Is it just me, or is 2023 dashing an incredible hot streak in gaming history? Stellar entries have hit the stores nearly every other week, the latest of which is Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 for PS5. After the beautiful tribute to the Web-Slinger titular character in 2018 Marvel’s Spider-Man and the follow-up rise of Spider-Man’s mentee thrust into the spotlight and picking up the good, friendly neighborhood superhero work where Petey left off, Insomniac Games and Sony return with a third banger: Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.
It’s hard to say Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is legit good after the massively successful launch of its predecessors. As is Sony and Insomniac’s fashion, blockbuster titles like these often perform little tweaks here and there to deliver a more polished experience. As a result, the final product is usually, more or less, outstanding. But even so, we’ll try our best to pose no bias or Marvel’s Spider-Man blues for this review. Simply take Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 apart and reveal what we’re all dying to know: Is Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 worth it?
A Radioactive Spider Bit Me, Now I Fight Crime
We all know the drill. A rare radioactive spider bites Peter Parker, turning him into a spidery superhuman. It makes Pete stronger and faster and gives him spot-on reflexes. What’s more? He heals on his own and has an advanced sixth sense of power. But all that doesn’t beat his ability to crawl up walls and spin webs, hence his superhero tag: spiderman.
As with the previous entries, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 focuses on compelling storytelling to carry forward its missions and side missions. It infuses strong writing delivered by exceptional performances that capture the emotion and expression of characters to a T. The visuals, too, look stunning, with animations emitting realism and details deserving of a blockbuster film.
We follow not one but two Spiderman, each with unique trajectories, yet donning interpersonal solid connections and the inner struggles every Spiderman has faced over the years. They live double lives. Peter struggles to find his way upon completing his biophysics degree at Columbia University. Miles, on the other hand, waves his buddies off as they go to college, leaving him stuck with the responsibility of protecting New York from soon-to-be-revealed baddies.
Both Peter and Miles are a little older than the predecessors’ storylines. Yet, in more ways than one, they still seem to battle with themselves and the relationships around them. Finding that perfect balance between a normal human being and a superhero will always be difficult, primarily when a giant sandman attacks the city at the start of Peter’s new science teaching job at Miles’ school.
Same Job, Different Tools
Having two spidermen in one game is compelling. It makes sense to, along with unique storylines, design distinct gameplay for each one. That way, the game feels more extensive than it is, with the freedom to switch between Peter and Miles at will and test out their capabilities across various scenarios.
Miles and Peter now have individual skill trees and a third combined one for both. It helps to give the illusion of playing different characters, where Peter will do things that Miles can’t do, and vice versa. Miles continues cultivating his bioelectric powers to outstanding levels, growing stronger than Peter as you progress. Meanwhile, Peter kicks off with robotic arms and later imbues himself with the infamous Venom black suit. More subtle differences set them apart, like Miles’ invisibility, more range, and agility compared to Peter.
Playing both Peter and Miles results in jaw-dropping explosive action, far more than any Spider-Man game has accomplished. The shocking value and intrigue in the storylines of the predecessors are missing here. In its place is an explicit focus on action—no complaints whatsoever. Spiderman’s webs come in handy in nearly every scenario, from scooping up enemies and battering them while perched high up above to creating makeshift web bridges to tip-toe and spy on enemies before descending on them with a blast of web strikes, swing kicks, chain lightning—you know, the usual whirlwind of Spiderman’s best moves.
Punch. Hit. Kill.
The quieter moments in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 are the story progression. When that’s done, though, Peter and Miles quickly become busy bees, smashing and killing anything in their way. Kraven the Hunter and Venom both swear to give the friendly neighborhood superheroes sleepless nights. Kraven, in particular, amasses an army that solely enjoys the thrill of the hunt for superhuman heroes, villains, mutants, beasts—you name it—thriving in the heart of New York.
Peter and Miles come in to restore order, fighting off a whopping enemy variety compared to the predecessors that helped keep the gameplay feeling fresh and alive. Along with your basic dodge and attack moves, you can simultaneously access gadgets and power abilities. Notably, these combat sequences have a leg above their predecessors, with seamless fluidity and packing a punch that feels better than ever. It’s impressive, as combat was already fascinating, as it were. Insomniac is taking its notches higher, meeting and surpassing expectations for the better. As a bonus, you can play Venom on one mission, leading to a spectacular fight against Kraven and his army.
Right after a bombastic, blazing-fast combat attack, slow-motion moments genuinely make you feel like Spider-Man. In contrast, the symbiote black suit design feels textured and otherworldly. It makes you more potent but more aggressive, as it corrupts Peter while he tries to fight it off. As the Symbiote Meter fills up, it unleashes hell after constantly landing successful hits on enemies by amplifying your damage output and abilities. Fortunately, the mechanics remain the same for the most part, so fans should have an easier time advancing. I wish the skill trees had more to offer in the way of progression to encourage further exploration. Still, no complaints.
Sling and Slam
Granted, traversal is always fantastic, even in the previous entries. To one’s imagination, the wind feels breezy as you swing between skyscrapers. But somehow it feels elevated with speed and fluidity worthy of the PS5. While Peter’s and Miles’ traversal is pretty much the same, both feel insanely fast. You can stick to the usual web-slinging. But there are ways to fast-travel, including gliding on web wings. It comes in handy, especially since New York is twice as large as the predecessors, with massive ocean space to cover and actual fast travel from point A to B unlocking later on.
Speaking of a more expansive open world, bigger isn’t always better. The predecessors did feel padded, with overwhelming checkpoints and objectives to cross off your list. This time, it feels free to gallivant your way across New York. You don’t have to pull up the map to find side quests or missed collectibles. Instead, they’re highlighted for you in-game. But as much as there’s more ground to cover, there isn’t much difference content-wise to keep you engaged. Enemies are similar; side missions are too. It hardly compels you to traverse the city, let alone spend quality time once you arrive at your destination.
Speaking of side missions, Insomniac has done a fantastic job of making them extensions of the main story. You’ll run into interesting characters with nifty tales of their own. The side missions vary, from stopping street crimes to investigating enemy hideouts. Stealth takes a back seat generally (and thankfully), with crowd control and taking on groups of enemies favored more. At one point, you play as playable MJ, who, despite complaints last time, doesn’t overstay her welcome. Short and sweet at best, I’d say.
From faster traversal to explosive action, Insomniac seems to have brushed on every aspect of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 gameplay that matters most. It feels fantastic cruising around a polished New York and tinkering with your exhilarating, diverse gadgets and abilities.
Performance on the PS5 makes trade-offs in other areas, like hair detail and traffic density, to deliver a steady 60 fps rate. Not once did loading times, dropped frames, reflections, and the like hinder the experience.
The one thing that falters is the open world, which can sometimes feel like an empty vessel needing variety. Still, that hardly compares to the overall thrill of the swing. On that front, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 keeps feeling better and better every day.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 Review (PS5)
Doubling Down on Webs’ Superhero Power Trip
With Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 breaking the 24-hour PlayStation Studios sales record, it seems like the web-slinging sequel is poised to be one of 2023’s greatest games. Swinging about twice-as-large New York and switching between Peter Parker and Miles Morales at will looks and feels really enjoyable.
When you’re not getting to know the struggles of balancing superhero and normal human life in the quieter moments of the story, you’ll be busier grabbing and smashing every villain that dares disturb the peace in the neighborhood. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 feels more explosive and action-oriented than previous entries. It doesn’t take away from the experience either; instead, it exemplifies Spiderman’s charm all the more.