Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 feels like a refined, more focused adventure when you compare it to the original game and the most recent Miles Morales. While the first two games acted as a great introduction to Insomniac’s superhero universe, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 finally throws the introductions out the window and focuses on character development, and relationship building and, of course, dives into the wonderful lore Venom brings to the table.
Watch our Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 review below:
I think the most exciting part of the game for me was how it tackles Venom, the lead-up to the villain’s reveal and how brilliantly it was all delivered. If anything, we haven’t seen Venom represented at this sort of scale before outside of the comic book. Sure, some may argue with me that past movies and games did the character justice but you have no idea what you’re in for here.
I was constantly Googling names of bosses and even items to reference where they appeared in the comic book series. Every time I thought the game had exhausted all of its….. Venomness, it surprised me with another excellent throwback. There were even moments I didn’t expect.
Don’t get me wrong here, I had a few issues with the game’s pacing at first. For the majority of the game, I didn’t see or hear Venom at all. That’s because the game’s story puts a spotlight on everything else going on in the background while the symbiote brews for its epic reveal. However, after I completed the game, I think the way Insomniac tackled the appearance of Venom worked in its favour. Too much Venom would have been overkill and I can confidently say that what I did see and experience from the character was mind-blowingly good. It was just enough.
That is to say, mostly everything in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 follows that same structure. The first game felt a bit bloated with its sandbox mechanics. The open world got tiring after a while and the activities never felt like they went anywhere. This time around, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has cut down the number of crimes you can help fight and the various side missions for a more focused approach to storytelling. Each side mission plays into an overarching narrative which is tied to another main character or plot reveal.
There’s even one side mission that led to a major plot point in the game and basically confirmed a huge event later down the line. This is likely being saved for DLC or perhaps Marvel’s Spider-Man 3 but it is a rather substantial event in the Spider-Man universe. It’s so big that Insomniac Games left it on a cliffhanger to tackle at another point.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is also split equally down the middle. Miles and Peter are both playable most of the time. They both have their own cool side missions to take on and some can be played with either character. It works and feels fluid throughout the campaign. I especially enjoyed how the game’s story would progress in the background while I was stuck playing with Miles. I would then return to Peter Parker and it would be a few weeks later. Obviously, the time I spent doing Miles’ stuff was filler here.
The side missions are also enjoyable and don’t feel like fluff. Instead of mindlessly taking pictures of locations around the now larger-than-ever New York, the photo ops contain throwbacks to the story and even some cool easter eggs. Peter’s love for science is used to help progress research in mini-games around the city and Miles has to unlock secret safe houses locked behind unique puzzles.
Again, these side activities all contribute to a checklist of things which then progress a story. Even if these resulted in a quick cinematic with a few lines of dialogue at the end, I felt as if they were levels beyond what we got in the first game. There are some genuinely good moments to experience through these side missions. They were also heartwarming. It also helps that these are tied back to characters which Insomniac has spent two games developing for us already.
Peter and Miles are both Spider-Man (men…mans?) and the combat feels the same across both characters. They both also have the same Gadget loadout. If anything, the general kick, punch, web swing and throws are basically copy-and-paste here too. However, where they stand out is their abilities. Peter has his spider arm attacks, some symbiote stuff and Miles gets electricity. While Miles really does get the short end of the stick here, combat is still fun across both characters.
So while I was kicking, punching, web swinging and throwing baddies around, I was doubling these attacks up with a chain lightning shot with Miles, a kick-up arm attack with Peter and a goo ball every now and then thanks to his symbiote powers.
The same goes for the Gadgets. One uplifts enemies into the air, one can pull everything into a centre point, one stuns enemies, and one attacks them with a ricochet web. While they act exactly the same across both characters, performing combos thanks to their abilities is where the game shines. I was often really tired while playing late at night and even then as I stumbled and pressed the wrong buttons, Miles and Peter would look kickass and string together some awesome combos.
