Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 Review | Exactly what a superhero game should be

Spider-Man 2 is finally here. Don't let it swing past you. It's a must play.

What Insomniac Games were able to do with the Spider-Man license has been nothing short of phenomenal. The first game was one of the best Marvel stories ever told with an extremely polished and addicting gameplay loop. Later on, Miles Morales swung on with the same momentum while adding in a few key improvements and a distinct personality of its own. Spider-Man 2 is finally here and it’s an impressive culmination of everything Insomniac has learned leading up to this moment. This isn’t just a simple Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 review, it’s me trying to tell you that what we have here is possibly the best Spider-Man game ever made.

Spider-Man games have always been an easy sell to me. As a massive fan of the character, it was a n0-brainer to take a look at each one at the very least. However, Insomniac’s take on the web-slingers stood out because of the uncompromising quality the first 2 games had in nearly every aspect. You can tell just how much love and care the developers had for each and every single pixel that was on screen. What Rocksteady was able to achieve with DC, Insomniac was able to do with Marvel.

Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Men

Spider-Man 2

The main thing about Spider-Man 2 is that it continues what Insomniac Games have come to figure out in the past 2 games: telling really damn good Spider-Man stories. The studio has really figured out who Peter¬† Parker and Miles Morales are down to the very minute details. The biggest feature that’s going for them this time around is that now we get to experience the story of both Spider-Men in one seamless experience. It’s impressive, authentic, and completely nails the emotional beats.

Spider-Man is one of, if not, the most iconic superhero in the world. Whether it be Miles Morales or Peter Parker, the tension between trying to live a normal life and being a superhero has always been at the core of who the character is. Despite being someone who has powers, Spider-Man struggles just like any of us with money, work, juggling multiple responsibilities, etc. The best spidey stories are the ones that understand these core principles.

Spider-Man 2 takes place about 10 months after the events of Miles Morales. We see both of our protagonists dealing with their own personal stuff while also having to protect the city from all kinds of danger. Peter is dealing with more adult-related issues such as job security and rent while Miles is at a crossroads, ending high school soon and having to worry about college applications and seeing his peers get a clearer path to take in the future. Classic Spider-Man stuff.

Both Peter and Miles are still trying to deal with past events that have happened to them in the previous games. Each one has their own specific weight to carry that’s felt throughout the campaign and it is interesting to see how they both deal with it as individuals and as spider partners. This is also another way of saying that if you haven’t played any of the previous games, you will get lost in what is being presented here. So much of Spider-Man 2’s narrative takes cues from a lot of what was set up before.

Insomniac’s writers were able to weave a phenomenal narrative that contains all the highs and lows you’d expect (and be surprised at) from a Spider-Man story. A lot of the questions left unanswered are touched on here in ways that felt earned. This all works because of the outstanding characterization. Whether it be Peter or Miles themselves or the supporting characters that surround them, and even the villains that show up to ruin your day, the way Insomniac designed, wrote, and directed each scene in Spider-Man 2 felt so genuine to the source materials while also adding in original ideas of their own.

Peter and MJ

Spider-Man 2 is a game that has a lot of heart and personality to it. We already know and love a lot of the characters in the game and yet, Insomniac manages to still surprise me with what they have done here. This is as much a spectacle ride as it is a personal one and it is something you do not want to stop. Some of the best moments in this game don’t even involve a second of action. The story direction is highly cinematic and emotionally resonant.

Even the side-missions and collectibles have much more depth to them. While the previous Insomniac Spider-Man games had great side content, some of them really felt more like filler than anything else. In Spider-Man 2, there is a lot more to them. A simple missing person case can then turn into a wholesome heartfelt narrative about longing for a loved one and reconnecting with those around you. Taking a picture of a particular part of New York unlocks a small narrative explaining the culture around it and why it’s so significant to the city. There is a strong Spider-Man DNA injected with every single moment in this game which really incentivizes you to go out of your way to pursue them yourselves.

The side stuff never felt like a chore or a checklist to do. None of them are ever marked on your map from the start. You discover a lot of the extra content through visual and audio cues while swinging around the city. It’s a subtle change that really adds to the immersion factor of being Spider-Man and showing up to something because it caught your eye. Great stuff from the developers.

Major props have to be given to the voice actors who gave it their all in their performances. Nadji Jeter is once again amazing as Miles Morales. You can hear the struggling youth who’s just trying to carry everything on his shoulders and yet, still be that young playful Spider-Man. Yuri Lowenthal. This man IS Peter Parker. We already know how good he is from the past games but what was required for him to pull off here was something else. As soon as Peter dawns the symbiote suit and his mental state starts to deteriorate, Lowenthal injects another layer of depth into his performance. It was heartbreaking to witness a hero fall to a dark place and what that means for the people around him and that’s all due to how much I fell in love with Lowenthal’s performance.

They fly now? They fly now.

gliding

Insomniac Games still carries the title for making the best and most addicting traversal system ever in a video game. Swinging around the even bigger open world of Spider-Man 2 is something I never got tired of despite being the third game in the series. It’s no longer just Manhattan. There’s the new addition of Brooklyn and Queens to round it all up and make the best Spider-Man playground. There is a significant step-up in visuals with more crowd density at street level and architectural variety with the buildings.

