The web-slinging PlayStation exclusive marks the third wall-crawling adventure for the team at Insomniac, following up on the events of 2018's Marvel's Spider-Man and 2020's Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
This time around, gamers take control of a pair of Spideys, embarking on a journey alongside both Peter Parker and Miles Morales. The two heroes grapple with iconic Spider-Man villains like Kraven the Hunter and Venom, deal with the newly-emerging Symbiote, and try to strike a balance between their super-powered lives and everyday ones.
It is a formula fans have seen for years, but Marvel's Spider-Man 2 elevates it all into something worthy of the spider.
We're Going To Heal the World, Pete
The story of Spider-Man 2 follows both Miles Morales and Peter Parker as the pair of Spider-Men reckon with a mysterious new substance known as the Symbiote, the re-emergence of Peter's long-lost friend Harry Osborn, and the blood-thirsty big-game killer, Kraven the Hunter.
This super-powered epic incorporates a lot of elements from Spidey's past but does almost all of them better than comic book or on-screen inspirations.
While likely not the case, it almost feels like the Spider-Man 2 development team took a look at the failings of other Spider-Man stories and actively told themselves, "We can do that better."
This is the story the oft-maligned Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 were trying to tell, but where they missed, Spider-Man 2 succeeds.
Insomniac Games continues to demonstrate a mastery over the Marvel mythos. The studio excels at taking the inherent knowledge of Spider-Man fans, playing with that, and twisting it in an interesting and narratively engaging way.
Characters are in roles they have never been in before, relationships look completely different than they may have on the page or the silver screen, and even the world around the titular webheads features some unique twists fans will not see coming.
This is one of the best Spider-Man stories ever told at a scale that is frankly awe-inspiring and makes the events of the first game look tiny in comparison. For the sake of spoilers, that is about as much as can be said on the subject.
But - if there was ever any doubt - the narrative web being spun here is something that needs to be experienced for anyone who has even had a passing interest in Marvel's wall-crawler.
This is truly Spider-Man storytelling at its best.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man
One of the most exciting parts about Insomniac's Spider-Man series has been the things gamers get to do while not saving the world, and Spider-Man 2 is no slouch in this department.
Back are the various side activities to participate in, including stopping various street-level crimes, helping out the citizens of New York with their problems, and (yes) even doing a science experiment or two.
While there have been plenty of upgrades since 2018's Spider-Man, the side content that populates Spider-Man 2's open world is where the biggest improvement can be seen.
Instead of being mere icons on a map that only appear after players activate radio towers like they were in the first game, most side activities and quests are discovered naturally as gamers traverse the open world.
It is this new approach that makes New York City feel more alive than it did in past games, with constant distractions reminding the player that being Spider-Man is about balancing both the fate of the neighborhood and the world.
Plus, a few of the side stories at play here are some of Spider-Man 2's best moments. These feel like more than just things filling out a massive map, almost emulating mini-comic runs set within the greater comic event that is the title's main story.
For fans of the first game, one side mission in particular, which from the outside looks like just another opportunity to make a New Yorker's day, stands out as one of the most emotionally stirring moments of the entire experience and something that will stick with gamers long after the credits have rolled.
Some of the first game's less-loved side activities and collectibles are back as well, though even those have been altered slightly.
The science mini-games do not overstay their welcome and are more fun this time around. Every collectible and Spidey-centric challenge has a story or exciting reward behind it, making each one of them worth seeing through to the end.
Looking Like a Superhero
When Marvel's Spider-Man hit store shelves back in 2018, it was a revelation. Never had the world of Marvel's webhead been so faithfully rendered in the interactive medium, and that continues to be the case for Marvel's Spider-Man 2.
Insomniac's New York City is something to marvel at (pun totally intended). While the first game only featured the island of Manhattan to swing, jump, and zip one's way across, Spider-Man 2 nearly doubles in size by adding in the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn.
Yes, bigger is not always better, but in this case, it most definitely is. This feels like the definitive video game rendition of the Big Apple, with bespoke touches of Marvel-themed world-building on nearly every corner.
Plus traversing that world looks/feels better than ever. Reflections are gorgeously ray-traced whether playing on Performance or Fidelity Mode. And the graphical power at play, while staying at a near-locked 60 or 30 frames-per-second (depending on the graphics mode), is simply flabergasting.
Light reflects off shinier elements on each and every spider suit as well, and taking a close look at the game's heroes and villains, one can see the minute details of every thread, fur-lined collar, or molasses-like drop of the game's central Symbiote.
On the subject of those suits, there are an unfathomable number of them to be earned in Spider-Man 2. Classics from the character's various film, comic, and TV appearances are present for both Miles and Peter, as well as a few original designs by Insomniac. All of them look fantastic, and almost every one of them comes with several color variants for players to truly personalize their web-head.
All this comes at a price, though. There is a noticeable downgrade between the models of some of the ancillary non-playable characters and the game's main cast. This leads some characters to have this doll-like plastic seen across their skin, not seen on the likes of Peter, MJ, Miles, or Harry.
Technical hiccups like mission objectives not loading or full-on hard crashes are present as well, but they are so few and far between that they can be forgiven, especially when everything in Spider-Man 2 looks and feels as good as it does.
Doing Anything a Spider Can
When it comes to combat and traversal, Insomniac has opted to iterate rather than innovate, but that is not a bad thing. When the foundation was as sound as the one the studio had with Spider-Man, there was no need to reinvent the wheel.
Swinging amongst the skyscrapers of New York City has always felt incredible, but it feels better than it ever has in Spider-Man 2.
The biggest addition for getting around is the Web Wings. These new under-arm gliders for the wall-crawling heroes are the closest thing to a traversal game-changer this title has. Launching from a web swing into a full-on glide with the wings is exhilarating and will make going back to any Spidey game without them a tall task.
Combat feels just as good with the addition of Web Arm, Symbiote, and Venom Strike powers as well as a brand-new parry mechanic. Balancing these powers, dodging incoming attacks, and parrying when possible can be overwhelming at times. But after learning the intricacies of this combat system, gamers are going to feel more like Spider-Man than ever before.
When going loud is not an option, slinking amongst the shadows in stealth is incredibly satisfying as well. Gamers have some added versatility in these situations thanks to the Web Line.
The new gadget allows the player to create their own perch points from which to stealthily web up enemies, offering a feeling of ownership over every stealth scenario. Instead of feeling restricted by which elements of a particular arena's geometry can be used in stealth, one can now create their own lines to walk upon by slinging webs above unsuspecting foes.
These disparate parts combine into a whole that will make fans feel like they are not simply playing as Spider-Man but have actually inhabited the body of Marvel's iconic wall-crawler.
Is Spider-Man 2 Worth Playing?
While, from the outside, Spider-Man 2 can look like a little more than a simple follow-up to 2018's Spider-Man, it is anything but.
The super-powered experience Insomniac and PlayStation have crafted here is a love letter to all things Spidey, building upon the sound foundation of the first game (and its Miles-centric spin-off) while offering up new additions that make this experience infinitely better than its already stellar predecessor.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 stands upon the shoulders of more than 80 years of Marvel history, taking elements from across the canon and putting its own engaging spin on it.
Whether it is the countless suits to collect, the new open world to explore, or the incredible Spider-Man tale being woven, Insomniac's love of this character is on full display in every single pixel of this open-world epic.
Sure, there are some small technical mishaps, and combat can feel like drinking from a firehose at points, but all that can be dismissed when the whole package is as good as this.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is a super-powered good time and will go down as one of Spidey's best adventures both in video games and out.
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 comes to the PlayStation 5 on Friday, October 20.