After the wild success of both Spider-Man in 2018 and Spider-Man: Miles Morales in 2020, Insomniac Games had a bit of a problem going forward. How, after making two games with the same map of NYC and two heroes with similar but not identical powers, themes, and ideals, could they move forward? They’d set Peter Parker a continent away in the Miles Morales sequel to give the novice Spider-Man time to shine on his own, and fans of the series were clamoring for more of both more of Peter and of Miles, especially after the runaway success of the Spider-Verse films.
Enter Spider-Man 2, or as I have been calling it, Spiders-Men. Set some months after the events of Mile’s Morale’s solo adventure, which I guess is now unofficially Spider-Man 1.5, the series allows for both Pete and Miles. Pete is trying to find a more stable job and continuing to date Mary Jane Watson while now living alone in his childhood home in Queens, not quite dealing with lingering grief over his old Aunt May. Miles, for his part is procrastinating on college entrance essays and trying to work up the courage to ask out Hailey, the hearing impaired painter he met in his solo game. Both Spider-Men have had their gameplay tweaked to allow the player to more easily switch between them, though the gameplay definitely matches more with the control scheme of 1.5 rather than 1. Both heroes have access to a shared set of Spider-Gadgets, usable via R1 and one of the face buttons, and their own sets of Spider-powers, usable via L1 and the same face buttons. In addition to dodges, the game introduces Parrying and attacks that can only be prevented by using a Parry or a Jump, and just to make things fair, also introduces attacks that cannot be parried and must be dodged. Also changed is that the incredibly overpowered suit abilities from 1 (Looking at you, Web Blossom and Equalizer) are gone. Suits are now purely cosmetic, and abilities are not unlocked via story progression or via Pete and Miles’s skill trees. But enough about basic gameplay changes for now, let’s talk more about the story.
The game begins with Pete and Miles- now both called Spider-Man while in costume and disambiguated with the correct mask icon in the subtitles – rushing from Queens across the east river to the Island of Manhattan to stop a rampaging Sandman who has grown to massive size and is thrashing around downtown. After the requisite many stage fight that serves as a tutorial to both Spider-Men, their powers, and switching between them, Pete is out a job, Miles has missed an important meeting to help him with his college applications. Despite the setbacks, there’s good news. Pete’s best friend Harry Osborn is finally back from “Europe” which was actually a radical medical treatment for a congenital disease that killed his mom and now he wants Pete to join him as the founder and CEO of a scientific foundation to save the world. On the flip side, however, Pete and Miles’ heroics have attracted the attention of a dangerous new foe, Kraven, who has identified Spider-Man and his rogue’s gallery as being worthy opponents. After a prison heist where Kraven captures the Scorpion and Martin Li, Miles finds his powers growing in new unexpected ways as he grows obsessed with the idea of getting revenge on Li for killing his father (back in Spider-Man). As the game goes on, Pete and Miles have several run-ins with former foes and friends, often saving them from Kraven’s predations. One involving Black Cat is a visually impressive set piece that also offers up a nod to one of the several heroes implied but not seen in the previous games. Another is helping Tombstone out when Kraven’s hunters attack him at his new Coney Island theme park job, a sequence which winds up with Harry learning that Pete is Spider-Man and revealing he now has powers of his own, thanks to the too-good-to-be-true bodysuit that keeps his disease at bay. Spoilers: It’s the Venom symbiote.
All of that I mentioned was just setup, and also only main story missions. Both Pete and Miles have a host of side missions they can perform. Some can be done as either Hero, like finding fragments left behind by Sandman around the city to help him piece together fragmented memories leading up to his rampage at the start of the game or the touching farewell to an NPC that was so emotionally impactful I was worried his voice actor had died, while some, like the Emily May Foundation mini-quests and the “Flame” side missions can only be done by Peter. Not that Miles gets left out. He has several exclusive main missions and side quests, including a quest line at his high school, a quest line involving helping a music history museum recover its stolen exhibits, aiding his uncle make sure old Prowler tech is off the streets, and one helping Quentin Beck (Mysterio) figure out what’s going wrong with someone posing as Mysterio to ruin his new legitimate special effects experience venture, and these are the closest thing the game has to the Taskmaster/ Screwball/ Peter training missions of the previous games, thankfully. These side missions, in addition to contributing to the game’s overall theme of second chances and redemption, are also – especially Mile’s Prowler and Mysterio quests- some of the best early sources of Rare parts and Hero points you need to buy suits and upgrade gadgets.
