‘Marvel’s Spider-Man 2’ Is Another Triumph From Insomniac Games- Review
We are nearly two decades into comic book characters and stories totally taking over mainstream pop culture outside of their natural medium. With countless sub-genre-defining works in animation and film, it’s astonishing that Insomniac Games is able to create one of the best heroic tales in any medium after so many great adventures. This dual Spider-Man tale is the perfect cap to nearly 30 years of game-making for Insomniac. It cements the case that they are one of the best game studios on the planet, as Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is an incredible experience that is the perfect blend of action and emotion.
Setting the stage, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 picks up some time after Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Peter has returned from his trip abroad with MJ, and the spider duo is starting to find their groove protecting New York together. The events of the last games play heavily into the story of this third entry. There’s a great recap video, but if you want to fully experience the game, check out the first two entries and the DLCs. Things kick off as a new big bad comes to New York to hunt powered people and an old friend of Peter’s renters his life.
Swinging off-world, the stories centered around the alien symbiote are some of the most iconic events in comic books and come with a higher level of expectation. Venom is a fan favorite and ranks among Spider-Man’s fiercest enemies. The PS5’s graphics perfectly punctuate that evil space goo’s slimy, shiny, gooey grossness. Venom is straight-up gnarly in this game. It has the brutal back-breaking moves you’d expect, bringing an excellent weight to the story. Venom’s involvement adds an earned crescendo to three games’ worth of storytelling, delivering some familiar beats while still adding something new. We won’t share plot specifics to avoid spoilers, but let it be known that this is one of the best Venom stories ever told. Forget just games; this masterpiece competes with any Spider tale across books, comics, animation, television, live-action, and films. Insomniac Games has created an undeniable triumph among fierce competition to cap off one of the best years that modern gaming has ever produced.
Diving further into the cast of the villains, the other much-hyped baddie is Kraven the Hunter. He co-stars on the antagonist front with a few returning faces that have been teased in trailers. Kraven’s hunt is an excellent backdrop for our heroic activities and brings solid momentum to the story. The Hunters conveniently fill the open world with plenty of activities to tackle. One impressive feature is the ability to swap between Peter and Miles (our two Spider-Men) on the fly. There are main story missions where you’re locked into playing as one or the other, but either hero can take down many of the expanded cities’ quests and missions. Often, those missions feature unique dialogue from Peter or Miles that fuels replayability.
It’s not often that audio logs get high praise, but the post-mission micro conversations, radio spots by J Jonah Jameson, and the encouragement from Ganke, MJ, Hailey, and Rio truly connect players to Insomniac’s open world. Another stand-out feature is the surprising and frequent team-ups throughout the game. You could be swinging around the city as Miles and find a group of random thugs that Peter is in the middle of fighting. Players get the option to swing in and assist or keep it moving to take on other missions. This emergent gameplay happened a few times in the perfect scenario. It seemed as if the exact thing the developers hoped would occur by chance happened to me, and I got to live in the best timeline. To be honest, the team-up finishers flat-out rule. There are clever combos of heroes throughout the game’s runtime, and when you get to some of the takedowns, you can laugh and smile at how absolutely dead that henchmen or women would be if they got hit like that.
We’ll dive into the rich cast of characters that Marvel’s Spider-Man totes, but before we go further, it is necessary to mention just how refreshing this game is on the representation front. From Hailey’s sign language to Rio’s Spanish, this is a world much like ours and better reflects the types of people in it. I wish hearing Spanish in a game wasn’t such a joyous shock to me. It’s silly, but Spider-Man: Miles Morales made me tear up when I saw the Puerto Rican flags proudly flown in Miles’ neighborhood. In 20 years of gaming, I’ve seldom seen Latine culture slightly addressed, and here, Insomniac has Miles representing his people with his full chest. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 doubles down on representation in an unforced and authentic way. What other game in the AAA space has a central deaf character like Hailey? Extremely few. A last thought is a simple thank you to Insomniac Games for including the characters they have and appreciation for bringing them to life with so much love.
Now in its third outing. This spider franchise has landed on a killer mix of powers, gadgets, suit upgrades, and skills-trust that are all needed. This game gets challenging as hell in some moments, and the stealth parts return, but I am significantly trash at them. On the good side, the melee combat is so refined and fun that a bum like me can save the city. Sometimes, a perfect symphony of Spider moves comes together for the dopest beat-down a henchperson has ever seen. Sure, the game brings blockbuster moments, including confrontations with Sandman, and huge set pieces like the chase with The Lizard seen in the reveal trailers. These moments are memorable and on the level of anything Nathan Drake or Joel have ever seen. However, what fuels the moment-to-moment gameplay is a perfect combination of moves, tools, and powers that makes Mr. Morales different from Professor Parker.
There is so much to do and unlock in this version of New York, but it never comes off as filler. Certain “families” of activities reward with unique outfits, and others bring DLC-level side stories with standouts, including the one-off “Hero Missions,” Prowler hideouts, “The Flame” missions, and the “Brooklyn Visions” quest line. The game has a staggering amount of cutscenes, stories, and jaw-dropping moments that will make you cheer, but these side endeavors are worth your time, too—especially hunting down the Spider Bots; those cuties rule.
Speaking of things that rock, perhaps the biggest triumph for Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is the duel story featuring moments that matter for both Spider-Men. Miles needs Pete, and Pete needs Miles. With Star Wars leaning into the importance of masters and apprentices in Ahsoka, the Disney team inadvertently tees up this spider sequel to resonate at a level I wasn’t prepared for. Miles is such a heavyweight in this game. His struggles as the younger Spider (the “Little One”) is juxtaposed well with Peter losing himself to the symbiote. Their banter and love for each other fill the many hours of playtime with copious smiles and tears in the best way.
As for the supporting cast, MJ, Rio, Harry, Hailey, and Ganke deliver the beating heart of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. It bears repeating that this tale of two spiders is among the finest in any multiverse. It’s a buddy story, a growth story, and a tale of personal strife. The central figures are torn, united, and fight for each other at every turn. So, it is crucial that the supporting characters feel as vital and vibrant as leads to solidify the feeling that this is a fully realized world. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is the perfect culmination of three games worth of world-building that improves on the first two entries in every way possible. The open world has evolved, the gameplay provides excellent variety, and its amazing story satisfies you beyond belief.
For critiques, I have a few. Starting with a handful of technical problems. When you play a game in the review period, it’s normal for a few bugs to still be present before launch or a day-one patch. My experience was solid, but I had a few freezes, a crash, some audio hiccups, and one bummer of a bug that had Peter’s body floating away and leaving a detached human head in his crotch area during what should have been a highly emotional scene. I expected some technical issues in a game this big, and this one had a few more seams than the typical AAA release from Sony.
Another minor gripe and more of a personal preference, but I’m not a huge fan of the trigger haptics or the little controller sounds. The majority of the haptic insertions tended to hurt my hands. I understand the immersion factor, but those parts feel less needed for my specific game tastes. There are, however, a deep level of options and accessibility features that lead the market in what’s possible. Turn on and off whatever irks you. Another feature to praise is probably the best fast travel system in modern games. The progression to unlock makes sense, and once you do the instantaneous load into pinpoint areas paired with the new gliding, it really makes the later hours a breeze. This system values your time as a player. Whoever made it needs a big raise because teams will be copying this function for years to come.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is currently the best superhero game, a true achievement in video game storytelling. If you love Spider-Man, this is everything you could want and more.