Marvel's Spider-Man 2 Review: The Spectacular Spider-Men

Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is a sensational follow-up to the last two games.

Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is finally here and it's a bigger, better sequel in almost every single way. Although it comes with some caveats, Insomniac Games continues to prove it understands Spider-Man across both gameplay and story. There are few developers capable of giving this much depth to a character that has been around for this long and had this many stories, but Insomniac finds a way to make it all feel fresh.

Marvel's Spider-Man 2 brings Peter Parker back into the fold with Miles Morales at his side. The two heroes are taking on New York's challenges together and they face their toughest battle yet in this massive sequel. The likes of Kraven the Hunter, Venom, and many others all put our trusty web-slingers to the test physically and emotionally in ways that are sure to surprise fans.

The Evil Within


One of the reasons I love Spider-Man is that he's human, flaws and all. He is everything that is good in humanity, but is also able to exercise our worst parts as well on rare occasions. Spider-Man can fail at saving those closest to him and can fail at maintaining his morals.. He is not some picturesque hero who never does anything wrong, and that's precisely why he's the best hero. He can succumb to something destructive or revel in a loss for a moment, but he will bounce back and become stronger for it. Spider-Man is a character that shows it's ok to fail, to make mistakes, and that no one is perfect.

Insomniac Games understands this incredibly well and gives us a Peter Parker who is fresh off the death of Aunt May, still processing his way forward with no immediate blood relatives surrounding him. Parker is now stuck with May's massive mortgage and all of her belongings, unable to cope as he believes it would mean letting go or moving on from her. He also risks losing his best friend, Harry Osborn, who has re-entered his life after being gone for years and is dying of an unspecified illness. As teased in the first game, Harry has been using an alien substance known as a symbiote to treat his disease, but given it is otherworldly, no one totally understands what kind of side effects it may have. Peter is eventually consumed by the alien goo and although it makes him stronger, it brings out a lot of the negative emotions he has likely tried to bury and gives us a more morally gray Spider-Man.


Once Peter gets acclimated to his new suit, the once-quippy character is now totally devoid of his cheesy jokes and feels like he could explode in rage at any given moment. There is a theme across the whole game that everyone contains this monster within them – we just need something to bring it out of us. Peter gets this with the black suit, Dr. Connors with the Lizard, the person who later becomes Venom (no spoilers) gets it from the symbiote, and even Miles in some capacity as he contends with this thirst for revenge/justice against Martin Li. That duality is at the center of Marvel's Spider-Man 2 with a battle for the souls of both of our heroes as the evil forces at play try to bring the worst out of both Miles and Peter.

Both of them find themselves working through their issues more or less on their own without success. It is only when they come together that they're able to conquer their demons and triumph. We see both of them feel the crippling weight of self-doubt, only to realize that everyone needs help, including Spider-Man. 

Combat Evolved


Marvel's Spider-Man had some of the best superhero gameplay we'd seen since the Batman Arkham games. It was a remarkable starting point, and Insomniac Games has built upon that foundation to create quite possibly the most satisfying and immersive superhero experience in gaming. The biggest addition is, of course, the black suit. We've seen the black suit in numerous Spider-Man games like Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Spider-Man 3, Ultimate Spider-Man, and many more. They all have their own take on how this should function in gameplay, but Insomniac taps into that power in all kinds of satisfying ways in this game.

You have a handful of symbiote abilities, some of which can be seen in gameplay previews, that allow you to be more powerful than Spider-Man could otherwise ever be. Of course, on a narrative level, it has its negative effects on Peter. On a gameplay level, you probably won't want to stop using it which may actually help you empathize with Peter's inability to shake it. Some of these abilities allow you to punch people with a giant, forceful symbiote blob, grab a large group of enemies with tentacles and slam them into the ground, or even propel yourself toward enemies and fling them into walls while they're covered in symbiote goo. You feel the extra aggression behind Peter's punches and kicks when it's enhanced by the suit. The violence in the game becomes a little less gleeful and more primal. It's a noticeable gameplay difference that brilliantly blends together with the story.

