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My relationship with superhero media is a strained one at best, but it wasn’t always that way. I used to adore just about anything Marvel and DC put out there for fans to absorb, and for a time, I loved the slew of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies that kept popping up in theaters. However, much like many fans, I’m just kind of burned out with it all. Marvel fatigue has truly set in, and I have no time for every hero’s sarcastic quips, their stories, or their snazzy lycra outfits. Yet despite that, never has my love for Spiderman ever wavered.
I think that’s down to a number of factors, such as the Into The Spiderverse movies, and my love for every hero, villain, and character within this world. However, being a lifelong gaming fanatic, I think it’s Spiderman’s largely successful association with gaming that makes him so appealing.
The old PS1 Classic title and its follow-up ‘Enter Electro’ were great, and the PS2 era movie tie-in for Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2 was wonderful. However, Insomniac have cemented themselves as masters of their craft when it comes to creating Spiderman games, and it seems after much anticipation, we are about to hop into another Spidey adventure.
It’s a game that offers a pulsating story, double the Spidermen, an expanded NYC map, and so much side content to keep you busy as you swing through this beautiful metropolis. However, does this game do enough to surpass the brilliance of its predecessors, or does it feel like a series that is becoming a little ‘paint by numbers’? We find out in our Marvel’s Spiderman 2 Review, conducted on PS5.
A Multi-layered Marvel Masterclass
Let’s begin with the storyline for this new chapter in Insomniac’s unique branch of Spiderman lore. From the moment I first stepped into the original Marvel’s Spiderman, I was enamored with Insomniac’s ability to take so many pre-established characters, tropes, ideas, and gimmicks, and then strip them for parts before proceeding to rebuild a world that was similar, lovingly crafted, yet truly unique compared to all other Spidey outings.
It was a possible concern that they would struggle to keep this narrative success going in the sequel, but that worry would have been misplaced, as they have smashed it out of the park once again.
For those unaware, this Spidey affair sees you play a dual role as both Peter Parker and Miles Morales, where you will need to share the burden of protecting the city while managing your love life, family ties, and much more. You know, the usual song and dance for anyone adorning the Spidey suit. The game tries to give each character equal billing but to be frank, this is a story about Peter Parker, with Miles playing the supporting role.
It’s a title that always has you guessing who the main antagonist will be, as you begin battling Sandman, but before the credits roll, you’ll have fought Lizard, Scorpion, Mr Negative, Kraven, and of course, Venom. It’s this ever-evolving plot that keeps things exciting throughout, but it’s the clever writing that makes this story so bingeworthy.
I could dive into the specifics of the story, but that would be a disservice to those who haven’t yet witnessed this epic for themselves, so I’ll just say this. Through Insomniac’s writing, every character feels fully realized and multi-faceted. Through excellent vocal performances, every encounter feels emotive and engaging, and through solid pacing, every moment answers a question but raises another, willing you to push on to the next mission. It’s a narrative triumph, but it’s not without its flaws.
When the Suit Comes Off
One problem I had with previous Insomniac Spiderman titles was the amount of time the player spent not playing as Spiderman. I’m not naive; I know gameplay must have peaks and valleys, and having the action at a ten from start to finish isn’t the way to go, either. However, in the past, these moments without the suit felt like unwelcome distractions from the core gameplay.
Well, the good news is that the game somewhat fixes this issue, but not fully. I have to give credit and say that, unlike its predecessors, Marvel’s Spiderman 2 has moments not playing as Spiderman that serve as some of the highlights for the entire game.
Enjoying a bike ride with Harry as Cigarette Daydreams plays in the background was a fun tangent; playing as Hailey and playing from the perspective of a deaf character was eye-opening, and enjoying the stalls at the fairground with MJ and Harry was a blast, especially when I got my stylish neon hat. But even with all the good, there are still the mind-numbing sections that marred the experience years back.
While the developer has clearly tried to make the stealth sections with MJ more mechanically appealing and fun, these still feel like wedged-in sections that I wanted to be over so I could get back to the fun stuff. I maintain that if your game isn’t a stealth game, you shouldn’t include any stealth whatsoever, and this isn’t an exception to that rule at all.
I will concede that, by the end, her sections do feel like a horror shooter of sorts. Kind of like if the developers were asked to create Dead Space from memory while wearing a blindfold and hopping on one foot, but all in all, there is still a constant nagging feeling that if you aren’t swinging through the city, you should be.
