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Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 further proves that developer Insomniac Games is the undisputed MVP of the PS5. This ambitious sequel expands on its amazing predecessor and also borrows elements from Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. What we get is not only the studio’s best title to date but one of the best video games of this generation. Spider-Man 2 is the definition of a must-own system-seller.
I’ve been less than enthused with this console generation due to the lack of true “current-gen” exclusives on both PS5 and Xbox Series X. God of War Ragnarok and Horizon Forbidden West were great, but those were also available on PS4. The same is true for the spectacular Spider-Man: Miles Morales expansion. With Spider-Man 2, we now have a title that takes full advantage of the PS5’s hardware. And I couldn’t be more excited.
If you own a PS5 or plan to get the new PS5 Slim, you owe it to yourself to play Marvel's Spider-Man 2. Here’s why.
Whether it’s the original PS4 version or its remastered editions on PS5 and PC, 2018’s Spider-Man is still an impressive-looking game even four years after its release. I wasn’t sure how Insomniac could graphically improve upon that title, especially given how Spider-Man 2 also takes place in New York City. But on PS5, this sequel manages to make its predecessor look quaint in comparison.
There are three different graphics modes available. Fidelity mode features 4K graphics with a locked 30 frames per second, while Performance mode outputs dynamic 4K at 60 fps. You can’t go wrong with either, but my personal favorite is Fidelity with VRR at 120Hz.
This latter graphics mode is only available if your PS5 is connected to a 120Hz TV with an HDMI 2.1 port. With this mode enabled, the game runs at 40 fps at 4K resolution. Though 40 fps isn’t as smooth as 60 fps, it’s more enjoyable than the basic 30 frames per second. Sure, there are moments when the frame rate drops below 40, but it happens infrequently. If you own one of the best TVs or best gaming monitors that can hit 120Hz, this is the graphics setting to go with.
A New York minute
While this is still structurally the same Manhattan of the previous game, the city looks and feels completely different. Every neighborhood, from the Financial District to Harlem, features all-new textures that make the city feel more alive and energetic. As a native New Yorker, it’s also nice seeing a brighter pre-pandemic version of the city. While the digital metropolis suffers through tragedy as the game progresses, it’s a generally vibrant and inviting location that begs you to explore it.
The westernmost parts of Brooklyn and Queens contain the same exacting detail as Manhattan. I avoid Brooklyn whenever possible in real life, so I can’t speak to its digital incarnation. However, I’m overjoyed that Queens, my hometown, is finally in a Spider-Man game. Web-zipping to Queens Plaza and Jackson Avenue where I take the train every morning is something I never tire of doing in the game. I can’t take the E or 7 train as Spider-Man, unfortunately.
Web of stories
Like its predecessor, Spider-Man 2’s story is better than any of the live-action films. Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies are phenomenal, but that interpretation of the ol’ webhead isn’t the same guy I grew up reading in the comics. Insomniac’s take on the character and his world is original but manages to feel authentic to the source material.
Though he has an excellent co-lead in Miles Morales, the real star of this show is the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker. His story and how it affects those closest to him drive the main narrative forward in ways both expected and unexpected. This plays out in both the main quest and some of the optional missions involving underutilized Marvel characters. It’s fun seeing Peter struggle to pay the bills one minute and then deal with a city-wide catastrophe the next. No spoilers, but the game’s conclusion rings true for the character — showing that Insomniac fully understands Peter Parker.
On the other end, we have Miles Morales, who represents the modern side of NYC. The Miles Morales expansion did an excellent job showing his day-to-day personal life and we see more of that here. We also get a satisfying end to an important Miles Morales-centric plot thread from the first Spider-Man title — one that deftly ties into this sequel’s core narrative. If you’re a Miles Morales fan, you won’t be disappointed.
Spider-Man 2 has a number of engaging side missions. My personal favorites involve doing random favors for people around the city — which showcases the “friendly neighborhood” side of both Spider-Men. I won’t spoil anything, but one side quest involving pigeons was more melancholic than I expected. You know a game is good when even its side quests can tug at your heart.
Gameplay remains largely unchanged from the previous titles, which is something I’m not complaining about. I play the PC version of Spider-Man regularly when I’m testing the best gaming laptops and the best gaming PCs. Because of that, I didn’t have to relearn the controls. Web swinging through the city and taking down bad guys was second nature. That said, some of the new mechanics make the already enjoyable gameplay even better.
Both Spider-Men can now glide through the sky, which helps you get through the city even faster. If you utilize the strategically placed wind currents scattered across the map, you can glide even faster. This new mechanic pairs nicely with the web swinging and feels like a natural extension of your move set. Also, and perhaps more importantly, gliding through NYC is just plain fun.
If you’ve seen the trailers and ads, then you’ll know you get to don the infamous black symbiote costume. To put it bluntly, the symbiote abilities are absolutely brutal, allowing you to make short work of even the fiercest enemy hordes. Once I unlocked Peter’s symbiote powers, I never went back to his mechanical spider-arms. Similarly, Miles’ new electricity-based attacks are also devastating and a blast (pun intended) to unleash on foes. You’ll feel unstoppable no matter which Spider-Man you’re playing — which is awesome.
The Superior Spider-Man
I could probably gush about Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 for another thousand words. This is one of those titles that reminds me why I fell in love with gaming in the first place. It has it all: incredible graphics, a captivating story, and engaging gameplay. And at around 25 hours total (if you pursue the platinum trophy), it doesn’t overstay its welcome. As any good game should, it leaves me satisfied yet wanting more.
Insomniac Games’ Wolverine game is the next superhero jaunt we can expect from the venerated developer. If it’s anywhere near as good as the Spider-Man games (and we have no reason to suspect otherwise), then we’ll be in for a treat. But for now, we can marvel at Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. It's the PS5 game to get!