• Marvel's Spider-Man 2 takes the franchise to new heights with its breakneck storytelling and crisp gameplay, surpassing its predecessors.
  • The game successfully balances the personal lives of Peter Parker and Miles Morales with their responsibilities as superheroes, creating compelling character-driven moments.
  • The gameplay is relentless and electric, showcasing the power of the symbiote and introducing new abilities and gadgets, making it a must-play title for PS5 owners.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is electric, telling a breakneck story of two protagonists and everyone in their immediate circle with continually escalating, incredibly crisp gameplay. Right from the outset, Spider-Man 2 feels as though it’s taken a significant step above its 2018 and 2020 predecessors. A large and varied cast of characters is impressively juggled while players are set loose as both Peter Parker and Miles Morales in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. City-wide spectacle is constantly juxtaposed with intimate, character-driven moments, all underpinned by the truly unsettling emergence of the alien symbiote hoping to reach the height of its potential as Venom.

With its third game in the action-adventure series, Insomniac Games once again asserts itself as one of the leading developers of current-gen experiences. Leveraging the hardware of the PlayStation 5 and its DualSense controller, Spider-Man 2 picks up the lingering threads of Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales in a game that delights in even its smallest details. Both Spider-Men must navigate recent, heartbreaking losses alongside a number of other personal tribulations, all while shouldering the burden of being New York City’s web-slinging protectors. Such responsibility is made nigh unmanageable by Kraven bringing his Great Hunt to the city, which unleashes new and old threats alike.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 & The Art Of Balance

Two Spider-Men, Peter Parker and Miles Morales, clinging to a wall. Peter has his mask off and is looking distraught. Miles has some sort of white canister attached to his back.

Superhero media, and Spider-Man stories especially, often revolve around the need to balance one’s personal life with the unending demands of vigilantism; Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is no different. Peter is sorting through Aunt May’s estate, aiding Mary Jane in her journalistic career while also trying to convince her to move in with him, reconnecting with a seemingly cured Harry, and attempting to hold onto a teaching job at Brooklyn Visions Academy, all while committed to the responsibilities of being Spider-Man, which includes being a mentor to Miles.

Miles is similarly straddled with issues vying for his time. Due dates for college admission essays are coming up, he’s having trouble navigating his affection for Hailey, his mother is attempting to re-enter the dating pool while Miles is still coming to terms with the death of his father, and his uncle needs some help closing the door on his alter ego, Prowler. Even in its more mundane moments, the swirling conflicts propel Spider-Man 2’s story at an incredible pace. Miles and Peter are squarely at the narrative’s center, but the game impressively carries the entire cast from beginning to end, each with satisfying arcs.

Even amid the chaos of Kraven’s Great Hunt and the emergence of the symbiote, somehow no character is forgotten. Even brief appearances, like that of Black Cat, or the most sporadic contributions to the story – from J. Jonah Jameson, for instance – feel impactful. So many intertwined characters only serves to heighten Spider-Man 2’s central drama, in which characters’ deepest insecurities are preyed upon by the symbiote in exchange for the power it grants, seemingly the key to defeating Kraven the Hunter, who himself is a fascinating, multi-faceted villain.

Watching Peter succumb to the symbiote in his black suit is like witnessing a carefully orchestrated train wreck; it’s thrilling, heartbreaking, and incredibly visceral. Kraven and his hunters are despicably bloodthirsty, but the symbiote is a narrative master key used to unlock the most cutting vitriol of every character it touches. Even boss fights, when Spider-Man 2 is at its most technically demanding, are dripping in character development as combatants argue and plead with each other. Friends and loved ones are turned into enemies against their will, and the symbiote ensures you’ll bear witness to the most agonizing details.

Perhaps the one disappointment in Spider-Man 2’s story is a feeling that Miles takes a back seat to Peter. It’s still very much a tale of two Spider-Men – Miles isn’t short-changed by any means – but the circumstances of the narrative result in Peter being the greater focus. The symbiote enters the picture by way of Harry, Peter’s longtime best friend, so it’s unsurprising that the older Spider-Man is consequently at the forefront for long stretches of what is ultimately a brilliantly told, dual-protagonist story.

The Symbiote-Filled, Electrically Charged Gameplay Of Spider-Man 2

Venom, a huge, monstrous facsimile of Spider-Man with a black and white color scheme, standing in front of open flames in an urban scene. Venom's mouth is open, baring rows of very long, sharp teeth and a snake-like tongue.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2’s gameplay is relentless in both its presence and escalation. Its crowning achievement is the way in which it revels in the symbiote. While the narrative consequences of its presence are difficult to watch, the gameplay advancements it brings are continually delightful. To match Peter’s new suit, Miles’ bioelectric powers are equally adapted, continually evolving during the game so you’re given new abilities regularly throughout. Certain gameplay sequences, which will remain purposefully vague here, shockingly demonstrate the power latent in the symbiote, providing an intimate understanding of both its allure and danger.

