The mission for Spider-Man 2 was clear: just more Spider-Man, but better and bigger. After all, the first game and semi-sequel Miles Morales set such a solid foundation that we wanted to see more of it. However, Insomniac adheres to that assignment very literally. Spider-Man 2 is therefore a very good game, but not a surprising one.

This is, above all, noticeable in the story, which very neatly follows the lines of the comic book series. Thanks to Sony’s marketing machine, we’ve known for years that Venom is the big villain of this game, and let’s be honest: he’s a wonderfully evil, gruesome, nasty and terrifying character. It’s a joy to take on the Symbiote. Venom is just always cool!

But if you already know something about Venom and Spider-Man, for example because you have read a comic or seen a movie, then you can predict the story in broad strokes. Peter comes into contact with the Symbiote and that initially gives him extra powers, but it soon makes him a bit grumpy and unkind. It won’t surprise you that the Venom suit doesn’t just bring Peter benefits.

Sure, it might be other characters who come into contact with him, in other locations, with slightly different motives. It’s not a bad story at all: it’s wonderfully comic book-esque, with great acting and epic moments. It’s just not very surprising.

What is really bad is the other villain from the game, Kraven the Hunter. The name says it all: he is a hunter looking for the toughest prey to face off against. Kraven therefore decides to break a number of supervillains out of the maximum security prison, release them and then start hunting them down. It’s not a particularly deep or interesting motivation, and Kraven is a boring guy who’s just focused on his hunt. It’s mainly a lame excuse to fill the city with groups of his followers to fight, and to stall for time until Venom appears on the scene.

The story comes into its own during the personal moments. The best Spider-Man stories always revolve around the friction between the hero and the man behind the mask, and that’s the case here too. Both Peter Parker and Miles Morales struggle to find a balance between their private lives and their roles as superheroes. Peter is a bit older and is looking for a way to build a career between his Spider-Maning. Miles is about to go to college and has to write an essay about himself, but he struggles to put into words who he is without addressing his role as Spider-Man.

The relationship between Peter, his girlfriend MJ and his returned childhood friend Harry is especially a pleasure to experience. There are wonderful moments when these three just spend time together and chat, but also emotional situations where they broach difficult topics. They grow as characters, and that is much more clever and surprising than what Insomniac did with the superhero part.

Of course, Miles Morales also plays a major role in that story, but it ultimately feels like a major supporting role and that’s a bit of a shame for such a cool character like Miles. He certainly has his own difficulties to overcome and certainly grows as a person, but that is mainly in service of Peter’s story. The problems Miles is struggling with just feel a lot smaller and less important than what Peter has on his mind.

Fortunately, you can always spend more time with him if you want: in the open game world you can switch between Peter and Miles at (almost) any time, and choose which hero you swing through New York as. Switching between the playable heroes works very well and smoothly. The only question is: why would you do it, other than a personal preference for one of the two?

Many things in the open world can be completed as one of the two, but in the story missions and a fair amount of the optional content you necessarily have to play as Miles or Peter. You can’t suddenly choose to make Miles the main character of the story. Plus, the two feel pretty much the same in combat, except for some special moves. It’s not like one is a tank and the other is better from a distance, for example. They are fairly interchangeable, but it is still nice that it is possible.

Insomniac hasn’t changed too much in the combat system anyway, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can still string together fluid combos with the greatest of ease, with Spider-Man ramming enemies into the air, beating them up while flying and then pulling the next victim up with his web. The wonderful ballet of dodging, swatting and web shooting works just as well as in the previous parts and will never get boring in the fifteen to twenty hours of playing time.

Of course, small things have been added, such as a parry. Enemies sometimes come up with extra strong attacks that you cannot avoid. You will then see a yellow circle that quickly turns red to indicate that you need to parry it. It’s not a particularly brilliant addition, but it does provide just a little more variation while fighting.

Both spider men also have their own special moves, with which you can every so often transform the screen into a spectacular rain of effects. Miles relies on his lightning abilities (with the very confusing name ‘Venom Skills’), while Peter starts with his metal spider arms and later can hit hard with the powers of the Symbiote. The last set of skills in particular give the combat an extra dose of spice, because those skills are nice and cruel and throw your enemies in all directions.

Another novelty is the ‘web line’, with which you stretch a line between two walls. This way you can sneak in and eliminate everyone from above. It feels extremely satisfying to finish off an entire camp full of Hunters as quietly as possible. This new gadget makes it easy to get above all the enemies, maybe even a little too easy. Since the web line can be infinitely long, you can actually walk above all the enemies and take them off one by one. The levels don’t seem to be designed to take this new toy into account, but that doesn’t really matter when it’s so satisfying.

Swinging through the open world of New York has also been largely left intact, and we are happy with that too: there are few gameplay mechanics that feel as perfect as the web swinging from Spider-Man. The sequel takes it even further with the ‘web wings’, a kind of wingsuit with which you float through the air. This is useful if you don’t have anything to attach your webs to, for example above a park or if you jump from the highest skyscraper.

The wings make you a lot faster and that’s a good thing: Spider-Man 2’s map is about twice as big thanks to the addition of Brooklyn and Queens. As a non-American, those names don’t mean much to me, but the more spacious neighborhoods with lots of trees, Miles’ school and certainly the Coney Island amusement park offer the game a little more variety. Although we should not exaggerate that: it remains just an urban area that you whiz through.

The fast travel of this game deserves a separate paragraph, because it is truly magical. You can open the map at any time and point to a spot, and almost immediately Spider-Man swings through the city at that exact spot. There are no fixed fast travel points where you necessarily have to start, you can click anywhere you want. Unfortunately, we have to make a major caveat: you have to unlock fast travel per district by completing a reasonable amount of optional content. As a result, it is only useful later in the game, for example to complete the last collectables.

That in itself wouldn’t have been so bad, if the optional content was actually interesting to do. However, there is a lack of creativity there: the answer to the question ‘what will we let the player do here?’ is almost always ‘fighting a group of meaningless enemies’. The main missions also suffer from this occasionally, but the fights are still interspersed with impressive cutscenes. So it’s a good thing that the combat system is rock solid, because you spend a lot of hours whacking away.

In terms of boss fights, the game pulls out all the stops, with surprising selections from the comics’ villain collection. They feel big and immersive, not only in terms of gameplay, but also in the story. The only downside is that these battles can be a bit dragging, as they sometimes last up to ten minutes without the boss performing a new attack pattern. Once you understand his moves, it’s all about fighting until you finally win.

It’s a bit of a stretch to say that this sequel is just more Spider-Man. Such arguments are often used to condemn a game, while not every game needs to reinvent the wheel. In this case, ‘just’ more Spider-Man results in a wonderfully playable, beautiful and compelling superhero story.

It is just a shame that Insomniac stays so much within the lines in the overarching story and makes few creative choices in the optional content. With a little more spice it would have been an unforgettable game. Now it’s just a very good game that will sell many millions again and will satisfy most customers. We can hardly be dissatisfied with that.



+ Fast travel and switching between Spider-men is truly magical
+ Wonderfull, spectacular & fluid combat
+ Swinging and floating works perfectly
+ Personal moments of Peter and Miles

Surprising boss battles

– Miles and Peter feel interchangeable.
– Predictable story.
– Little creativity in side missions.