On the surface, not a lot has changed with the follow-up to everyone’s favorite web-slinging game. You still swing around the city at breakneck speeds and gracefully beat up bad guys. Then like any other PlayStation exclusive, you consistently have segments of the game forcefully stuffing its “Cinematic Experience” in your piehole. This time, however, there’s a number two in the title and with it, two Spider-Men to swing around with.
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Under the hood, the sequel does improve on many of the original underlying mechanics, but it also doubles down on the first game’s weaker points and even takes a few steps backward on a few great concepts that the first game had.
Weak points aside. Spider-Man 2 still manages to be a pretty good game, mainly because of just how well it captures the spirit of Spider-Man. Cliche as it sounds, Spider-Man 2 does a fantastic job of making you feel like you’re actually one of the web slingers, even more so than the high bar set by Insomniac’s first Spider-Man game.
|Gideon’s Bias||Spider-Man 2 Information|
|Review Copy Used: No||Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment|
|Hours Played: 26||Type: Full Release|
|Reviewed On: PlayStation 5||Platforms: PlayStation 5|
|Fan of Genre: Yes||Genre: Third-Person Open World Action|
|Mode Played: Spectacular (Hardest available at the start of the game)||Price: $69.99|
A Little Swing
Swinging around the city is still an absolute joy. Not many games capture the sense of speed and high-flying excitement the same way that Spider-Man 2 does. If you have seen Spider-Man do it in a movie, you can probably recreate it here. New to Spider-Man 2 is the web wings, or wingsuit, which combos exceptionally well with Spider-Man’s web-slinging abilities. It’s not one or the other. You can flow between them in a spectacular display of fluid grace that makes simply traveling between A & B something of an art form.
Getting into the flow is something shared between both, the traversal and combat systems in Spider-Man 2. However, swinging around the city is different in that anyone can pick up a controller and look good doing it. It’s exceptionally easy to just grab and go. However, there is room for mastery there that exists for no reason other than to make yourself look even cooler as you swing around.
Anyone can just swing from point to point. But it takes practice to truly make use of every single traversal mechanism to truly amplify that Spider-Man feeling. There’s no gameplay benefit for doing so, which is something I’d normally criticize.
However, it’s almost a minigame you play as you travel. The reward is the incredible feeling of precise control that almost no other game delivers. It simply never gets old and makes the technical marvel of the near-instant fast travel system almost worthless. Why on earth would you ever fast-travel when you can quite literally swing like Spider-Man?
Squashing Bad Guys
The combat shares that same kind of incredible flow that the traversal does, but it doesn’t come quite as easily. To get the most out of the combat, you have to utilize the variety of moves available to you instead of just mashing the punch button. The best way to do that is to jack up the difficulty as high as you can handle, as harder difficulties incentivize optimal play, and optimal play makes you look the coolest.
I was disappointed to find that just like the first game, Spider-Man 2’s hardest difficulty is locked behind completing the game. I could have used it. After a few hours I began to blow through combat very easily, and only a few boss fights made me struggle.
That said, the combat itself, if you actually choose to engage with it, is incredible. Engaging with it means making your actions deliberate, not spammy because just like swinging around New York, Spider-Man 2’s combat offers you a precision that’s almost unheard of.
Spider-Man can and will react as quickly as you think, and the combat is really an on-the-fly ballroom blitz of flying kicks, sticky webs, and strategy. It’s not about pummeling everyone until they are knocked out. It’s about managing the situation, prioritizing threats, and executing well-timed dodges.
The physical nature of the combat means you can send bad guys flying, off of ledges, into walls, or the environment. There is a satisfaction to web-throwing a dude into a nearby mailbox and watching him flip over it realistically. You can web up one threat, swing kick another, pull down a shelf on another group, then fluidly zip to another guy across the room to kick him into the air, pull him down with a web slam, and then stick him there with webbing.
Each fight looks like an action scene from a Marvel movie with the very best kind of cinematic experience. The type you’re in control of. The combat is a beautiful pairing of function and form where the moves you pull off are equal parts effective and looking badass. The game emphasizes every bit of Spider-Man’s powers. His speed, reflexes, and super strength are at your fingertips, and they feel amazing to use.
Miles and Peter have similar move sets but a few distinct differences. Miles can go invisible and utilize his electrical powers to great effect, while Peter takes a more symbiotic and technological approach with iron spider arms and gooey tentacles. Both are fun to play, but they aren’t different enough to really shift the gameplay, they both are still Spider-Man.
Unfortunately, just like the first game, Spider-Man 2 suffers from poor enemy variety. There are a couple of factions and sub-factions but each one feels like they share the same enemy types with different skins, and you don’t fight them truly differently. Even worse you don’t fight them any different than you did the ones in the original game, and that’s a bummer.
The boss fights, however, are a massive step up. Boss fights in the first game felt disconnected from the normal combat. In Spider-Man 2, they are straight-up brawls where most of your abilities and powers still actually work. That makes each one much more enjoyable than some arbitrary special way you have to play in order to defeat them.
Hey 2005 called, they want their quick time events back. Spider-Man 2 goes through leaps and bounds to give you that signature Sony cinematic experience. The thing is, the traversal and combat certainly do just that. It’s everything else they throw in your way that harms the concept.
