The sequel to two excellent games is no guarantee of success. But it raises great expectations. Thankfully, Spider-Man 2 meets and exceeds these expectations, consistently delivering outstanding superhero action that features fast-paced combat, intelligent mission design, and regular injections of thrilling scenes. Behind all this excitement is also a passionate and heartfelt commentary on second chances, rehabilitation and redemption. As a result, Spider-Man 2 offers a wholesome and optimistic adventure full of joy, even in its darkest moments.
After two previous games independently determined the two main characters, Spider-Man 2 shuttles back and forth between the two wall-crawlers, with unique relationship arcs and powers that set them apart, but key story beats and core abilities that unify the experience . Far from being a distraction, the switching dynamics (sometimes determined by story and sometimes by player choice) keep things fresh and often provide exciting cliffhangers or plot twists at critical moments. The tag team dynamic is worth it and both heroes get a chance to shine.
Insomniac’s approach to web-swinging and traversing New York City has always been a highlight, but is given new life here with several additional tricks, including wingsuits that allow you to glide across rooftops at high speeds. Exploring the city is great fun, especially given the vast size of the city and the dozens of discoveries hidden along the way.
The intensity of Spidey’s combat is always a surprise, whether you’re new to these games or returning after some time. The smooth animations, tight camera transitions and responsive button presses ensure that the speed doesn’t feel overwhelming. I loved experimenting with different powers and gadgets to gain the upper hand against long odds. Slot abilities for each character add a degree of flexibility to your playstyle and add at least some minor adjustments to the flow of combat. Despite this flexibility, Spider-Man 2 is a lengthy game, and the intensity of its frequent conflicts begins to lose luster after a few dozen hours of punches, kicks, and web-throwing; It’s always good, but the diminishing thrill of minion battles eventually becomes a victim of the game’s sprawling scope and size.
To combat the potential boredom of smaller encounters, Spider-Man 2 also features some of the most dramatic and cinematic action sequences I’ve ever experienced in a game, easily matching the grandeur and chaos of even the most exciting scenes in Spider-Man’s cinematic outings become. These technical showpieces revel in the power of the PS5 hardware; When you step back from the exciting scene, it’s easy to wonder, “How on earth did the developers do that?” Fast-paced chases, sudden, instantaneous scene changes, and gigantic dynamic shifts in the game’s environment are common and exciting – and already in the first 15 minutes of the game.
Between the action, Spider-Man 2 tries to find something new in smaller moments and simpler gameplay loops, with varying degrees of success. It’s strange to say that some of these little moments would be spoilers, but it’s best to discover them for yourself, as each one is inserted to change things up in a way that surprises the player. Suffice it to say that a few sequences of stealth, motorless movement through the city and unforgettable evenings with friends cleanse the palate. While these sequences often serve the story well, I’m not always sold on the accompanying gameplay.
The best comic stories have often set real social and personal stories against a backdrop of exaggerated heroics and used frequent violence to emphasize themes. Spider-Man 2 takes this idea to heart, constantly challenging the notions of heroism and villainy and concluding that most people are complex and struggle more with their life situations than they first appear. Peter and Miles each face challenges. Yet they are united by their belief in the good in the people around them and their willingness to go the extra mile to protect even the most seemingly incurable people. Spider-Man 2’s narrative explores how to come back from a dark place and be given another chance, no matter what mistakes you’ve made in the past. And while the answers are nuanced, the generally optimistic conclusions fall on the side of hope.
Insomniac has achieved the rarest feat in video game development. The team has released a trilogy of games that are each strong on their own, but come together to form a comprehensive saga that is made even better by experiencing them as a whole. While more Spider-Man games will inevitably expand this mythology in new directions, there’s no reason to wait. With Spider-Man 2, the developer discovered what makes superhero stories worth telling (and retelling) and gave its likeable heroes the journey they deserve.