It has been 5 years since Insomniac Studios brought back the Spider-Man to the PlayStation in a web-slinging fashion. Ever since Peter’s showdown with Doctor Octopus and the introduction of Miles Morales to the series, fans have been patiently and eagerly waiting for the return of Peter Parker. Questions and doubts were raised about whether Insomniac could deliver another instalment in the series that would be unique and ‘big’ enough to spend another $70. And safe to say, that as of 20 October 2023, they have delivered with Spider-Man 2.
Not only did they double down on the previous games but they found a way to innovate and expand on the city that never sleeps and its two friendly neighbourhood spider-men. The web-swinging is faster and more explosive than ever, the combat is even more fun with the introduction of new gameplay mechanics. We witness both spiders evolve, both in terms of power and their characters.
Spider-man tells a dark story; the city’s villains are more fleshed out, and we see them deal with life after crime and how some find it very difficult to cope with their new realities. All this is fleshed out throughout the game as darkness approaches the city and New Yorkers must find the light at the end of the tunnel with ‘some’ help from their friendly neighbourhood spider-men.
A Dark Story
The Spider-Man 2 is one of its ‘high-flying’ attributes, like its previous instalments. The game starts with an explosive boss fight with the Sandman as he buries the city in his…. sand but once our heroes subdue him, they are left with the question of “why”.
The game then introduces us to the major villain of the game, Kraven the Hunter, in a similar fashion to how he was introduced in the trailers. Kraven decides to make New York his next hunting ground and immediately takes on the city’s villains and heroes alike. Unlike the typical fashion we are used to in the MCU, Kraven’s invasion takes a dark turn in the game where the player is faced with feelings of shock and empathy for the villains of the city. We see Peter struggling with his role as Spider-man, trying to hold down a job, and balancing his relationship with MJ. Mary Jane Watson returns to the game as a failed author who must work for the infamous and fan-favourite J. Jonah Jameson at the Daily Bugle while under the threat of being fired any day. We witness Miles finally becoming the full-fledged Spider-man he always dreamt of but still struggling to let go of his father’s death at the hands of Martin Lee, Mister Negative. At the same time, we are introduced to Harry who has recovered from his illness in the first game but there is a catch. As we first saw in the post-credit scene in Spider-Man 2018, Harry has the symbiote (Venom) who keeps him healthy if they are connected. Peter, MJ, and Harry are finally united and keen to continue their close friendship before Harry’s illness and make up for lost time.
As the Spider-Men and their allies fight off Kraven and his army that’s taken over New York, we see all the characters go through an evolution, heroes, and villains alike. As the game progresses towards the climax, we slowly witness the symbiote take centre stage as the real villain of the story in a dark and gruesome fashion. It is through this adversity that Peter and Miles evolve their powers as they battle their darkness within. Without spoiling too much, by the end, Spider-Man 2 left me contemplating the fickleness of life and how we must make the best use of the time we have in this world. It took me around 30 hours on the hard difficulty to finish the story, but you can easily finish it in 10 hours if that’s what you wish to do.
Spider-Man 2 refreshes the gameplay we experienced in the previous instalments by separating abilities from suits and a bigger focus on the use of gadgets. The first Spider-Man game felt too ‘easy’ at times with regular enemies feeling like punching bags and the player having to simply alternate between the circle and square buttons. Spider-Man 2 changes this by separating abilities, suit tech, and suits so that they are, for the most part, independent. Suits are only cosmetic items that you can go through without worrying about the style of play you prefer. Abilities have their separate controls, and you can even use them in combination with gadgets if you choose to. One of the undermining things about the gameplay in the past was that gadgets felt unnecessary for the most part. However, the utility and strength of gadgets have been significantly improved. I played the game on hard difficulty and often found the use of gadgets enormously helpful, even in boss fights. But the main change in the combat was the addition of the Parry system. All the red-glowing attacks, that you had no choice but to dodge in the past, can now be parried using the L1 button. You can still choose to dodge it if you are not a fan of parrying, but many of the enemies become much more comfortable to deal with if you grasp the mechanic. This is particularly useful against brutes and boss fights. Some of the enemies and most of the boss fight have a new blue-glowing attack that can only be dodged, seemingly to prevent the parry system from being too overpowered.