I’ll even give a pass to the quick time event heavy interactive cutscenes, because in most games you look cool in those, and then look considerably less cool playing the game. That’s simply not the case here. You look and feel just as awesome playing the game as you do in cutscenes.
What really annoys me is the out-of-suit stuff. Peter Parker and Miles Morales are really great characters, and I like their stories and banter. Cutscenes with them are also enjoyable, but I don’t enjoy playing as them. Spider-Man is fun to play, but Peter and Miles are not.
I don’t want to pedal a Bicycle around New York as Peter Parker, I don’t want to walk around a festival as Miles Morales, and I sure as heck don’t want to sneak around forced stealth sections as Mary Jane Watson with a stun gun. Forced stealth sections are always bad in games, doubly so in a superhero game where you are forced to play as someone other than the superheroes.
All of that fluff serves to progress the story but would have been better displayed in a cutscene lasting a fraction of the time it takes to play them. None of them are particularly long individually, but it adds up over time. It’s worth noting that even with those inflated time sinks, Spider-Man 2 isn’t a particularly long open-world game. I not only beat the game in 26 hours, I got 100% completion in 26 hours. At least a few of those hours were padded by slow walking and talking, Mary Jane stealth sections, and mini-games.
The open world of New York City is certainly pretty, although your experience of it is a blur as you swing or glide by at blazing speeds. There’s a lot to do, from stopping random crimes to playing a great many side quest-oriented mini-games.
It’s yet another thing that stands in the way of actually playing Spider-Man. But unlike the first game, the minigames are varied, spread out, and never take long. They are pretty amusing, albeit easy distractions that earn you tech and XP you can use to progress the two Spider bros.
Plenty of other side quests just straight-up feel like main quests to the point that I hadn’t realized initially that they were side quests. However, the payoff for some of them is less than thrilling. You know how some folks complain that Marvel movies are just advertisements for other Marvel movies? Those folks are gonna have a really bad time here.
Your reward for a couple of side quest chains is a tease to what may or may not come in a sequel or DLC. At one point I got a glimpse and name drop of a major Spider-Man villain that had me on the edge of my seat, only to never see him in the game. It was all a setup for something that may come later.
Worst yet, it happened multiple times! Dropping a future game or DLC hint in an after-credits scene for the main game is one thing but for multiple side quests? That left a bad taste in my mouth.
Every activity in the game rewards you with experience and different rarities of tech parts. Leveling up allows you to unlock new skills for the Spider-Men, while tech parts allow you to upgrade gadgets, and aspects like health, attack damage, or new suits.
The skill trees are pretty disappointing. While you do unlock some new moves, around half of the skills are simply passive improvements. The suits, however, sting the most.
There are tons of unlockable suits for both Miles and Peter. On one hand, that’s a great feature in a gaming landscape where cosmetics are usually obtained with a credit card. On the other hand, it’s a direct downgrade from the previous game, as the suits are completely cosmetic. Each suit in the original Spider-Man offered you a unique power, that is not the case in Spider-Man 2.
The lack of suit powers alongside the disappointing skill trees is a painful combination. If playing as two different characters was meant to make up for it, it didn’t, as both Peter and Miles share most of the same move set.
Spider-Man 2 is a conflicting game because despite being the next-gen sequel with a higher price tag, it still has many of the problems I had with the first game. Spider-Man 2 is rather short for an open-world game, and a good portion of its playtime is dedicated to doing non-superhero stuff. The enemy variety is lacking, the skill trees are disappointing and untying powers from suits just plain sucks.
On the flip side. Swinging through the city is better than ever, and Spider-Man 2 features one of the smoothest combat systems I’ve ever played where you actually get to look as cool as the cutscenes. The boss fights are by far the biggest improvement over the original game as they follow the game’s core combat formula much closer and are a ton of fun to fight.
I hate that the hardest difficulty is locked behind completing the game, but I definitely have to hand it to the game for having a bunch of accessibility options outside of difficulty settings. Finally, a lot of the plot feels rushed, and teasing villains at the end of side quests when they don’t actually appear is a low blow.
I’ve felt like this about a lot of big-name games this generation, but Spider-Man 2 feels like a good game that should have been a great game. It has too many of the previous games’ weak points, and while it does improve on many other aspects, it definitely doesn’t feel like the leap that it could have made.
Swinging around New York is still an entertaining ride, and the graceful flow of the combat still makes you feel like Spider-Man. But there’s a lot of dead weight tangled up in what ultimately feels like an underdeveloped web.
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Pick Up Spider-Man 2 From These Stores
- Slinging around the city is as fun as ever
- The fluid combat system makes every fight look like an action scene you’re in control of
- Tons of unlockable cosmetic suits
- The weighty nature of the combat feels great
- Great boss fights
- Difficulty Settings Present
- Plenty of accessibility options
- The hardest difficulty is locked behind completing the game
- Plot feels rushed
- Spider-Man 2 is short for an open-world game
- Disappointing skill trees
- Suits sadly no longer grant powers
- Mary Jane stealth sections make a frustrating return
- Poor enemy variety
- The end of some side quests tease villains that aren’t in the game
- Too much time is spent outside the suit