Swing Into the Future: Spider-Man 2 Sets a New Standard for Superhero Games!

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| October 24, 2023

2023 has been a year that has seen some incredible video games, and one of the biggest and most anticipated games of recent years is finally here. Spider-Man 2 is a technical wonder and yet another example of the potential of storytelling in the video game medium. The game does everything it can to improve on its predecessors with impressively refined traversal mechanics and a simpler combat design that makes each fight feel fun and frantic. It had been tipped to be one of the best games of 2023, and undeniably, you won’t find much better to do this year than to Be Greater, Together, in Spider-Man 2.

2 spider-men web swinging high above a city

Picking up 10 months after the events of Spider-Man: Miles Morales, both of our Spider-Men are struggling to make things work. Peter Parker has inherited Aunt May’s house but also its mortgage and desperately needs a job to make ends meet. Miles Morales is looking to apply to college but is still grieving the loss of his father and has lost a bit of direction. In typical Spider-Man style, they have little time to sort out their struggles as Kraven the Hunter heads to town to turn New York into his own personal hunting grounds. To make matters even worse, a black symbiote, known as Venom, crashes the party and attaches itself to Peter making him much stronger but more aggressive. The game’s story is incredibly delivered and is one of the best that gaming has ever seen.

2 Spider-men fighting a black alien creature high above a busy city

The emotional weight of Peter and Miles’ stories is powerful, and performances from Yuri Lowenthal and Nadji Jeter are terrific. Lowenthal shines brighter than anything in this game with a heart-wrenching performance. He plays the role of Peter Parker so well, and the transition to his Symbiote-influenced personality is a big highlight of the game. Lowenthal’s command over the balance between Peter’s light and dark sides seems effortless, and his depiction of the story’s themes of grief, responsibility, and addiction are so potently powerful. This is a performance of a lifetime.

A sullen and beaten Spider-Man soul searching

Nadji Jeter plays Miles so well and has really grown into the character. He was a character that I thought was a bit awkward in the first game but came to his own in his solo spin-off and makes huge leaps and bounds in this story. Jeter’s portrayal of Miles’ grief and brewing inner turmoil is so brilliantly acted. The Symbiote suit storyline will surely bring most players to the game but Miles’ journey will make you stay. He is, without a doubt, the MVP of the story, and true justice was done to his overall character arc, closing storylines set up way back in 2018. Both Spider-Men get tons of time to swing in the sun, and both have such complete and well-written stories.

Two Spider-men talk on a rooftop over a park

The world of Spider-Man 2 is populated full of new and returning characters. Mary Jane Watson, voiced by the always awesome Laura Bailey, returns with a new hairstyle (totally not a new face model) and is as loveable as ever. Kraven, voiced by Jim Pirri, becomes one of the better supervillains seen in video games. He is ruthless, violent, and so very fun to watch. Tony Todd voices the Venom symbiote and does this fan-favorite character all the justice he deserves. Graham Philipps voices Harry Osborn and pulls at all the heartstrings. There are so many more great characters, and not a single one lacks imagination or performance. It is an ensemble cast that is so well-rounded.

Spider-men fighting jungle styled warriors

The gameplay in Spider-Man 2 has seen a huge upgrade, and I mean HUGE! The traversal gameplay that has always been one of the better parts of the Spidey games is back and much better. There is a much higher focus on the sense of speed, whether web swinging or using the new web wings. The web wings are the fastest way to get around, and some were apprehensive about them, but they are immediately one of the most enjoyable parts of traversing New York. With the press of a button, you can bring out the wings and glide around the city in a momentum-based mechanic that is so fluid and fun to mess around with. Web swinging also gets a nice boost with the addition of new swing and jump animations, swing abilities, and various swing assists you can toggle. A personal favorite addition of mine is the slingshot, where Spidey connects webs to objects nearby and pulls back hard, creating a tension that launches him forward at a crazy speed. Swinging around New York has never been better.

