Review of Spider-Man 2 by Marvel – a grand, heartfelt fantasy brimming with intense emotions and conflicts.
Making a follow-up to a popular video game is a challenging balancing act that even Spider-Man would struggle with. If you stick too closely to the original formula, you may be seen as uninspired and lacking ambition. However, if you stray too far from the original, you run the risk of losing the elements that made the game successful. With Spider-Man 2, Insomniac has expertly navigated this tightrope like an Olympic gymnast.
Once more, we are transported to a remarkably intricate and stunning recreation of New York City, now even larger and more vibrant than before. With the inclusion of both Peter Parker and Miles Morales, players have the ability to switch between the two as they navigate through the city under the threat of Kraven the Hunter, who aims to release a group of supervillains and hunt them for his own amusement. Meanwhile, the extraterrestrial symbiote responsible for Marvel’s Venom is hiding in an unexpected location, ready to strike.
The game’s main focus is on intense battles against familiar spider enemies and their followers. The two Spider-Men have a variety of web-slinging and melee moves, including combos and special attacks, at their disposal. You can even grab enemies and attack them while suspended in the air. As you progress, you can earn XP and tokens to upgrade your skills and suits, making your abilities even more powerful. While the two characters have slightly different powers, they use the same button layout, which may seem overwhelming at first due to the numerous button combinations. Players who have experience with the first two games will have an advantage as the combat mechanics remain similar, until Peter Parker gains some incredible new abilities.
The game’s pace and structure are similar to others in the series. Each section of New York offers a variety of side quests, such as stopping street crimes, infiltrating enemy hideouts, or handling local crises. These quests are scattered throughout the city and can be completed in addition to the main story missions. While completing all of them may appeal to some players, it is not necessary to progress in the game. The addition of new enemies, storylines, and a larger city map keep the gameplay fresh and engaging. Exploring Brooklyn and Queens adds more diversity and visual interest with their industrial areas, charming neighborhoods, and sprawling suburbs.
However, the game successfully merges the narratives of both Peter and Miles without overwhelming or oversimplifying the storyline. Their intersecting journeys sometimes coincide, other times oppose, yet always reveal unexpected layers and complexity. Parker is navigating adulthood, searching for employment and adjusting to living with MJ, while Morales is still coping with the loss of his father and battling with feelings of inadequacy.
These are not just minor details given to us quickly in cinematic scenes. In the midst of chaotic battles, the game also highlights moments of humanity, friendship, and emotion. For example, there is a heartwarming scene at Coney Island where Peter, Harry, and Mary Jane spend time together playing games and riding rollercoasters, allowing us to understand their bond. Additionally, a subplot involving a community center in Harlem and its jazz artifacts adds depth and is well-written. While you may not expect a Spider-Man game to delve into the relationship between bebop and rap music, it does and it is intriguing.
One of my favorite moments in the game does not involve the main characters. It is a side quest where Miles’s friend Hailey, who is hearing-impaired, teaches another graffiti artist to have confidence in her work. The way Hailey’s unique perspective is depicted on screen is creative and touching. This highlights that Insomniac is on par with Naughty Dog in its ability to blend story, subtext, and meaning into impactful interactive experiences.
The exciting way of moving in the first game, where you could easily swing from web lines like a professional, has returned. However, Insomniac has now added a wingsuit function for Spider-Man, allowing him to glide over long distances. This addition works seamlessly, enhancing the sense of fluidity and elegance as you soar through the city’s chasms and into the sky with the bustling city below. The experience is delightful, especially with the help of wind currents that flow along certain streets and over the Hudson and East rivers, allowing you to stay airborne for extended periods. In less skilled hands, gliding could have made web-slinging obsolete, but in this case, it serves as a perfect complement, extending your range without making you feel too powerful.
There are errors along the journey. The majority of the boss fights drag on for too long, adding on multiple stages of increasingly challenging action when a few phases would have sufficed. There are also some hallucinatory/VR fantasy scenes that, as usual, are more annoying and tedious than thrillingly bizarre. More difficult are the sporadic failures in the user interface: in a game with such a complex range of moves and actions, it is necessary to have clear indications, and sometimes it is not obvious what is expected in a puzzle sequence, potentially due to slight variations in the control scheme between stages.
Playing this game is a delightful experience due to the evident effort put into its creation and its faithfulness to the original material. It is a must-play for anyone with a PS5, made even better by its inclusive accessibility features that allow for a diverse group of players to enjoy the role of Spider-Man. This game embodies the standard for mainstream action adventure video games: a grand, passionate fantasy filled with intricate elements and packed with intense conflicts and emotions. In every aspect, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 truly embodies Stan Lee’s iconic motto: Excelsior!