With Marvel’s Spider-Man, Insomniac Games knocked it out of the park on its first try. While structurally it’s a fairly standard open world action adventure, it’s elevated by a great cast of characters, a solid story, and some of the best traversal in the business. It ticked all the boxes, and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a great sidestep with its own flavour. With two fan-pleasing blockbusters under its belt, then, we arrive at the much-anticipated Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, but can it trump the already great games that came before?
From a top view, yes, this sequel is a bigger and better version of its forebears in many ways, which we’ll get to shortly. However, fundamentally, this is familiar territory; if you liked the previous entries, you’ll feel right at home here. While some might have been hoping for a grand departure to freshen things up, Insomniac has taken everything that worked in the past games and built upon it, refining everything to deliver a somewhat safe but incredibly high-quality experience. We’ve been here before, then, but it’s one of the most reliably fun places you can be.
And, as mentioned, everything is just better. Web-swinging still feels phenomenal, but the addition of gliding is excellent; it speeds up traversal and feels beautifully smooth. Combining the two methods makes getting across the city even more of a pleasure than ever. While the fast travel is impressively quick and does come in handy every now and then, we never grew tired of darting around the map, whether it’s swinging through skyscrapers or navigating wind tunnels to glide over the water. It’s the best.
Meanwhile, the improved combat is both more streamlined and more challenging. You have your bread-and-butter combo, launcher, air attacks, and finishers as normal, but special abilities and gadgets are now accessed by holding L1 or R1 respectively. This gives you eight additional attacks at any given time, and while they operate on cooldowns, you’re never out of options, especially once you’ve unlocked more advanced techniques in the skill tree. We will say that combat can still get a little repetitive, as you’re still doing a lot of Square-mashing, but different enemy types help alleviate that to a degree. Certain attacks can only be parried, a new feature for this game, while others can only be dodged — these certainly keep you on your toes when facing large mobs of bad guys.
Stealth, too, has had an upgrade, albeit a smaller one. The web line is a new feature that lets you traverse spaces from more or less any angle. Instead of having to perch on pre-existing rafters or descend from the ceiling, you can create your own tightropes across open spaces, making stealth takedowns a lot more viable.
Having also played the game through to completion and unlocked the Platinum Trophy, I can echo many of Stephen’s points. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a constant joy and a pleasure to play, with some of the most meaningful side missions in the open world genre and enjoyable combat that only gets better as you gather more abilities. It’s a consistently great game determined to slap a smile across your face.
However, the story’s pacing issues affected me more than Stephen. I feel like every major plot point goes on for maybe two to three missions too long, to the point where you’ll be questioning when the things Sony has marketed to you these past few years will really get going. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 lingers on some of its narrative beats for too long, and it can — at least in my experience — make the midgame a little monotonous. But then the ending sequences go completely the other way: they’re over pretty quickly. You’ve gotten used to long, drawn-out story beats only for the final few hours to hurry you through a changed environment.
The way Insomanic Games handles the overall narrative is just a bit strange, but it doesn’t take away enough from what is still a fantastic title. One of those PS5 games you just have to play, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is excellent without pushing the boat out very much.
A major feature of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is the ability to play as both Peter Parker and Miles Morales, each of whom have their own unique powers. There was a slight worry that Miles might overshadow Peter with his electrical moves and invisibility, but good ol’ Pete has access to his mechanical Spider-Arms and, later, Symbiote powers while donning the black suit. While the pair share a skill tree and control much the same, their unique abilities — enhanced with a skill tree each to themselves — mean both are equally fun to play as. The only time you’re forced to play as one or the other is during main story missions, but aside from that, you can freely swap between them, near-instantly transitioning from Peter to Miles and vice versa.
You’ll want to swap characters fairly often, too, because they each have side activities only accessible to one or the other. The side content has been vastly improved this time around. While there are still some collectibles to gather, they only populate the in-game map once you find them in the world. Even the most trivial open world tasks lead to something cool, whether it’s a new Spidey suit or a nice character moment. However, there’s more than just the odd minigame or puzzle to keep you busy. There’s a larger focus on side stories, some of which are also exclusive to Peter or Miles, and these storylines are some of our favourite parts of the whole game. We won’t spoil anything, but there’s some really tremendous work here that rivals the main story. The extra effort in the side content has definitely paid off.
But what about the main narrative, then? Well, we won’t say too much, but it’s overall another great superhero romp. We do have some slight reservations regarding the pacing of certain plot beats, and it can feel a little contrived in places. Still, this is a story about people with supernatural abilities and a big, toothy monster, so we’re not going to drill too deeply into that. All you really need to know is that Peter and Miles find themselves pulled and stretched by the sudden arrival of Kraven, an immensely strong hunter who’s targeting NYC’s assortment of super-powered people in search of someone to match his prowess.
However, it isn’t just Kraven making waves; lots of relationships are put to the test as Peter struggles to hold down a job, Miles keeps putting off his college application, and Harry Osborn comes back into the picture. On top of all that, the Symbiote complicates matters dramatically, eventually leading to the appearance of Venom. As mentioned, Peter’s gameplay changes once he has the black suit, really jazzing him up with more aggressive powers, but it also has ramifications in the story as things progress. Everything interweaves well and leads to some truly chaotic sequences, as well as some brilliant set-pieces and boss battles.
The campaign sees the return of missions played as MJ. While these were a contentious addition in the first game, there are fewer of them here and they’re vastly improved. No more auto-fails for being spotted, and her options are expanded somewhat. While you’re meant to stay hidden in these sections, MJ can fend off foes if seen — or just run and hide to return to stealth.
The expansion of the open world helps not only make for a larger play space to explore, but also a more interesting one. The story makes good use of the suburbs in Queens, or Coney Island’s amusement park, for example. While Manhattan is obviously quite familiar, it’s a more diverse map overall with more interesting sights to see throughout.
On a technical level, the game is very strong. We played predominantly in the 60 frames-per-second performance mode, and it didn’t drop once in over 30 hours of gameplay. That said, the fidelity mode is perfectly playable at a locked 30fps, and has the benefit of higher resolution and better ray tracing. Either way, this is a good-looking game that makes great use of the SSD; not only for fast travel and character swapping, but also some amazing sequences that have you speeding through underground interiors and the outside world without a hitch. Oh, and a special mention to the DualSense implementation. The haptics in particular really shine through, while the adaptive triggers are well used, especially for some small puzzles that have you applying different pressure to L2 and R2. Only the odd bug took us out of the experience; while they were few and far between, we had issues with dialogue not playing and strange clipping through the floor. We expect any glaring problems will be quickly remedied in future, though.