Since his first appearance in 1962’s Amazing Fantasy #15, Spider-Man has been shot, stabbed, poisoned, punched, kicked, cloned, married, teamed with an alien symbiote, joined nearly every superhero team in the Marvel universe, and had more adventures than anyone could possibly have in sixty-one years unless they were also a fictional character on a monthly schedule.
And yet, the core of the character remains the same. He’s a person, with foibles, failings, and feelings; he swings from a web with the greatest of ease; he’s strong, and he can kick; and he always tries to do the right thing.
It’s why I wasn’t bothered that Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 (PlayStation 5) isn’t all that different from Spidey’s previous games — 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man and 2020’s Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales — since that means it’s just as much fun.
Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 finds the original wall-crawler, Peter Parker, both mentoring and partnering with Miles. Which is good because a bunch of Spidey’s iconic bad guys — including [REDACTED], [NO SPOILERS], and [NO WAY AM I REVEALING THIS ONE] — are coming to New York City, and not for the pizza.
Like the aforementioned games — and, well, almost every Spider-Man game since 2004’s unrelated Spider-Man 2 — Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a third-person, open world action / adventure game that has the same kind of role-playing game mechanics as God Of War: Ragnarok, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, and well, so many other action games these days.
For starters, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has a leveling up system that allows you to add or improve combat skills, helpful gadgets, and snazzy suits, as well as special attacks that need time to recharge.
Then there’s how…
the New York City in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 isn’t just full of pizza places; it also has tons of people in need of assistance, criminals in need of stopping, and hidden caches in need of finding. All of which, of course, helps you level up…and delays you from completing the missions that further the story.
As for how combat in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 works, it’s the same as in the previous games: a mix of acrobatics, simple but effective combinations of punching and kicking, web-based attacks, and spider-inspired gadgetry. This, coupled with capable enemies who come at you from all sides, seamlessly combines into a furious ballet of fisticuffs that recalls the combative nature of Batman’s Arkham games.
And it’s not the only time the wall-crawler takes influence from the Dark Knight. Like the preceding games, there are times in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 when Spidey must use stealth, his webs, and his ability to hide in the rafters to quietly take out bad guys like a certain Caped Crusader.
none of this would be possible if Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 — like Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales — didn’t have the responsive and intuitive controls that make it easy to punch a bad guy into the air, smack him in the face a bunch of times, and then use webs to fling him into his unprepared coworkers.
Now, if all this has you thinking Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is just Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales all over again, well…yeah, it kind of is. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer something beyond what you always get in a sequel: i.e., a new story, new missions, new side quests to distract you from your mission…
First, while Marvel’s Spider-Man cast you as Peter Parker, and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales had you playing as Miles, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has you taking control of both web heads. And while they share many of the same skills and gadgets, they also have unique ones. Including some they’ve just learned or acquired.
In Peter’s case, for instance,
he clearly saw the scene in Avengers: Infinity War when Spidey saved Dr. Strange from being sucked into space, because he now has retractable arms, too. As for Miles, he clearly loved the end of Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi; hence his new lightning-like bioelectric attack.
Then there’s the Web Line, which creates a tight rope Spidey can use to take out unsuspecting enemies who don’t think to look up.
Peter and Miles have also learned how to parry some incoming attacks; say when a lady with twin swords tries to turn them into a chopped salad.
There’s even time for a team-up or two, though their collaborative attacks are prompted more by context than by choice.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2…
also expands the action beyond Manhattan and into both Queens (which Peter represents) and Brooklyn (where Miles was raised).
Good thing they both have new ways to get around. Not only are there places where the Spideys (Spidei?) can use his webs to slingshot himself from one borough to another, but both now have Web Wings, wingsuits they use to glide great distances.
Though it helps that the game’s set in summer, so there’s lot of air conditioning vents providing helpful updrafts, along with the city’s natural wind currents.
None of these additions make Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 feel all that different from the previous games; more like a combination of them. Which is fine, since Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales rank among the best Spidey games, the best superhero games, and the best action games of the last few years.
with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 being a combination of the previous installments, it also means it has some of the same issues.
For starters, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has long (read: less interesting) stretches in which Miles and Peter are out of uniform, and are just plain ol’ Pete and mild-mannered Miles. Like when Peter goes home, cleans up some trash, and then hangs out with his friend Harry Osbourne. Sure, they further the story, and you could argue they’re more interesting than watching these moments play out in a cutscene, but not by much.
There are also times — again, in service of the story — when the action is so tightly scripted that you feel more like a passenger than an active participant. And this doesn’t just happen in the beginning when you’re learning the ropes.
Though it bears noting that the story in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is rather interesting, and told with cinematic flair. No spoilers, but this does not always follow the Spidey story as it played out post Amazing Fantasy #15. Or after Avengers: Infinity War.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 also…
has a problem that’s not only present in Marvel’s Spider-Man, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, but in Batman’s Arkham games, too: While Spidey can scan the environment for important items and locations, doing so doesn’t mark these items or places until Peter or Miles finds them, nor are they highlighted long enough that you don’t need to keep hitting the highlight button.
That said, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 does fix some issues I had with the previous games. For starters, its menus don’t have you using the right thumbstick like a mouse, which made navigating the menus in Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales as irritating as it was in Outriders, the Destiny duo, and other games that’ve made this mistake.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is also nicely balanced where difficulty is concerned, an issue in Marvel’s Spider-Man that was fixed in Miles Morales, but still bears mentioning.
In the end,
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 may not be all that different from the wallcrawler’s previous interactive adventures, but that’s okay. What’s carried over still works well, and what’s new makes the familiar feel fresh. It’s why Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is every bit on par with Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. And Spider-Man 2. And Spider-Man 3. And Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. And Spider-Man: Web Of Shadows…