Five years ago, Insomniac Games gave us Marvel’s Spider-Man; and ever since, gamers have been salivating at the mere thought of a sequel. True, in 2020, we got a nice treat in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a short but excellent spin-off focused on Miles Morales protecting NYC. But Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 brings the two web-slingers together in a heart-wrenching, exciting adventure unlike either of its predecessors.
A Tale of Two Spiders
Announced in 2021 and released in 2023, Insomniac Games plays it cautious but smart with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. While giving us two Spiders to play as, the sequel doesn’t change things too drastically; instead, it continues and sometimes builds upon what made the first game great.
Much like the first two games in this series, the true star of the game is the story: Peter Parker is trying to balance life between a steady job and being a superhero; and Miles Morales, in the wake of losing both his father (Marvel’s Spider-Man) and one of his best friends (Spider-Man: Miles Morales), is wondering if he’s good enough to be Spider-Man.
One Big Theme: Loneliness
Loneliness and how to handle it is the most significant theme in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 — and not just for Peter and Miles. Peter is trying to help the world as a scientist and not just a superhero, while also feeling like he has to keep being Spider-Man because he blames himself for Aunt May’s death in Marvel’s Spider-Man. Miles is struggling to write his college letter, even as he watches his friends fulfill their dreams, because he doesn’t see anything special in himself besides being Spider-Man — the one thing he can’t write about. Together, the gameplay and the story do a uniquely good job of making both characters feel like main characters, rather than one getting more attention and care from the writers than the other.
The side characters have similar struggles. For most of the game, MJ silently struggles emotionally with both her job and supporting Peter through his problems. The supervillains in this story also remind you that Spider-Man’s enemies become who they are because their lives feel isolated and hopeless. As he stares down an inevitable, grim fate, Kraven wants to meet someone who can really challenge him. The opening arc of the game kicks off because no one will listen to Sandman when he tells them (correctly) that he’s being hunted. Despite being reformed, he and others still face isolation due to the stigma of once being villains.
Which echoes so much of what Peter and Miles are going through. They’re both burdened by responsibilities outside of their control, putting tension on the connection between the normal lives they want to live, and the superpowered lives that seem to only ever get in the way. It’s a classic trope in Spider-Man stories: being Spider-Man seems to always hurt, and never help, Peter Parker.
The Two Antagonists
The antagonists of this game help provide that ever-present hypothetical question: what if Spider-Man went the same way as his villains, letting that isolation and hopelessness drive his actions? Much like this game gives us two Spiders, we also get two main antagonists to fight against.
Kraven the Hunter, driven by his pride, longs not to hunt, but to find an opponent who can hunt — and kill — him. Setting his sights on New York’s plethora of superpowered heroes and villains, his ability to read his ‘prey’ allows him to bring out the darkness lurking within Peter and Miles. When he traps Miles in a fight ring and unknowingly pits him against the man who killed his father (Martin Li, aka Mister Negative), his dialogue reveals that he can tell what this fight means to Miles.
The second main antagonist is Venom. But while the symbiote does play the usual role of bringing out Peter’s character flaws, it does something extra in this story by way of Harry Osborn, Peter Parker’s best friend. Towards the end of the original game, we learned that Harry has a deadly medical condition. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 shows us that, as many fans assumed, it’s the symbiote that Norman Osborn is using to save his son’s life.
Through this antagonist, the theme of loneliness mixes with saviorism. Harry’s condition is the same one that killed his mother; which makes Norman even more desperate to save his son. Peter feels that, if he’d been more powerful or more ruthless, he could’ve saved Aunt May in the original game; which the symbiote then feeds on and brings out. Throughout the game, Harry repeatedly talks about healing the world, and shows some resentment over how Peter’s life has gone on without him; in the final act, with Harry as the symbiote’s host, the newly named Venom plans to “heal the world” by infecting the entire planet with symbiotes.
Excellent Gameplay Mechanics
They somehow made swinging EVEN MORE FUN!
But the story isn’t the only great thing about Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. I have to talk about the mechanics and the things that make this game an actual video game. The original game was released on the PS4, and the follow-up, Miles Morales, was a cross-gen available on PS4 and PS5. This sequel is solely on the PS5, and there’s an arguably good reason for that: the gameplay perfectly utilizes every unique feature of the PS5 hardware, just as they said it would.
Movement in this game is lightning fast, but especially so when you’re traveling. There’s an incredible sequence where you use wind tunnels and web wings to fly through portals; it’s very reminiscent of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. Spider-Man 2 also offers some of the best usage of the DualSense controller since Astro’s Playroom, the game that launched with the PS5 in 2020. From the humming and tension in the controller while you’re using hacking devices, to the tiny vibrations that tell you what kind of surface your spider-bot is on while you’re operating it, this game takes full advantage of the DualSense controller and the PS5 hardware.
Everything about Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is either as good as or better than the previous entries. Not only do you get more heroes to play as, but you get more characters, more villains, more of the city to explore, and more ways to get around the map. If I were to give one negative about this game, it’s the side content — not that there’s too much, but rather that there isn’t enough. I hope Insomniac Games announces DLC for the game soon, as I’m ready to go back into the world and explore the city with some new adventures.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is out now on PlayStation 5.
- THE GOOD
- An amazing story
- Fantastic characters
- Beautiful graphics and gameplay
- THE BAD
- Not enough side missions
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a must-play, with a phenomenal story and amazing characters in a spectacularly built world.