Reviewed On: PS5
Price: $69.99 USD
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: October 20, 2023
*This website uses affiliate links which may earn a commission at no extra cost to you
One of Playstation’s most anticipated titles for 2023 without a shadow of a doubt was Spider-Man 2, and for good reason. When they showcased over 10 minutes of gameplay during their State of Play in May, fans have been dying to get their hands on this game. With all footage being a mix of in-game cinematics and actual gameplay, it showed just how much the game has changed not just graphically, but also in terms of gameplay and story.
The story takes place 10 months after Spider-Man: Miles Morales and starts off with what appears to be a normal day in the life of both Peter Parker and Miles Morales, but immediately throws you into the mix with a major event that has you web-swinging from Brooklyn to Manhattan with your first big boss encounter being with Sandman. THIS IS THE ONLY SPOILER YOU’LL GET!
The story has taken on a darker tone while also staying true to the light-hearted and witty nature of Spider-Man that we all know and love from the comics and movies – it’s what makes Spidey…Spidey! As we saw from the SOP (State of Play) Kraven is one of the main villains of the game, and he doesn’t disappoint at all. His story is very similar to that of his comic book counterpart, with Kraven seeking out a new hunt – one that brings him to the Big Apple. Kraven isn’t just some shmuck that’s all brawn and no brains, no. He is as intellectually sinister and ruthless as they come and poses a lot of challenges for both Spider-Men throughout the game.
If you’ve beaten Spider-Man 1 then you’ll have a pretty good idea as to who Venom really is. The weight of dealing with this as Peter Parker/Spider-Man is conveyed masterfully – which is something that Peter often deals with in his life in the comics. It also helps to have a wonderful cast of actors to help get this feeling across to the audience, and SM2 executes that perfectly. In true Spider-Man fashion, Peter and Miles are put through a series of emotionally and mentally challenging gauntlets revolving around the choices they make to protect not only the people of New York City but also the people they love and care for, which can sometimes be viewed as selfish reasoning and in some cases wanting to prioritize their responsibilities over their friends and/or loved ones.
The game has good pacing and story beats for the most part due to the amount of action and even some suspense, but there are a couple of segments that I didn’t really care for because it almost feels as if they were shoe-horned into the game and as a result, interrupted the flow of things. A good example, in my opinion, would be the Brooklyn Vision Academy segment with Miles as well as going to Coney Island with MJ and Harry to enjoy the theme park rides and mini-games.
However, I can understand why the latter was included because it helps to piece some things together for Harry, but I honestly feel that could’ve been relegated to a cutscene instead. Even with that being said, the game still does a fantastic job of displaying the internal struggles that both Peter and Miles face individually and how they can sometimes get in their own way. It helps to keep things grounded and builds drama. This method of storytelling helps to create a troublesome atmosphere for the both of them and in a way, makes it all relatable.
One thing fans will love about this game is the swinging mechanics and overall gameplay. As you play each game in the series, you’ll notice how much the swinging has improved, even slightly, from Spider-Man 2018 to Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Spider-Man 2 is no different in this regard, as there are a couple of new tricks up Spidey’s sleeve to help get around the city much easier. In addition to this minor improvement comes the all-new web glider. With this new tool under our belt, we can now access wind tunnels that provide speed boosts and also keep you from losing altitude while you’re in the air as long as you stay inside of them. It takes a little getting used to at first but the learning curve isn’t steep at all.
The combat still feels the same from previous games with the exception of new special moves that you unlock the more you progress. With that being said, it feels more satisfying when playing as Symbiote Spider-Man because he almost takes on the brute force and brawler role that you’d experience in other games. Not only is this a refreshing take on Spidey’s combat, but it feels damn good when slamming your opponents into walls or just pummeling them with full force. Insomniac Games has also added a few new finisher animations which are nothing less than flashy and cool.
