Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 offers a substantial dose of familiarity, which, in this case, is a positive thing. Both the original game and its Miles Morales-focused sequel impressed with their fresh interpretations of their respective Spider… Men(?) Who wouldn’t want more of that? Admittedly, Spider-Man 2 occasionally revisits less successful aspects of its predecessor, like the frustrating science puzzles. Nevertheless, the game’s strengths significantly outweigh its shortcomings, thanks to a few new gameplay elements that rejuvenate the already enjoyable traversal and combat. Overall, it’s a superb game that warrants a full playthrough, from its explosive start to its emotional conclusion.
Coming Out Swinging!
Like the previous two games, the true stand-out feature of Spider-Man 2 is its narrative. This instalment finally allows players to seamlessly switch between playing as either Peter or Miles as they join forces to protect New York City from Kraven, a formidable adversary intent on transforming the city into his hunting grounds. The personal lives of both heroes are far from smooth sailing – Peter strives to secure a steady job while Miles grapples with finding his place in the world, all while contending with the trauma of losing his father and a close friend within the same year.
The central theme of Spider-Man 2 revolves around the stark loneliness experienced by Peter, Miles, and those close to them. At the game’s outset, both Spider-Men are adrift, each yearning to find solace and companionship to fill the void. Despite their efforts, Peter can’t persuade Mary Jane to move in with him, and Miles watches his friends pursue their dreams while he remains occupied with Spider-Man responsibilities. This theme effectively draws players into the lives of both protagonists, as the game weaves a narrative thread that connects all of Spider-Man 2’s characters, heroes, and villains alike, through a variety of main story and side missions.
This narrative thread is best appreciated by players who have experienced both of the preceding games, as the most poignant moments in the storyline build upon the previous developments of Peter, Miles, MJ, Rio, and the rest of the cast. Spider-Man 2 is notable for its integration of optional content, linking characters such as Sandman and Wraith, who was previously relegated to side missions or post-launch content. The game emphasises that many of Spider-Man’s most formidable foes turned to villainy because they felt isolated and resorted to extreme measures to achieve their objectives. Even after turning their lives around, these characters still grapple with the stigma of their supervillain pasts. This setup reinforces the tragic aspect of the symbiote suit storyline, as players witness not only Peter but others also succumbing to the allure of the alien’s companionship.
While Spider-Man 2’s exploration of loneliness significantly enhances Kraven, one of Spider-Man’s most enduring foes, this narrative more profoundly transforms the game’s second main antagonist, Venom, making him even more compelling. The game alters the symbiote’s motivations, presenting it more like a toxic friend or partner, resulting in a Venom character driven by a fear of being alone. This modification to Venom’s backstory heightens the tension between Peter, Miles, and their allies as Spider-Man 2 approaches its epic and emotionally charged finale. Fans of the web-slinger are in for a treat with this one.
In Full Swing
The visual presentation plays a pivotal role in delivering the storyline, with Spider-Man 2 utilising facial motion capture to greatly surpass its predecessors. Subtle micro-expressions convey a significant portion of the conversations, bringing characters to life as they grapple with the consequences of their actions. Spider-Man 2 is visually stunning. While much of the praise can be directed at the character models, the game’s depiction of New York City is equally remarkable. Skyscraper windows gleam in the sunlight as you swing past, and vibrant art adds a colourful touch to various street corners and buildings. While exploring the city at a slower pace may reveal some shortcomings among the directionless NPCs, web-swinging through the urban landscape immerses players in the hustle and bustle of the city, with a convincing blend of traffic, lively crowds, and the occasional rumble of passing subway trains.
When not facing off against Kraven and Venom, players embark on a mission to protect the vast expanse of New York City, which has expanded in Spider-Man 2 to include the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. While Queens offers a fresh challenge by presenting a landscape with fewer skyscrapers for web-swinging, Brooklyn, despite its distinct aesthetics, doesn’t differentiate itself in a meaningful way from the rest of the city. The addition of these boroughs introduces more space for exploration, but it doesn’t enhance the experience. In fact, the larger map size can hinder the fluidity of web-swinging since players must traverse a substantial body of water with minimal web attachment points, which makes the additional areas feel disconnected. That said, the introduction of the wingsuit does make things a bit easier.
The wingsuit adds an enjoyable dimension to Peter and Miles’ abilities, it’s best suited as a supplement to web-swinging rather than a complete replacement. The game encourages players to use the wingsuit, especially when crossing the aforementioned bodies of water. Unfortunately, there is little room for experimentation or improvement in navigating these wind tunnels, which dampens the fun.
Despite these issues with the wingsuit, web-swinging has been significantly improved in Spider-Man 2. Several new abilities enhance rooftop traversal, with the slingshot manoeuvre being a stand-out addition. The game also introduces faster web-swinging, allowing Peter and Miles to achieve breakneck speeds with skilful manoeuvring. These enhancements bring a strategic element to movement, rewarding players for well-timed swings, flips, and dives with breathtaking displays of speed and agility.
Swinging Into Action
Spider-Man 2 also introduces new elements to its combat system. The most notable addition is a parry mechanic, enabling Peter and Miles to deflect powerful attacks and stun their opponents. While this skill may seem superfluous in most encounters against ordinary foes, it significantly impacts boss battles, where you may encounter larger adversaries resistant or immune to web-based attacks. Timely parries become crucial in these situations, raising the stakes and intensifying the challenge, especially on higher difficulty settings.
In addition to the parry mechanic, Peter and Miles’ combat largely resembles that of the previous games. Their punches carry weight, and stringing together attacks while avoiding enemy strikes enables the player to build ‘focus’ for healing or powerful takedowns. Elements such as web-zipping, uppercuts, and aerial manoeuvres allow players to take the fight to the air, allowing for a spot of enemy juggling. While the core mechanics remain consistent, Spider-Man 2 distinguishes itself by giving each character unique rechargeable abilities. This keeps combat fresh as players switch between Miles’ venom shock and invisibility powers and Peter’s Doc Ock-inspired robotic spider legs and symbiote abilities.
However, Spider-Man 2 falls short in fully distinguishing the two Spider-Men. An early encounter with Sandman highlights a potential for unique abilities and strategies for each character, but the game rarely explores this concept further. Most enemy types do not provide opportunities for Peter and Miles to handle them differently, missing a chance to reinforce the distinct philosophies and abilities of the two characters.
The evolving relationship between Peter and Miles is central to Spider-Man 2, with Miles stepping into a more prominent role as a hero. The game also features sections where players control Mary Jane, offering a break from combat and focusing on puzzle-solving. But don’t worry these sequences are well-implemented, providing more engaging gameplay and aren’t nearly as frustrating as they were first time around.
Spider-Man 2 features a variety of engaging side quests that reimagine successful elements from its predecessors. Most of these missions delve into the main characters’ narratives, adding depth and potential setups for future DLC or sequels, but there are a few that are nothing more than standard busy work.
In summary, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 may follow the established formula of its predecessors, but it continues to deliver a captivating experience. The narrative explores the theme of loneliness and provides gripping new storylines for Peter, Miles, and the main villains, Kraven and Venom. The improved traversal mechanics and enhanced combat system maintain player engagement throughout the game. While there is room for further differentiation between the two protagonists and some minor drawbacks, Spider-Man 2 ultimately offers an immersive and enjoyable experience.