Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 (PS5) REVIEW – One of the Best Superhero Games Ever
October 20, 2023
Sony Interactive Entertainment
Insomniac’s take on Spider-Man was nothing short of a runaway success for both Sony and the developers, becoming one of the biggest PS4 exclusives ever made and setting a new benchmark for Spidey games — a franchise that’s literally swung from great to terrible multiple times. The fantastic movement options, great combat, and excellent stealth combined with the compelling story and characters helped create a superlative superhero experience, something that Insomniac built upon further with Miles Morales.
Expectations were suitably high for Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, but Insomniac has managed to create a sequel that’s even more entertaining than the previous two offerings, adding some smart upgrades to the formula while the narrative remains among the best that superhero gaming has to offer. If you have even just a passing interest in the iconic web-slinger, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is yet another reason why you should be picking up what Insomniac are putting down.
Set about a year after the events of Miles Morales, Spider-Man 2 opens with both Peter and Miles trying to navigate the double of heroism and being a regular Joe. Obviously, they’re terrible at it, and as the typical Spider-Man luck would have it, New York is about to be besieged by Kraven The Hunter, who quickly establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with. Throw in a returning Harry Osborn, seemingly cured from his illness by a mysterious black suit (you all know the one), and life is about to get a lot more complicated for the dual webheads.
For long-time comic book fans, the twists and turns seen in Spider-Man 2 might seem a bit predictable, especially with regards to Peter’s dalliance with the symbiote suit, but the story being told is still presented brilliantly. If this was someone’s first introduction to the Venom symbiote, it’d be a great starting point, but even veterans to the story can find plenty to enjoy here. The darker and more emotional moments in particular are where the story truly shines, with a couple of sections that might genuinely leave you with your jaw wide open.
While Venom might be the main headline grabber, it’s really Kraven who’s the star of the show here. Often treated as a bit of a goofy, one-note villain, Insomniac and voice actor Jim Pirri do an excellent job of making Kraven come across like an imposing force of nature. Anytime he’s on screen, he comes across as an intimidating menace who could genuinely rip Parker and Morales apart with his bare hands.
Something else that Insomniac excels at here is depicting villains attempting to reform or redeem themselves. There’s multiple, well executed examples in Spider-Man 2 of former villains trying to put their past actions behind them and make an honest go of it. Without trying to sound like a massive cliche, Insomniac really put the human element into these superhuman tales. Sure, it’s a corny line, but it’s nice to see some nuance in these tales of good versus evil.
As for gameplay, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 definitely aims to be more of a refinement of an already winning formula than a grand reinvention of the franchise. The fast-flowing combat and vertical stealth sections, both of which draw heavy influence from the Batman Arkham series, make a return here, while Spider-Man 2 also retains its best in class movement and traversal gameplay in its open world. Who would have thought that swinging from webs would be more satisfying than flying?
As for changes, it’s the traversal and combat where Insomniac have implemented the lion’s share of improvements. Getting around the city of New York feels like a huge upgrade over the previous two games, thanks in large part to the new wingsuit and wind tunnels which makes navigating the city so much faster. Combined with the air jumps and dashes that were introduced in Miles Morales, Spider-Man 2 is the best web slinging game ever made.
Meanwhile, Insomniac has added a host of new abilities and gadgets to give players more options in combat, whether it’s the addition of the Iron-Spider arms for Peter, the Evolved Venom powers for Miles (not the symbiote, his electric powers are also called Venom for some reason) or Peter’s Symbiote abilities he receives halfway through the game. Peter’s black suit in particular is a huge gamechanger, with both the abilities it grants and the way its animated feeling like a massive power boost for both Peter and the player.
Whenever video games have touched on the black suit Spider-Man arc, it’s usually treated like just another skin that doesn’t affect gameplay, but Insomniac has nailed the more violent and careless tendencies that emerge within Parker when the symbiote is in play. It’s absolutely terrifying to behold, which makes everyone else’s reaction to Peter and the black suit all the more realistic.
Compared to the other games in this series though, the stealth sections feel like the most neglected part of Spider-Man 2. The only change made here is the introduction of the Web Line, which allows you to create higher vantage points much easier, but other than that, the stealth formula remains exactly the same as it did in previous games. There also seems to be less stealth sections in general, which is a shame considering Spider-Man’s powers lend themselves well to a three-dimensional way of approaching stealth.
Something else that does tarnish Spider-Man 2 somewhat is the missing elements of worldbuilding like the social media feed that was in the previous two games. An element like that would have been perfect to showcase how New York City is reacting to Parker’s black suited rampage, though J. Jonah Jameson and the Danikast podcasts are still here. Weirdly though, there’s no option to replay podcasts you’ve already listened to, and considering how easily it is to cut off podcasts in Spider-Man 2 because you’ve accidentally stumbled onto a crime, most players will likely miss a lot of vital information.
Even despite that though, and the various glitches that have made themselves known since Spider-Man 2 launched, there’s no one else making superhero games quite like Insomniac Games, and Spider-Man 2 is yet another fantastic web-slinging adventure. If you want the absolute best that superhero gaming has to offer, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is it.
A digital copy of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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A brilliant superhero game, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 largely improves on the core formula while telling the most intimate, dramatic story yet.
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