One of the biggest things I don’t like about the new generation of consoles is how much it has to compromise between performance and quality mode. You either get great visuals in exchange for 30 fps or a smoother gameplay experience for a downgraded resolution. It feels more like developers have to sacrifice so many things because they couldn’t figure out how to extract the potential of the PS5 hardware. Insomniac Games is here to completely change that narrative. Regardless of what mode you choose, ray tracing is always on by default. It is something that truly has to be seen by yourselves. Everything from the buildings, water, and even the reflection on the different suits makes it all feel so tangible and alive. I even had one moment where I just randomly stopped in front of a window and saw that there was a fully rendered 3D model of an NPC doing their own tasks inside the room. The world is brimming with so much technical and visual detail that really sets the world of Spider-Man 2 to be one of the most impressive in gaming.

Swinging as the 2 Spider-Men is still a thrill as Miles and Peter are still differentiated by their own unique animations that really speak to their character’s personality. The shiny new toy to play with is the addition of gliding which cranks the fun factor up to unprecedented levels. It’s not as overpowering to replace swinging. It’s useful to go from point A to point B a little bit faster. You can use wind tunnels to sustain your gliding. However, web swinging has been and always will be the best way to do it. With another addition of slinging yourself from any point in the map introduces so much more speed to a Spider-Man game that we haven’t seen before.

Fast traveling in Spider-Man 2 is probably the best and most impressive it has ever been in any video game. This is one of the many places where Insomniac proves that they are masters of the PS5 hardware. You just go to any point in the map, press a button, and it seamlessly transitions into an animation where any of the 2  Spider-Men glides to a fully rendered open world. No seconds wasted, no loading screens, and no menu distractions. This is what a new-generation game is supposed to be.

Amazing, ultimate, and spectacular

Spider-Man 2 combat

Combat is where Spider-Man 2 makes a lot of changes and improvements. It feels faster, more intense, and much more active. It all starts with the brand new default ability of being able to parry. You’re no longer just punching people and rolling away. With the right timing of the block button, you can parry an enemy to stun lock them and continue dishing out damage.

The game felt like it threw way more enemies that were much more aggressive compared to before. Additionally, a lot more of them do require to be parried to be properly damaged. In the first two games, I could get away with just webbing up people, dodging here and there, and using normal attacks. But this time around, I had to pay more attention to what I was fighting and what tools I could use to overcome them. It’s an engaging challenge.

Without saying much, we all know that the symbiote suit is bad news for Peter Parker. The way the developers present its capabilities and the raw and unhinged power fantasy that the player is given feels a lot like a drug, similar to what Peter is probably feeling. It does have a massive narrative implication but it also translates really well with gameplay. I love what Insomniac has done with it.

There are also many more abilities and gadgets to mess around with. Avoiding getting hit and keeping combat momentum is a lot more important now since healing now consumes one whole completed combo bar. This is also a resource that is used to perform KO takedowns. Having to juggle between a heal and an instant win button was a constant decision I made especially during the latter half of the game.

Lizard

Boss battles are visually the best they have ever been in a Spider-Man game. However, in a systematic sense, they all play out the same. I didn’t really have to change up my tactics to beat any of the bosses here. You either dodge, web them up, parry, or use a gadget to create an opening to damage a boss for a few hits. Rinse and repeat until they move on to the next phase. However, what saved the game from having painfully simplistic boss mechanics is the story it tells during the actual fights. Classic Spider-Man banter is here but there are also more serious fights where the conversation between the Spider-Men and the bosses do reach an emotional peak that had me glued to the screen. There are some moments here that really encapsulate the best of Spider-Man’s internal and external conflicts.

Another small detail that is one of my favorites is suit damage. Regardless if you’re wearing the default suits or one of the many (amazing ones) to choose from, visual damage can be seen on Peter and Miles whenever they get hit. It goes away eventually when you get back to full health but it all just looks so neat and shows how much work the combat team put into this.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 Review Final Verdict – 9.5/10

Review final verdict

Despite 2023 being a very strong time for video games, Spider-Man 2 swings on by to set itself as one of the strongest game-of-the-year contenders so late in the year. It has just about everything I want and need as a Spider-Man fan but also as a gamer. The narrative is progressively engaging, the characters are strongly written, the gameplay is refined to near perfection, and the technical mastery that was achieved tying all of this together makes Spider-Man 2 an absolute must-have for every PS5 owner.

Insomniac took all the good things from Spider-Man PS4, Miles Morales, and even the latest Ratchet and Clank and packaged them up to create one of the best superhero games ever made. This is the gold standard for what a Spider-Man should be. Moreover, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a triumphant example of true next-gen gaming.

9.5

Spider-Man 2 might just be the best Spider-Man game ever made. It's a phenomenal continuation of what Insomniac Games has already established with the first 2 games. While its more of a refinement of what came before rather than a massive systematic overhaul, the game contains a powerful narrative that's worth the price of admission alone. This game touches on exactly what it means to be Spider-Man and it constantly explores this concept while offering a definitive way to show off exactly what an extremely talented and passionate developer can do when working on something they believe in.