For Insomniac’s first two Spider-Man games, we were given superb gameplay and stories that dived into the history of the character while creating something new. Both Peter Parker and Miles Morales were given narratives that highlighted the weight of being a superhero, trying to balance living a normal life and protecting New York from those who’d rather see it crumble. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has brought these two iconic characters together, building on what made their games great and introducing a few new mechanics to make this one of the best games on PlayStation 5.
After the cliffhangers from both titles left us with questions regarding the symbiote and Harry Osborne, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 offers plenty of answers, giving us one hell of a story and tons of fantastic moments that would make Stan Lee and Steve Ditko proud. One of the reasons the character is so popular is his pureness and honesty; his need to do what is right in a city filled with evil. There have been times when he’s struggled with his power and responsibility, but through it all, he has always tried to do what is best for the ones closest to him.
Harry Osborne is Peter’s best friend. After being ill for so long, the experimentation with the alien symbiote has cleansed him of whatever sickness he had, leading to a rekindling of their friendship at the best possible time. Pete’s still struggling with the death of Aunt May and trying to find money for the mortgage, and Harry’s return is the light he so desperately needs in his life. As for Miles, he’s about to apply to university, but knowing how to progress with his application while being Spider-Man, as well as trying to process the grief left by the death of his father at the hands of Mr Negative, is a constant battle in his mind.
Both stories are brought together well, and often the two will intertwine through conversations between Pete and Miles during cutscenes or while protecting the city. When the threat of a new villain takes centre stage, they’re forced to abandon their own problems in favour of the greater good. Kraven the Hunter has always been an important part of the comics, and if you’ve ever read Kraven’s Last Hunt, you’ll know how interesting and layered he is. While he is a villain in the obvious sense, he respects his enemies and treats them as equals until he’s bested them (unless they get in his way, of course). Kraven is always looking for the perfect prey, and New York is filled with superheroes and villains capable of challenging him.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 manages to make Kraven a force to be reckoned with. He’s portrayed as incredibly dangerous and violent, with a range of technology and a large army of hunters ready to take down Spider-Man in the process. Of course, he isn’t the only big bad of the game, and while nothing will be spoiled in this review, the real enemy to both Miles and Peter is Venom. His inclusion isn’t throwaway, nor is it fleeting. Venom plays a huge role in the overall story and makes his presence known in one of the greatest moments of the year. That’s all I’m going to say, but those who might have been worried he wouldn’t feature as prominently as Kraven have no cause for concern.
Swinging around the city doesn’t feel like a huge step away from the previous two, yet it doesn’t need to. Getting around is so smooth and easy, and while you’re often dashing across buildings and swinging down streets, the sense of freedom is staggering. You can occasionally drop to the floor or swing into an archway or water tower if you’re not paying attention to where you’re going, but generally, movement is liberating. The newest ability that makes travelling through districts a lot faster are the web wings. These can be used at any time and allow you to glide through the air at tremendous speeds. Air tunnels make it more effortless, and air vents can fire you up higher if you fly over them.
You can also make a temporary slingshot at certain locations near the river to fling you at great speeds over the water, making sure you’ve got plenty of ways to move through the city. Fast travel, once unlocked, is sublime. You can pick the exact place to land, with the game smoothly transitioning from the menu to Spider-Man beautifully. When switching between Peter and Miles, the speed at which this happens is nice and quick, and as you’ll be doing it a fair bit, it’s a much welcomed addition.
Even though you have two sets of moves and abilities in combat to contend with in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, it’s relatively straightforward once you get the hang of it. You can attack, parry, and dodge, utilising web swings and aerial attacks like before, and gadgets can be used in a multitude of ways. What makes fighting so enjoyable are the different abilities tethered to each individual Spider-Man. Pete’s are focused on his metal leg appendages that protrude from his back, while Miles’ revolve around the Venom abilities he learned in the last title. New ones can be unlocked and they can all be upgraded, along with more opening up the further into the story you get.
As Pete gets attached to the symbiote, his abilities become godlike, and while they add a further dimension to his skill set, they don’t make him feel overpowered. Kraven’s hunters and various other enemies will still prove a challenge thanks to the variety in their types and abilities. Some can’t be hurt until you parry successfully, others have guns and rocket launchers that attack from range, and others have shields or are at least twice as big as all the rest. You’re always pushed to your limits, and the further you get, the tougher it becomes, making every single fight thrilling and intense.
If you’re not wanting to go toe-to-toe with every villain up close, stealth is a fantastic option to take out enemies quietly, and sometimes it’s the only way to get the best results. Perch takedowns tie up enemies in webs from up high, and you can also do this to walls and through vents. Web Strike takedowns allow you to knock thugs out with one hit, and it’s easy to know the best opportunity to attack thanks to your scanner alerting you when it’s safe to do so. You’ll also unlock the ability to create your own web lines that allow you to walk across them and take bad guys down from wherever you want.
Outside of the main story are various missions that give both heroes plenty to do. EMF Experiments see Peter Parker complete mini puzzles based around molecular strands and environmental tethers, and Prowler Stashes see Miles find old tech from his Uncle Aaron making use of the adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. There are other mission branches that focuses on villains like Sandman, with some awesome cameos fans are going to love. Some of the side stuff doesn’t quite match the excitement of others, but there’s no denying there’s a nice amount of content. Some of the most impressive moments come from completing FNSM Requests, with one tugging on the heartstrings more than I’d have expected.
It’s one of the best-looking games on PS5, with the city of New York looking photo-realistic and filled with life. There’s a living, breathing world below, and it’s easy to forget. Thanks to the Photo Op side missions, you get to see more of this, showcasing how impressive the little details are. The animations of the characters is excellent, both in and out of cutscenes, and the level of detail in the suits, the buildings, and everything in-between is gorgeous. The use of the DualSense has been implemented so well, especially in the newer additions like Prowler Stashes where you have to hold down the L2 and R2 buttons at the right intensity.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is an excellent improvement on the previous two, even though they were both spectacular to begin with. What Insomniac has done is give players a well-written story that fleshes out their own Spider-Man universe while offering excellent combat and traversal, adding small yet important features that make it fulfilling to play as the world’s greatest superhero. It lets you go in webs blazing or using stealth, allowing you to play however you want to. Though the world may have mocked Peter Parker, the timid teenager, Insomniac has reminded us of his awesome might.
Great use of DualSense
Story is gripping and well-written
Some side missions are repetitive