A Revamped Concrete Jungle
Getting back to more positive things now as we discuss the visuals and world design. Beginning with the overall visuals, which are, in a word, ‘gorgeous.’ The bar was already very high due to the success of past entries in the series, but the developers have managed to push the hardware even more to offer an NYC Cityscape that looks even more true-to-life than ever before.
Firstly, the overall world design. This is where the game really makes its case that ‘more is more.’ In the previous titles, New York felt like an abridged version of the real thing, but this time the player will actually be able to cross the water to new districts and explore a much more fully fleshed-out New York.
Whether it’s hanging out in the suburbs, crossing over to The Raft to hang out with the criminals you put away, or just staring out at a vastly larger skyline, you’ll come away with the overall feeling that this NYC is a massive upgrade from the last.
Then as for overall visuals, thanks to incredible high-fidelity options, ray-tracing, stunning lighting, meticulous detail on even the smallest assets, and the ability to run the game at a solid 30FPS even on these ridiculous settings, the game looks and feels incredible even when swinging at high speeds through New York.
Every time you perch on a building, you can’t help but pan the camera to find a picturesque view. When you scale a building, I wager you’ll regularly stop in place to look at the reflections of the skyline on the glass. Then you top that off with a range of cool suits, character and villain models, and more. You have to ask yourself, could you ask for more here?
Well, if I’m being harsh, yes, on this occasion you could. This may be due to the fact that I played a physical version of this game, which reportedly has been marred with some issues. However, to state the facts, I witnessed multiple crashes throughout the run, a number of soft locks as I got stuff in environments, and a handful of freezes as well. I also witnessed some glitching assets, some animations that snapped into place awkwardly, and a few less notable issues.
These were all immersion-breaking and frustrating, but even with these in mind, I still think this game is a visual masterclass. The game presents a breathtaking metropolis where simply existing and exploring feels worth the price of admission, and if a game can do that, then that’s pretty special.
Building On Strong Foundations
We now move on to the gameplay, which for returning players will feel familiar, but much improved pretty much across the board. What I have to praise Insomniac for is not falling into the usual trap that other Action RPGs tend to by stripping the player of the powers they acquired in the last outing to have them spend XP to acquire them again in the sequel. This is a PSA to all developers, we, gaming as a collective, hate that.
Instead, the game gives you pretty much every single ability that you had in the first game, but then gives you a wealth of new skills and abilities to experiment with as you work your way through the game. There are a tonne of great smaller additions, but I’ll try to focus mainly on the real game-changers. Firstly, let’s talk about the Wingsuit.
With a bigger map comes larger travel times, especially if you are slinging the same old webs that you were before, so the developer decided to give the player a way to fall with style, introducing a glide mechanic right from the start of the game. This allows you to cover large distances much faster, and with the plentiful updrafts and wind tunnels, the player can feasibly glide endlessly around the city. This addition added a real fluidity to the already amazing traversal, and while it’s not an inherently Spiderman inclusion, it’s a welcome one nonetheless.
Then secondly, we have the Spiderman stealth sections where you can go in all guns blazing, or stay in the rafters and pick off individuals. This was fine in the previous game, but with the additions of Web Lines, allowing the player to create their own tightropes to form paths to enemies, it’s no longer a fidgety process to line up a stealth takedown. I was on the fence as to whether I truly enjoyed these sections in the past, but with this change, I can really see the value in them now.
Then third on the podium of awesome changes is the ability to briefly glide across water’s surface, which makes traversing less densely packed areas around water less of a pain. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself dropping into the ocean and having to shamefully swim to shore in the original. So this addition makes navigating the Hudson River as much fun as everywhere else on the map.
Swing And A Miss
While these changes are what make this game so much more fluid and fun to play from an overworld perspective, I feel that a lot of the mechanical shortcomings come to light during the main story content. I’ll begin with the combat, which I have to say, is arguably worse than it was back in the original title.
This game retains the feel of the first, where players will spam attacks to build focus, then use takedowns to take out enemies akin to the Batman Arkham Trilogy. Then you can also use web to disarm, throw, and tangle enemies. In addition, you also have your abilities, like Peter’s Mech Arms and Miles’ Venom abilities, along with a few new ability types and gadgets to employ as well.
