The highly anticipated Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 from Insomniac Games released exclusively on PlayStation 5 on October 20 with plenty of new wall-crawling, web-slinging activities across a larger-than-ever map for web-heads to immerse themselves as their friendly neighborhood Spider-Men. If you’re like me, the only thing keeping you from blasting through the main storyline are the countless hours spent admiring the stunning game through the lens of an incredibly impressive photo mode.
The game is a showcase of the power behind the PlayStation 5 and what the console has to offer at its best. Being built from the ground up for the console means every aspect was designed with the optimal experience for players in mind, and to say the game is stunning is borderline a reductive statement — the only thing that could possibly give justice to the jaw-dropping scenery is to see it for yourself. There are updates from the previous titles such as an increase in car/pedestrian traffic and additional building details that help the world be just a bit more believable and immersive, offering more than ever before to audiences to make them get lost in Insomniac’s NYC a bit harder.
Two visual aspects that I was repeatedly in awe of are the night sky (the moon’s glow radiating between the fluffiest clouds is such a beautiful setting to explore) and each strand of saliva that was meticulously added to Venom’s many, many teeth — he looks disgusting and feral and it’s an absolute joy to see. Overall the game presents fantastic character designs and cosmetics, a continuation from the previous two entries. There are plenty of spectacular Spider-Man suits for both Peter and Miles that offer something to everyone (personal favorites for me being the Spider-Man: The Animated Series variation of the Classic Black suit for Peter and The End Suit for Miles) and the villains have fresh takes on their looks that stay true to the heart of the character (thankfully, Kraven does wear a fur cape and Mysterio’s fishbowl remains ever-present).
It would be a disservice to the development team not to mention the honestly revolutionary travel system implemented in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 … the web wings add another fun element to exploring New York City and it can truly become a tranquil moment just to experience the scenery of the game. But if you’re in a rush and don’t feel like swinging or gliding and need something instantaneous, the developers at Insomniac have offered the best fast travel system offered in a game to date … after enough of a region has been explored players can travel to just about any location on the map without the dreaded wait of a loading screen. It’s as instantaneous as I’ve ever seen in a game and something I hope other studios are able to implement in the future. And if fast traveling in an instant isn’t impressive enough, players can also swap between playing Peter and Miles with the simple press of a button.
Being the third game in the franchise only raises expectations, ones that Insomniac exceeded gracefully with the writing for this game. The attention to detail in terms of story crafting is remarkable, each character’s own piece of the larger puzzle fully fleshed out to leave no stone unturned. You understand the characters and their relationships better as you uncover more in the game with side missions, painting beautiful character portraits, and development for even characters that wouldn’t necessarily be considered vital to the story — in Spider-Man’s world, everyone is vital to the story.
With a character that has been around as long as Spider-Man has been there are bound to be repetitions in storytelling — this is far from the first time we’ve seen the Spider-Men face off against foes like Venom and Sandman, we’ve watched Peter Parker’s friendship with Harry Osborn and relationship with Mary Jane Watson evolve time and time again, but Insomniac crafted a plot and subplots that are fresh and interesting, once again proving that non-live action content does not adhere to the common “superhero fatigue” many are experiencing now. It will keep you entertained with unexpected twists and flawless quips from both Spider-Men, it will take you by surprise with character additions you won’t be expecting, and it both builds off of the previous two titles with care and embraces the modern superhero genre at its best to provide a story that stays true to the heart of Spider-Man and keeps it interesting.
In terms of performances, Yuri Lowenthal continues to provide what is in my opinion one of the most compelling portrayals of Peter Parker in non-print media. He understands the nuances of Peter Parker and Spider-Man, of wanting to be a good person to those around him and a good hero to the city (and world). In this particular story, Peter faces darknesses beyond what most of us will ever face or understand and undergoes some serious evolution, and Lowenthal portrays each stage of Peter’s story with intricate and meticulous care.
Overall, it’s a cast that doesn’t miss in terms of delivering believable performances — Nadji Jeter is a fantastic Miles Morales, Tara Platt never misses, Tony Todd is an icon in everything he’s ever done and this is no exception … this review could easily double in length if I dove into every performance. Some additional standout performances for me were Graham Phillips’ Harry Osborn and Noshir Dalal’s Quinten Beck / Mysterio. Without diving into spoiler territory too far, both of these characters present many layers and traits throughout Marvel’s Spider-Man 2: Phillips and Dalal peel back the layers and present them to players perfectly.
Speaking of Mysterio — an aspect from the original title I was concerned about missing was the Taskmaster trials and seeing the replacement in this game come from a character I have a deep love for in Quinten Beck was fantastic and put my worries to rest. The Mysterio subplot had promise for me right away, particularly with the talented Dalal behind the character, but it exceeded the high hopes I had — the Mysterio side missions helped me become a better Spider-Man and showcased one of the key lessons behind both Spider-Man’s story: everyone deserves a second chance.
A character that I was pleasantly surprised with the adaptation presented in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is Sergei Kravinoff — Kraven the Hunter. Despite his popularity amongst web-heads, Kraven is a character that has not received much attention in mainstream media, likely due to how hard it is for audiences to connect with the character in the slightest due to the cruelty against animals rife in his history. However, Insomniac focused their attention on Kraven’s Last Hunt and therefore shifted the focus of his hunting away from animals and instead to his hunt of superheroes and villains. The result is a character with motives much easier for the standard audience to witness and a well-written villain whose prowess is showcased at its best. And with an actor as iconic as Jim Pirri behind the performance provided, fantastic character interpretation is found on all fronts with Kraven as Pirri expertly brings life to the bones provided with the writing.
Truthfully, I don’t have very many critiques for the game because the creative team at Insomniac has proven they will consistently provide exactly what they need in order to deliver a phenomenal gaming experience. That said, there is concept art for the game that shows a variety of locations where the Spider-Men face off against Venom that simply didn’t make it into the game — it would’ve been a blast to get the opportunity to swing through the city in pursuit of the iconic symbiote, destroying buildings and streets along the way.
This is truly a game I would consider to have something for everyone — a beautiful story of overcoming grief and second chances, plenty of action and twists to keep you on your toes, realistic depictions of romance, a slice of life in New York City as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Men, and much more. The different difficulty settings make it an accessible play for all levels of gamers and updated combat and traveling styles present long-term changes to the world of gaming. All-in-all, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 certainly positions itself as a serious Game of the Year contender in a year filled with impressive releases.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is available now on PlayStation 5.