After 5 years we now have another instalment to Insomniac’s Spider-Man franchise, (3 years when counting Spider-Man: Miles Morales) so does the awaited sequel meet what was provided back in 2018 and then improve upon it? Or does it just swing on by as though nothing really happened? The most important part to seeing if it does is by looking at the story, gameplay and the overall little slice of life things. There will be spoilers in this review.
The possibilities of Spider-Man stories hold a heavy amount of potential to have hard hitting emotions, character moments and epic battles driven by ideologies from our characters that further supports the narrative. This can be seen in the first instalment and Miles game. Spider-Man 2 however, lacks some of those beats. A good villain is usually integral to an excellent superhero story, just look at Doctor Octopus, Mr.Negative and the Tinkerer in the prior games. Amazing characters who’s stories act as excellent foils to our heroes that further drives home the narrative. This time around the main super villains are Venom and Kraven. While there was no expectation for Venom’s such an in depth characterization, ideology and drive that would act as cracked mirror versions of Miles and Peter’s desire to do right, Kraven however disappoints. This is especially the case when comparing Kraven to other villains in this universe. He has a little more going for him than the first game’s version of Scorpion, Vulture, Rhino and Electro, but that’s only because he’s given a motivation beyond hating Spider-Man for putting them away in prison. That motivation being that he wants to die a good death because he has cancer. While this motivation functions adequately, it lacks an aspect of nuance and drive that can truly make the player really sympathize with this villain’s actions. He genuinely feels no different than dealing with side mission villains such as Taskmaster, Screwball or Tombstone. Which should not be what results for a main villain. In this game Kraven honestly lacks more nuance and intrigue than Wraith and Mysterio. Then we have Venom, who is a physically imposing villain but that’s it. There is no actual character to the symbiote, its motivation is its host’s and seeing that the symbiote is purely treated as a corrupting force with no personality it is difficult to really care about it. You care about the person that Venom has possessed and hope that they survive, but then the ludonarrative dissonance kicks in where Peter, Miles and (maybe) you want to save this character, but all that you are doing during the climax of the game is just beating up Venom. There is nothing beyond setting off sounds and punching the villain. The game does not try to get creative in the end, it is sadly nothing more than a beat him up.
Despite the narrative issues with the big bad villains though, there is a highlight in this game’s main story. that lies with Miles’ story involving Martin Li. His story about anger and wanting revenge that later leads to a rehabilitation story for himself and Li is one that I heavily commend and love. The way the narrative and story is capable of showing Miles and Martin’s hate and desire for vengeance so that they parallel each other is therapeutic. Then when one is able to let go of their hate the other is able to as well, it creates for a masterful story telling. Not only is it refreshing to see a such a story that helps further develop Miles’ character, it is a story that helps separate Miles from Peter with how their approach results with different outcomes for their respective villains and proves as to why Miles might be a better Spider-Man and that he is fit to become New York’s one and only Spidey.
The gameplay was near masterful in the last two games, and Spider-Man 2 absolutely takes what made the last games so wonderful and then improves upon it. This is especially seen in the traversal. Spider-Man 2 has taken the improved smoother swinging from Miles Morales, added some new mechanics and increased the showmanship for both characters. Swinging around New York City has never felt more satisfying. It’s even better now that we also have Queens and Brooklyn to swing around in. Although, swinging happens a lot less often now that they have added the ability to use web wings. While that might be an issue for some, the way the wings incorporate into the swinging is beyond spectacular. Players can seamlessly transition between utilizing web wings to web swinging and committing to tricks. The traversal is beyond satisfying, as well as the combat. There are however some mechanic issues that can be improved upon though. One of them being the parry system. While it is very satisfying to pull off, it is hard to land sometimes since the game can reach a point of overwhelming odds that being able to register the parry indicator is more difficult than it should be. The game has heavily reduced the gadgets that can be implemented in this game, especially when compared to the first game. With that it does create for more repetitiveness, as well as less diverse means to incapacitate your enemies. This however not to say that the gadgets now available are not unwelcome. They just can’t be combined in different ways like with the last games. Boss battles however have been taken up a notch, though the setting of them are not exceptional. The fights are satisfying and beats just mashing and dodging attacks in the last game, the boss fights in Spider-Man 2 sadly do not get too many scenery changes and lack the fun chases that the other games had in some fights. Like with the way Peter’s fight with the Shocker turned into a chase where it challenged how skilled the player was with their web swinging capabilities.
The little slice of life things matter when it comes to video games. While minute at times and inconsequential to the overall enjoyment of the gaming experience for most, the little things can build up and become noticeable. However, this game has many great little things. The side missions are hard hitting and emotional. The attention to detail for some of the costumes where they changed Peter’s mechanical arms to match certain suits appropriately and the way some of the symbiote based suits have moving textures on Peter really shows how much care went into the development of the game. With that in mind though it makes the things that are out of place stand out. Such as: the comic version of the Iron Spider suit still having four arms over the three that it does have in the comics, the MCU Iron Spider having the wrong look for the web wings, and the most egregious outlier being that in the post game the player cannot change the colour of the symbiote. It’s stands out in the worst way to see white symbiote abilities coming out of Spider-Man that has any version of a black symbiote suit equipped. Another small issue that can be glaring and interferes with the longevity of enjoyment with the game is that there is a lack of post game content, specifically for Peter. After all the side missions, collectables and main story there is nothing left to do in the game besides stopping random crimes as Peter. While Miles still has challenges that he can engage with, as well as random crimes. However, even then all the challenges are combat based and none of them are focused of the traversal which is the greatest strength and accomplishment for the game.
Insomniac’s Spider-Man 2 is more fine than it is great and does have some high moments, but very little of it lasts and barely leaves an impression. For some Spider-Man 2 might have be the reason some people buy a PlayStation 5 and if it is then I can not in good faith say that it is worth it. The game itself is not worth it’s launch price of $64.99 USD ($89.99 CDN) and even less so for it’s Digital Deluxe Edition of $74.99 USD ($99.99 CDN). If you haven’t bought the game yet, wait for a Black Friday or Boxing Day sale when it is $20 to $30 cheaper.