It works fine in practice, but here’s the problem, it’s more or less the same as it was before, with little to no improvements, and it was already a little derivative of Batman’s mechanics as it was. Then the changes that were made, such as jumping to dodge some attacks, and a need to parry attacks, needlessly complicated a functional combat system with no reward or added enjoyment for the player.
This really becomes apparent in the rather lackluster boss encounters. The ones like Sandman in the beginning mission that are largely made up of set pieces work great. However, those that happen within a boss arena masquerade as three-phase boss battles, but they are really the same rather paper-thin boss encounter three times over.
Then to top it all off from a combat perspective, Miles is so much more capable than Peter for most of the game. When Peter (Mild Spolier) gets access to his Symbiote abilities, things start to even out, but until then, Peter hasn’t got the ability to exact any crowd control with his moveset, and considering the combat is mainly fighting against the odds, this makes the early to mid-game a little frustrating.
If this was a sacrifice to ensure that the traversal mechanics, the world, and the story were up to scratch, I can see why this underwhelming combat system is what we got, but in truth, I would have been happier if they just made no changes at all.
New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down
Then lastly, before we sign off, I need to be critical of the open-world bloat on show within this game. I always keep a keen eye on PlayStation Studios’ open-world games, as they flirt with the idea of becoming Ubisoft map marker-abundant, formulaic trash more than I would like. Up until now, they’ve kept to the right side of the tracks, but this game is by far the closest they have come to painting by numbers in the form of map marker objectives.
It was a problem that was present in the original title, and with a bigger map size, it has only become more prevalent in this iteration. When the player strays from the main story and engages with the side content, they could be met with a fun side mission, of which some are truly excellent, or they could be met with a fun distraction that’s engaging the first time they take on the challenge.
However, as the main story wraps up and you’re left with a laundry list of odd jobs to do, it becomes a real war of attrition to check off objectives. Whether it be collectibles, bases to clear, puzzles to solve, or Mysteriums to battle through, it all becomes repetitive well before you come close to 100%.
This raises the question, could one or two of these side content types have been kept for a later release, or simply not included at all, allowing work to be done elsewhere? There simply wasn’t any need for this amount of bloat.
One could argue that it gives you an excuse to keep swinging around and existing in this magnificent NYC setting, but in truth, due to the mundane and arbitrary nature of the content, it feels like you’ve stayed too long at a party, and that empty feeling sinks in as the sun peers through the curtains.
If you’re looking for a Superhero epic like this one, or just an Action RPG adventure with the same general vibe, then these games will be right up your alley:
- The Batman Arkham Trilogy
- Horizon Forbidden West
- Infamous: Second Son
- God of War: Ragnarok
- Assassin’s Creed Mirage
- Ghosts of Tsushima
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Verdict – 8/10
Overall, I feel that Marvel’s Spiderman 2 aims to offer players a game that feels bigger and better than those that have come before, and without question, the game meets that goal at a canter.
The larger map makes New York feel like more than just Skyscapers with Central Park in the middle, the improved traversal makes getting around even more fun than it already was, and the story within this game offers arguably a much more engaging and clever twist on existing ideas within the Spidey Universe than any game, movie or comic that has preceded it.
However, when the fast-moving locomotive that is the main story reaches its destination, you’re left with a whole lot of open-world busywork that doesn’t do enough to justify remaining in NYC after the credits roll. Then when you combine this with minor performance issues, frustrating stealth missions, and combat that fails to offer deep, nuanced encounters and you have a game that is great, but, when graded on a curve, isn’t greater than th original that first captured the lightning in a bottle years ago.
- Jaw-dropping visuals and world design
- Much improved traversal mechanics
- A compelling original Spiderman story
- Times spent not as Spidey are much more interesting
- Combat is largely unchanged, yet somehow worse than before
- Open-world bloat remains an issue
- Mild performance issues
- Mary Jane Watson still has far too prominent of a role in gameplay
Callum played this game for a total of 22 hours before writing this review. He completed the main story and tied up all loose ends to earn a well-deserved platinum trophy.
Question: How Long is Marvel’s Spiderman 2?
Answer: If you want to beat the game, you’ll need to invest 15-20 hours. As for completionists, you’ll be looking at playtime closer to 20-25 hours.
Question: Which Spiderman Gets More Airtime?
Answer: Peter Parker is the protagonist of this story, for sure. Miles still has a prominent role, but I would say that you’ll play as Peter more than Miles across the game’s run
Question: How Many Districts Are There?
Answer: There are a total of eleven districts in this newly expanded NYC map.
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