Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is an overall great game, but it feels too similar to its predecessors. If you enjoyed everything those two games had to offer, you’ll likely enjoy what Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has to offer. However, if you’re seeking significant changes to the formula, you may be disappointed. While this could be a testament to how well done the first two games are in Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man franchise, I think it’s fair to criticize the lack of noteworthy changes to the overall gameplay loop.
Still, in my opinion, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is currently the best superhero video game experience and it does a fantastic job portraying Peter Parker and Miles Morales. The original story isn’t groundbreaking, but it is meaningful, bolstered by superb voice acting. The sequel comes across as a polished version of its predecessors, although the side quests and story pacing leave something to be desired.
I Can Do This All Day
The opening of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is flashy and memorable, making it one of the most impressive introductions I’ve experienced in gaming. Many of the game’s set pieces remain extraordinary throughout the campaign. But the intro had me thinking that Insomniac Games might push the envelope a bit more this time around. Although Sony’s first-party games are developed by various studios worldwide, there seems to be a consistent strategy now in place for their sequels. Like other notable Sony sequels such as God of War Ragnarök and Horizon Forbidden West, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 builds on a successful formula while adding more polish. Including Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, all three of these games change just enough to the gameplay for it to feel different, but not enough for it to feel fresh.
One could argue there’s a very good reason for that: it just works. Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales were the most refreshing superhero games to play since the Batman: Arkham series, and in my opinion, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is currently the best superhero gaming experience. It’s one of the few games where I’ve never felt the need to use fast travel. Somehow, Insomniac Games managed to make traversal even more fun than previous games, especially with the new addition of Web Wings. If you somehow get bored of web slinging from building to building, the Web Wings give you a Superman or Iron Man-type method of travel. In any other game, selecting a quest that is 3000 meters away would be seen as a chore and you’d find the quickest way to fast travel to your destination. In Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, that distance actually feels like a bonus; you can take in all the stunning sights and sounds in this beautifully crafted version of New York on the way to your destination.
Ultimately, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 comes across as a safe sequel, akin to God of War Ragnarök and Horizon Forbidden West. The experience is highly polished, though I encountered a few game-breaking bugs and a couple of crashes during my playthrough. If you enjoyed the previous titles, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 offers few surprises. And for many, that’s a good thing.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Errands
Let’s start with my biggest gripe for the game: the side quests. There are some optional side missions that are really well done, but most of the open-world tasks and activities are downright boring. It’s just a to-do checklist that lacks meaningful dialogue or character development, and many of them feel very repetitive. The overabundance of them doesn’t help, and it truly does feel like they were added simply to pad the time it takes to get the Platinum trophy for the game.
I mostly abandoned the side activities after one of them required me to ride a bicycle through Central Park. This reminded me of a tactic used in many MMORPGs: it felt like the developers were forcing me to engage with their world, knowing full well that some details would only be noticed during a side quest. Also, some side quests seemed designed mainly to showcase the PlayStation 5’s capabilities, particularly the adaptive triggers on the DualSense controller. They’re really cool to experience the first couple times, but having to do some of these tasks repeatedly takes away the charm.
In fact, I’d recommend skipping most of the side quests and activities on your first playthrough. When I first started, I completed all available activities before moving on to the next mission in the main storyline. I found that this approach negatively impacted the game’s pacing, which already falters at times, particularly in the final act. Personally, I think you’d get much more enjoyment from the game going entirely through the main story first, and then wrapping up all of the side quests and activities afterwards. The lack of enemy variety also doesn’t do the side activities any justice. There’s only so many times you can beat up the same few enemies over and over before it gets too predictable and boring.
For a game that features two Spider-Men in a meticulously crafted version of New York, I’m surprised by the lack of creativity in the side quests and activities. While I want to go back and get the Platinum trophy, it’s not something I’m eager to do.
Behind Every Hero
In the previous Marvel’s Spider-Man games, side characters had their moments to shine with each respective Spider-Man. For Peter Parker, that was Mary Jane Watson and for Miles Morales, it was Ganke. In Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, while these side characters still play a role, MJ’s prominence is noticeably increased. Her stealth missions return, albeit less frustrating and annoying than in the first installment. However, they still feel somewhat out of place and disrupt the pacing of the story. Insomniac Games deliberately made MJ more powerful in these missions, to the point that it’s almost unbelievable what she’s capable of doing. Their reasoning behind this was to make the missions less frustrating and I can appreciate that they don’t really care if MJ feels overpowered, but this is a game that actually features superheroes in it. I believe there could be a better approach to make MJ feel more realistic while also improving the experience of her missions; I’m not quite sure giving her an overpowered weapon was the best solution. Given the talent of the team at Insomniac Games, it feels a bit lazy.
