Marvel's Spider-Man 2 Review - A Webbed Wonder
Being arguably the most beloved character in Marvel’s roster of comic-book heroes, Spider-Man has long been the star of many video-game adaptations, but as has been well documented, adaptations over the decades have been largely poor. Spider-Man had perhaps been a victim of this less than other superheroes from both the DC and Marvel licenses, with the occasional gem, but never had the IP been worked on by as prestigious of a team as Insomniac Games. Insomniac reset all expectations that gamers had for the IP in the video game realm with the launch of 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man, and 2020’s PS5 launch title, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Miles Morales was a wonderful complementary addition to the franchise, but fans have been waiting a long time for the newest entry in the larger Spider-saga, and finally, with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 they get what they’ve been waiting for – and Insomniac hasn’t disappointed.
Time has passed since both the conclusion of 2018’s Spider-Man and then Miles Morales, and yet tethers to the events of the previous games still exist in Spider-Man 2. There’s no messing around in the setup of events however. Peter Parker is trying to nail down employment, something that has been incredibly hard to do given his moonlighting as the web-swinging wonder, while Miles Morales is himself trying to carve out his own space in the world, whilst also juggling the needs of being a world-saver that the city of New York depends upon. These priorities are tested immediately as Sandman launches a devastating attack on the city, one that forces the pair into action. That encounter puts several gears into motion however, with the menace that is Kraven learning of the super-powered presences found in NYC, leading him to journey over with his army as he hunts for someone who is worthy of fighting him.
As a backdrop to all of this, Miles still contends with the anger and pain connected to his fight with Mr. Negative and what was taken from him in that fight, and Peter’s best friend, Harry Osborn has, with the aide of modern science (and a mysterious mass known as the Symbiote) recovered from a life-long affliction to be in full health. Peter’s relationship with MJ is strained due to financial pressures on both of their ends, and a range of professional constraints as well.
With all of the pieces assembled, all pulling in different directions, Insomniac has then gone on to assemble a breathtaking narrative that contorts in a range of expected and unexpected ways. Plotlines weave in and out of each other, and nobody is safe, in a plotline that is decidedly darker (and deadlier) than that of the two previous titles. The immediate threat of Kraven is apparent, especially as the list of victims grows, while the injection of Venom into the mix drastically reframes the conflict, bringing characters together (and pushing others apart) in wildy different ways.
What shouldn’t be overlooked either are the side quests. The arcs of these have improved significantly compared to the original game, with even the simplest of plotlines (collecting each Spiderbot) presenting a fascinating end note that will be an incredible hook for future games. Others, from those spinning off the FNSM (Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man) app to larger plotlines focussing on how Sandman’s initial outburst began, or one about a cultist group called “The Flame” all are riveting, and in the eyes of some will be best left until post-game so that you can soak them up in an uninterrupted fashion… they’re that good.
Of course if you’re going to be playing the role of the sensational Spider-Man then you’re going to want the kinetic action of the game to be of the highest standard. Fortunately Insomniac mastered this art with the release of the original game, however both Peter and Miles have a few new tricks added to this new entry to make traversal a breeze (literally). As well as all of the web-swining techniques that have long been available to the duo, players can also utilise “web wings” to glide, or even to catch a breeze with a few gusty spots being situated between both the core island of NYC, but also neighboring Queens. Getting from one spot to another has never felt smoother, and despite it still ultimately taking longer than fast-travelling around, swinging is for many, still going to be the preferred mode of transport.
As a combat experience, Spider-Man 2 still lifts heavily from Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham games that came before it, with the face-to-face action still feeling quite similar, despite numerous more fantastical additions that come with Miles’ powers and even Peter’s Symbiote suit. Leading into the launch of the game, player fears existed that Peter’s relative skillset compared to Miles would mean that he wasn’t going to be as appealing of a playable prospect, however due to Peter having access to the Iron Spider limbs, as well as the symbiotic powers of the black suit, he has no relative weaknesses, making him just as viable as Miles to play as. The skill trees for both heroes are fun to explore and provide meaningful additions to your skillset, however most enemies can be thwarted with fairly basic combos that are available early in the game anyway.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 ticks a lot of boxes, however it’s launch-day technical troubles are of note. Across my 30+ hours to 100% the game, the game hard crashed on two occasions, and there were several other progression-breaking glitches too that required checkpoint resets. There were a number of visual glitches too, with one turning my Miles into a tiny cube flying through the sky, and others purely cosmetic that created a “looking through fly-wire” effect. While it’s easy to see many of these issues being promptly fixed post-launch, they were plentiful enough in this pre-launch period to be of concern. Beyond this however, the game both looks and sounds exceptional. New York City, as well as the newly added Queens are bustling with life, and look incredibly genuine as you soar by, the populace react to your crazy antics, while the core cast have been wonderfully realised both visually and through their voice-acting. The soundtrack works all elements of the heartstrings, powered by wonderful storytelling, and sensational composing.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is exactly what a sequel to the 2018 smash needed to be. Bigger, better and more bad-ass, Spider-Man 2 throws some of the biggest names in the franchise at players, but ties them all together with a meaningful plot that instantly grabs your interest, and pairs it with gameplay that is sublime to engage with. The Spider-Man franchise, across, film, TV, comics, and games, has never been in better hands than it is right now.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was reviewed on PS5 with a code kindly provided by PlayStation Australia