What’s interesting though, are the skill trees for both Spideys. This is broken up between the individual Spider-Men as well as a shared skill tree that brings back a host of familiar moves. However, Peter’s skill tree is split between his own abilities involving his mechanical spider legs and the abilities the symbiote gives you, while Miles’ focuses more on his venom abilities. The gadgets from the previous games have been scaled back and in a way, combined. For instance, the web grabber now takes the place of the web trip line gadget from SM1 & MM as it’s now used to pull in groups of enemies in one spot allowing you to follow up with some heavy-hitting combos instead of pulling and trapping them to a nearby surface. The weapon wheel has been removed and instead can be accessed by pressing a simple combination of R1 and any of the face buttons a particular gadget is assigned to. This also applies to both Spider-Men’s abilities with L1.
Spider-Man 2 keeps to the formula of combining action-packed gameplay with stealth missions that involve not only both of our Spideys but MJ as well. However, this time around Insomniac has even scaled that back a little bit, as we’re not hit with a lot of those MJ missions like we were before in SM1. When playing as Spidey, we now have a new feature that mixes up stealth gameplay called a web line. You can shoot this web line in a straight line at any angle to help you knock out or web up your opponent quicker. What’s interesting this time around is the inclusion of robotic enemies as well as the regular ones, which can patrol the skies to make those missions a bit more challenging. As for MJ, I really enjoyed her segments this time around because she can actually hold her own, thanks to being equipped with a stun gun that enables her to knock out her opponents much more easily.
As great as Spider-Man 2 was for my entire playthrough for this review, I’ve also come across several bugs. Some were game-breaking while others were straight up annoying. During combat segments, I noticed some of my inputs either didn’t work properly or just simply never executed. This often led to me getting mashed out like a pot of potatoes with barely any life left, or just dying overall. If you’ve played any of the previous games you’ll know button combinations aren’t complicated at all and all of the combos are very simple to pull off. With these bugs, I felt like I was in a FGC tournament playing Dragon Ball Z: Fighters. Other bugs involved me being stuck and unable to move or a complete screen freeze which all led to soft reboots of the game. As of this writing, I’ve encountered two hard crashes which luckily haven’t corrupted any of my data thanks to auto-saves.
When it comes to visuals, PlayStation’s first-party developers don’t hold back, and Insomniac Games is no exception. Their resume of games is impressive, to say the least, but when they really get down to business it shows, and it is amazing! First off, getting an almost exact replica of New York City is no easy feat, but to capture the realness of it is another story. The fact they’ve been able to keep this up for two games on top of expanding to parts of Queens and Brooklyn is jaw dropping – it still trips me out to think that as a native New Yorker, I’ve been to most of the places in real life while swinging through them as Spider-Man.
Aside from truly capturing the essence of New York City, Spider-Man 2 has some of the best graphics I’ve seen on the PS5 to date, especially since this isn’t a cross-generation game and is exclusive to the console. By doing this, they were able to really take advantage of the hardware to make a beautiful game. It’s as if no level of detail was spared and everything was carefully crafted and put together. Like most games of this generation, SM2 comes with two graphical modes; fidelity mode which gives you a full 4k experience (all of the bells and whistles with ray tracing) with a target of 30 frames per second, and performance mode which is a lower resolution of 1440p but with a target of 60 frames per second.
Of course, there are trade-offs between the two modes but the sweet spot is a target of 40fps if your TV/monitor can max out at 120hz. When playing in fidelity mode, you can see this game really shine with all of the reflective surfaces on the buildings and in the water, and you’ll be able to notice the difference in density of both people and cars moving about the city compared to performance mode. Although performance mode means faster frame rates, I played this game all the way through on fidelity mode on a 120hz TV and enjoyed every second of it.
Insomniac Games has always done a fantastic job with the games they release and they always end up becoming an experience that shouldn’t be missed. Despite the gripes I may have with Spider-Man 2, I wholeheartedly enjoyed my time with it as both Peter and Miles, and even Mary Jane, and I have absolutely no regrets. This game has something for everyone – from dark moments that make you question Spider-Man as a hero to the lighthearted and funny moments we all know and love. Spider-Man 2 swings into another top spot with a 9/10.