Peter Parker’s newfound Symbiote powers make me feel like a wrecking ball, stampeding over any enemies that dare to stand in my way. With the press of one button, I could pick up a dozen enemies at once, slamming them down into the concrete in a burst of oily black goop. Just like Spider-Man himself, nothing can stop me.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is an expansive sequel that makes meaningful changes to the core systems of the first games. Everything from combat to traversal has been thoughtfully enhanced, with side content neatly woven into the main story and exploration. An emotional story serves as the beating heart of the game, diving into the intricate relationships of these characters, and wisely taking time to put Peter and Miles in the spotlight, not just Spider-Man. All of these elements combine into a near-flawless superhero experience that constantly keeps you invested in both its gameplay and narrative.
Spider-Man 2 takes place roughly ten months after the end of Spider-Man: Miles Morales, with the city of New York now accustomed to its two masked heroes. Peter and Miles have become a more adept team, working together flawlessly to take down any threats, including a rampaging Sandman at the start of the game.
Two major interweaving plotlines set the story in motion early on. Kraven the Hunter arrives in New York with an army in tow, searching for more “satisfying prey.” Meanwhile, Peter’s best friend Harry Osborn has returned, seemingly cured of his disease. Everything ultimately culminates together, as the true villain, Venom, starts to rear its head.
Insomniac does an impeccable job building convincing emotional relationships between characters, see-sawing the focus between Peter and Miles without one outshining the other. Harry and Peter’s relationship is a particular highlight, fleshed out through playable flashbacks and modern-day sequences, all of which build a close brotherly relationship. Meanwhile, on Miles’ side, we see the furthering of his relationship with deaf artist Hailey, and how his mother now copes with the knowledge that he’s Spider-Man.
Spider-Man 2 wisely takes the time to build these characters and their relationships through both the main story and sidequests before slowly ramping things up to a crescendo in the second half of the game. While Kraven and his Hunters serve as the primary threat, the Venom Symbiote eventually rears its head.
There are some surprising twists and turns along the way, but phenomenal performances by the cast across the board really help sell the emotion and weight. Yuri Lowenthal as Peter and Nadji Jeter as Miles serve as the foundation for Spider-Man 2. Jeter helps instill a kind of tortured youth in Miles, grappling with his responsibilities and worrying about failing those who count on him. Meanwhile, Lowenthal does a fantastic job of representing Peter’s fluctuating emotions, giving a violent and gravelly tone to the character as the effects of the Symbiote start to take hold.
What makes all this even better is the sheer breadth of gameplay diversity built into the narrative. A flashback teaches you stealth as Peter and Harry avoid a security guard after sneaking into school. A trip to Coney Island lets you play carnival games and ride theme park attractions. In traditional Insomniac fashion, the main story is also filled with minigames and puzzles that break-up the pacing of combat encounters, like having to pick the right atoms to neutralize in a grid to figure out a compound. By and large, these minigames are far less intrusive than the ones in the first game, lasting a minute at the longest. Bigger minigames also give you the option of skipping them with a button press, not losing out on any rewards or anything by doing so.
The main story has a fantastic sense of variation, seamlessly mixing quiet character moments, varied minigames, and bombastic set-piece moments. That sense of variation carries over to every other facet of Spider-Man 2, including combat and traversal.
Traversal and movement is the first thing most obviously improved. It still feels fantastic to simply swing through the streets of New York, and the degree of control you have over how Peter and Miles move is incredible. But the sequel adds a major new feature with the web-wings.
By hitting the triangle button, you can deploy these wings to glide. To accommodate this, the city is littered with little airways and vents you can hit to get a boost. The web wings integrally change how you get around the city, making it so much easier and faster, to get around. Traversal feels so satisfying this time around that I never felt compelled to use fast travel.
Of course, two different Spider-Men means two different combat styles, which extends to two different skill trees. Miles and Peter both feel entirely unique, with Miles’ venom powers allowing for crowd control and acrobatics. Peter initially focuses on using new tech powers for big damage, but switches focus to raw damage and destruction after unlocking Symbiote abilities. These are an absolute blast to use, letting you steamroll over foes with moves that can hit six or seven enemies at once.
While both Spider-Men can feel overpowered at times, even on the hardest difficulty, the game accounts for this by throwing a wealth of different enemy types at you. On top of the usual thugs, you go up against Kraven’s hunters, who are far more acrobatic and aerial than enemies in the past games. On top of that, Kraven’s forces have robotic dogs and birds that attack in different patterns and have unique abilities, like a soundwave that neutralizes all of your powers. Later, you’ll also go up against hordes of Symbiotes, utterly terrifying creatures that relentlessly pressure you from every angle.
The City That Never Sleeps
While combat makes up a large portion of what you’ll do, Spider-Man 2’s side content is more meaningfully weaved into the overall experience, and it all encourages exploration. Side activities aren’t immediately marked on the map like the past two games. Instead, you’ll uncover them as you venture around New York.
To support this, sidequests have more obvious visual cues, like Kraven’s Hunter drones circling a building or a green Mysterio emblem shining in the sky. There’s some surprisingly meaningful story content behind many of these side quests as well, which tie into the main plot — and potentially the future of the franchise — in interesting ways. My personal favorite sees Miles help a museum track down stolen pieces, granting a new costume at the end and a small section where you get to explore the newly opened museum, filled with real-world history about the music scene in Harlem.
This ties into one of the best aspects of Spider-Man 2, how the city of New York grows and changes across the experience. As you progress through the story, not only will you unlock new side activities, but you’ll also see parts of the city affected and change, such as Sandman’s hand becoming a hot photo spot on the beach.
The vibe of the city changes with major story moments, from the lighting to the way the citizens react to how many people you see out on the street. At the same time, the soundtrack bolsters these changes by growing more moody and insidious as the threat of Venom and the Symbiotes grows.
A Spectacular Sequel
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 feels like the first game to truly take full advantage of what the PS5 can offer. It’s absolutely gorgeous, with likely the most realistic rendition of New York ever seen in a video game. The instantaneous loading from fast travel or switching characters is incredibly impressive, and big story moments often make great use of switching environments or scenes at the drop of a hat. It’s clear Insomniac really harnessed the power of the console. But more than that, the studio provided thoughtful and meaningful ways of advancing the formula it established in the first game and the Miles Morales spinoff.
The first half of Spider-Man 2’s narrative can feel a bit slow, but the superb open world and emotional second half more than make up for it. This is a compact and tight experience that feels laser-focused on delivering an experience that always feels varied and exciting. It universally succeeds in that vision and takes the crown for the best superhero game ever made.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 launches on October 20 for PS5.
INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling come together. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.