Everyone’s favorite, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, soaring between Manhattan skyscrapers in pursuit of iconic villains, what could be better? Two Spidey’s!
|Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
|Sony Interactive Entertainment
Marvel’s Spider-Man is one of the best superhero games in history. Yes, it had its flaws, but Insomniac Games managed to create a fantastic adventure that made Spidey’s adaptations look rather sluggish. There was room for good jokes, drama, and interesting plot twists. Where the gameplay could feel somewhat secondary after the Arkham and Infamous series, the spectacle and incredible web-flying mechanics came to the rescue. With Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a miniature spin-off that is interesting primarily for the arsenal of Spidey Jr.’s skills and the magical New Year’s Eve New York, but there were no significant changes to the game formula, because why break something that works so well, right?
So, perhaps Insomniac Games decided to postpone more tangible changes in the gameplay until the release of the full sequel? Actually, no, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is the same game, only in a square. It has twice the scale of the game map, two Spiders that you can switch between at will, and two main antagonists, as well as all sorts of little things like improved ray tracing and more active traffic on the streets. I did not count the duration of the cutscenes, but it seems that there are more of them, but this is not a problem at all, since the plot is on top of the game. The trailers are quite shamelessly spoilerish this time, so we can talk a little about what the characters are involved in this time.
The storyline of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 can be divided into two parts: the “heroic” part, where masked vigilantes fly around New York and beat up gangsters, and the “everyday” part, where Peter and Miles try to sort out their personal lives. In the “heroic” part, two separate arcs develop in parallel. In the first one, we have the story of Venom’s appearance, which is not much different from any of those you already know, but in the second one, the developers are inspired, albeit superficially, by John Mark DeMatteis’ “Craven’s Last Stand”. By the way, the comic book was released in Ukrainian, so I recommend reading it. In the game, Craven the Hunter arrives in New York and starts hunting for, let’s say, exotic prey, not having any idea about Spider-Man, but this will soon change and the confrontation will not be easy. There are a few more classic antagonists in the background, but they are assigned the role of minor intermediate bosses or side quests. There are fewer villains, by the way, and this time the developers relied on drama and tried not to turn the game into a merry parade of costumed freaks.
The “everyday” part is not easy either. Both Spidey’s are in a state of uncertainty as they transition to a new stage of life. Morales is stuck with writing a motivational letter for college, because all he’s been thinking about lately is fighting crime, he doesn’t have much time to study, and then there’s his teenage crush, which he can’t seem to figure out. Parker’s situation is more serious: he’s already 25 and has managed to get a bachelor’s degree in biophysics, but he’s having trouble finding a job – Peter’s spider business makes it hard to keep to his work schedule, his Aunt May’s old house is piling up unpaid bills, MJ is not happy about having to work for JJ Jameson, and the joy of seeing his old school friend back is quickly fading into the background for some reason.
Characteristically, the strong emphasis on the personal problems of the characters allows the developers to tell a rather serious story about growing up, coming to terms with loss, forgiveness, and self-acceptance, as well as how loved ones can suffer if a person in crisis does not seek help in time. Surprisingly enough, it is not only about heroes but also about villains. This issue is sometimes presented in a very straightforward and naive way, but this is a step forward, because we are still talking about Spidey, a funny character who distributes bream to man-beasts in colorful leotards and exoskeletons with jokes and quips. Once again, the game’s plot was head and shoulders above the movie adaptations, including the new trilogy. This is becoming a tradition lately – perhaps Marvel Studios bosses should look for writers for the sixth phase of the MCU at Insomniac Games and Eidos-Montréal?
Is it a bird? Is it an airplane? Is it a… spider?
The story is clear, but what about the gameplay? As I said, there were no drastic changes, but some things were redone, and the first thing that catches your eye is the ability to fly. Literally. Before that, I thought that jumping on the spider web from the first part was almost the best way to move in open-world games. Well, I was wrong. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has prepared the best way for us. With the right use of acceleration and air currents, Spidey soars through the New York sky at airplane speeds, while the controls remain very comfortable, but sometimes too sensitive, so it takes a little getting used to. But it’s incredibly fun, so much so that I don’t understand why they added the fast movement option to the game. Yes, instantly loading another city district thanks to the console’s super-fast SSD looks impressive, but after playing with it, I went back to the wings. They are fantastic.
Battles have remained basically the same, you can carefully neutralize enemies using stealth, now it is even more convenient to do this thanks to the ability to stretch a spider bridge between two surfaces. Enemies still very rarely look up, so you can build a whole maze under the ceiling and hunt from there at your leisure. However, no one has canceled the more straightforward approach. Combos, dodging, using elements of the environment as throwing projectiles, cocoons of spider webs, finishing off, the ability to grab a weapon or temporarily blind the enemy: everything seems familiar, but Peter’s arsenal has more techniques that neutralize a large number of enemies at once and deal more damage, apparently so that he does not look weaker against Miles’ electric attacks and invisibility. And that’s before Peter puts on the black suit, which unlocks a whole new set of skills. Of course, there are also gadgets that can be used to stun, immobilize, or pile up enemies, as well as a “rage mode” borrowed from God of War for Peter or a super-powered electrical burst for Miles. However, despite the innovations, the battles with ordinary bandits remained roughly the same, but the bosses are another matter, with more mechanics, a new phase system, and the need to use the environment to a new level. You’re unlikely to remember them for their complexity, but for their entertainment value or some interesting mechanics, you will. This also applies to optional bosses. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about side quests.
It’s been done before, Spider
With side activities, Insomniac Games is treading water. Yes, there are a few very successful tasks, one particular one will definitely make you sad, but most of the activities on the map have migrated to the sequel from previous games with minimal changes. Are there street robberies or other disturbances? Yes. Attempts to stop a car speeding through the streets of New York? Here you go. Chasing pigeons? Well, instead of pigeons, there are now drones, but still there. A poorly reasoned collection of some trash scattered all over the map? Sure, here it is. We’ll put MJ’s stealth episodes in the same category: they’re just as monotonous and not very interesting, except for the last one. In short, you’ve seen it all and know what to do. However, we can thank the developers at least for the fact that this time they did not overdo it with optional activities and you can get platinum in the game without straining at all.
It took me 38 hours to complete the game, with a few evenings spent just looking around the city and using the photo mode. The game looks fantastic and has no performance issues either in Fidelity mode, which at 30 frames per second provides the best ray tracing and more cars and pedestrians on the streets, or in Performance mode, where you compromise on more empty streets, simplified ray tracing, and less hair detail for 60 FPS. If you have a 120Hz TV with VRR support, you’ll also have access to the best possible graphics option – 40FPS in Fidelity mode, which is a slight difference from 60FPS, but the picture quality doesn’t suffer.
The question of whether to play Spider-Man is out of the question: it’s a great and very proper superhero blockbuster that skillfully juggles the player’s feelings and leaves only good emotions. Insomniac Games took all the best from the previous two parts and combined them into one crazy spider cocktail. The real question is what to do with the sequel hinted at in the ending? No matter how great these games are and how much I personally am interested in further developments, I’m not sure I’ll be able to chase the same criminals through literally the same streets for the fourth time with the same enthusiasm. I hope the developers are preparing some pleasant surprise in this regard.