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The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

‘Marvel’s Spider-Man 2’ Review

Greater Power, Greater Responsibility
Photo courtesy of PlayStation
Photo courtesy of PlayStation

Disclaimer: at the time of publishing, this review is out a week after the launch of the game. As such, this review will be mostly spoiler-free outside of events that occur within the first hour of the game.

We all know the oh-so-familiar motto of Spider-Man, “With great power, there must also come great responsibility,” but what happens when that responsibility becomes too heavy of a burden? What happens when you lose yourself because of this responsibility? These are questions that Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 seeks to answer. 

Spider-Man 2 is a game that very much shoots for the stars, and, for the most part, it reaches them. In almost every regard, this game vastly improves the foundation that was laid in the original game. Similar to games like Batman Arkham City and Assassin’s Creed II, Spider-Man 2 is a monumental step in the right direction for the franchise. 

The first game was already a monumental success that instantly cemented Insomniac Games as one of the premier game developers of our time. Still, Spider-Man 2 ups the ante to an unprecedented degree. Put simply, this game is absolutely mind-blowing. From the pristine graphics to the combat, story, performances, and more, this game far surpasses the original … but not without carrying some of the same flaws.

As great as this game is, it is very much in line with the first two games, so while it doubles down on everything that made the original games great, it also carries over many of their fundamental flaws.

Presentation-wise, this game is stunning. Spider-Man 2 is bigger and bolder than any game before it, and it utilizes the power of the PS5 more than any other game I have seen. 

If you thought the action set pieces in the first game were impressive, just wait until you see the ones in this game. It opens with an epic city-wide battle that swings the camera across the entire city like it’s nothing. Insomniac are technical wizards for getting this running as well as it does with such great attention to detail. 

While nothing else reaches the sheer scale of the first fight, all of the action set pieces are great and memorable. One of them is so great, in fact, that my jaw dropped to the floor for the entire duration of the set piece. The big set pieces are even better than the already great ones in the first game.

New York City is also just stunning to look at. It may not initially seem like much has changed since the first game, but trust me, it looks so much better now. There’s more detail on all of the buildings, windows have better ray-traced reflections, and the city feels more alive. While the pedestrians on the ground aren’t very responsive, there is a much higher density of civilians and cars across the city, which makes it feel even more like the Big Apple.

Character models and facial animations are exquisite this time around, as well. Some of the work done here is next-level stuff because some of the animations are so intricate that my mind was blown just seeing how they pulled off some of this. For example, there are parts of the game where you can see people’s eyes dilating, which is the first time that I’ve personally seen that in a game.

What’s possibly most impressive is that the game can handle all of this while also running at 60 frames per second. This game is a technical marvel (pun intended), and it feels like the first time that the PS5 has been utilized to the fullest extent.

A lot of the reviews say that this game is more of the same stuff we got in the last two games and while I can understand that on a narrative front, the gameplay is such a remarkable improvement over the first two games that I cannot even fathom going back to those games.

Of any gameplay system, the most important for a Spider-Man game is the web-slinging. In 2018’s Spider-Man, I think the web-slinging is good, but it felt very basic, and there wasn’t much to it. There was no risk or reward system in place, which made it feel very automated and safe.

Here, however, you can very well have that same kind of experience, but this time around, Insomniac gives players the choice to opt into a more physics-based system. In the settings, you can toggle how much or how little automatic assistance you have with the web-slinging.

I highly recommend that every player set the assistance near or at 0. When you have it disabled, web-slinging becomes an absolute joy to experience because it forces you to actually engage with the game’s movement mechanics on a deeper level. 

It also gives a fun challenge as your swings are more physics-based, which means that you can build up much more speed and momentum than before, but you can also mess up and kill any momentum you had.

It admittedly takes getting used to (especially after playing the original game over half a dozen times), but this physics-based system gives one of the most fun and rewarding traversal systems that I have ever seen in a game.

Along with that, there are a variety of expanded web-slinging mechanics to help players traverse the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the suburbs of Queens. 