Beyond the symbiote powers, Insomniac Games has found other ways to streamline combat. Previously, you had a gadget wheel that allowed you to slow down combat and switch to different gadgets. It was a bit disruptive to the flow of gameplay, but Insomniac has completely removed it in favor of four simple gadgets that are bound to R1 + one of the face buttons on the controller. It gets rid of the gadgets that people probably didn't use as much or at the very least, meshes them together with other ones via skill upgrades. It makes a world of difference and keeps things feeling smooth and simultaneously frenetic.


Combat does get pretty chaotic, too. The side crimes have been vastly improved to be more dynamic. You may be fighting some arsonists in the streets, and then all of a sudden, Kraven's hunters will show up with their own unique tools and weaponry to try and fight you. Now, it's become a three-way battle. Sometimes it won't stop there, either. I have seen every single faction of enemies participating in one big battle, and it's truly something to behold. Cleaning it up is no easy task, but thankfully, the other Spider-Man will sometimes swing in to try and help you restore peace. Although it appears you can't force Peter and Miles to meet up in the open world by repeatedly switching to them and taking them to the same location like in GTA V, you will sometimes see the other web-slinger come and provide help to you during open world crimes. It's completely random, but it does spice things up and allows you to celebrate together with a short animation once you have saved the day.

Insomniac has done a lot to make the combat feel familiar and immediately understandable to the players of the previous games. However, they have also gone above and beyond to not just refine it, but actively evolve it so that the already-euphoric combat feels fresh and electrifying.

Even Mary Jane Watson has gotten an upgrade. Yes, those Mary Jane stealth missions make a return, but it's clear Insomniac listened to the criticisms of them. Now, she can taser enemies and do stealth takedowns. Her having a weapon also means that if you're spotted, you don't immediately fail either. I really didn't enjoy her missions in the last game, but they are done sparingly here and the gameplay has been improved to make them a welcomed addition this time around.

They Fly Now


Spider-Man has the most unique method of navigating the world out of any superhero. He doesn't technically fly, he doesn't have a sick car (I'm not counting the Spider-Mobile), he swings from webs and occasionally glides when he has his web-wings. The traversal and web-swinging was perfect in the first game, it was hard to imagine how Insomniac Games could make it much better, but somehow, they did it! 

It is clear the power of the PS5's SSD has given Insomniac the ability to make Spider-Man feel faster. You can zip through New York City at breakneck speeds, sometimes to the point of it almost being a bit difficult to handle with grace. Nevertheless, being able to load the game's map extremely quickly has allowed Insomniac the chance to really expand how Spider-Man can move from place to place. On top of your traditional web-swinging and acrobatics, you can also now slingshot yourself. A new skill allows you to place yourself in the center of two webs and launch yourself into the air, giving you a bunch of momentum. There are even designated slingshot launch pads around the city that give you extra power and can launch you across bodies of water so you can quickly move between Manhattan and Queens with ease without giving up control. 

If you're trying to clean up collectibles or side missions, you can also fast travel to wherever you want on the map instantaneously. You can be on one side of the map and highlight wherever you want to teleport to and you will immediately be swinging in that new area. It's really impressive what Insomniac has pulled off with the PS5's tech and is like nothing I have seen before in a game of this scale.


It's furthered by the new web-wings which allow you to glide across the city. It's some of the best flying that's ever been in a game and when combined with the web-swinging, makes for the most engaging and satisfying traversal in a superhero game. The speed you get from going into a wind tunnel and then exiting it by pulling up on the stick, sending Spidey soaring into the New York City skyline never gets old.

There are also special skills that allow you to use some of Miles and Peters' gadgets/abilities to propel yourself further and higher into the air, which can be useful for those who want to get some extra acceleration and height before activating the web-wings. If you're one of those people who likes to get creative with the traversal and try to use tricks or go as fast as possible, you will have a field day with Marvel's Spider-Man 2. There are so many ways to get around now beyond simply swinging like a pendulum. 

