Introduction: Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 for the PlayStation 5
The original Marvel’s Spider-Man for the PlayStation 4 was a big turn-around for Marvel IPs in games which has spawned Marvel’s numerous other attemps to capture that spark. Unfortunately nothing has seen the same level of success as Sony and Insomniac’s attempt with Spider-Man. The game has created its own world, paying homage to classic Spider-Man comics, games as well existing in the same world as its multiversal movie counterpart. And with Spider-Man hitting a home-run with No Way Home and Across the Spider-Verse in the cinemas, the franchise is still fresh in the mind of people.
The backdrop cannot be more perfect as the world is reeling from Disney stuffing us with Marvel content and hero fatigue setting in only to be dialed back alongside the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. But for most, the world already started by both Insomniac’s Peter Parker and Miles Morales, is a world unto their own and for those that have already dipped their toes in the original games as well as the stand-alone expansion, a new adventure is surely welcome.
Reviews for Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 for the PlayStation 5 are now live and this is Back2Gaming’s review of the wallcrawling duo’s new outing as they face new foes in this new, larger installment. Taking the learnings from the remastered edition and Miles Morales’ PS5 outing and leveraging the PlayStation 5’s features, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2’s larger and more organic world is going to keep players busy controlling two Spideys.
Sony PlayStation and Insomniac has instructed us to not share anything past a certain point in the game. As with most story-driven game reviews, we respect this and this review is spoiler-free.
Plot: Spider-Man 2
While I can skip this part entirely and just summarize it at the end, I believe discussing the plot in its own segment is a key factor for many of the folks that will buy this game because ultimately, its a single-player game and is deeply rooted in building its world. And just like the prior games, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 hinges on that story-telling to grab the player’s intrigue.
As the trailer and the marketing images for this game implies, Venom will be in this game. Despite Sony’s cinematic attempts for Venom, the company has failed to intertwine the symbiote storyline into the main Marvel Cinematic Universe section of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. This is despite the fact that Tom Hardy’s Venom, despite its misgivings, has done well enough for the Venom movies to earn a sequel.
Still, that massive lack of interaction between the two leaves an aching gap in the fandom’s collective hearts that no modern IP has tackled yet. This is where Insomniac Games’ sequel stands out as it allows the game to tell this story and bring these iconic characters together again but also breathe new life into the Venom origin arc.
Without going into detail, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 for the PlayStation 5 features its own unique story arc for Spider-Man, Spider-Man (Miles), and Venom, something that some comic storylines may have already skirted in the past.
If you’re a long-time fan of the franchise, you already know the Spider-Man-Venom dynamic wherein 616 Venom has predominantly been Eddie Brock, a rival of sorts to Peter Parker. The stories have been great but Insomniac Games’ take on Venom ups the stake as it puts Peter and his relationships on the line even more.
Peter’s struggles with the black suit serves as a connecting thread to Miles Morales’ story as well, still dealing with the passing of his father, has his own challenges both of which they must face together.
Kraven the Hunter is an interesting addition to the story and an even greater point of interest is his faction of hunters. Perhaps the strongest portrayal of Kraven in all media, this version will test both Peter and Miles to their limits and it will be very clear to the player that Kraven wants exactly that. He wants the best from the player because when the eventual clash happens between Peter, Miles and Kraven happens, you need all the skills to survive.
You can take it slowly thru the game, dealing with RNG crimes and progressing thru side-quests to see more from other characters. The games uniquely separates Miles and Peter’s quests and switching Spideys in-game really creates that neighborly feel for both throughout their respective locations in-game.
Should you play the oiriginal game before diving into this one? You don’t have to if you have a sense of the general relationship of the characters but understanding why villains are where they are now and why certain characters are missing, its really best to have played both Peter’s and Miles’ games. Ultimately its not a requirement and the game’s main narrative focuses on the issues at hand.
