Insomniac Game‘s Spider-Man franchise is a rare example of a modern comic book video game property striking gold, achieving widespread success both critically and financially. From Square Enix’s Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy to WB Games’ Gotham Knights, we have undoubtedly seen a string of underwhelming AAA video games based on comic books in recent years. Even Rocksteady’s return to the DC universe with Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League has been on a rocky path since that game got delayed to February 2024 at the last minute for some overhaul changes, making it now a passing thought to many. But here comes Insomniac to save the day yet again with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.
Insomniac’s consistency with expanding their own Marvel universe, with Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales releasing just 2 years after the first game and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 now coming out 3 years later, is really impressive. While there has been a consistency in Insomniac’s release strategy for Spider-Man games, the two-year-long wait from Spider-Man 2‘s announcement back in 2021 at PlayStation Showcase could have not been more apparent from fans. Kept on their tip-toes with the reveals of Kraven the Hunter and Venom as long-anticipated video game foes for Spidey to face off against, it’s no surprise that fans have been quite anxious in their wait for Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.
And with this epic sequel, Insomniac meets and exceeds expectations in many avenues. What will be potentially divisive among players is whether or not the story of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is better than the first game. Insomniac Games established itself with 2018’s Spider-Man PS4 as a studio willing to take risks by deviating from the well-known comic book lore of the title character. Though Spider-Man 2 certainly feels like a more complete story, wherein Peter Parker (Yuri Lowenthal) and Miles Morales (Nadji Jeter) are both given a major opportunity to shine and develop in their own significant paths, some of the risks and surprises are not as prominent here as in its predecessor.
Nonetheless, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 brilliantly grapples with a Peter Parker who is at the strongest he’s ever been with his superpowers and abilities, mirroring the player’s attitude going into the game already aware of what it takes to play as the hero in Insomniac’s world. But what really showcases Peter’s growth in this sequel is his reckoning with what happened to Aunt May in the first game as well as his friendship with Harry Osborn (Graham Phillips). Harry comes into the story feeling right in place, perfectly meshing into the Peter/MJ dynamic and even having a fun ongoing dialogue with Miles. Peter and Harry’s relationship feels incredibly genuine thanks to the spectacular voice acting performances. The player immediately gets the sense that these two have been longtime friends despite previously not appearing together on-screen, easily selling you on the highs and lows that they face together throughout the game.
When it comes to Miles Morales’ story, his arc is very satisfying not only within the context of Spider-Man 2 but also building upon what he learns in his own game. Miles’ place in this sequel is the perfect progression, and where the trailers have already revealed his anger towards Mr. Negative (Stephen Oyoung), only the surface has been scratched. Miles finally comes into a place that isn’t so different from how we picked up with Peter at the beginning of the first game. Outside of Harry Osborn and our two Spideys, Mary Jane Watson (Laura Bailey) is developed further with a rich character arc too. In Spider-Man 2, MJ is given more agency and is allowed to have her own personal struggle that comes to a head. Rightfully so, her arc is not always particularly tied to what Peter Parker is going through.
But where we do see MJ and Peter come to a crossroads is tied to the symbiote. For the sake of spoilers, it cannot be disclosed how Peter gets the symbiote or what his actions are with the Black Suit on. However, we can say that Peter’s transition with the symbiote is thrilling to watch and act out gaming-wise. This includes witnessing some reckoning among characters that come across Peter’s actions influenced by the negativity of the symbiote. And yet, there could have been more time in this portion of the game for Peter’s story with the symbiote to be fully realized. Later in the plot, there seemingly isn’t enough consequence or impact from Peter using the symbiote due to the overall story having to pick up and move at a quicker pace.
Moving onto the villains of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, as formidable as they may be, they honestly don’t hold a candle to what was established with Doctor Octopus in the first game. Kraven the Hunter (Jim Pirri), in particular, grows more interesting as an antagonist as the pieces of the story’s puzzle come together. Rather than trying to make the player sympathize with him, he is given cruel motivations that make him a more fierce foe in the best of ways. But Kraven’s story meets a similar issue as the symbiote where the pacing just does not allow enough time for him to have the same impact that Mr Negative or Doctor Octopus had in the first game.
That being said, when Venom (voiced by horror legend Tony Todd) arrives, they immediately establish themselves as the most dangerous threat in the game. The Venom plotline continues to raise the stakes and tension throughout Spider-Man 2, even making you as the player question how you can possibly beat them. Although their motivations end up being rather basic in comparison to previous Spidey villains, what Venom lacks in motivation they make up for in their sheer formidability and the emotional tangle that they have with both of the Spider-Men.
Debates around which Spider-Man game is better story-wise will definitely be had for years to come. However, there is no doubt that Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is the true successor in practically every aspect when it comes to the gameplay. From the opening sequence, switching between both Spider-Men in a thrilling fight across almost all of New York, players are swept into epic action and visuals that feel familiar but with so many new aspects introduced that make it one of the best gameplay experiences of recent years. New abilities such as the Web Wings fully immerse the player into the improved Spidey experience where options to traverse New York are increased and given fresh life in comparison to the previous games.
New York City itself is renovated from the last two games. While the map has been expanded in some really fun ways, what is most surprising is how different the elements of New York from previous games are when compared to this latest installment. New York in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, without exaggeration, comes across like a completely new generated map to explore, where existing districts have all new aspects to see and the new districts manage to stand out as unique and allow players to dabble in various swinging methods to adapt to different environments. What is also better about this New York City for Spider-Man 2 is the side quests.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 presents players with a wider range of side quests as well as ones that are not repetitive at all. Both Spider-Men get enough options that almost make up their own mini DLC stories inside of the base game. Additionally, the various collectible missions are more engaging and addictive to play compared to predecessors. The side quests really bring the whole gameplay together, making this sequel not just a complete Spider-Man experience, but the ultimate superhero experience. Never before has a comic book video game had an open world as fully realized as this. Perhaps the biggest strength of Spider-Man 2 is throwing so much at the player in the open world and in the main story that you truly feel overwhelmed by the possibilities of what you can explore and fight against, which is arguably the best depiction of Peter Parker’s day-to-day struggles.
When looking at Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, where minor issues may lie in the story’s pacing, it is difficult to totally knock it down when Insomniac delivers such an immersive gaming experience that is leagues above any previous superhero AAA title. From an open world filled to the brim with exciting side quests that will leave the players engaged and thrilled for hours on end to a main story that manages to still be one of the most exciting and emotional fans have seen, Spider-Man 2 has it all. Players will look back on Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 as the ultimate superhero gameplay experience, and it’s hard to see any other developer come close to this game’s glory in the superhero gaming realm, other than Insomniac with their next Spider-Man entry of course.