Not Without Flaws


While there is a lot to praise this game for, there are some issues. The story of Marvel's Spider-Man 2 suffers from some of the problems of other jam-packed Spider-Man media like Spider-Man 3 or The Amazing Spider-Man 2. That's not to say it is anywhere close to as flawed as those two films, but it does share the issue of being very overstuffed. We have the black suit arc, Kraven the Hunter, Venom, the Osborn family continuing to evolve, Miles' arc, and a lot more. There's plenty going on here and Insomniac Games wants to accomplish it all in 31 missions across roughly 15 – 17 hours.

That is a lot more time than a movie has, but Marvel's Spider-Man 2 strangely feels like it takes a while to really kick into gear. After an explosive opening sequence, we spend a lot of time with Peter, Miles, and Harry kind of just vibing while Kraven's story slowly unfolds. The story could probably be told in under 20 hours, but because Insomniac spends a quarter of the game's length without moving the needle forward much, it leads to big moments later in the game feeling a bit undercooked or rushed. They're not bad, and I wouldn't even say all of the big beats are unearned, but some of the most important ones lack the overpowering emotional punch of something like Aunt May's death or the heartbreak of Peter seeing his mentor be overtaken by evil in the first game.

(Photo: PlayStation)

For as much advertising as PlayStation put behind Venom, he's not in the game for that long. The Marvel monster still has a massive impact on this story, but Kraven definitely feels more like the central antagonist. However, we also deal more with his goons than him across the game. Perhaps this is a case of Insomniac not wanting to make us have multiple boss fights with a main villain, but the boss fights that are in the game are very long and drawn out as is. They probably would've been better utilized if they were scattered throughout the game rather than turned into one big long sequence with multiple stages for each villain.

That's not to say Marvel's Spider-Man 2 has a bad story – it's far from it. It still has incredible characters and explosive moments that are sure to delight hardcore and casual fans and possibly even get you a bit misty-eyed. The problem is, it's just not as tightly or neatly told as the first game resulting in some of Spider-Man's most iconic storylines lacking an emotional catharsis.

The Sensational Spider-Men


Surprisingly, Insomniac makes up for the main story lacking some emotional juice with some stellar side content. The side quests in Marvel's Spider-Man 2, like many other returning elements, are a marked improvement over its predecessors. While you'll still find yourself tracking down members of Spidey's rouge's gallery and dismantling their various operations, the side content that really shines are the ones that aren't really about beating people to a pulp. There are various missions in Marvel's Spider-Man 2 that remind you why the web-head is known as the "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man." He's a man of the people, and despite the fact he swings above their heads at high speeds, he will stop and speak with an average joe. 

One mission revolves around helping a man grieve the loss of his wife and come to terms with the fragility that is life. It's pretty heavy, but Spider-Man sits down on a park bench and has a simple conversation with him. There are no punches to be thrown, no big car chases – it's just someone looking for an ear to talk into and the person who listens just so happens to be Spidey. Spider-Man doesn't just nod quietly, he also asks questions and engages. They talk about love and how powerful it is. These moments highlight the empathy that Spider-Man possesses, that inner humanity and kindness that makes him a cut above many other heroes. One of Spider-Man's greatest powers is his heart, and there are multiple missions that showcase this in the game.


Spider-Man is such a fantastic hero because he will fight until his last breath to save the world, but he will also be there to comfort someone in a very intimate, personal time of need. Peter Parker and Miles Morales may have superpowers, but these kinds of missions show that they can make an impact without them, and what better message is there than that?

Ultimately, Marvel's Spider-Man 2 captures the essence of the character on a micro and macro level. We get big, epic set pieces infused with personal stakes, spectacular combat, the amazing web-swinging that every kid dreams of, and a story that tests Miles Morales and Peter Parker on both physical and mental levels. While it isn't without its flaws, Spider-Man 2 is a sensational follow-up to the previous games and yet another winner for PlayStation players.

Marvel's Spider-Man 2 will release on October 20th for PS5. A review copy was provided by PlayStation.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5