I went into Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 thinking it would just be more of the same. That’s not a bad thing – since there are only 1.5 games in the series so far, developer Insomniac knows that this formula isn’t broken and therefore there’s no need to fix it. And I was largely right; If you’ve played both Peter’s and Miles’ versions of PlayStation Spider-Verse, there’s little here that will shock you. It’s gaming comfort food, a sure-fire summer blockbuster, the familiar encore of your favorite band.
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However, there are small differences that underline the overall experience. The biggest change to the game’s setup is the two-character setup. The story missions have ready-made moments that allow you to switch from Peter to Miles on the fly, and the open world sections allow you to do so at your leisure. When you jump from one hero to another in action – like GTA 5 did ten years ago, only better – it really becomes clear that this is finally a proper new generation game.
“The fast charging of the PS5 is something that really helps us,” explains Ryan Smith, senior game director at Insomniac, in an interview with VG247. “Especially with the open world switching – we can switch between Peter and Miles pretty quickly. And these transitions also give you the opportunity to see fun animations – these transitions were a place where our animators could really get creative.”
He’s right. Thanks to the supervised nature of my preview, I wasn’t able to see too many of these instances, but what I did see impressed me – it made the game feel more guided. More curated. More intentional.
“Using the PS5 hardware allows the animation team to really realize this cinematic idea [playing as two Spider-men] comes to life and really lets you feel the city – more than in the last games, right? Because it’s one thing to move back and forth and hit these points of view, but when those cinematic transitions start, it’s really fun,” Smith explains.
Because much of Insomniac’s Spider-Man experience is player-driven (think how you explore the open world, how you follow breadcrumbs to get to missions, how you decide when and where to follow the “golden path”) leaving and befriending a side mission), the studio really enjoys taking the reins back for a moment when switching between characters.
My favorite example was a script switch from Miles to Peter, where the camera pulls back like a Kubrick-esque dolly shot and flies up into the sky, sending you on a quick, direct tour of New York before seamlessly moving directly over Parker’s lands shoulder. If the world of Marvel’s Spider-Man is one big video game theme park, these lush transitions are roller coasters. But that’s not the only part of the game that Insomniac was able to improve with this quick, painless swap.
“Because the PS5 loads quickly, we were also able to incorporate character switching into our scenes,” Smith continues. “We can quickly switch between indoor and outdoor locations, show what each hero is up to, and just get really creative – so we can come up with some truly epic moments in the game.”
This was best done in a standard fight with The Lizard – or Dr. Curtis Connors, as he would probably prefer to be called – exemplifies. After about an hour of tracking down the overgrown reptile, sneaking through gutted fishing grounds, and tracking Connors to a hidden wastewater lab using Miles’ stealth and Peter’s academic expertise, the pressure valve was released and the boss fight began in earnest. This massive enemy – rendered by the beautiful Insomniac Engine with beautiful reflections on its scales – eventually ran away, and so began a scene that became the talk of the event once the pads were down.
Miles and Peter team up to pursue Connors, and the game cleverly shows you each character in turn. As they shout instructions to each other (“You grab the speedboats, I’ll take the helicopters” or “You go high, I’ll fly low”), the camera focuses on the character who experiences the most of what the films like Call it “slight danger”. You swing, dodge, dive, jump, overcome huge obstacles so they don’t kill civilian bystanders, and push forward. It’s hard to resist the momentum – the previous Spider-Man games really knew how to make you feel like Spider-Man, but this… this sums it up, making you feel like Spider-Man.Men. It’s an eerie feeling.
And Smith doesn’t want that feeling to last longer than expected. “Spider-Man 2 is on the same level as the first game in terms of total playtime,” he explains. “And we really thought about how we could make every single moment – moments like The Lizard fight that you played – a little more epic, a little deeper, or a little more integrated into the story. We don’t want the game to last 80 to 100 hours, that’s not our goal. We want to tell amazing stories as best we can. We want every mission to be truly memorable. That’s our goal instead of going super far.”
Before my interview with Smith, I doubted that Spider-Man 2 would be able to maintain momentum throughout the game; It felt like the entire Lizard area was extracted and designed specifically to give the game a good look (if you do enough of these preview events you can see how the sausage is made, so to speak). But in our conversation, he really made me believe that this is what the whole experience will be like – that Spider-Man 2 really does have what it takes to be the most exciting game of the year.
We’ll certainly see when Spider-Man 2 launches exclusively for PS5 on October 20th. You can read everything we know about Spider-Man 2 so far at the link.