After defending New York from the likes of Doctor Octopus, Vulture, Electro, Kingpin and more, the reveal trailer for Spider-Man 2 confirmed that Miles Morales and Peter Parker would be donning their spidey suits once again to take on one of the most iconic villains in comic book history in Venom. Well, the time has finally arrived to take on the drooling symbiote. Of course, it’s a Spider-Man title, so you’re fighting another enemy and their minions as well. Exhausted? You will be. In the best ways possible.
There’s a really nice parallel between Spider-Man 2 and the first game from the get-go here. Miles is still learning how to be the best Spider he can be, but, much like Peter in the first title, he’s not as green as he once was. He’s gotten to grips with a lot of his powers (thanks to the exploits in his standalone game), and he’s holding his own against incredibly powerful enemies. Peter plays the role of doting mentor in this one, passing on knowledge and advice to the younger hero as they batter their way through NYC’s aggressors in a lightning-paced opening act. He’s settling down with MJ, and it’s not until a reappearance from a suspiciously healthy Harry Osborne happens that things start to change.
I could go into depth about the story here, and chart the points that people will undoubtedly expect me to, but honestly, it’s a continuation of the story that’s been woven so intricately by Insomniac thus far. If you’ve got any reverence for the comics (or indeed the movies), then you know the characters, and you know the beats. Until you don’t, that is. Things get flipped on their head, old rivalries are rekindled, and new faces are introduced at such a pace that you may well miss something if you’re not paying attention. There are some set-pieces in here that absolutely blew me away, story moments that went further than I was expecting from a comic book game, and the introduction of Venom is, hands down, one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a game in a long, long time.
Three paragraphs in and I’ve not even touched on the other big bad of the game. Kraven the Hunter is a character I’ll openly admit to not knowing much about before picking up my DualSense, but he and his band of hunters are a terrifying group. A merciless killer who simply wants to hunt down those he deems worthy, his plans lead to a chaotic time for Miles and Pete, and unleash havoc on a New York that, let’s face it, have probably had more than enough havoc at this point in their lives. In the hunt for the hunter, you’re taken to some genuinely impressive locations, and put through your paces as a player as swarm after swarm of fur-lined badasses line up to get their backsides thwipped.
That combat is really an evolution of what made the first two titles so enjoyable. Both Miles and Peter have a slew of new abilities, allowing for some truly dynamic fights to break out. Launching enemies into the sky before blasting them with electricity, slapping them around with mechanical arms or hitting them with symbiote powers is an absolute joy in Spider-Man 2, with some fights becoming genuinely tense as you try to balance your offense with a suitable level of hanging back.
Wait, did I just mention symbiote powers? Well, yeah. I’ve got to mention them here as they play such a huge part in just how fun the game gets as it goes on. They’ve been shown off previously, but the feeling of power that you get when you start to use them is palpable. Sending enemies flying with an enormous punch that picks others up in their wake, grabbing them by the throat and slamming them into the ground, it all feels… It just feels good. So good, in fact, that you begin to understand just how the old phrase is true. Absolute power corrupts. Absolutely.
Moving on, and the work that Insomniac have done here on a technical level is just mind-boggling. New York always looked good in the original games, but in this, it’s another level of impressive. The streets are constantly filled with people and vehicles, with side missions popping up all the way through the game. I keep saying this, but every time I play a game from a first party studio at this point, it feels as though it’s the culmination of tech, storytelling and gameplay from all of their previous titles, and this is no exception. I saw a comment the other month that suggested Insomniac are carrying the PS5, and while I think it’s a stretch, they’re certainly doing some heavy lifting here. Elements of Ratchet & Clank are dropped into the game in a moment that genuinely made me slap my forehead and say “Of course!” out loud, while some of the areas in the back half of the game had me pining for a Resistance Fall of Man remake with the tense and brooding atmosphere. This is Insomniac’s apex, and I’m genuinely excited to see what they do with Wolverine, and genuinely have no idea what to expect from it.
The game runs at a rock solid frame rate, whether you wish to play in Fidelity mode or Performance mode, achieving either 30 or 60 respectively. It also makes great use of the PS5’s SSD, with fast travel literally occurring in the time it takes you to exit the menu, and the array of accessibility and customisation options is really impressive too. If you want a bit more of a challenge to your traversal, you can turn off the swing assists, which makes the game feel even more like you’re a Spider-Man of your own, while toeing the line of frustration and exhilaration to almost perfection. Additional water traversal mechanics have also been put in place here, which allow you to keep your speed up and fling yourself across the river without needing to slow down, which is a great touch. Also thrown into the mix are a set of “web wings”, which let you fly over areas of the city and even barrel down into wind tunnels, prolonging your flight while also picking up a lot of speed. All in all, traversal in Spider-Man 2 is, quite simply, excellent, and you’ll likely never want to use the fast travel, even with its frightening speed.
The themes of accessibility run into the narrative as well. Miles’ love interest Hailey is, as in the previous game, deaf, and the game animates all conversations with other characters with signing, where appropriate. It’s a small touch, but one that demonstrates that it’s just normal for the folks in the game. It leads to a couple of funny mistranslations during a scene or two as well, which adds that element of humanity into it. It’s clear to see that Insomniac take inclusion and diversity seriously, and this is a game that’s not afraid to show it, and before anyone dares utter the “W” word, it never comes at the expense of the story or gameplay. It just fits, and that’s a fantastic thing to see.
Away from the main missions, there are of course plenty of side activities if you ever want a slight break from attempting to defeat Kraven or Venom. While not quite as icon-strewn as some open world games have become, there’s a ton of stuff to distract you in NYC. Whether it’s clearing out some bad guys, chasing down drones, finding hidden secrets or just being a Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man, the majority of these are worth completing, especially the FNSM app ones, as you’ll end up with some sort of reward for doing so, usually in the form of a suit. In terms of the suits themselves, I don’t think people need worry about a lack of customisation in this game. There’s… Well, a lot.
There’s not much to dislike here if you’re a fan of the previous games. My only major criticism is that at some points it felt like there was one group of enemies too many in a sequence. Sure, battering seven shades out of tons of goons is an enjoyable feeling, but realising you’re not quite done with them and have another batch steaming in immediately almost felt overwhelming. The checkpointing is generous enough, and it may have been because I was absolutely mainlining the game, but there was one instance in particular that almost felt a little tedious. Other than that, I don’t really have any other big issues with the game. It’s technically sound, the story is a Spider-Man story that ticks a bunch of boxes while keeping things fresh, and overall it’s just a ton of fun. Whether that’s swinging narrowly through the incredibly detailed streets at an insane speed, or discovering another little easter egg that’s been left there for fans, the smile rarely left my face while playing.