Spider-Man uses a wing suit to fly over a city and a park

The combat gameplay has also seen an enormous improvement in what is a massive refinement rather than an overhaul. The core mechanic remains the same but refines the use of gadgets and abilities to the R1 and L1 shoulder buttons on the controller. This switch makes ability and gadget use so much easier and creates a flow in combat that feels like it may never get old. Each Spider-Man has a couple of abilities that can be chosen for each of the four ability slots, and each has its specific use. Gadgets can be used in combat, but like the previous games, they are not as powerful as using the abilities. They are useful and well thought out but not as fun as smashing someone into a wall with a Symbiote Smash or Zapping multiple enemies with a Chain Lightning attack. It is also a bit of a bummer that there are only four very specific gadgets.

Spider-Man kicking an enemy while fire engulf the background

The open world is perhaps the only thing that can be slightly criticized from the first 2 Spider-Man games. They were great open worlds but lacked a little ambition compared to the open worlds of other triple-A video games. This is something that developers, Insomniac Games, took very personally. The open world of Spider-Man 2 is a wonder to explore. It is huge and full of life, from the bustling streets of Manhattan to the quiet suburbs of Queens. The dynamic crime events that trigger as you swing around the city are still a little one-dimensional, but there is a massive wealth of other content to keep you busy. The open world is not as enthralling as the Hollywood blockbuster level of the main story, but it’s a great way to kill some time leveling up your Spider-Men and exploring the various fun things to see around town.

A Spider-Man glides over the busy city in his winged suit

Spider-Man 2 is a technical marvel and is the best showcase of the power of the PlayStation 5 so far. The super-fast load times of the SSD hard drives mean switching between Spider-Men and different locations can be done in an instant, which is used in the story a few times. Seeing the camera rush through New York toward the other Spider-Man is super cool and impressive. The game has two performance modes: fidelity mode, which scales resolution up to 4k while also improving visual quality slightly, and performance mode, which ups the frame rate to a very solid 60fps while dropping the resolution to 1080p and reducing the crowd density in certain areas of the map. Raytracing is included across both modes and looks beautiful. The PS5 Dualsense controller is implemented very well, with a few gameplay moments using the functionality of the adaptive triggers to complete a task. The haptic feedback feels great as each step, punch, and web thwip pounds through your hands while playing. Possibly the coolest feature is how the controller speaker is used to emphasize certain sounds, with the best being when the Symbiote begins talking to you through it while playing as Peter with the Symbiote suit on. Pure nightmare fuel!

Spider-Man looks out over a large busy city

Speaking of suits, there are a ton to choose from in Spider-Man 2. There are quite a few suits that return from the previous games, but there are a load of new suits, and some come with color options to freshen up the look. Highlights of new suits being added include the Amazing Spider-man 2 suit, the Sam Raimi black suit, and the various animated Spider-Verse suits. There are also a few suits that are original designs from various talented visual artists that are beautiful to look at. Suiting up as Spider-Man has never looked better.

A menu of different Spider-Man suits

Spider-Man 2 is undoubtedly one of the best superhero games ever made and challenges the likes of the Arkham games, if not exceeding them. The game is so well-rounded and incredibly fun to play with changes and upgrades to gameplay that are meaningful and a map that is expanded upon in a way that makes the open world engaging and a treat to explore. The story is beautifully dark and emotionally powerful, with performances to match that deliver one of the best Spider-Man stories ever told. Clocking in at around 19 hours to finish the main story and 25 to 30 hours to get that platinum trophy, there is plenty that this game has to offer. The PS5 is truly pushed to its considerable limits, and this game is a wonderful showcase of what Sony’s console is capable of. It’s hard to ever call something perfect, but Spider-Man 2 is as close to it as a superhero game has ever got.

Spider-Man 2 gets a 10 out of 10 from us, and you should play this as soon as you can.

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