Of these mechanics, the most important is the ability to launch yourself like a slingshot. This not only makes it easy to cross the river between the different boroughs, but it’s also an easy way to start a swing with a lot of momentum. It’s also just really fun to use, thanks to the excellent sound design, which helps sell how fast you are moving.

Additionally, they have finally added an ability to turn corners, which helps to maintain your speed and allows you to make sharp turns around buildings.

The most significant of these additions is the web wings. Based on the webs that Spider-Man had underneath his armpits in his earlier appearances, these allow you to glide around New York at unprecedented speeds. 

I’ll be honest: I’m not huge on these. They very easily can overpower and replace the regular web-slinging, which feels kind of weird when I’m playing a Spider-Man game. I typically just opt to utilize the swinging more and use the wings to maintain speed or bridge any gaps. 

I just find it strange that in a Spider-Man game, the most efficient way to travel isn’t web-slinging.

Beyond the traversal, the rest of the gameplay is very good.

Fans might groan to hear that MJ missions have returned, but they are much improved this time around. They are much more engaging because they added mechanics that allow you to take more agency within these sections. 

MJ can now take people out like she’s a spec ops operative with her little stun gun, and you no longer instantly fail when you get caught. Admittedly, these sections can somewhat undermine the threat of Kraven’s forces when MJ is sneaking up on and taking out professionally trained hunters and mercenaries like John Wick.

These sections are considerably more sparse this time around, so they aren’t as intrusive as the original game, and when they do rear their head, they have much more engaging gameplay.

Stealth is almost completely unchanged. Little was done to change any of the mechanics. In fact, in some regards, it’s been stripped back compared to the original. 

Every single gadget that was useful for stealth has been completely removed in this game. While this strengthens the quality of the combat by removing instant K.O. abilities, the stealth here is simply not as viable. You now can create a web line to walk across without being detached, but it frankly isn’t all that useful, in my opinion.

Beyond that, there aren’t any significant changes or improvements to stealth. This doesn’t have much of an impact, though, because stealth is almost completely deemphasized in this game. Insomniac places a much higher emphasis on combat in this game, which I think is a welcome change because it is far more engaging than stealth.

One of the biggest problems with the combat in the previous games was that it was painfully easy to the point where even the hardest difficulty was a breeze. If you are even remotely a decent player, those games were a piece of cake. 

Spider-Man 2, however, was surprisingly difficult. I played on the Spectacular difficulty (hard mode), and I had a much tougher time with it than I ever did with the original games.

Gone are the days when you could just spam the same basic attacks and gadgets. The combat has been specifically tailored to make you think on your toes and to challenge you in unique and fun ways. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the hardest combat on planet Earth, but it requires a lot more skill and finesse than previous iterations.

This game throws a lot more enemies at you at once, and Insomniac introduces a variety of new enemy types that require specific strategies to beat them so you aren’t just mindlessly punching baddies. 

There’s also a ton of new and expanded abilities that make combat feel more diverse and somewhat experimental. There are new ways to extend combos, attack enemies from afar, and more. Similar to the web-slinging, these new options allow for more player freedom and expression and make the combat feel more rewarding.

I am somewhat mixed on the overhaul to gadgets. On one hand, I like how they limited the amount of them so that you can’t just spam a million different gadgets, but I don’t like the actual gadgets on offer. Besides one, they all don’t really feel like something Spider-Man would use. While they are useful in combat, I feel they somewhat detract from the amazing fantasy of being Spider-Man.

There’s also a slew of special abilities for both Peter and Miles to use. Miles uses a variety of bioelectric attacks, whereas Peter uses robotic Spider-Arms that protrude out of his back and symbiote abilities. All of these abilities and attacks are really fun to use, especially the symbiote attacks. There’s an ability where the symbiote just grabs everyone in front of you and slams them on the floor, and it just never gets old, no matter how many times I use it.

I have one big issue with them, though. I absolutely cannot stand the stupid Spider-Arms. Not only do these arms just not make sense with Peter’s suit and how it’s designed, but they are emblematic of a wider issue I’ve had with these games; Peter has way too much technology. 