Visuals & Presentation: Spider-Man 2
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 stays loyal to the original formula from Insomniac Games: be Spiderr-Man and do neighborly good things, occassionally dealing with big villains on unique set pieces. While wailing on bad guys is the main premise of Spider-Man, the game understands that both Peter and Miles are also brilliant minds as well as unique individuals with their own unique backdrops of interests. For Miles, its music while Peter its his tenure with the Daily Bugle and his relationships. And this web of relationship creates a larger tapestry of side characters that give some interesting side-quests.
If you’re speeding thru the story, the game won’t restrict you much in terms of questing and levelling and the random crime events help increase levels and gear for those big battles. Traversal has been improved thanks to the skills and tech that both Spider-Man share like the web wings allowing both to soar quicker and traverse thru both districts faster. The inreased map size needs it as both Queens and Brooklyn are traversable in-game in real-time with no loading. It must be a surreal feeling for New Yorkers to be able to experience the city in the digital world like this but in-game, its a chore without the traversal skills that the game has added.
Speaking of skills, the game features a skill tree for both Peter and Miles as well as a unique skill tree both each Spider-Man. They both share the same tech tree and stats so progression for those two bits are now more linear. Suits are now just skins and do not integrate mods into them. The game knowns which skin you’re rocking but there are segments in the game where Peter will be forced to be in his black suit despite wearing another suit.
Still, once Peter acquires his symbiote powers, you are not stuck in the black suit and you can still change. But again, the suits are now purely cosmetics. Some suits are rewarded by completing certain quests and cannot be purchased in the suits menu.
With two Spider-Man in active rotation, the gameplay will feel dull if both played the same and Insomniac Games’ definitely expected this. To offset this, each Spider-Man have different skills they can use, with Peter reliant on his mechanical arms and later on symbiote powers while Miles has his venom powers (his bio-electricity, not *THE* Venom)j which gets a unique twist in-game to expand his power set.
Depending on how the player approaches combat, normal attacks will be the same with slight variations for each Spider-Man, this style of play will be very boring and mixing it up with gadgets and Spidey skills is highly encouraged to leverage the most out of combat. And with two Spider-Man around, its now possible to have them both in-action albeit with the other one assisting on the side with duo moves occuring after a finish. This isn’t limited to both Spider-Man as certain characters from the game will be doing their thing to help in combat with Spider-Man.
Characters from the original Spider-Man will return in this manner helping give airtime for these characters giving that “living” feeling to the city. And then there’s boss battles which all have unique set pieces. Each boss is a unique encounter and some bosses may go down with button mashing while some require a unique mechanic to take them down.
Side-Quests and Mini-games
The game’s side-quests incorporates some of Spider-Man 2’s mini-games including challenges one of which is a series of full area traversal using only web wings. This will test players’ understanding of how web wing travel works and is very unforgiving in some areas. This are the part of the game that will feel very redundant as you try finish each one and if you’re gunning for Platinum, I suggest you don’t do this one after the other as it gets really frustrating. Other side quests and mini-games are relatively easier from fetch quests to simple puzzles. In-game collectibles are also present, each one being just simple gathering to requiring combat.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 supports a Fidelity mode for 4K with full raytracing or a Performance mode for 120FPS with reduced graphics quality. The game features more detailed models versus the earlier games but is largely on the same engine. Slight graphical updates have been implemented but visuals will not be that much of a change from the Remastered edition of the original. Between the two modes, it will boil down to your preference if you want the smoothness of a 120FPS mode with the flatter lighting or want the more cinematic 4K experience with Fidelity mode.
As a PC gamer, I’d normally go with 120FPS but the frame pacing of this game in 120FPS just feels like the gameplay is always in a rush. Ultimately its a personal thing, and the game plays well enough to not require the need for high-framerate but for those that feel more accustomed to such, its there as an option with only a slight trade-off.
Visual Settings Viewer
As revealed in today’s launch trailer, Sandman is featured in this game and he actually serves as the tutorial boss for Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. The game gets players up to speed with QTEs as well as combat and traversal from open locations to inside builds. It also incorporates introduction to the web wings and finally combat featuring both Spider-Man against Sandman’s giant form.
