Insomniac Games has rightfully established itself as one of the best names in Sony’s roster of first-party studios, thanks to a consistently high output that rarely falters in quality. The studio released Marvel’s Spider-Man in 2018, and within a rather short span of 5 years – we not only got the excellent half-sequel in the form of 2020’s Miles Morales but also the highly-anticipated Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.
It takes what worked in the original and expands the scope of the game to new heights with plenty of new gameplay tricks and a larger open world that’s also dense with meaningful side activities. But what about the game’s technical make-up? How does it improve over the original and Miles Morales? And lastly, how does it perform on the current-gen hardware?
Let’s dive right into the game, and look at each of these aspects one by one. Please note that we will be comparing Spider-Man 2 with the PS5 versions of Spider-Man Remastered and Spider–Man: Miles Morales and not their PS4 counterparts.
While Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is the franchise’s native debut on the current-gen hardware (if you exclude upgraded versions of prior games), Insomniac has continued to opt for the same underlying tech as opposed to radically upgrading its rendering pipeline for the sequel. As such, you will be able to see a lot of the same rendering techniques used for the sequel albeit with a few improvements.
But that doesn’t mean that the game doesn’t look good – far from it. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a visual powerhouse, and everything from the pristine world to particle effects and animation work all come together to create what is undoubtedly the best rendition of the friendly webhead in video game format.
The Visual Jump From Spider-Man 2018 And Spider-Man: Miles Morales
The changes between Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 2018 and Miles Morales are made up of small changes which come together to make this a worthy sequel. Let’s start out with the environments, where we get to see visible improvements in the materials of the buildings and skyscrapers. In addition to being more geometrically complex than their prior renditions, buildings have a lot more detail in the form of murals and large graffiti sprayed on their walls – which adds a lot of personality to the game world.
Facial models also have a lot more detail than before, and characters now boast dense skin meshes and more expressive facial animations which add a lot of depth to their look. NPCs and random quest-givers also have a lot more detail now on their character models, and they also exhibit some sense of expression during conversations.
The characters in Spider-Man 2018 and Miles Morales had a weird softening applied to their faces, and thankfully that’s gone with the sequel. Some characters have their models swapped out for newer renditions, and that’s more of an artistic decision than something to do with visual fidelity.
World streaming comparison – Spider-Man 2 vs Spider-Man vs Miles Morales
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 transports players back to the same New York that we saw in the original and Miles Morales, but with a few new areas added to the mix. This includes new districts like Queens and Brooklyn alongside new locations like Coney Island, which might not sound that much – but it does come together to bump the square footage of this virtual world by a significant margin. The developer has stated that the map size in the sequel is almost double that of the 2018 release, and we can confirm that it isn’t an overstatement by any means.
Coming over to the world streaming tech, the game makes great use of the PS5’s high-speed SSD to smoothly load areas in and out without any hassle. The render distance has improved by a significant margin, and you can really look far out into the distance without losing too much detai. Level of detail swapping works seamlessly, and there are little to no visible artifacts that stick out during gameplay.
Now that Insomniac gets to play with a lot more horsepower, larger chunks of the world can be loaded in and out without encountering any hitches – which is put to great use through the increased movement speeds when swinging through the cityscapes. You can chain together web-swinging, point launches, and your new Web Wings to quickly get from point A to point B. Looking at the maximum swinging speeds of Spider-Man 2 and prior sequels, it’s clear that Insomniac has made the necessary changes to make swinging a more adrenaline-pumping experience.
One of the biggest new features of the sequel is the ability to switch between Miles and Peter at any point in the story. With just a click of a button, you will be transported to another corner of the map where you are instantly put back in control after a short animation. It all works in a seamless fashion, and there’s only a couple of seconds of loading between swaps at the most which is marked by a simple transitory black loading screen.
Spider-Man 2 introduces plenty of minor improvements in its rendering techniques, ranging from how water is handled to reflections and post-processing. Let’s start out with the water, which looks a lot better thanks to the generous use of ray-traced reflections and thick meshes that properly react to objects moving around. Spider-Man can briefly glide on water, and that produces realistic splashes all around. Just a brief comparison is all that’s needed to make out the big difference between water rendering in Spider-Man 2 and its prior renditions.
Switching gears over to the reflections, Spider-Man 2 makes generous use of ray-traced reflections which look really crisp thanks to a higher resolution. Sure, Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered and Miles Morales also feature ray-tracing on PS5, but the quality of the reflections themselves is a lot better in the sequel.
In a similar vein, you will be able to notice plenty of minor improvements as you play through this massive sequel. Particle effects look superb, volumetric smoke is also used in certain places that can diffuse light, and post-processing is crisp with quality anti-aliasing that shows little to no shimmering artifacts.
Lastly, there are the animations. Insomniac did a wonderful job in Spider-Man and Miles Morales – both of which feature smooth animations that seamlessly blend into one another. And that’s been kicked up to eleven with Spider-Man 2, where there are even more discrete animations and finishers thanks to the many new tools you get to play with. There are entirely new animations and combos that only trigger when both Spider-Men are on screen, and they look absolutely fabulous in action.
PS5 Parameters And Performance
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 features two graphical settings on the PS5. Fidelity and performance mode and they do exactly as what their name suggests. Fidelity mode offers a higher resolution whilst increasing other graphical details, while Performance mode offers a higher frame rate. Both modes offer ray tracing and in our testing, both modes ran fine with each of them hitting their target image quality and performance parameters consistently. Loading is remarkably fast thanks to the PS5’s SSD. It might very well be the best use case of the PS5’s SSD as far as seamless gameplay is concerned.
In conclusion, Spider-Man 2 is almost everything that one could ask from the sequel. It’s not only a step up in the gameplay department, but also improves upon what came before in a graphical sense. It doesn’t rewrite the playbook by any means, but it stands tall as one of the best-looking and best-playing games on the market.