His being so reliant on robot Spider-Arms just ruins my image of a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man because he has all this really advanced technology, and it’s never explained how he manages to afford it despite not having a job and being unable to afford a mortgage.

I also feel like it minimizes Peter’s intelligence to a certain extent. The Marvel universe is filled to the brim with geniuses who invent things, so having Peter just pull random sci-fi doodads out of his rear end just doesn’t feel as cool as they think it is. Instead of using the ugly Spider-Arms, they should have given him more advanced web-based abilities and gadgets to balance him with Miles.

The Achilles heel of the first game was the design of its open world. Everything felt like a glorified checklist with very little thought and effort put into it. Spider-Man 2 disappointingly improves very marginally on these activities. 

They are still the same checklist-style content, but now they are just slightly more fun, and they often have some narrative payoff, which is appreciated, but I feel like it’s not enough. These open worlds need a complete overhaul, and hopefully, future games won’t suffer from the same issue.

Possibly the biggest leap that the original game made was telling an engaging cinematic story that was previously unseen for the most part in Spider-Man games. It was a wild ride from beginning to end, and it had what may be the best climax and ending to any Spider-Man story outside of the comics.

While it had problems, the story of Marvel’s Spider-Man set a strong precedent for future games to follow. Spider-Man 2 has an incredibly hard act to follow up on, so how does it compare? Does it live up to the five years of wait and buildup?


Don’t get me wrong, the story is very, very good and is easily better than most video games, but similar to the gameplay, this carries over a lot of the problems that plagued the first two games.

This game picks up approximately 10 months after Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and right from the get-go, you see that Peter and Miles are almost lost souls.

Peter is struggling with the death of Aunt May at the end of the previous game and maintaining a consistent job, while Miles is having trouble moving on from his father’s death along with thinking about and prioritizing his future because he’s so invested in being Spider-Man.

This story explores the idea of how the weight of this responsibility that both Spider-Men carry can become too much to bear.  Both Peter and Miles are at a crossroads with no clear path to walk down.

Put simply, if you loved the stories of the first two games, you will like this one. Everything that worked, like the small character moments and the emotionally impactful story still remains, but not without carrying over many of the same issues.

This game just has too much going on in its plot. It becomes very clear by the second and third acts that Insomniac were struggling to incorporate both Spider-Men as central protagonists within this story along with juggling both Kraven the Hunter and Venom as the antagonists.

Like the original games, this game’s plot feels overstuffed and like it needed a longer runtime to fully support the narrative being told. The third act, in particular, struggles with this because it feels like it is sprinting to the finish line and doesn’t give enough time for the narrative to breathe. This story would be greatly improved if they had added an extra five to 10 hours of content.

This isn’t necessarily a huge flaw in my eyes, but it’s something to note, nonetheless; this game has an incredibly predictable story. If you are at all familiar with Spider-Man media, then you will pretty much know exactly what happens and when it happens before you even touch the game.

It’s to the point that when the first showcase of the game was released, I predicted the entire trajectory of the plot almost exactly, including exact comic issues that the game would pull from. 

I feel like this somewhat comes with the territory of being a superhero fan, but this story doesn’t really take any unexpected turns. Despite the predictability, the writing and characters are still strong enough to hold up the story and make it engaging.

Despite the flaws with this narrative, I can’t help but love it anyway, thanks to the great character and emotionally resonant themes. Sure, the plot can get convoluted, but the story always maintains its focus on the characters and their journeys.

I can very well see the villains of this game and the ones that are teased for the future being somewhat divisive among Spider-Man fans. To say the least, they are all pretty significant departures from the source material, but I think this story uses these characters in new and interesting ways, so it doesn’t bother me personally. 

Jim Pirri as Kraven the Hunter delivers a scene-chewing performance. He really sells the power and ruthlessness of this man. At first, he comes off as a comically evil villain, and he kind of stays that way, but the game gives him some interesting background and insights, especially if you do the side content. I wish he had more screen time because there are large portions of the second act where it feels like the game just forgets that he exists.

