Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 on PlayStation 5
Sequels outdoing their predecessors is far from a new phenomenon. Throughout gaming’s history, follow-ups to even the most successful of titles have managed to raise the bar and offer gamers something even better than what they saw before. And I’m happy to say that Marvel’s Spider-Man is no exception to this phenomenon, as Spider-Man 2 outdoes both the first game and Miles Morales to provide one of the best PlayStation exclusives in recent memory.
Of course, this shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise. Taking place after some substantial preparation and setup on the part of developer Insomniac Games, it serves as the culmination of an interconnected narrative focused on Peter Parker, Miles Morales, and their relationships with the responsibilities that are inherent to being Spider-Man. Each has experienced hardship and loss, and this shaped them into who they are once the game kicks off.
Which brings us to the narrative of Spider-Man 2. Having settled into a groove of working together to fight crime, Peter and Miles are suddenly faced with a new foe in the form of Kraven the Hunter. A ruthless stalker of men and beast alike, he aims to drag the heroes’ cavalcade of villains off their paths to recovery in order to find a worthy quarry.
Stopping him is a big enough challenge, but both heroes are also faced with people and trauma from their pasts. In order to overcome them, they’ll need to embrace new powers; those being the Symbiote-related abilities for Peter and evolved Venom skills for Miles. These enhancements may come with a great cost though, and the two will need to navigate the challenges this brings.
Though it can bounce around in terms of its pacing, the story manages to tie up almost every plot thread it introduces with impressive skill. Both Peter and Miles — as well as Mary Jane, Uncle Aaron, and a smattering of the series’ former villains — receive satisfactory conclusions to the character arcs built up over the course of the game, and help the series feel that much more impactful as a result.
But that’s just what the story of Spider-Man 2 accomplishes. Its gameplay, while not too different from what has been seen in the preceding entries in the series, is about as tight and polished as it could be.
During combat encounters, players still dodge, punch, and web their way around different combat encounters, aiming to incapacitate enemies with a sort of flowing grace that does justice by the game’s namesake hero. There are gadgets and abilities that help in this endeavor, and both Peter and Miles have received new abilities centered around different powers they receive as the narrative progresses.
Peter’s abilities obviously take center stage thanks to the fact that they incorporate Symbiote abilities like grabbing multiple enemies at once, striking every enemy in close proximity with tendrils, and taking down enemies with a higher level of ferocity. These turn him into a character capable of dispatching giant groups of enemies with ease, and it helps to give players a chance to feel insanely overpowered in the face of even the most challenging opponent.
However, Miles’ new abilities are just as eye-catching, and even introduce new ways for players to interact with what would otherwise be a slightly stale gameplay loop at this point. Every new skill opened up a new means of dealing with enemies from most any range through chain lightning or attack-triggered seeker bolts, and ensured I was never without options no matter where a battle took place.
While I was admittedly a little bored with the standard combat early on, these new abilities introduced every few hours kept me interested and even had me excited to test out new strategies in the mob fights and boss battles alike. It also gave me a good reason to switch back and forth between the two Spider-Men so that I could enjoy both of their particular twists on the established game formula, albeit at the expense of the bones of any enemy who crossed my path.
Speaking of which, while I won’t go into detail for the sake of avoiding spoilers, the boss fights featured in Spider-Man 2 are some of the best in the series. They nail the feeling of the final boss fight against Otto Octavius in Marvel’s Spider-Man, and really sell the dynamic action which makes up such a huge part of Spider-Man’s heroics.
Outside of the combat, the game also offers the usual smattering of varied gameplay segments ranging from walk-and-talk portions to stealth segments featuring Mary Jane. They’ll likewise be able to swing their way around the city, and glide along air currents to get from point A to Point B and explore the impressively detailed recreation of Marvel’s New York.
While these also aren’t all that different than what we’ve seen in the past two games, there’s just enough improvement or innovation to keep them feeling engaging and worthwhile.
In particular, the stealth segments feel way better and less like a barrier to overcome so that players can get back to the action, which helps the flow of the overall experience immensely. Mary Jane now has more options for incapacitating enemies via an energy pistol capable of knocking out patrolling henchman at close range, and there’s more space for players to maneuver while trying to sneak around larger groups of enemies.
Where past games left me annoyed at how slow or specifically I had to guide MJ through an enemy-infested area, Spider-Man 2 managed to make her segments feel engaging and exciting; so much so that there really wasn’t a weak one in the bunch.
There are likewise a slew of collectibles to gather and side missions to complete, and players will need to seek out at least a few of these in order to upgrade their abilities and unlock new skills to make the game more manageable. However, the game’s design still lends itself toward 100 percent completion just like the rest of the series, and players can do so in only a few dozen hours. It remains a welcome touch, and I highly recommend anyone take the time to do so if at all possible.
Rounding out the experience in Spider-Man 2 is its presentation. On the graphical front, the game looks solid enough to keep players invested with minimal pop-in or other graphical hiccups that could be considered immersion-breaking. At most, some of the character models for the main characters can come off a little awkward during specific segments where several of them are interacting all at once.
Audio, meanwhile, is downright immaculate. There isn’t a weak vocal performance to be seen, with both newcomers and established characters alike leaping out of the screen thanks to how genuine their voices come across. Yuri Lowenthal and Nadji Jeter specifically offer some of their best portrayals yet, and bring the story arcs for their characters home perfectly.
The sound effects and music are just as high quality. The OST features both orchestral and vocal tracks that sell what players are experiencing all the more, while the sound design conveys everything from the hustle and bustle of New York to a fist’s impact against an enemy’s face perfectly.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is exactly what fans could have hoped for. It brings the trilogy of PlayStation titles home perfectly, and provides an experience any fan of the Spider-Man property will walk away from satisfied. Don’t miss out on what could very well be one of the best games of the year, and one of Insomniac’s best games to date.
Honed and refined gameplay mechanics
Great payoff to the story built up over three games
Outstanding voice acting across the board
Completion feels manageable and rewarding
Slight pacing issues with the story
Awkward character models during certain scenes
Oct. 20, 2023
Copy provided by Publisher
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