SPIDER-MAN 2: A Frustratingly Great Game

Now, after a solid 26 hours and 100% completing the game, was it worth it? Yes, but it is also way more complicated than that.


Spider-Man 2 was one of my most anticipated games this year. The original, Spider-Man (2018), was a great game. Although it isn’t one of my favourites from PlayStation’s line-up of exclusives, it stands tall on its own and cements itself as one of the best superhero games money can buy. When the release date for Spider-Man 2 started to creep up, and Sony began to release more and more marketing and promotional material for the game, I couldn’t help myself but to be swept up in all of it. The trailers looked so promising, with bigger and meaner villains, larger and more dynamic set pieces, and deeper emotional stakes with the return of Peter’s best friend, Harry Osborn, and his sticky black goo. I could not wait to get my grubby hands on it.

Now, after a solid 26 hours and 100% completing the game, was it worth it?

Yes, but it is also way more complicated than that.

The overall gameplay and mechanics of the game have been greatly improved. The combat remains smooth, responsive, and satisfying. The new combat abilities introduced for both Peter and Miles really reminded me of games like Dynasty Warriors where the satisfaction and joy from the gameplay stems from utilising everything in your arsenal to take down a horde of enemies. Some critics online find that it isn’t really “Spider-Man”-like with how technologically advanced Insomniac’s take on Spider-Man is, especially the four mechanical arms that protrude out of Peter during combat. But ultimately, it made for a more enjoyable and fun experience, so I don’t really mind that it isn’t true to the comic.

The improvements to the swinging and overall traversal were one of the main aspects that Sony greatly advertised and rightfully so. The speeds you can reach swinging across New York, Brooklyn and Queens are just so exhilarating and I can easily spend hours just swinging and doing absolutely nothing. Much like the combat, there are a bunch of mechanics that are involved in swinging and the satisfaction is derived from combo-ing these abilities together and pulling off insane, death-defying manoeuvres just to slightly dodge a building or to gain even more speed. The game also utilises the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller well: the triggers have this tactile and slight resistance to your presses that is meant to mimic the feedback from shooting a web. It is a small change, but it adds so much to the overall experience.

However, where the game falls short for me is the story. I think that the game would have benefited a lot more from a longer run time. (There won’t be any spoilers).

The game has a lot of incredible, jaw-dropping moments that I didn’t expect at all, but to get to these moments, there are a lot of forced, weak, cutscenes/gameplay segments that I felt really harmed the game’s pacing. Like any other super-hero related media, the story is made or broken by its villains, and Spider-Man 2 features both Kraven and Venom, who I felt were severely underutilised. Both characters had a total of less than an hour of screentime, and for a 26-hour, 90-dollar game? That to me is completely unacceptable.

Kraven is supposed to be, “The Hunter”, and coming into the game, I expected a lot more random encounters from him—think Mr. X from Resident Evil 2. Something that keeps the player on their toes when they’re just out and about, doing Spider-Man things and then, BOOM! The player suddenly get ambushed and thrown into a boss battle with him. Something of that sort, but all of his encounters are just scripted cutscenes or boss battles, which made it hard to believe that he was really looking for a “glorious battle”.

Similarly, with Venom. His presence in the game is just incredibly lacking; he appears for the final act, you beat him, and he is gone. The promotional material for the game shows Peter and Miles fighting Venom across the city, in a wild goose chase, causing havoc and destruction. But in the game, you fight him in a dinky arena. Don’t get me wrong, these boss fights, in the moment were really cool, and honestly pretty challenging, given the fact that these games are usually pretty simple and easy. But I was just hoping for more. Especially after waiting nearly 5 years for this game, I think it’s justified to have expected for more.

But besides the villains, the main cast was equally disappointing. The two Spider-Men were, honestly, twiddling their thumbs waiting for something to happen for about 80% of the game. There were some challenges introduced for them to figure out, but these challenges are resolved so incredibly quick and once solved it didn’t leave a lasting effect on our Spider-Men. This cycle is then repeated for the entirety of the runtime. By the end, I really cannot tell you whether or not our Spider-Men had any emotional or personal growth.

As a sidenote, I do really like how Insomniac took these beloved characters and made them their own. The creative liberty they took to change the origins of some of the characters that are introduced in the game to fit their narrative and their story is done really well. Being a massive Spider-Man fan, I practically know the origins of all of these characters by heart and yet, I still found myself really surprised when a character I didn’t expect was introduced or how a certain power was introduced. I absolutely adored the excitement and surprise of these reveals, which kept me going through the 26 hours of play-time.

Lastly, the map of the game felt quite empty. Having played the definitive open-world game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, coming to Insomniac’s New York is like going to a McDonald’s after having a Michelin 3-Star meal. There is just no sense of wonder and adventure from exploring the map, although it is not entirely Insomniac’s fault because New York is just built like that. Besides virtual swinging, there is no incentive for the player to explore. Interaction with the map is also limited to the random crimes that appear when swinging, completing side-quests, and at enemy base camps. Following that, I am utterly disappointed by the lack of end-game content. It is genuinely baffling that there isn’t a New Game+ (a feature which allows you to play certain parts like boss battles again or play the game again but with everything unlocked) and the lack of ability to change time, which were all present in Spider-Man (2018).

Overall, it is hard for me to rate this game. On one hand, the gameplay, the “wow” moment, and some of the side quests can make it feel like a Game of The Year. But on the other hand, the story, the narrative, character writing and lack of postgame content is serviceable at best and abysmal at worst, leaving Spider-Man 2 a frustratingly great game.

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