New utilities similarly advance the series’ already satisfying traversal mechanics. The Web Wings and a maneuver known as the Slingshot Launch are particularly fun, and both help achieve and maintain unprecedented web-swinging speeds. Much like the first two Marvel’s Spider-Man games, there’s practically no incentive to ever fast travel; simply going from point A to point B can be exhilarating. Adept use of the Web Wings is also practically necessary for navigating parts of the new additions to Spider-Man 2’s map. Further reaches of Brooklyn and Queens are residential neighborhoods of primarily single-family homes, unfit for the high-flying acrobatics of Manhattan.

Even the returning gameplay segments starring Mary Jane feature significant iteration. She’s no longer defenseless, which turns the maligned stealth sequences of the first Marvel’s Spider-Man into more involved detours that provide the player with capabilities familiar to stealth-action games. There are many different types of gameplay sequences: those brief jaunts with MJ; wall-crawling and tightrope-walking stealth encounters as one of the Spider-Men; set pieces of often incredible scale; and the series’ signature, free-flowing, acrobatic brawls. All of these make up a bulk of the game, but even the quieter moments of Spider-Man 2 find a way to be packed with gameplay.

Side activities and certain story moments alike bring a deluge of mini-games, some of which are an extension of other areas of gameplay, while others are glorified quick time events made interesting by their implementation. Staying within the slipstream of one of Kraven’s mechanical birds while using the Web Wings, balancing different tensions on the DualSense’s two adaptive triggers to find the frequency of hidden Prowler tech, flying a drone and blasting hologram insects to acquire data in an effort to save the bees, a number of brain-teasers, and more all add engaging variety scattered throughout New York City.

Overall, Spider-Man 2’s gameplay is unilaterally an improvement on its predecessors, re-wiring the way special abilities and gadgets are doled out in combat and introducing new moves, enemies, and stealth capabilities. Although the free-flow combat masterminded by Batman: Arkham Asylum has fallen slightly out of vogue since its many imitators died down, Insomniac has created what is now perhaps the gold standard of the system. The punchy and stylish combat is made even richer by the presence of two Spider-Men, the uncontrolled one beating up baddies in the background and occasionally swinging in to assist on a slow-motion finisher.

Spider-Man 2 Is A PlayStation 5 Tour De Force

Kraven the Hunter, a bearded man, standing in the rain, backlit by bright blue lights.

From Spider-Man 2’s earliest moments, it occasionally awes as something never experienced before. Its opening set piece sees Miles flung across a significant portion of the map and improvising midair to build himself a slingshot out of webs to fly back the way he came. In a matter of seconds, dozens of city blocks go flying by at speeds almost unbelievable. Other sequences clearly utilize the dimension-hopping technology Insomniac designed for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is one of the few games that truly feel designed for current-gen hardware, and considerations of the PS5’s capabilities seep into every facet.

Spider-Man 2’s use of the DualSense’s haptic feedback is precise and varied, delivering unique vibration patterns for a very large number of interactions. The adaptive triggers are used liberally throughout, providing resistance to everything from routine web-swinging to many of the aforementioned mini-games. Speed of traversal is wonderfully faster than the first two games – likely thanks to the console’s SSD – and fast travel is instantaneous (I actually didn’t see the very intuitive and seamless fast travel system, which teleports you mid-swing or mid-flight to effectively anywhere on the map, until about 15 hours into the game; I was having too much fun swinging everywhere).

On top of it all, Spider-Man 2 looks gorgeous and runs almost flawlessly – a couple instances of ragdolls convulsing oddly were the only noticeable hiccups that could be categorized as bugs. Even the most high-octane moments felt as though they were hitting the targeted 60 frames per second in the game’s Performance mode, which also features limited ray tracing. Dozens of visible cars in New York’s packed streets have fully rendered interiors, often with seated NPCs. Peering in the windows of the city’s skyscrapers will reveal – albeit purposefully obfuscated – interiors of apartments, sometimes with NPCs sitting on their couch or doing something in the kitchen. It’s easy to miss the details while careening toward the next objective, but Spider-Man 2’s vast city is impressively alive.

Final Thoughts & Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 Review Score

Miles Morales, crouched on the edge of a roof in his black and red suit, overlooking a corner of Central Park and the New York skyline near sunset.

It’s tough to say any game is a must-play when considering the wide range of players’ tastes, but Spider-Man 2 is a towering achievement in every metric; at the very least, it’s one of the PS5’s preeminent offerings. The story is so enthralling, and its stakes so high that it’s easy to find oneself rushing to the next main mission, leaving swathes of side content untouched for large stretches of play time. Its gameplay is singularly engaging, varied, and inventive, constantly rewarding the player through unlocked suits, upgradeable skills and gadgets, and new abilities.

Spider-Man 2 only reinforces the notion that Insomniac Games is one of PlayStation Studios’ more prolific development houses. The balance of gameplay and narrative is intoxicating, and this third entry squashes any issues that plagued the first two games. These iterations of Peter Parker and Miles Morales are triumphantly human, as are the other characters surrounding them, and the genius of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 lies in introducing a villain that hopes to strip them of that humanity.

Marvel's Spider-Man 2 releases for PlayStation 5 on October 20, 2023. Screen Rant was provided with a digital download code for the purpose of this review.