You can now near-instantaneously fast travel to any point on the map if you have fast travel unlocked, although the only time I used it was just to test it out since swinging there was much more captivating. Similarly, to GTA 5, you can now switch between Peter and Miles freely outside certain missions but much more seamlessly and fast. Saving the best for last, the biggest improvement in the gameplay is the new Web-Wings mechanic which completely changes travelling through the massive new map. There were certain locations and heights, in the previous games, where you had to either fall to the height of a building which would allow you to swing or simply fall to the ground if there were no other options. The web-wings now allow you to essentially travel to any point in the city without ever touching the ground. The game utilises the wind-tunnel mechanic which essentially boosts you while you are gliding with the web wings, allowing you to even traverse the rivers around the city to get to expanded map locations. The game also gives you icing on that spider cake by allowing you to unlock two abilities which you can use to increase your height and speed while traversing the city that never sleeps. Throughout my run for the platinum trophy, the new combat and traversal mechanics kept all the activities around the city from ever feeling like a chore.
Another massive improvement when it comes to the gameplay is the side quests. Several of the key side quests bring back some of the most memorable allies Spider-Man helped in the first two games while also bringing in new characters. At the end of each side quest, you were left with anticipation of how it will impact the game in the future DLCs and, even the next instalment. I fully recommend taking your time with the game and these quests as they expand on the world of Spider-Man, leaving you with an emotional and long-lasting impact. Insomniac had a major goal it set out in this game – Immersion, and it does a fine job of accomplishing that goal.
Immersive World Design
Insomniac is arguably the only PlayStation studio that has managed to immerse the player using the full power and features of the PS5. Swinging through New York City has never felt this good, and the studio deserves all the plaudits. The city truly feels lively and crowded, with the entire city hustling and bustling. As you take a breather from swinging and gliding and take to the streets on foot, you can see how much detail was put into the NPCs and their behaviours. You can witness pedestrians leaving their houses to join the sidewalks and have entire conversations with each other that are often quirky and hilarious. I played the game in Fidelity mode with smoothed frame rates and the world looked beautiful. Ray Tracing takes centre stage as you see its effects almost everywhere. Reflections of lights and other objects are very well done, especially across the wide variety of suits you have available. The textures from buildings to the roads to the throwable objects lying around are very detailed.
The game does an excellent job with the soundtracks and music throughout the game which, like previous games, captures the feel of a Spider-man game while keeping the individual style of Miles and Peter consistent. It is difficult to describe the level of immersion you experience in the game by mere words, so all I can recommend is to try the game for yourself to understand it.
Spider-Man 2, despite all its positives, had some issues that hindered my experience from being perfect. Most of the issues I faced with the game were technical rather than something lacking from the game itself aside from some quibbles I had. In my 38 hours of gameplay, I faced several bugs and glitches that sometimes hindered my immersion in the game. A lot of the bugs I experienced were in the early part of the game when the heroes were fighting Sandman. There were instances where I would be stuck in a loop in the middle of a boss fight, and I would have to restart the checkpoint to get out of it. Quite a few of the bugs surrounding the NPCs and inanimate objects revolved around this segment of the game. Later in the game, I would experience bugs, for example, where my character would be stuck at the exit of a vent I was crawling in or getting stuck inside the building while fighting enemies on the rooftop. Based on my research, many players have similar bugs, but they would be recreated in different scenarios and parts of the game.
Aside from the technical issues, a minor issue I had was with the controls of the FRND app in the game which you utilise to select side missions. The control to open the app during Spider-Man 2 gameplay was to swipe left on the touchpad. However, I would often touch the touchpad causing the screen to be paused as it opened the map. I recognise this might be more of a personal nitpick, but it still impacted my immersion in the game. Another nitpick I had was feeling like there was a lack of balance between Peter and Miles. Until towards the end, Miles Morales felt much more fun and powerful to use as he received an upgrade to his abilities much before Peter. Often Peter felt less powerful to use than Miles and sometimes less fun because of the difference in abilities. As Peter is older and more experienced, I would have preferred the opposite scenario, but it makes sense for the conclusion of the story. Another gripe I had was that Miles’s suits felt much more dynamic and cooler compared to Peter’s, especially the deluxe edition skins.
However, this is completely subjective, and you may even think the opposite after playing the game.
Spider-Man 2 is an amazing experience and the near-perfect sequel to the Spider-Man 2018 game. The story around the two Spider-Men and their subsequent gameplay keeps you immersed and looking forward to how the plot will be unveiled. Going into this game, I was cautiously optimistic about whether Insomniac Studios would be able to meet my expectations. However, 38 hours later they completely surpassed my expectations and created one of, if not THE, best superhero game to date.
Despite some technical issues and nitpicks, Insomniac Studios delivers what is a spectacular experience that you should indulge yourself in if you have access to a PS5 and are even somewhat interested in the world of Spider-Man.
Rating it out of 10, I would give Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 a 9.