Don’t get me wrong, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 can be tough. Distant enemies still shoot you and are as annoying as ever. Brutes aren’t so easily beaten either. But thanks to some cool new abilities, it was enjoyable even while I was dying over and over again. The parry system also felt fantastic and let me parry attacks and follow up with a counter punch and kick.
I could also choose to either favour parrying or dodging in the skill tree which gave me a bit of freedom to build a combat style I wanted. Sure, it isn’t an RPG and there’s very little room to create your own playstyle but the handful of swappable perks did come in handy. I especially enjoyed the extra air damage buff because I spent most of the time beating up enemies while floating in the air.
It goes a bit further. Both Miles and Peter also have abilities that once unlocked through story progression, can be assigned to buttons. So if you prefer to only use Peter’s spider arm attacks, you can map only those to the buttons.
I was a bit disappointed to see how little growth has been made in the sneaking and silent takedown mechanics. While Miles has the ability to go invisible, the game actually favours going loud and right into the action instead of sneaking around and swinging from point to point. I could still distract enemies and take them down one by one. There is one new mechanic which let me make a web line from basically any point. That way I could create an advantage above an enemy and not rely on a lampost.
But even with that, it is pretty clear Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is an action game and I barely wasted time sneaking around. I just jumped into the crowd, kicked enemies into the air and violently broke necks and backs. But never killed anyone because Spider-Man doesn’t kill. That random guy who I kicked off the skyscraper roof totally survived that fall.
When I wasn’t not killing people, I was exploring the city. The map in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is much bigger and getting around feels better than ever. This is mainly thanks to the new web wings which basically let me fly around like a flying superhero. Any one of them. You can choose. But I wasn’t actually flying, more like gliding.
With wind tunnels scattered around the city, I could also glide into one and speed up to the point where I was flying. These helped me cross the Hudson River and soar above the water. It really helped me get from one point to the other and it looks and feels unlike anything I have experienced in gaming to date. It defies the laws of physics, sure but it is incredibly fun.
Spider-Man can also do the usual swinging stuff which is used often too. Especially in chases. However, there’s also freedom here to chase someone down while gliding. So you do you. Both Peter and Miles also upgrade how fast they swing and the iconic kick-off move. It is familiar but feels great.
There is a fast travel system, which you can use but I found myself enjoying the parkour and most of the time, I didn’t have the fast travel unlocked for that region.
From a technical point of view, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a pretty-looking game. New York has definitely been upgraded. Everything looks denser, buildings are more detailed and the sheer number of assets across each scene make the city look and feel alive. I would say it almost replicated New York traffic…Almost. To also fly through all of this at incredible speeds and see everything in such high quality is a real testament to game design.
The action set pieces in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 are also just pure adrenalin rushes. They are wonderfully set up, and scripted, and truly capture that essence you would expect from a superhero game. Most of the time it all looks great and sounds incredible. This was the first game I also played with Dolby Atmos thanks to the newly-added support and there are so many wow moments that showcase this.
There are a few visual issues here and there though. Raytracing, while great to have, rears its ugly head every now and then in certain scenes. You’ll look into the reflection on a TV or window and see super-low poly characters and assets. They are basically untextured too. It is hard to ignore. It doesn’t take away from the game from a performance perspective but rather just leave the feature out if it is going to turn out to be this ugly.
I think the biggest takeaway from my time with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is how it has grown from a superhero sandbox game into something grander. It constantly surprised me, each and every mission was more exciting than the last and the layers of story to unravel here make the game a love letter to Spider-Man fans. Not to mention the overarching universe that is being built here makes the future even more exciting for the series.
This Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 review is based on a PS5 code sent to us by PlayStation. The game launches on 20 October only on PS5. You can pick it up starting at R1499.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 Review
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has refined its combat and cleaned up its sandbox gameplay for a focused experience full of incredible blockbuster set pieces and superhero greatness.