That grandiose opening happens directly from the start of the game, starting off big to really pull-in players and its an excellent opening mission with high stakes but still manageable for all players. The tension dies down afterwards but the game keeps players updated on the world’s status as Sandman’s rampage doesn’t leave the island unaffected. This opening level are but minor bits and pieces of the entire offering that Marvel’s Spiderr-Man 2 has to offer and players will have free reign on most missions whether its a stealth approach or guns-blazing, both Spider-Man have their the tools to tackle all missions.
Personally though, Miles’ biolectricity and invisibility skills makes him the superior Spider-Man in-game (for me, of course) as his skills allow him to have crowd control and AOE damage which Peter has a limited skill set for. On the other hand, Peter’s suite of symbiote and mechanical arm skills allow him to do burst damage with far greater effectiveness especially when picking off the larger brutes in-game.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is both a proper sequel to the original PS4 Spider-Man and serves as both a jump-off point to expand the universe or end it, as well as evolve the game further on a modern platform. Insomniac Games has done a stellar job not getting caught up in what they can do on the hardware and start playing around with arbitrary features but rather improve on what’s already there, peppering in changes when needed.
Its an open-world with a lot to do and players have the freedom to become the Spider-Man they want to be in this game: they can push fast with the main quest or be a free-swinging Spidey going from mission to mission at leisure, saving folks from random crimes as they go. Players can be Peter Parker or Miles Morales, although certain missions require a specific Spider-Man most of the game will allow switching to any of them at any time.
This freedom have its limitation and while it makes sense as the game’s narrative creatively separate both Spider-Man in crucial times, when both are just free-roaming it would’ve been great to have a locator for the other Spider-Man. It would also be great if the game would allow the other Spider-Man to discover locations by random, just a small quality-of-life that would make the game feel that the other Spidey isn’t just brooding on some random perch.
As mentioned, combat in the game feels redundant by doing normal attacks and it just feels quite off if you finish off one enemy and one out of range makes you drop your combo because you don’t know how to web to other one and its just a missed opportunity to allow for simpler dynamics for folks that likes an easy way for combat to flow smoother.
The game has an excellent voice cast and the game’s cutscenes and voice lines are well-performed along with their mocap actors but I’d still call-out Insomniac for not having much variety for their combat animation for the in-game grunts. The same goes for the AI just being 3-move machines that know how to dodge but aside from the bosses, the grunts in this game are pushovers until you crank up the difficulty which just makes them tougher to kill but not harder to pummel. This doesn’t apply to the end-game enemies so makes one wonder if care only put for the endgame grunts than the rest of the game.
With regards to the face model cast, I have no opinions regarding the face models and MJ’s new face model is ok by me. Those who have played the original game may be surprised that the titular character have received face changes and this was a directorial call made since the remaster. This will be based on how personally attached you are to the OG faces but its been a while since the original PS4 release. But since we’re talking about personal choice, let me talk to you Sony and Insomniac:
<start rant> how dare you recast Miles Morales’ shoes to be Adidas!? You feature the Jordan 1 on both Spider-Verse movies yet not license the shoes for the game? Thank heavens for skins because I will not be caught rocking Adidas in this household!!! /sarc </end rant>
Kidding aside, Jordan fans would still be disappointed in hoping that Miles Morales starts rocking his Jordan 1s. Adidas has already announced their new 4Ds featuring Spidey colorway with hits of the symbiote speading and its an excellent looking pair and who knows, you might just see it in-game.
In closing, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a satisfying installment focusing in offerring a great story as well as great adventure for all types of players. Just like all PlayStation 4 originals jumping to their exclusive PS5 sequels, Spider-Man 2 steels their gameplay formula but offers a larger world for players to take-in all told thru an excellent narrative. And though the game still has its shortcomings especially for those nitpicking but ultimately, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a fun game especially if you’re afford one game for the upcoming holidays.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is releasing on October 20, 2023 and is exclusive to PlayStation 5.