Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is the ideal sequel. As reductive as it is to describe the game using just those two words, it’s still one of the most appropriate ways to describe the game, even if the descriptor doesn’t quite capture every facet of the experience. Because what do you want from an “ideal sequel”? Ideally, you want it to build on what is presumably an already strong foundation laid down by previous entries, and you want it to do so not only by improving the parts of the experience where there was obvious room for improvement, but also making upgrades in the areas where the players would already be expecting a certain level of excellence.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 improves upon the stellar formula of its predecessors in several ways, and though it’s about evolution instead of revolution at all times, the evolutions it does make often have a transformative effect. And there aren’t many areas of the experience on offer here that serve as a better example of such improvements than Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 combat. Already one of Marvel’s Spider-Man and Miles Morales’ bigger strengths, combat has improved more dramatically in the series’ newest outing than many would have imagined, and there’s plenty of factors that contribute to that.
One of the biggest of those factors is, of course, how Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 makes the act of using abilities and gadgets just so instantaneous and snappy during combat, emphasizing their usage that much more. Now mapped to face buttons through L1 and R1 shortcuts respectively, abilities and gadgets have become a much more integral part of the combat. Having access to all of them at once empowers you greatly during encounters, and keeping an eye on their cooldowns and having the awareness for figuring out when best to use them becomes a crucial part of your strategy.
Another significant improvement that helps raise the stakes in combat is with enemy variety. Though this wasn’t particularly an area of weakness in previous games, it definitely is one of strength in Spider-Man 2, which throws a vast and impressive roster of unique enemy types at you. Throughout the experience, depending on where you are in the story, which mission you’re tackling, or which faction you’re fighting against, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 sees you fighting against a variety of enemy types, each of their own unique visual designs, strengths, and weaknesses, from brutes carrying massive axes to mechanical birds that swoop at you from the air to enemies that try to trap you in electrified nets and much more. It’s a blast to keep an eye on what kind of foes are bearing down on you during combat encounters before adjusting your combat strategies on the fly accordingly.
And of course, speaking of the enemies you lock horns with in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, we’d be remiss not to also drop some praise for its stellar boss fights and the cinematic set piece sequences it crafts with them as their centerpieces. You’ll be spending anywhere between 20 to 30 hours playing this game, and across this time, you’ll be experiencing a number of boss fights and set piece sequences that will deliver some of the most adrenaline-fueled and expertly directed interactive action you’ll have experienced in a game in quite some time. To say anything more would be spoiling some of the game’s best moments, but suffice it to say that Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 blends its refined combat mechanics and its gallery of rogues and villains in consistently delightful ways.
Something else that helps elevate the combat in Insomniac’s newest Spidey outing quite significantly is the expanded roster of abilities that both Miles and Peter have at their disposal- because yes, the fact that both Peter Parker and Miles Morales are playable as co-protagonists is another major factor that significantly improves the game’s combat. Though they’re virtually identical characters where traversal and webswinging are concerned, in terms of the combat, Peter and Miles play quite differently. Their base moveset is obviously the same, revolving around the same basic attacks, dodges, combos, parries, and gadgets, but it’s with their unique sets of abilities that the game sets them apart from each other.
As Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 kicks off, Miles obviously has access too his (confusingly-named) Venom bioelectricity abilities, while Peter’s abilities see him whipping out his Iron Spider arms for different combat-related uses. In and of themselves, those ability sets are enough to make both Spider-Men feel quite different from each other in combat, but Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 does yet more to further make their comabt experiences different. As the game progress, Miles’ electricity powers evolve and grant him chain lightning abilities that are excellent for crowd control, while Peter, of course, gets his hand on the Symbiote, which, with its iconic Black Suit, brings its own set of devastating, bone-crunching abilities that never get boring.
Swapping between the two Spider-Man, getting to dive into their unique ability sets, and getting to witness it expand and evolve in yet more unexpected ways is undoubtedly one of the highlights of playing Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. Add to that the smaller and more iterative improvements the game makes on the combat front – like the tweaks it makes to managing Focus bars, healing, and finishers, or additions like tag-team finishing moves – and what you get is a game that makes some seriously impressive strides in an area where it was already starting out strong.
When all of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2’s combat-related improvements come together, it’s hard not to be impressed by how significantly better it feels than its two predecessors. Every encounter feels much more dynamic and fast-moving- the game always keeps you on your toes, always keeps you engaged and entertained, and above all else, does a stellar job of letting you live out your ultimate Spider-Man power fantasy, better than even the previous two games did. And thankfully, it’s not very often that those improvements don’t come together in that intended way. In fact, throughout the entire game, as it swiftly moves from beat to beat and offering to offering, it’s easy to be hugely impressed by how well Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 builds on the combat foundations of its predecessors.
Obviously, we’re not exactly making a bold statement when we say that the webswinging still remains the highlight of the Marvel’s Spider-Man experience. That was abundantly true in the 2018 title and 2020’s Miles Morales, and it’s still true in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, where improvements like faster traversal speeds and the addition of web wings see the game making similarly remarkable upgrades in the traversal department as well. Even so, the gap between the traversal and combat now feels much smaller. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2’s combat has improved to the point where it can legitimately be called one of the game’s biggest strengths, even if it obviously doesn’t quite captivate and enthrall in the same way that the game’s webswinging mechanics do.
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