Don’t let the name fool you, technically “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” is actually “Marvel’s Spider-Man 3” as the first two games Spider-Man and Miles Morales were very much loved titles and if anything using a 2 instead of 3 is kind of an injustice. Thankfully that is the only problem with the game, the rest of it is as close to perfect as a game can get.
In the latest installment of the franchise we get to play as both Peter Parker and Mile Morales giving you the best of both Spider-Men. You jump between the pair as they work together to protect New York City from the powerful Kraven The Hunter who is set on capturing you as an ultimate prize. Look, the story is far more complicated than that but I don’t want to include any spoilers, this needs to be played with fresh untainted eyes.
What is really great about the Spider-Man story in any medium is that the personal stories are always equally as interesting as the super ones. In this the pair are both struggling to find a place in the world, Miles is dealing with loss and trauma while Peter is struggling to hold down a job while trying to fight crime and is having relationship issues with Mary Jane. There’s a yearning here for a more simple life, but life is never simple for a hero.
This world is very separate to the movies, but what makes these games so great is that they could easily be the story for a blockbuster film, they capture the characters with more detail than a 2 and a half hour film could, and because you are playing the role of the Spider-Men you are more connected and invested in the story.
The villains are always the most interesting part of a hero’s journey and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has chosen some of the best in the spider-verse. Kraven is ever so slightly adjusted to how you’ll read him in comics or even to the upcoming film. But the changes they have made relate to the world more even if it feels more low key.
On the other hand the introduction of Venom is something to behold, if you are familiar with the story from the comics, animations or films you’ll see a lot of similar beats, especially when Peter first wears the black suit symbiote, a vital part of the tale which was sadly missing from the Venom movies. It’s this initial interaction and relationship that makes the heartbreaking story truly hit home in the end.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 could easily have been a new story crammed into an old game system, and we probably would have been happy with that, but the team at Insomniac are innovators and took the opportunity to grow the world and the visual stylings.
The graphics are vastly improved with new character models and mocap that really brings a higher level of emotion to the expressions used in every interaction. I was blown away with how the game pushes the limits of the PS5 console with its imagery in a way that no other title on the console has managed to do since its release.
New York City itself has grown so much since the last game, the city feels more alive when you are web-swinging and wing-suiting your way throughout it. The use of light at different parts of day gives it a glow with the glare from the windows looking spectacular. There’s no doubt this is a beautiful game.
As you complete missions you’ll find yourself in plenty of combat and the mechanics for it are very much the same as the previous titles. If it ain’t broke, right. Well they did add a few adjustments, the ability to parry is a really handy tool and the abilities you earn along the way help the two Spider-men to be very different even though for the most part they handle the same.
There will be times where you’ll be able to play as Mary Jane as well, in these moments the game leans into its puzzle solving mechanics to really highlight her intellect. The pacing on these moments are improved greatly on the first game and the character feels more complete.
If there is one bit of advice I could give for any player, it’s to savor the experience, make sure you go and do every side mission and build your characters up, explore the world and just take your time. Gaming isn’t meant to be a race and there’s no reward for finishing it first. Just immerse yourself in the story and let it play out saving and helping as many people as you can along the way.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is not just a great superhero game, it’s a great game series that just happens to be about superheroes. The last titles I can actually remember thinking the same way about is the Batman Arkham series, so that is high praise as they really set the bar for the genre. A bar that Insomniac Games is desperately trying to raise, and in some ways it does.