Speaking of gadgets and upgrades, both the skill tree and the gadget upgrade mechanics are returned from the previous entries. Both Spider-Men have their own unique skill trees, as well as a joint skill tree that covers techniques and abilities they share. This might sound complicated but it allows the game to lock away certain upgrades to story progression (such as Peter’s acquisition of the Symbiote suit and its growing influence on him) without unfairly limiting either character’s ability to grow. I did think Mile’s final skill unlock came unusually late in the story, but there were more than enough skill points to max out all three trees without worrying about one Spider getting left behind in the dust. On a similar note, the game feels much more generous with its upgrade resources than the previous two game, as well as greatly simplifying their acquisition. You no longer need to perform specific tasks to get extra crime tokens for upgrades. Instead these challenges now give you extra XP to level up, and numerous missions and side missions give hero tokens in addition to the Mysterio challenges. Just make sure you level up your gadgets and suit tech before buying out all the nifty referential Spider-Suits. While not every suit from the previous two games has returned, a great number have, and several more have been added, including several Spider-Verse homage suits which come complete with alternate animations and visible sound effect options. Speaking of the Spider-Verse, there is an ongoing side-quest about collecting invading Spider-Bots dressed up in various styles that ties in with the events of the movie series, introduces a new character and animation style and name drops Miguel (Spider-Man 2099), so that’s both the mainline and the Spider-Verse multiverses that Insomniac Spider-Man’s universe (1048 if you want to keep track) has crossed over with.
That mention of visible sound effects reminds me, accessibility options. Spider-Man 2 has them in spades. I did not play with them- apart from subtitles, which I think are on by default, but I did take a look at several, like the automatic quick-time success, and the visibility options like out lines or character shadings in a variety of color to help people with various visual impairments. Oddly, though, there was one QOL feature from the previous games that was missing. While there is a menu where you can view your collectibles, such as Spider-Bots, Mysterio Development Journal Audio Logs and Sandman memories in, but it does not include either the JJJ or Danikast broadcasts, which is especially bad because these are great bits of lore and very easily interrupted by random battles and crimes spawning in. Another QOL improvement of sort is the Mary Jane segments. No longer purely stealth, MJ can now take the offensive and stun enemies with a Silver Sable-provided stun gun, removing much of the tedium of those segments. You still have to be careful, as any two hits will still fell you, even after you add a web shooter or sonic blaster to the gun for some long range takedowns. It does have the weird effect of changing the game into a first person shooter for a bit, but compared to the same moments in Spider-Man which I was playing right before switching back, they are short, sweet, and do not overstay their welcome.
You might have noticed I’ve been very coy about what happens in the main plot after a certain point, and that is deliberate. I don’t want to spoil things. I’ve heard online that people think the game is short, and I do not think it is. I do think there is a bit of a rush to the ending after a certain point. There’s a particular character you only get to play a single sequence as, and one or two returns to that character before the final missions would have been appreciated, as well as a mission or two more before that character’s appearance and some major climactic showdowns. Not much, just maybe a mission or two of more rising tension instead of several climaxes one after the other.
Lastly, it’s very obvious the main plot of Spider-Man 2 is Pete’s story, with Miles acting as a secondary, even though he does get his moments in the spotlight saving Pete from certain death or worse on several occasions, but there are several obvious DLC and Sequel hooks where he will undoubtedly have his own time to shine.
Spider-Man 2 is an amazing game, and while it has its missteps, these are ultimately minor for the sheer amount of fun it has on offer. I’m gonna play it again on Ultimate mode and get the DLC when it drops. I recommend you do the same.
Tim played Spider-Man 2 with a copy purchased for himself.