Marvel’s Spider-Man was inarguably a PlayStation 4 seller. Shifting over 20 million units, as of November 2021 Insomniac Games’ first foray into Spidey territory is the PS4’s best-selling game, with its blend of fluid combat, freewheeling traversal, and smart quips persuading gamers on the fence with Sony’s fourth PlayStation console to buy in the bucketload. 2020’s Miles Morales spinoff – whilst ostensibly a game lighter on content – solidified Insomniac’s chops as a studio capable of nailing the unique feel and tone of the web-slinging superhero. Now, with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 on the near horizon the bar is set to be raised again. To be clear, Marvel games will always sell well, and there’s an element of Spider-Man 2’s destiny as a platform seller already locked in due to Insomniac’s prior success with the series but make no mistake: many will come for another swing through New York because the quality is clear to see.
At first glance though, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 looks to be re-treading the same ground as its predecessors. And sure, whilst this sequel is destined to be a best seller there’s also pressure on Spider-Man 2 to sell high due to its rumoured $210 million budget, so it stands to reason Insomniac wouldn’t tamper with their established formula too much. Still, spend a bit of time watching Spider-Man 2’s gameplay previews and its clear to see Insomniac has built upon its predecessors in innovative and exciting ways – more so than just having two playable Spider-Men.
Where to begin? Well, seeing as traversal is amongst Spider-Man’s marquee selling points let’s start there. For Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, web slinging through Manhattan skyrises is as exhilarating as ever, but this sequel adds exceptional new ways to travel. Most notable is the Web Wings, equip-able to both Peter Parker and Miles Morales. Billed as a speedy way to glide through low rise areas, rivers, and above Central Park, the Web Wings enable our web slinging heroes to dip and soar with the tap of the triangle button mid-air. Chained with swinging and some strategically placed airborne wind tunnels, Spider-Man can swiftly chalk up some breath-taking aerial manoeuvre combos. Additionally, Talon Drones – an air bound mechanised threat from lead antagonist Kraven’s army of Hunters – leave a wake in the air which Spider-Man can slipstream through to catch up when giving chase.
Another fresh traversal option harnesses Spider-Man’s penchant for stealth. Deployable web lines open the confines of warehouses and indoor spaces by allowing Spidey to create bespoke pathways in the rafters on which to tread lightly across. For situations where Spider-Man finds himself outnumbered these web lines will prove an invaluable tool to slyly picking goons off one-by-one instead of tackling them all en masse.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2’s vision of Manhattan is largely the same as 2018’s effort, but this sequel’s surface area has nearly doubled with expansion across the East River coming in the form of New York boroughs Brooklyn and Queens. Alongside the returning Manhattan, each district in Spider-Man 2 brings with it a glut of story missions, side quests, collectibles, and city activities, the latter two looking infinitely more interesting than their predecessors. Interestingly too, insomniac have taken the decision to minimise quest markers on the map and in the HUD. Instead, if Spidey really wants to get a feel for what’s going on he’s going to have to explore with his eyes peeled. As he’s swinging between tower blocks, visual clues – a neon sign here, a glowing Spider Bot there – will reveal themselves for further investigation. Both characters – whilst of course integral to the main story – feature character-specific side missions to uncover too. For instance, fellow students of Miles at Brooklyn Visions might require his assistance, whilst Peter could be called into play for a task only he can complete via the in-game Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man app.
Why would Peter be the optimal choice over Miles though? Both are free to choose during free roaming and exploration – with switching between the two, by the way, taking a leaf out of Grand Theft Auto V’s character swapping mechanic – but each Spider-Man in this sequel brings unique combat traits to the table. You may have seen Peter’s new symbiote capability, with aggressive powers at his fingertips when daubed in the iconic Black Suit. Brutal Symbiote Strikes see Peter transform into a squirming tarlike mass that’ll project vicious spikes to catapult enemies wayward. The grab-and-slam Symbiote Surge attacks multiple enemies simultaneously, with tendrils grabbing and disabling enemies in savage movement. For his part, Miles brings his trademark bio-electrical venom power to battle with evolved venom abilities that’ll leave foes in dismay. Furthermore, Insomniac say the abilities of both Spider-Men can be mixed, matched, and deployed in exciting combinations mid-battle.
The ability to parry is a new combat tactic for both characters now too, which sits alongside Spider-Sensed dodging as a new tingle adding another dimension to encounters. Of course, web-shooting is still a principal skill amongst both characters too, with a raft of new attacks and crowd-controlling Spider gadgets at each’s disposal. Web Grabber is a particular highlight, with its omni-directional web-slinging yanking any goon unfortunate enough to be in its flight path right into Spider-Man’s clutches, leaving them exposed to a brutal AOE takedown. Each skill and ability – alongside each character’s unique brand of web-shooting firepower – can be upgraded via skill trees, increasing their devastation and area of effect as the game goes on. What’s clear here is both characters will occupy a specific playstyle; not that anyone was expecting a simple palette swap between the two but it’s heartening to see how much thought and effort has gone into crafting Spider-Men that are wildly distinct yet complimentary to each other.
Customising the look and feel of each character has played a huge part in their development too, for there are – wait for it – 65 suits to collect and equip, from classic fan favourites, movie tie-ins, and original Insomniac designs to third-party artist designs obtainable via the digital deluxe version. There are 10 such suits, with the ultramodern, blood-sport-esque 15th Century Suit and the Pilipino inspired, faintly regal looking purple Agimat Suit the pick of the bunch.
Special mention should go to Insomniac’s choice of supervillain. Kraven isn’t as widely known in the Marvel Multiverse as, say, Venom – who also makes an appearance in this sequel – but his unpleasant unpredictability is a sure-fire way to bring mysterious danger to proceedings.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is firing on all cylinders with potential to be amongst the greatest – if not thee – greatest superhero game ever crafted. All the ingredients are laid bare – exceptional exploration, immersive districts, interesting enemies, a glut of fresh, exciting combat capabilities, and the pièce de resistance, Spidey’s wonderfully exhilarating web-slinging and traversal, promising faster, more freewheeling travel – mean this sequel is destined to be a best seller.
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