Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 review: a web-slinging triumph

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has a high bar to clear. Its predecessor was one of the best-selling superhero games ever made, single-handedly driving people to purchase PS4s in their thousands. Its follow-up, Miles Morales, boasts one of the best superhero storylines in recent memory.

Can it deliver? Fortunately, yes: Spider-Man 2 swings over that bar, and then some. This is a web-slinging, bell-ringing triumph that manages not only to build on the previous Spider-Man games but also pull off an audacious story crammed with more Spidey villains than a Comic Con convention.

Set roughly nine months after the events of the first game, Spider-Man 2 lets you play interchangeably as both Peter Parker and Miles Morales, switching between the two as the mood takes you. So far, so Grand Theft Auto – but the beauty of this is how distinct they feel to play. Whereas Miles’ take is geared towards stealth and artistic takedowns, Peter is brawnier – even more so when he’s bonded with the evil parasite Venom.

Kraven the Hunter (Sony)
Kraven the Hunter (Sony)

Wait, what? Yep, there’s a lot of story to get through here. One of Insomniac Games’ greatest strengths has always been the love and attention it gives its narrative, and that’s very much true here: it really feels like playing your way through a comic book, in the best way possible. Though it’s super-hunter Kraven who kicks off the game’s plot, both Peter and Miles get meaningful story arcs (though Peter gets the lion’s share of juicy drama), and Insomniac delivers it with a light and playful touch. One moment, we’re playing games in an arcade with his friends MJ and Harry, the next, we’re battling villains through magic portals; in yet another scene, we’re reliving Peter’s childhood escapades with Harry via playable flashback.

It’s all incredibly charming, and what makes it even better is how lived-in Peter and Miles’ Manhattan feels. The graphics are obviously a huge step up from the 2018 version, but even just taking the time to walk down the street rewards the player with snapshots of people going about their lives, detailed shop interiors begging for a photo opportunity, and crimes lurking around every corner. A quick swing uptown, the Avengers tower juts out on the horizon just behind the Empire State Building. Insomniac have boasted that their world is twice as big as the previous game, and it really shows – and even better, the new web wings both Spideys are equipped with will let you soar between those skyscrapers with breathtaking speed.

It also shows in the side quests. This Manhattan is bursting at the seams with things to do, and if some of them do feel a tad too much like box-ticking, at least most of them (such as hunting down fragments of the Sandman’s shattered psyche – long story) will let you test out your nifty new combat abilities.

Peter and Miles (Sony)
Peter and Miles (Sony)

And boy, are they fun: Miles, of course, has a litany of electricity-flavoured weapons with which to zap enemies into oblivion; Peter has the more traditional web-heavy Spider-Man abilities (no sniggering, please). Except, of course, when he’s the vengeful Venom: the black-ooze-slash-bodysuit that lets him slam enemies with tentacles that sprout from his body.

The combat itself does feel more fluid, and incredibly versatile: a great match for the gigantic set-pieces littered throughout the game. The labyrinthine skill trees can upgrade everything from Miles’ Venom Punch to the gadgets the pair use to incapacitate enemies, priming them for a fist to the bread basket: ways to yank them up into the air, lump them all in one place or even concuss them with a one-off blast.

It’s all a hoot: my only quibble was that there was no good way to tag enemies, meaning that my Peter sometimes ended up running frantically around a battlefield, looking for that last goon to take down. But it’s a small complaint, especially when Insomniac gets so many other things right. A joy.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 will be released on PlayStation 5 from October 20. Buy it on GAME, Currys and Argos