers dream of, and every aspect of the gameplay has been gone over and improved off of it’s already stellar design. Insomniac Games has proven lightning strikes several times, and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is every adjective it’s namesake’s comicbooks carry, whether Superior, Ultimate, Spectacular, Sensational, or Amazing.