Spider-Man is in his prime at the moment. There are successful movie runs in both live-action and animation, an excellent game series... and let's not talk about the comics. With Marvel's Spider-Man 2 Insomniac's Spidey is getting his next big outing but how does it hold up to the rest?
The Two Spider-Man… Spider-Mans, Spider-Men?
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 kicks off sometime after Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Miles is stressing about writing his college entrance paper, and Pete has just started as a teacher at Mile's high school.
Things immediately kick off as Sandman attacks the Financial District setting off an investigation into the appearance of a faction of hunters tracking and kidnapping past and present Spider-Man villains like the Scorpion, Tombstone, and Martin Li.
It's great to see so many of Spider-Man's villains showing up in different stages of their careers whether they be active, or on the road to redemption. It allows for plenty of big story moments, while the focus gets to remain on Kraven and the two Spider-Men.
While the overarching storyline of Kraven and the hunters keeps the action flowing, some of the best moments in Marvel's Spider-Man 2 are the personal narratives that Peter and Miles are going through.
Peter, in typical Spider-Man fashion, is dealing with the balance of crime fighting and maintaining his job and home life. Luckily he has support from Miles as well as MJ and Genki. His relationship with MJ is particularly grounding.
It's a very refreshing experience to have a Spider-Man story where Peter and MJ's relationship being in danger isn't a significant focus of the plot. Instead, Peter is focusing on work, relationships with friends, and dealing with the fallout of May's death from the first game. Mortgages are not cheap in New York.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 also deals with Peter getting the Black Suit, and the effect that that has on his mental state and temper fairly well. Being able to see Peter and Miles act with a similar temperament at the beginning of the game, and then witness Peter slowly going off the rails does a good job showing just how far he takes it. This is even more poignant when you aren't playing as Peter but are watching these violent acts from the perspective of Miles or MJ.
It's a new level of growth for Peter that a lot of fans of the movies and games likely haven't seen Peter going through.
Miles' turmoil is rooted in living up to the image of his mentor and idol, Spider-Man. This is framed as writer's block for his college entrance essay. How does he define who he is to a college when so much of his personal identity and worth is wrapped up in his secret identity?
Coming off the back of Spider-Man: Miles Morales the character of Miles does take on a backseat, especially as Venom begins to affect Peter, but has plenty of moments to shine.
Miles' troubled past with Martin Li causing the death of his father and his relationship with a newly reformed Prowler are a central part of the growth in his character arc. I loved seeing Miles deal with his morals while looking to the different role models in his life and where that took him as a regular high-schooler, as well as Spider-Man.
The core message in both of these stories is about balance. However, the path Peter and Miles take to find balance and grow through the story is completely different.
Quip and thwip as a Spider-Man
Players can take on the roles of both Peter Parker and Miles Morales Spider-Man. For the open-world segments, you're free to swap between the two at will, with an instantaneous switch between them.
Each of the Story Missions does require a specific Spider-Man, and some of the side-quests also require you to play as a certain character but for the most part, it's free range.
On top of web-swinging the new movement type is your Web Wings. While I did feel a bit strange to be spending so much time in a Spider-Man game flying this is a necessity for traveling across the water between Manhatten and Brooklyn.
Web Wings felt quite underpowered at the start of the game, especially as you wanted to do more slow exploration of the city. After upgrading your flight speed, and gaining the ability to boost through the air the Web Wings made cleaning up last objectives and hunting for hidden collectibles like the Spider-Bots a breeze.
In no way does web swinging or the game's traversal mechanics get in the way of themselves. Incorporating fast travel into the rewards for exploring and completing events in the different districts also means that as you might be getting tired of traversal there are options to do it less—incredible game design.
Side-Quests In The Big Apple
Exploring New York there's a lot to be keeping an eye out for. As you expand the map and progress through the story you'll unlock different activities like Photo Opportunities of New York life, timed combat challenges, and even a minigame where you need to fly through rings with a time limit. While the Web Wings function well when needing to travel fast and in a straight line they weren't the most comfortable for this Superman 64-style minigame.
As well as one-off events, there are also whole questlines that have you teaming up with Wraith to take on a mysterious cult and its leader, The Flame, and work as Miles to help recover stolen items from a Cultural Museum.
With how much traversal you'll be putting in exploring the city it's events like these, and the random crimes that appear, that will make sure you're always keeping an eye out. For those interested in 100% completing the game you will be happy to know that while you'll get parts for your suits and experience from stopping crimes there's no "per district" quota that you need to meet.