The Candyman himself, Tony Todd, is such an inspired choice to play Venom, and he absolutely kills it in the role. For the risk of spoilers, I can’t say much, but Venom is an absolute beast, and this game really sells you on just how powerful he is and the uphill battle that Peter and Miles face.

I will say, though, if you are a fan of Venom in the comics or the movies, you may be sorely disappointed. This is a much different take on the character, and Eddie Brock isn’t the one behind the Alien goo and teeth this time around. I wish he got more screen time as well because I think they needed to delve deeper into the motivations behind what he does.

I love how there is a tangible sense of growth from everyone in the main cast right from the offset. In the opening hours, you can see how far Peter, Miles, and MJ have come since the first game. It for sure gives them ample room to grow, but they do a great job at showing how they’ve progressed as characters up until this point.

While I still don’t like MJ in these games being a journalist (and I guess John Wick now), I still think she’s a good character, and this story gives her more of a narrative arc than the last, even if you play as her less.

Laura Bailey is great in the role, and she has a great dynamic with Yuri Lowenthal’s Peter Parker, partially thanks to their roles as Rise Kujikawa and Yosuke Hanamura in Persona 4.

Insomniac tells a nice story of her stepping out of Spider-Man’s shadow and living as her own being while still being his partner in both a romantic and superhero sense.

Nadji Jeter as Miles Morales is one of the standouts of the entire game. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of Miles in the first two games. I always felt like his story until this point existed in the shadow of the movie Into the Spider-Verse.

The character really feels like he comes into his own in this game. He is no longer the “other” Spider-Man, he IS Spider-Man, and his dynamic with Peter is excellent to see. 

Their brotherly bond is what holds this story together, and Insomniac do a great job at showing their connection while also challenging their relationship. 

Now, this was already one of my favorite adaptations of Peter Parker, only rivaled by Spectacular Spider-Man and Into the Spider-Verse; this game takes him to the next level. Yuri Lowenthal absolutely nails his performance as Peter. I don’t kid when I say that this is the best performance I’ve seen in any game this year.

Peter’s battle with his inner demons is easily the most compelling part of this story. This game shows how his unhealthy ways of coping with grief and loss come to manifest in some dangerous ways even before he gets the black suit.

I absolutely love how they handle the black suit here because it doesn’t just magically start making Peter into a jerk. Instead, it brings to light Peter’s inner emotions and feelings that he hides from everyone else. 

This is a man who has come to use Spider-Man as a coping mechanism for all the loss he’s endured, and the way the story explores that through the black suit is absolutely incredible. The black suit is always best when it serves a deeper thematic purpose beyond making Peter a bully and here it acts as a metaphor for addiction, specifically Peter’s addiction to being Spider-Man.

It may be a lofty statement, but even with the somewhat rushed plot, this is the best adaptation of the black suit saga ever put to screen.

I also can’t go without mentioning the great side quests. The ones in the first game were all really forgettable and didn’t add much to the game, but Spider-Man 2 takes a considerable step up. The side quests are absolutely fantastic, and they do an excellent job of showing the friendly neighborhood aspects of both Peter and Miles.

Some are questlines that are legitimately on the same level as the main story, and others just show Spider-Man helping out everyday people. There are two in particular that are these nice little vignettes that show why Spider-Man is such an enduring character, and one of them left me choked up despite the quest not even being five minutes long.

The core of this story lies in the characters trying to find balance in their lives, and that resonates especially with a college student like me who stayed up all night writing this review. Insomniac have once again proven that they know and understand the heart of Spider-Man by showing the very real and human struggle of both Peter and Miles.

“Balance is a process, not a destination.”

In short, while this game admittedly has many flaws, it also absolutely knocks it out of the park in most aspects. This game is a massive leap forward from the original, and I can confidently say that this is my favorite superhero game ever made, thanks to its amazing gameplay and emotionally resonant story. This is some of the best Spider-Man content you will ever find, so if you are a fan of the character or are just looking for a solid game to play, I very strongly recommend Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.

Score: 9/10 

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    Brady HensonOct 31, 2023 at 7:32 am

    Great article!!