Ganke largely takes a backseat in the game’s main storyline. While he does appear in some side quests — especially one that could tie into the broader Spider-Man multiverse — his role is mainly secondary in the sequel. Hailey is featured a bit more prominently in this game’s story and even has some side quests of her own, but they’re not particularly memorable. It’s a shame too, because the writing actually does a good job at capturing how young adults and teenagers act, with enough charm to make all of the characters very likable.
To avoid spoilers, I won’t go in depth about other side characters that are featured in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. What I will say, however, it does seem like the game attempts to juggle too many characters. Many of them lack sufficient development time, contributing to the game’s occasionally disjointed pacing.
Two Webs Are Better Than One
The standout feature of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is the option to play as either Peter Parker or Miles Morales. You can seamlessly switch between them throughout most of the game, but some quests (both main and side) are locked to a specific Spider-Man. Despite their different core skills, the gameplay between the two characters feels surprisingly similar, especially since they share the same combos and gadgets. Speaking of gadgets, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 takes a step back from the system found in the first game, making the gadgets feel oddly basic in the sequel. The game would benefit from more distinct playstyles for the two Spider-Men.
For those familiar with previous Insomniac Spider-Man titles, the combat remains exceptionally well-executed. It feels fluid and fast-paced, capturing the essence of fighting as Spider-Man. But in a trend that is seemingly becoming more and more popular thanks to soulslike games, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 places a greater emphasis on precision dodging and parrying, particularly in boss fights. Of course, this largely comes down to personal preference, but I personally find it annoying when an attack can only be dodged and not parried, or vice versa. While the boss fights are generally improved over previous installments, some are overly tedious with multiple phases.
When it comes to the narrative, Peter Parker’s story takes the spotlight, leaving Miles Morales’s arc feeling somewhat underdeveloped. There are some touching moments between the two, but I was surprised how rarely the two actually teamed up through the campaign. I had multiple instances throughout my playthrough where I thought to myself, “This would be a great spot for the other Spider-Man to make an appearance,” but he never did. While I understand there’s a good reason why Peter Parker plays a bigger role in the game, I just wish Miles’s story was more than just fumbling around about writing a college essay and dealing with Mister Negative (again).
We Can’t All Be Heroes
There is no denying that Marvel has enjoyed 15 years of recent success thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Superhero fatigue is setting in when it comes to movies and television entertainment, but when it comes to video games, enjoyable superhero titles remain the exception, not the rule. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a very good game, but it’s also a very safe sequel. This is indicative of a broader trend I’ve noticed among PlayStation’s first-party games. While it is a polished experience, I did encounter game-breaking bugs and crashes. Thankfully, the checkpoint system is very well done, as I didn’t lose any significant progress. After one of the crashes, I resumed at the fourth phase of a boss fight after I feared I would have to repeat the first three phases.
Another aspect worth praising is the performance of the game on the PlayStation 5. The wizards at Insomniac Games have really taken full advantage of what the system is capable of doing, and the game felt very smooth in performance mode. After finishing the campaign, I decided to switch to fidelity mode to enjoy the very noticeable difference in image quality. However, fifteen minutes later, I had to switch back to performance mode. To me, 60fps makes a huge difference in experiencing that Spider-Man web-slinging fantasy.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is filled with memorable set pieces, well-written characters with excellent voice acting, and a robust combat system. However, it tries to do too much with too many characters in a limited time frame, and a disjointed final act to the story really hurts the overall experience. The lack of innovation in the open world activities and the bugs shouldn’t be overlooked, just because this is a game from Insomniac.
If you enjoyed Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, you will enjoy Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. These friendly neighborhood Spider-Men are just more of what you already know, for better or worse.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was released on October 20, 2023 on PlayStation 5. This review is based on a purchased retail copy of the game on PlayStation 5. While FullCleared does have affiliate partnerships, they do not influence our editorial content. We may, however, earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.