Use Miles' Electric Venom Abilities or Peter's… Symbiote Venom Abilities
The basic movement options for each Spider-Man are the same as you're traversing New York. Even in combat the basic combos you'll be using are the same, what's cool is how different each character's approach to movement is. You'll be able to see subtle differences in the way they both reach enemies and swing at them.
The major differences are in the special powers that each character has. Each character has two types of powers. For Peter, it's special attacks to do with Iron Spider arms coming out of his back, or the Venom (The symbiote) powers. For Miles, it's about his Venom (his electricity) powers and his Enhanced (more powerful electricity) powers.
It is somewhat funny that both characters end up with abilities from or named after Venom, though that's never addressed. In a similar vein, there are whole cutscenes between the two in public where they only refer to one another as Spider-Man. The subtitles get away with a difference by putting an image of the respective Spider-Man's face next to their name.
These special abilities have a variety of different looks to them but each falls into their own category of attacks whether they be splash damage, a tackle attack, grapples, or a way to throw a number of enemies in the air.
Boss fights, larger multi-phase battles, in Marvel's Spider-Man 2 were definitely a part of gameplay that didn't click quite as well as the rest of the game. These fights are normally 2-3 phases with gaps between to play a short cutscene or get in some jokes. The spongey health bar of these foes made the experience a test of endurance rather than anything truly difficult.
As you level up Spider-Man you'll get access to a singular skill point total which can be put into unlocking more abilities for both Spider-Men to learn, like the ability to disarm enemies or yank larger bad guys, or upgrade the character's individual skill tree.
At the start of the game, your combat abilities are fairly limited. Your webs aren't strong and you'll need to focus on ground combos and dodging. As you progress and obtain more skills you can start to expand your improvisational repertoire to be yanking enemies into the sky, throwing them at other foes, and dodging between and around them. It becomes very satisfying to see the kinds of combos you can pull off. By the end of the game, it did become apparent how broken the ability to flying kick enemies off roofs was, and became a healthy part of my repertoire.
I was a bit concerned when I first booted up Marvel's Spider-Man 2 that I would have to pick between which Spider-Man might become more powerful and how that could affect a mission if I ended up with a less upgraded Spidey. My fears were immediately put to rest when I got to experience how quickly you'll be leveling up.
Story missions and major map events will normally guarantee you enough experience for a level. If you're completing things like crimes as you travel as well you'll be earning them faster than you know what to do with them.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2's Third Playable Character
It isn't just Spider-Man and Spider-Man that you'll be able to play as in Marvel's Spider-Man 2. Mary-Jane Watson is also returning as a playable character from the first game. While in Insomniac's first spidey outing she was a stealth-only character in this sequel she gets far more action in this title.
Mary-Jane, having spent some time in Symkaria training under Silver Sable, is now the proud owner of a new set of skills and a powerful gun-tazer thing. MJ's gameplay made me feel like I was experiencing small bursts of The Last of Us gameplay, albeit not as focused on stealth.
You'll be skulking around enemies, tracking their paths, and finding opportunities to creep up behind them and take them out with a healthy amount of electricity. Her gameplay does expand as she is able to throw objects to create distractions, and even get ranged options later on in the game.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 isn't a stealth-focused game, and because of that the timing to perform a takedown as well as the cone of sight each of these enemies has is pretty lenient allowing you to practically run through these segments without incurring much harm.
MJ also has her own B-plot that runs throughout the story that has to do with her relationship with J. Jonah Jameson, the Daily Bugel, and her own journalistic integrity. While it doesn't carry as much weight as what Peter is going through the way her journey intersects with that of the main plot is a treat.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 Review | Final Thoughts
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 shows that Insomniac Games just doesn't miss. After weaving together incredible stories and gameplay in Marvel's Spider-Man and Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales they've managed to create a game focusing on two Spider-Men and have it be an incredible experience.
Every aspect of Marvel's Spider-Man 2 shows incredible polish. Whether you're witnessing emotional interaction between characters, beating up enemies, or artfully swinging through the city you'll always feel engaged in the world.
Players are once again in for an absolute treat with Marvel's Spider-Man 2 and it makes me even more excited to see what Insomniac is going to deliver with Marvel's Wolverine.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 5 with a copy provided by the publisher over the course of 24 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- New and improved traversal
- Surprising story beats
- Dense world
- Improved MJ Segments
- Superman 64 Ring Flight Minigame
- Spongey bosses