Platforms: PS5 (reviewed)
Release Date: October 20, 2023
Judged purely on its success as a sequel, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is practically flawless. As the highly-anticipated follow-up to 2018’s well-regarded Spider-Man on PS4, developer Insomniac Games had a high bar to clear, but the Sony-owned studio web zips over it with ease.
All the best bits from Insomniac’s first Spider-Man game (and its spin-off Spider-Man: Miles Morales) are here, including a well-realized recreation of Marvel’s New York City (which is now bigger than ever) and the instantly accessible combat. But dramatic improvements have been made to the game’s numerous side activities, and Spider-Man 2’s central story is among the greatest Spidey tales ever told.
Spider-Man 2 is more than just an endlessly enjoyable love letter to the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, it’s one of the best superhero video games ever created. And it easily swings into the library of the best PS5 games you can play right now. Find out why in our full Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 review.
Two spiders are better than one
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse proved earlier this year that the more Spider-Men (Spider-Mans?) the better, and while Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 doesn’t boast quite as many webheads as that animated flick, the game does offer players the chance to step into the spandex of both Peter Parker and Miles Morales.
Certain main missions force you to play as one of them, with a select few switching between them on the fly, but otherwise, you’re free to roam the city as your preferred Spider-Man as you please. But you shouldn’t pick a favorite. You’re smartly incentivized to regularly swap between them. Each Spider-Man has their own character-specific side quests to complete, as well as separate skill trees to unlock. Making time to play as each Spidey is essential.
Both Peter and Miles have their own set of unique abilities as well. Miles has his returning Venom powers (which get even more suped-up), while Peter starts out with Iron Spider arms before later acquiring a ferocious set of tentacle powers thanks to the new Symbiote Suit. These abilities can be upgraded to become more devastating, but they’re highly satisfying to use out of the gate. However, the destructive symbiote moves are significantly more powerful, which makes the original Spider-Man better at clearing out large crowds of enemies.
Outside of these special abilities, both Peter and Miles have access to the same combos and gadgets. This could have made them feel interchangeable. However, the differences between the two heroes shine through in their personalities. The character animations and well-voiced quips telegraph that Miles is still getting to grips with being a crime-fighter, whereas Peter Parker is more confident as he’s several years into his superhero career.
A better Big Apple
Naturally, Spider-Man 2 takes place in New York City — there’s nowhere else you could set an open-world Spidey game — but while much of the map will feel familiar to returning players, Insomniac has added new districts in the form of (highly condensed) versions of Brooklyn and Queens. These added boroughs make its sandbox city significantly larger in scope than its predecessor.
Even better, the more residential Brooklyn and Queens feel noticeably distinct compared to the towering skyscrapers of the Manhattan portion of the open world located just across the East River. In fact, just the simple act of swinging across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge feels liberating after spending the first Spider-Man game strictly confined to a single island.
With a larger map comes new traversal options, and both Peter and Miles have a set of web wings, as well as the ability to catapult themselves across large distances using webbing as pulleys. Alongside the returning air trick system from the Miles Morale game, Spider-Man 2 gives you a lot of ways to fly through the air with plenty of flair. Within minutes of picking up a controller, you’ll be chaining together flashy moves like a skilled acrobat.
That said, it’s a shame the mechanics of web-swinging remain a little too basic. I appreciate that the system's simplicity makes it highly accessible to newcomers but, successful swinging can be achieved with very little user input. There is a setting to loosen the degree of assistance but you still don’t feel fully in control even with the level set to zero.
The larger open world doesn’t just offer more ground to cover via web swinging or web wings. The map is filled with meaningful side objectives. There are still the obligatory enemy bases to clear out that offer little challenge, but beyond these cookie-cutter tasks, Spider-Man 2 makes great improvements when it comes to the quality of optional content.
There are several narrative-driven side missions to enjoy. The very best of these feel just as tightly crafted and important to the overall story as some of the main missions. Each Spider-Man embarks on his own mini-arc with Peter assisting former-cop Yuri (now a fiery anti-hero known as Wraith) with stopping a dangerous doomsday cult, while Miles helps a local museum retrieve various stolen instruments and aids his classmates at Brooklyn Visions Academy with all sorts of hijinks, like locating a missing mascot costume.
Getting down to business
The real meat of Spider-Man 2 comes via its ridiculously cinematic main story. Seeing the game through to the credits will take you around 15 hours (double that if you want to do all the side missions and get the Platinum trophy), and across that run time you’ll enjoy one of the strongest Spider-Man stories told in any medium including games, movies and comics.
After a blockbuster opening that sees Miles and Peter battle Sandman, the story quickly settles into its groove. Kraven the Hunter has come to NYC in search of an adversary worthy of matching his immense talents as a tracker and warrior. And if that wasn’t enough for Peter/Miles to deal with, Harry Osborn is on the scene with a job offer for his childhood best friend and a strange black suit that acts as a miracle cure for Harry’s genetic illness.
Peter Parker is definitely the main character of Spider-Man 2. His relationship with Harry, and eventually the black symbiote that supercharges his powers, but also negatively impacts his personality, is the story’s key driving force. Peter’s missions propel the plot forward, while Miles is often used as more of a palate cleanser in between major story beats. But this trade-off works surprisingly well, and Miles still gets his moments to shine in the third act.
The main campaign builds to a strong — if slightly predictable conclusion — but the epic final boss fight does a fantastic job of putting a cap on a remarkable superhero romp. Although, speaking of supervillains, much like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, there are perhaps a few too many of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery included here. It begs the question of who’s left to be featured in Insomniac practically inevitable trilogy-closer. Stegron the Dinosaur Man?
Not quite spotless
If there’s one area where Spider-Man did very slightly disappoint, it’s the inconsistent visuals. As one of the few true PS5 exclusives available right now, I had hoped that Spider-Man 2 would be a showcase of the console’s power, much like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart or Returnal. Sadly, it doesn’t quite achieve that same level of graphical polish.
There are many moments where Spider-Man 2 looks jaw-droppingly good. Plus, the stability of the 60fps frame rate in Performance Mode when zipping above the streets at supersonic speeds is particularly impressive. However, some of the character animations look surprisingly stiff and the water effects are distracting. This is most noticeable during cutscenes but does crop up in gameplay. I should stress this is a very minor issue, but when the rest of the game is so consistently fantastic the small stuff sticks out that little bit more.
At least the voice-acting is never anything less than stellar. Nadji Jeter and Laura Bailey are excellent as Miles and Mary-Jane Watson — who is playable once again, but don’t worry her stealth sections are much improved — but the star of the show is Yuri Lowenthal as Peter Parker. The experienced Spidey has a rich character arc and Yuri guides you through his emotional struggles with a fittingly sincere performance. The emotional beats of Spider-Man 2 all landed for me and that was primarily down to the universally phenomenal voice acting.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 deserves to rank alongside the likes of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Mass Effect 2, Assassin’s Creed 2 and Batman: Arkham City as one of the strongest sequels in video game history. Insomniac had already established a solid foundation to build upon, and Spider-Man 2 does everything that a good sequel should by retaining what worked, and then improving on the areas that really matter, like adding meaningful side content.
The last few years have been very good to fans of the friendly neighborhood superhero, and Spider-Man 2 is another winner for Marvel’s golden child. Even if you’ve been feeling comic book movie fatigue in recent months, you absolutely need to play Spider-Man 2. And for those with a real fondness for the webhead, this is the Spidey game you’ve been dreaming about.