Available On: PlayStation 5
The sequel to Insomniac Games’ Marvel’s Spider-Man presents a unique challenge: continue the story and expand the gameplay from the original 2018 action-adventure game, as well as the equally excellent 2020 spin-off, Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
The solution is a story that features both Spider-Men in the lead role, an expanded New York City that’s twice the size of the original game, and a gripping story that plumbs into deeper emotional depths for our young heroes.
The Hunter and the Symbiote
With many of Spidey’s infamous villains behind bars (or dead), life in NYC is fairly quiet, until a new threat arrives: Kraven the Hunter.
Kraven is a powerful man with a death wish to die in glorious battle with a powerful adversary. He has an inexhaustible supply of like-minded minions, and advanced weaponry and technology. And New York is home to oodles of super-powered beings and tech-savvy trouble-makers.
Thankfully it’s also home to two Spideys running around, Peter Parker and Miles Morales.
Kraven is a fantastic villain for the first two-thirds of the game, unrepentant and boisterous, and his minions offer a nice variety of enemy forces and tactics, from zip-lining crossbow wielders to radar-pulsing robot dogs.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 also tackles the Venom storyline, smartly building on the relationship and story teases from the first game, with Peter’s best friend Harry Osborn’s return — and feeling better than ever.
It’s easily one of the best and most personal Venom stories we’ve seen on screen, with Pete’s relatable descent into aggression and danger.
On the other hand, the final act feels quite rushed, with too much story packed into a few hours. And while Miles is given some nice character moments (and my favorite side quests), Pete hogs the spotlight for most of the main plot.
It Takes Two
Both Peter and Miles swing through the city, punch bad guys, and use the same web gadgets, which are thankfully streamlined from the original games.
The new control schemes makes deploying abilities and gadgets much easier without the need to select them in a weapon wheel. I use the standard web shooters far more often, incorporating them into combos to stick enemies to walls, or grabbing and hurling them with more webs.
The two heroes also feature some unique abilities. Peter Parker has access to the visually dynamic metal spider limbs seen in the 2018 film Avengers: Infinity War, while Miles can use his electric venom abilities to stun and knock enemies around. Both characters also unlock all-new abilities that are slightly spoilery, and it’s up to me which skills to equip as I progress through the skill trees.
Even with Pete’s unlockable skills, I still found Miles a bit more fun to play. He’s also the only one suitable for stealthy missions thanks to his very useful invisibility skill.
The world of New York City has been expanded to include Brooklyn and Queens, which add suburban neighborhoods, bridges, and the fun little amusement park of Coney Island.
Getting around the larger city is even easier thanks to the new web wings, allowing the Spidey’s to glide and access wind tunnels and updrafts. Fast travel is an unlockable feature for each district, but whipping around with web swings and wings remains one of the best parts of the game.
The side quests are all wonderful, allowing little character moments to develop and shine, and the game isn’t afraid to take its time on slower, character-driven scenes of mostly dialogue. I was pleasantly shocked by all the fun cameos, reveals, and references to Spider-Man’s lore and the wider Marvel universe.
The open world tasks are a mixed bag, however. The combat-centric tasks are fun because the combat remains fast, rewarding, and combo-driven throughout the game, and I found a new side task based on web wing gliding challenging but exhilarating. But a few tasks are a little too stupid and repetitive. I know Pete’s a scientist, but should we really be spending time watering plants when the city is under attack?
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is rated T for Teen with Blood, Drug Reference, Mild Language, and Violence. It’s a darker, more serious story than the first two games, as any story that involves the monstrous, manipulative symbiote tends to be. There are even a few scenes and situations that are horror-themed. It still warrants a T-rating, but something to keep in mind for younger Spidey fans.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 features a compelling story, great characters, rewarding combat, and perfectly-sized open world that shows off the beauty of the PlayStation 5. It’s the perfect sequel, and one of the best games of the year.