It’s not easy to create a top-tier sequel to a top-tier original.
In 2018, Insomniac Games impressed nearly everyone with Marvel’s Spider-Man, a game that many say exceeded the dynamics of movies. Then in 2020, in combination with the release of the PlayStation 5, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales gave a new Afro-Latino teen perspective on the wall-crawling hero. (Miles was bitten by a new strain of genetically enhanced spider created by Norman Osborn, giving him similar but slightly different powers.)
Now, with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, the gamemakers hope to fuse the best of both Spidey experiences into something bigger and better. And yes, it’s certainly bigger. Is it better? Read on.
Spider-Man 2 is a multiple-act adventure. As the story opens, Spider-Pals Miles and Peter are tag-teaming a variety of big-baddie problems such as the attack of a gigantic Sandman and the escape of the Scorpion and Mr. Negative.
But those aren’t the only threats on the horizon. It seems that the Russian great hunter, Kraven, has also noticed all the powerful supers smashing their way through New York City, and he and his vast army of hunter minions swarm into the city seeking the ultimate hunt. Whether that means killing bad guys or heroes, it matters not to him.
Oh, but there’s more. Harry Osborn is back on the scene. He’s recovered from his cancer treatment (set up in the original game) and back with a new plan for helping the world. It seems his uber-wealthy pops came up with an incredible supersuit that totally cured Harry’s afflictions. And he wants to work with Peter in a new science foundation dedicated to his deceased Aunt May.
Little do Harry and Peter realize, however, that the “supersuit” is actually a black, goopy, alien symbiote (sound familiar?) that has its own plans for Harry, Peter and, well, the whole world!
As you might expect from the previous games, there’s a whole lot of baddie-bashing in the gaming mix. And Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has many game mechanics that have either been revamped or are new to the series.
For example, there’s a new parrying mechanic that improves battles. And along with experiencing this franchise’s incredible sense of web swinging, wall-running, and acrobatic flips off skyscrapers, players can now fly across town with Web Wings. A fast-travel system makes the going more streamlined if you desire. And the various suit techs and symbiote powers add all the more dynamism.
Players switch between the two heroes (and even play as Mary Jane and Venom at certain points). Both Peter and Miles have similar playing styles, but their abilities are a little different. Miles stands out with incredible speed, a camouflage ability and an electric zap, for example.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a third-person perspective, single player only game. And it’s a PS5 exclusive.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has a very involving story that definitely deepens the gameplay. And while Peter and Miles are fighting toward the same goals, their individual struggles, stories and personal relationships shine through. And these guys are both heroes, working diligently to save the city at large and each other.
Some specific flashback scenes feature mentors or loved ones handing out wise and uplifting advice. For instance, Peter remembers Aunt May helping him with his anger issues and guiding him to find a balance between the good and stressful things of life. And Miles is given solid guidance from his uncle. The game stresses the great value of family and friends, as well as the importance of helping others.
The story also promotes the idea of walking away from past bad choices and focusing on positive future goals. In that sense, it makes the symbolic point that anyone, even a hero, can be influenced negatively if exposed to the wrong influences. And if that happens, good friends don’t give up in trying to remind them of the important things of life.
Aesthetically, this game is impressive to look at and play through. The character graphics aren’t, frankly, all consistently equal, but some are amazingly realistic.
Gamers engage in a whole lot of melee bashing, zapping, shooting and explosive destruction. And that can also result in some light splashes of blood. We see average citizens falling to their death and being caught up in massive destruction.
In close-up cutscene moments, that violence can feel even more visceral (especially with the heightened graphics) as characters are beaten, stabbed, injected with poison, choked and killed. Someone stabs a huge knife into Peter’s side and breaks off the blade, for instance. We see several dead bodies and some bloody aftereffects.
The huge and powerful Venom appears later in the game’s play and he is extremely vicious, sporting a large mouth full of razor-sharp teeth and, at one point, biting a victim’s head off (just out of the camera’s sight).
The story showcases some poor teen choices. It also shows someone wrestling with his fiery desire for revenge (though that’s resolved well). Mary Jane is transformed into a Venom version of herself, and the character’s feminine curves are accentuated. Players will also run across a couple of LGBT characters in the midst of the quests.
Some criminals are selling undefined drugs. Foul language isn’t plentiful, but there are uses of “h—,” “d—it,” “a–” and “pr–k” sprinkled amidst the dialogue.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has a few goopy and sticky splats that parents of should be aware of. But for the most part, it’s a pretty spectacular Spidey adventure to swing and battle through.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.