A challenge arises when dealing with a popular license. Can the developer do it justice? Can the game service the fans in a way that shows the developer’s deep understanding of the IP’s characters and world? When those parameters are met, as they so deftly were with Marvel’s Spider-Man in 2018 and Miles Morales in 2020, the next challenge is doing it again, but better. I was curious to see how Insomniac Games would handle the potential sophomore slump. I did not doubt that Insomniac is a great developer (in fact, they’re one of the most talented and efficient AAA dens in the industry) and could pull off a great game. But a better one? When Marvel took the Spider-Man video game rights back from Activision in 2014 due to displeasure with the movie tie-ins, Activision told Marvel, “Good luck finding your unicorn.” And Marvel did just that.
Speaking of travel, I must make a note about the fast travel system in this game. It’s the best I’ve ever seen. No equal. Once you’ve done enough Spidey work in a certain district, you are free to travel anywhere in said district instantaneously. That’s right, New York City instantly loads without any wait time. Not only that, but the transition is seamless, ensuring that Spider-Man is constantly moving when he spawns from the teleport. The only downside to this is that I now want this in every upcoming game (I can forgive past games for their technical deficiency, but all future games must follow suit).
The game looks fantastic. Animations (in and out of cutscene), suits (of which there are many), character models, ray traced reflections, and New York City itself are all very detailed. Taking in New York City at the top of the Empire State Building is still a highlight, and even more so with better detail. The vehicle and pedestrian density in the game is much improved, making the game feel even more like New York City. Of course, you could always have more cars, but Spider-Man 2 adds quite a few extras. No detail is spared for the game’s villains who are captured in stunning detail. The game opens with a bang (which I will kindly let the reader experience on their own) and only gets better and better. In tandem with the animation and visual fidelity, the performances are excellent. Kraven (Jim Pirri) and Venom (Tony Todd) lend excellent talent to an already wonderful cast. Laura Bailey takes on the role of Mary Jane this time, while Yuri Lowenthal and Nadji Jeter return as the Spider-Men. This is topped off with a great soundtrack that pumps the player up throughout the adventure.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a triumph. It’s a video game that does what any sequel should do; strive to be greater than its predecessors. Whether it’s witnessing the characters you know and love interact, swinging through New York City, or fighting crime and webbing up some fools, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 delivers on all fronts. If you’re a Spider-Man fan, you now have three modern games you need to play, though I suggest saving this one for last as it might spoil the other two for you slightly (from a gameplay perspective). Everything in this game points to a Spider-Man 3, and I couldn't be more hyped. I have not played every game from Insomniac, but I played most of them, and I can say with no qualms that I enjoyed this one the most. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is my new bar for superhero games, so suit up and get those web shooters filled.
Objective Assessment: 9/10
Bonus: +1 for an intense Spider-Man story and for being a love letter to fans (with extra villains, cameos, and suits). +1 for even more amazing gameplay.
Penalties: -1 for occasional crashes. -1 some ludonarrative dissonance.
Nerd Coefficient: 9/10
Posted by: Joe DelFranco - Fiction writer and lover of most things video games. On most days you can find him writing at his favorite spot in the little state of Rhode Island.