In 2018, Insomniac Games released the critically acclaimed Marvel’s Spider-Man, which told an emotional story with Peter Parker about grief and loss. Paired with fun real-time combat gameplay and being able to swing freely in an open-world version of New York City, it was one of the best games of the year. In 2020, we got to see Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and the titular character’s brief coming-of-age story in Harlem. The character growth of both Peter and Miles can be seen throughout Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 through its themes of forgiveness and redemption.
While the real-time action combat in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 remains familiar compared to the first game, there are some smart new additions in the gameplay and open-world mechanics that will keep players engaged throughout the entire adventure.
Peter plays a much more involved mentor figure to Miles in this sequel, given that he was absent for all of the Miles Morales game. Miles is caught up in seeking out one of the first game’s villains, Mister Negative, also known as Martin Li. During the events of the first game, Miles’ father dies protecting citizens as a result of Mister Negative’s actions. As Miles is on his revenge quest, Peter is the one who tries to talk some sense and dissuade him.
What makes Peter’s role interesting is that eventually, both his and Miles’ roles flip when the former gains symbiote powers, thus making him more aggressive. This shift in dynamic keeps the game’s story and characters captivating as now Miles is the voice of reason. Redemption and forgiveness are two common themes seen throughout Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 in the way that old villains return and both Peter and Miles deal with how the consequences of their own actions affect others.
One such example is the Prowler, a former villain also known as Miles’ uncle Aaron Davis. After turning himself in at the end of Spider-Man: Miles Morales, he attempts to right his wrongs by guiding Miles, retelling old memories of him and Miles’ late father when they were kids together.
In addition to the emotional story, the game’s side quests are equally as engrossing. In particular, Miles’ side quests really shine and inject an incredible amount of charm and diversity into the game’s version of Brooklyn. As a graduating high school senior, Miles also has to complete tasks like applying for college while also helping fight crime within the city. It was refreshing to see Miles take detours and help a fellow classmate ask out his crush to prom or assist a club in creating recruitment pamphlets for incoming students. These side quests showed a different side of Miles that added depth and complexity to his character.
However, the story’s pacing can feel odd due to playing as other characters. Sometimes, you’ll play as Peter out of his costume and explore the inside of Oscorp or walk around an amusement park with his friends. Like the first game, there are segments where you control Mary Jane Watson as well. This time around, she has a stun gun to incapacitate enemies, and the gameplay turns into some sort of poor Resident Evil third-person shooter clone. These segments were boring, and I felt like they could’ve been regular cutscenes instead—the entire time, I just wanted to return to playing as Spider-Man.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2’s gameplay is mostly the same as the first game. Peter and Miles can both shoot webs at enemies and knock them out with a series of punches and kicks. However, they each have separate skill trees for combat to make them more distinct. Miles’s bioelectric and venom abilities make a comeback from his own game, while Peter gets a more fleshed-out moveset consisting of his new symbiote and mechanic Spider-Arm abilities. They also share a skill tree that focuses on their traversal abilities, such as being able to swing faster.
Another aspect that I really love is that when you’re fighting random crime throughout New York, whether it’s to stop criminals from committing a robbery or arson, there’s a small chance that an ally will show up to help. Be it Miles or Peter, depending on who you’re currently playing as, there will be special finishing moves involving both characters to take down enemies. This is a fun and smart mechanic that adds more immersion to the gameplay in a way that the previous games didn’t.
Traversal remains relatively unchanged from the previous games as well, but now in addition to the traditional web swinging, both Spider-Men have wing suits that let them smoothly glide throughout New York. Whereas you have to build momentum by web swinging, gliding lets you channel that momentum in a continuous manner until you reach the ground. It’s a fun way to fly around the city and feels less disruptive.
However, the biggest difference is that Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 takes advantage of the PS5’s hardware and has one of the most impressive fast-travel scenes I’ve ever seen. You can fast-travel to anywhere on the map without having to use designated spots. Once you pick a location, the camera dramatically zooms in and shows your Spider-Man dropping into the spot in the city. It’s seamless, and there are virtually no loading screens! Admittedly, I do miss how fast travel loading screens were masked in the previous games by showing the Spider-Men riding the subway like a true New Yorker. That had a lot of charm to it, and I wish that were still an option.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 also smartly takes advantage of the PS5’s DualSense controller. The controller’s haptic feedback adds immersion to all gameplay aspects, like shaking when I launch a sonic grenade and extra tension to the trigger buttons when swinging on webs. There are also plenty of unlockable costumes for the Spider-Men that can be earned by completing side quests and finding collectibles. Even after finishing the story, wrapping up the side objectives are also rewarding as they unlock certain cameos and references to Spider-Man’s history.
While the gameplay remains relatively unchanged, there are some small and smart additions to it that make it an improvement over previous games. Despite some pacing issues, it has an emotional story and teases some exciting developments for future games. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is definitely one of the best games of 2023 and certainly a top-tier console exclusive for PS5.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is available exclusively on PlayStation 5 on October 20, 2023.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2
Despite some pacing issues, it has an emotional story and teases some exciting developments for future games. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is definitely one of the best games of 2023 and certainly a top-tier console exclusive for PS5.